Flexing Fundamentals – The Hidden Power of the Offset Wheel

June 28, 2022

In a new series on Primary color corrections, Cullen Kelly explores the hidden strength of the Offset Wheel - when working color-managed.


Part 1 – Learn the Offset Wheel’s hidden usefulness in color-managed workflows

I can’t lie, I LOVE working with complex tools and math tailored to my exact creative needs. But the only thing I love more is what I call “Flexing Fundamentals” – getting more out of my basic primaries than anyone else. The more of the work we can accomplish here, the more efficient, intuitive, and clean our grades become. Today we’re working with the most important fundamental of all: the Offset Wheel.

About the Offset Wheel

The Offset Wheel is the simplest possible manipulation we can make to our image, and it dates back far earlier than digital color grading to the days of photochemical color timing. Color timers knew how to flex this fundamental because they had to – it was, literally, the only tool at their disposal. So in this Insight, we’re going to explore how we can max out our use of this tool just like they did.

About this Insight

For our first installment of this new series, you’ll learn how offset can be used not only for exposure and balance, but to manipulate contrast, color separation, and saturation.

This Insight also contains a warning: Just because your client asks for a change that precisely mirrors the name of a control (such as, “lower the saturation”) doesn’t mean your first reaction should be to adjust that particular control. Think through what your client is reacting to and think about alternative controls that may more precisely solve the problem they’re seeing.

Finally, I want to reiterate here what I say at the end of this Insight. The behavior of the Offset Wheel demonstrated only happens if you’re working in a log space with a transform into your display color space (Rec.709, for example) happening AFTER the Log Wheel manipulation. In this example, that’s happening at the timeline level. But if you’ve followed Joey’s ACES node tree, these offset adjustments need to happen in the ACEScct section of the node tree (you could also work in the ‘camera space’ section if your source footage is log).

What specifically should you learn from this Insight?

  • How offset affects our image mathematically as well as perceptually
  • How the offset wheel can be used to effect changes in contrast
  • How the offset balls can be used to effect changes in color separation and saturation
  • Why it’s beneficial to push as far as you can with fundamental color controls before moving on to our more complex tools
  • The danger of taking client direction a little too literally

Related Mixing Light Insights

– Cullen

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Homepage Forums Flexing Fundamentals – The Hidden Power of the Offset Wheel

  • This has the potential to be a terrific series for new colorists such as myself.  Keep it going!

  • Cullen Kelly

    Thanks David! More to come!

  • Was working on a video today and thought to myself that’s too much contrast, and just moved the offset slider a little and was on my way. Hadn’t really considered this approach before, but it works great.

    • Cullen Kelly

      Nice Andrew, way to go!

  • Absolutely love the content and the title! Really looking forward to more episodes in this series!
    I’m a huge fan of the offset tool, really keeps up the pace. I wasn’t aware of the saturation in the reds – always learning. Keep up the good work Cullen, thank you!

    • Cullen Kelly

      Glad to hear it Christoffer! More soon!

  • Rajab Yahya

    Hello Culen, really love alot your work, i was just wondering, would you ever consider doing a video about different colourspaces such as YUV,HSL etc and where we can use them, i have been looking all around but there isn’t any good article which are more easier to understand.Thanks alot cheers

  • Cullen Kelly

    Thanks Rajab! That’s a great idea I’ll definitely keep in mind for future Insights!

  • I always enjoy your Insights Cullen!

    • Cullen Kelly

      Thanks Verne!

  • Cullen, my 2 cents in this thread: Log Wheels work precisely in a log encoding space when legacy log range is turned on. Meaby, it is an obvious thing but the math change from multiply to add, the same as offset (which is the math applied in old DI cineon workflow). I discovered recently thank to an argentinean instructor called Edi Walger. The threshold has a soft transition from shadows to mids to highlights.

    • Cullen Kelly

      Hey Diego! This is an interesting discussion, though you’ll have to refresh my memory, were the log wheels something I brought up in the Insight? Regardless, I think it’s worth emphasizing that precision isn’t really an issue with any tool in Resolve — they all do what they do with high precision. For me a tool’s merit is really just in that what it does part. I don’t happen to care for what the log wheels do, but I wouldn’t blame this on precision.

    • Patrick Inhofer

      Diego, for me, the problem with the Log Wheels is that their crossover range is fixed. So while we can define *where* the crossover occurs, we can’t adjust the *width* of that crossover, so I find the tool fails for me far too frequently.

      I had hoped the HDR Ranges would solve that problem, but they have an entirely different paradigm, even though they seem to be similar but more flexible. But again, I spend more time adjusting their positioning and width, and so, except for certain workflows, I tend to avoid those wheels (except for the Global wheel, which I really like).


  • The highlight log tool is essentially a multiply operation, limited to the top end of the tonal range, in that it changes the gradient of the curve. Offset and the HDR ranges are add operations in that the gradient (hence contrast) remains the same in the affected region and is raised or lowered. This is why I really like the HDR highlight tool for bringing back highlights, it maintains the contrast in the highlights, unlike the log highlight tool which flattens out the contrast. With careful adjustment you can even increase the contrast in a sky by lowering the HDR tool highlights and raising the specular, getting lots of detail back into a bright cloudy sky. (Thanks to Daria Fissoun for that tip).

  • Jamie, that’s a nice sky tip there … thanks!

  • Cullen Kelly

    Love seeing the conversation that’s been sparked here guys! Great insights Jamie — what you described is probably the one thing I DO like about the HDR palette😂

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