Contrast Adjustments: Which Is The Right Tool For You?

August 9, 2022

In Part 3 of Cullen Kelly's 'Flexing Fundamentals' series, learn how to think about organizing contrast adjustments to improve your results.


Flexing Fundamentals Part 3: Exploring Rolling vs. Linear Contrast Tools

If you’ve checked out any of my other Insights, you know that I’m a big believer in keeping my node graphs as simple and organized as possible: one node for exposure, one node for contrast, one node for balance, etc. But I’ve often found that my contrast node in particular has the tendency to get over-complicated as a result of multiple knobs and tools being stacked up within it in order to achieve my result.

In this Insight we’re going to inventory some of the key tools available to us for contrast manipulation, looking at how they overlap, how they differ, and whether they impart a “rolling” or a linear adjustment to our image.

Learning Goals for this Insight

After watching this Insight, you should understand:

  1. The multi-dimensional nature of contrast: there are many ways to create or control it, and finding the right one for your needs requires a clear understanding of how our various tools work
  2. The value of structuring not only your node graph, but the adjustments you allow yourself to make within each node. This is artist-specific, and requires exploration and experimentation!

External links mentioned in this Insight

  • Grayscale DCTL – A link to the GitHub repository for the Grayscale DCTL generator I use in this Insight

Related Mixing Light Insights

  • How to use GitHub – This is Part 2 of my series on coding with DCTLs. I’m linking to it here since it covers how to use GitHub, in case you’re not familiar with downloading and installing DCTLs from that repository.
  • Thinking Like A Colorist: Considering Final Contrast – Dan Moran: “Considering Final Contrast before you make your first primary correction is a huge advantage creatively to help you get the best results.”
  • Managing Contrast Across Multiple Scenes – Patrick Inhofer: “Stop using the full video contrast range on every shot in every scene. Learn to start managing contrast between scenes for visual interest.”

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