Inside The Grade: The First Pass On A Feature

April 21, 2021

Watch over the shoulder of senior colorist Cullen Kelly as he works through his first pass on a feature film and shares his approach.

An Over-The-Shoulder Look At A First Pass On A Feature

In today’s Insight, we’re trying something a bit different.

Instead of focusing on a specific technique or tool, I’m going to invite you into my real-time grading process, and share my priorities and strategies as I take a first pass through scenes from a feature film entitled The Pom Pom Murders. We’ll be touching on concepts including:

  • ‘Presumption of innocence’ — creating a strong global look and doing only what’s needed at the shot level
  • Working with a fixed node tree built on simple, photographically-oriented tools
  • Scrubbing and spot-checking through your first pass rather than playing down in real-time

As I mentioned, this is my first lap through this material, after which I’ll watch everything at speed and make further refinements. The goal at this stage is to work quickly, intuitively, and identify key opportunities and challenges to address for the remainder of the grade.

Thanks for hanging out with me today! I’d love to hear what you guys think of this format, as well as your go-to strategies when grading long-form. Let me know down below.



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Homepage Forums Inside The Grade: The First Pass On A Feature

  • Andi Winter

    while watching i felt a little bit like my son watching somebody playing game x on youtube instead of playing game x himself :))

  • zack.stephen394

    My favorite format yet. I Think there is so much to learn from shadowing someone. Getting to see everything broken down can be so helpful. Would even love the idea of a from start to finish series. Project ingest and set up all the way through to export and delivery. Anyhow, love this format and all the amazing, insightful content!

  • Cullen Kelly

    Thanks Zack! Really glad you enjoyed it

  • Ryan Schroeder

    OK – this is probably a shortcut everyone else knows but me – and I can’t believe I’ve been missing it till now – but how are you grabbing the grade from – say – five shots back!?

    • Frank Engel


    • Patrick Inhofer

      As @Frank E implies, you need to use a three-button mouse with one button assigned the ‘middle click’ action. Then, you can middle-click on any thumbnail in the mini-timeline or in the Gallery and your grade will be copied to the current the shot.

      If you’ve not been doing this then this is a HUGE productivity upgrade and is one of the reasons a 3-button mouse is essential when grading in Resolve.

  • Hervé Amiot

    Hi Cullen and thanks for this insight. There’s one thing I’m missing though (I’m quite new to this world). The basics I learnt said that the workflow was to correct each shot individually (exposure, contrast, saturation, wb) so you have a strong base to carry on, which makes everything easier when grading, then matching the shots with each others, and then finally doing the grade. I’m under the impression that you did the grade without all that coming before. Do you just import the media in a color managed environment and that’s all (maybe because it’s a high end production, everything’s perfectly controlled on set and already look good straight out of the camera ?) ? Or you did correct them but we just don’t see that in the video ? Thank you 🙂

    • Cullen Kelly

      Hervé! My apologies for missing this question when the video came out — it’s one worth answering!

      In short, the basics you learned reflect the conventional wisdom of our industry, but in my opinion that conventional wisdom comes largely from the color correction tradition. In the color timing/grading tradition, you’re grading under a look (print stock) right from the outset, and while you’re of course mindful of what’s necessary correction-wise, your focus and first priority is not to fix but to elevate your image — this is really what I’m driving at when I talk about “presumption of innocence” in the video. Correct when needed, but always stay focused on creative grading. Hope this was worth the year wait😂

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