Baselight Inspired: Resolve’s Color Warper For Look Development

April 21, 2024

Colorist Jamie Dickinson is inspired by Baselight's Chromogen 'stages' paradigm of look development and applies it to Resolve's Color Warper.

Filmlight’s Chromogen video inspired me to take a fresh look at using Resolve’s Color Warper

FilmLight has released new tools for Baselight, one of which is called Chromogen. While the tool is interesting, what is more interesting to me is an excellent live presentation, Look Development Masterclass: Chromogen In Action. It’s available on YouTube (and embedded below).

The philosophy discussed in this video and the detailed description of some of its new tools made me want to revisit Resolve’s Color Warper to see if it could be used similarly. More specifically, this Insight explores the ‘stages’ of Chromogen as a starting point for building a similar set of tools in Resolve.

Look Development Masterclass 2023: With FilmLight Colourist and Workflow Specialist Andy Minuth – The inspiration for this Insight. I encourage you to watch it.

The grading and look-dev tools in Baselight seem good, but I’ve never had any real hands-on time with the system. I’m attempting to (mostly) use Resolve’s Color Warper tool to mimic certain elements of the ‘film look’ and also take inspiration from Filmlight’s look development approach.

Ideally, I’d find ways to avoid unwanted, unnatural, or unpleasant colour manipulations which may be unintentionally created in digital systems. Baselight’s Chromogen tool is a great reference for exploring the possibilities with Resolves’ Color Warper (and other tools).

Using Chromogen’s operators as a starting point, we (attempt to) mimic results using the Color Warper. 

As I understand it, Chromogen has ten operators (‘stages’) that can be added and combined. I won’t attempt to define the operation of these Baselight operators and how they’re used in Baselight. I’ll leave that to other Mixing Light contributors who work on Baselight and can explain them from direct experience! There’s also this deeper Chromogen explanation on Filmlight’s Vimeo account.

Also, I’m not trying to compare Resolve to Baselight, except that the Chromogen look-dev tool looks amazing, and the controls seem effective and easy to use!

Based on my experiments, Resolve tools can have similar functions and get similar results. However, for the most part, the Resolve tools are more clunky to adjust than Chromogen tools, and they do not prevent the user from introducing unintended and unnatural manipulations and colour artefacts. Still, let’s press onward to see what’s available to Resolve colorists.

As you watch this video Insight, keep these things in mind

The Color Warper manipulates brightness and colourfulness in 3-dimensional space. It looks something like this:

Color Warper allows simultaneous adjustments across two axes: Hue/Saturation and Hue/Lightness.

Most colourists seem comfortable with the Saturation/Hue toolset. It closely mimics a vectorscope and feels like you have direct control of the vectorscope.

The Hue-Satruation view of Resolve’s Color Warper. It looks like a vectorscope and allows you to adjust Hue, Saturation, and Lightness. But because this view excludes Lightness, those adjustments are not visible here. (source: Resolve 18.5 User Manual)

But for these Choromogen-style look-dev manipulations, you need to become comfortable with the Lightness/Hue controls of the Color Warper. Here’s what the Resolve User Manual has to say about the Chroma-Luma controls:

The Chroma-Luma mode lets you alter the hue and lightness of colors in the image simultaneously. This may not feel like an intuitive way of working, as the grid controls are overlaid on colors projected as different sides of an RGB cube. However, this enables some powerful adjustments once you get the hang of how multiple adjustments interact in this mode, as well as the power of locking control points to limit your adjustments to specific areas of the two grids.

DaVinci Resolve 18.5 User Manual
The Chroma-Luma view of Resolve’s Color Warper.
The Chroma-Luma view of Resolve’s Color Warper looks like a waveform display. But the dual-display nature of the waveforms doesn’t make intuitive sense since Waveform displays aren’t typically sliced into two halves based on colours/Chroma. (source: Resolve 18.5 User Manual)

Understanding the Axis Angle slider for Chromogen-style manipulations

In my opinion, most colourists who aren’t using the Color Warper’s Chroma-Luma view regularly are failing to manipulate the Axis Angle slider. Most colourists assume the two halves of the colour cube in the Chroma-Luma view are fixed. 

They are  NOT!

They fail to adjust the ‘Axis Angle’ to set a colour of interest to neutral – which I discuss in this video, Insight.

The Color Warper’s Axis Angle slider rotates the colour cube to change the centerline of the tool’s manipulations. See my X embed above showing how the Axis Angle spins the entire 3D volume of the Color Warper. (source: Resolve 18.5 user manual)

Colourists can greatly increase the effectiveness of the Chroma-Luma tools by picking a more natural centre point than the default setting. Then it becomes easy to lock down a reference color and manipulate the rest of the image around that reference.

My Chromogen ‘Stages’ Approach in Resolve

To help you understand what I’m doing in this video Insight – here’s an index of Chromogen terms, as I understand them, from the live Filmlight Look Development presentation and the tools I’m using to implement them.

  • Colour Saturation: Color Warper+Color Boost—It’s not so easy to separate / un-gang Blue/Yellow from Red/Green. See Colour Crosstalk.
  • Colour Crosstalk: RGB Mixer & Color Warper—Set the node to YUV mode. Use Color Warper to squash and twist the hue colour wheel.
  • Highlight Bleach: Custom Curves & Color Warper—For the Color Warper, use the Chroma-Luma grids and pull in the edge at the high luminance to the centre. You’ve been warned that not doing this symmetrically may introduce a hue shift and a saturation change. It’s a touchy operation that Custom Curves doesn’t suffer.
  • Contrast Boost: Custom Curves – Resolve curves allow Y-only, which can look better than YRGB ganged together – in Baselight there’s a slider to allow halfway between these two modes of operation.
  • Brilliance Reduction: Color Warper—Lower the Luma of bright/high-sat colours. Using Chroma-Luma grids, changing the saturation (X-axis) in the Chroma-Luma Grids will also alter the hue. This is because the x-axis Angle Axis in the grid defaults to 0.00º
  • Neutral Tint: Color Warper—Drag the centre of the Waper Hue-Sat wheel for an overall tint. Or move the middle vertical in the Chrom-Luma grids for a targeted luma range tint.
  • Sector Brightness: Color Warper—It’s been pointed out that one characteristic of film is that it tends to darken the saturated colours in the top/top-left (red/orange) of the vectorscope much more than colours in the opposing vectors (blue/cyan). I’ve achieved some nice results using the Chroma-Luma grids.

    While you can select a sector of the Hue-Sat ‘wheel’ and then adjust the Luma control, there’s no indication of what you’ve done in the plot of the colours since this is a 2D, top view of the cylinder. The Chroma-Luma Grids make this easier to see but it’s hard to select a particular sector of the hue wheel.
  • Sector Saturation: Color Warper—The Color Waper Hue-Sat wheel allows for selecting and manipulating the saturation in particular sectors.
  • Sector Skew: Color Warper—Whilst you can select a vector in the Color Waper Hue-Sat view and easily twist the hue, it’s not easy to twist in a way that’s proportional to the saturation or in a way proportional to Luma. It might be nice to have highly saturated greens have their hue twist to yellow more than the low saturated greens. Achieving a shape that tends towards a spiral isn’t easy.
  • Sector Squash: Color Warper—A common usage is to reduce the range of hues apparent in a person’s skin tone. Achievable with the Hue-Sat wheel with lots of control.

A colour grading challenge

This is a difficult challenge without using power windows or qualifiers. But try it using the ‘Chromogen’ stages outlined above and in the video Insight. Trust me, it’s a great learning experience for mastering the Color Warper.

  • Choose an image with distinct red items, such as a red sports car, a fire hydrant, or a UK post box, but also with skin tones.

Next, adjust the skin hues independently of the distinct red item:

  • Adjust – and limit the adjustment to – the red item. Go for a dense and nicely (not overly) saturated red.
  • Squash skin hues while avoiding magenta skin and keeping the red item unaffected.

Do the above without qualifiers or power windows.

Key takeaways from this Insight

By the end of this Insight, you should:

  • Learn techniques using Resolve’s Color Warper to create pleasing looks that feel more natural.
  • Feel more comfortable using the Color Warper.
  • Consider the aesthetic of natural systems like film and try to avoid unnatural colour manipulations.
  • Learn about FilmLIght’s approach to look development and their Chromogen tool and go part way to recreating the ‘stages’ available in Chromogen.

Additional Notes

Regarding DaVinci Resolve 19 and the Color Slices palette

After I recorded this Insight, Resolve 19 was released with their new Color Slices tool. I’ll revisit the Chromogen techniques to see how Color Slices might help us in these manipulations.

Special Thanks to Hot Angry Mom

The images used in this Insight are courtesy of the fun web series Hot Angry Mom.

Video Credit: Website | YouTube 

Questions or Comments?

Let us know! Mixing Light is all about community discussions and we’re curious if you found this helpful, if you have something to add, or if you need more questions answered?

– Jamie

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