Adding Colour Contrast To Night Footage (in DaVinci Resolve)

February 14, 2023

Colorist Luke Ross demos a creative technique he used recently, adding colour contrast to make a night image pop using foreground separation.

Back to basics: A simple technique for adding colour interest to night images

Sometimes it’s hard to make an image look cinematic when you are working with a limited palette of neutral tones or heavy colour casts. I was recently grading a documentary and I found two big limiting factors to my creativity:

  • The footage was (naturally) very dark
  • The footage had heavy colour casts throughout due to street lighting that tended to ‘flatten’ the colour palette.

The visual compositions of the shots were my saving grace. They allowed me to isolate and separate the foreground from the background using a consistent, straightforward approach using broad Power Windows.

This creative grading Insight explores adding colour contrast to make a night image pop, using foreground separation. This example uses two Sony clips shot at night for a motorbike documentary.

The technique used here can be used on any camera/footage where you have a monochromatic colour cast but want to add visual interest. It also has the benefit of being quick to execute, especially if you have hundreds of shots to get through with a limited amount of time/budget.

Key takeaways from this Insight

By the end of this Insight you should understand how to:

  • Identify areas where colour separation could improve the image
  • Make colour contrast decisions based on the content of the image
  • Create negative shape mattes
  • Adjust opacity of shape mattes to dial in your corrections

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Questions or Comments? Leave a comment!

Is this Insight useful to you? 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 have more questions you need answered?

– Luke

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