Photochemical Grading – Part One

Photochemical Grading – Part One

December 7, 2014

Have you ever wondered why Christopher Nolan uses color timing instead of a DI for his grades? We take a look at the color timing world


Day 8: 25 Insights in 25 Days Holiday Marathon

Photochemical Grading – Part One

Today I was lucky enough to go see an Imax screening of Interstellar with Christopher Nolan, DOP Hoyte van Hoytema, Editor Lee Smith and VFX Supervisor Paul Franklin.

They gave a great Q&A session at the end of the movie which was hugely inspiring and insightful.

This left me with two great thoughts.

These guys are exactly the same as us…They just spent a lot of time and a lot of passion making this beautiful movie which is a great inspiration to every person in the filmmaking world.

The second thought is much more relevant to the color grading world. I’ve heard so many people speak about the Photochemical grading world that Nolan lives in for his grading but do they fully understand the process?

In this insight we will be looking at the basics of this world and focusing mainly on why would someone choose to still work this way when there are more powerful tools out there?

Then in part two I’ll be jumping into DaVinci Resolve for some challenging grading using only the tools that would be available to a color timer.

The Theory

Pretty much any feature film before the 2000’s was graded using the traditional color timing method but as Interstellar is fresh in my mind I’ll be using it as my reference in this insight.

If you haven’t seen Interstellar please check out the trailer below as it’s a great reference for how the final film looked.

Obviously the film looks amazing but as a colorist did you notice anything that you would change?

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Homepage Forums Photochemical Grading – Part One

  • Jonny Tully

    Great stuff Dan!

  • YES!!!!!! Ive been waiting for something similar to this for a while. Thanks a lot, and VERY much looking forward to future insights on emulating the photo chemical process

  • My thought exactly when I watched the movie… Happy accident. The wide and tight shot of Murph and Cooper talking by the pickup in the movie are completely off. But it works as a whole. Our industry is all about perfection and it’s refreshing to see that you can let images just simply live. It’s the approach I had for a long time as a colorist…

  • Mark Kipling

    the more I watch, read and learn here, I can sense my approach to colour going in the direction of ‘less is more’.

    I’m actually getting very envious of a time when the process was colour timing and you only had the four options you listed above, and not the avalanche of other options that we have now. I feel it’s too easy to slip into the world of secondaries, and it complicates the shot (let alone matching it with anything else) very quickly. Though I’m sure there were plenty of times a colour timer wished he/she could do more to a shot. Secondaries certainly do have their place, I’m not dismissing them.

    But the industry went ~110 years without those options and I don’t think many people ever complained, so..

  • What is ENR?

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