Shot Matching – Matching Skies

August 7, 2014

Shot Matching - Matching Skies. In this Insight, Dan shows you his techniques for color matching skies between multiple set ups and scenes


As a colorist, setting looks is probably the most fun and creative part of the job.  However, you also need to be able to match shots together  – at the end of the day its all about creating a seamless experience that the audience doesn’t notice.

In my experience, the only way to get better at shot matching is to practice, and then more practice, and then after that, you guessed it – more practice!

I like to save all my projects and keep them archived and 6 months or a year later revisit them to see if I can get a better result.

More often than not when I revisit my old grades I’m shocked and mildly disgusted about something or other.  For example, the image is slightly too magenta or my levels seem way too high or low.

Even if you don’t notice it at the time, we all go through phases of grading – your style will change over time especially as you learn new techniques.

In this Insight, I’m starting a brand new series on shot matching to help share my knowledge and experience when it comes to shot matching.

So, in this Insight we’ll be focusing on skies – an important part of many shots that viewers, DPs and directors for some reason seem to focus in on.

To be honest, I’ve picked skies because they’re really difficult!

Imagine a music video shot on location with takes happening from 9am until 6pm.

Of course the natural time of day progression will mean that you have so many different skies in your background and normally directors will ask us to tighten up the match as best as possible – a much hard tasks than it sounds!

Find A Good Starting Point

When it comes to skies, my starting point is watching the video through and finding my favorite sky.

I then I’ll use that as my reference – really this is no different then finding other hero shots, but what I’m really tying to do is find a sky that has starting characteristics that I can ripple through to other shots.

You have to start with one sky.  Why?

Well,  if you try and make a random shot with a sky a perfect sky and do so from memory – you’ll always make it too blue and saturated…or at least I always do!

Just keep in mind, it won’t always be possible to get the same amount of detail into clouds or get the exact same blue each time but what we’re aiming for is as much consistency as possible.

Again the idea with shot matching is to be very close so that the audience doesn’t notice different shots.

Finally, one other thing to consider about skies – they’re a memory color!

Meaning we all have an idea of what skies should look like.  As a colorist you can exploit this phenomenon.

Need a happy look?  Try more saturation and a true blue.

Need sadness?  Try a more muted blue or gray or potentially a little color like pink or yellow.

Need to be dramatic?  Try darkening the sky or going Top Gear and add a lot of intense color to the sky.

When it comes to skies just keep trying and match as many skies as possible and see how you get on. Bonus points for picking extra hard shots to match!

Anything to add?  Be sure to use the comments below

– Dan

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