Mixing Light Color Correction Podcast Series

Skin Corrections & The Film Look

December 21, 2014

In this episode of From The Mailbag, the team explores fixing blotchy skin and what goes into a film stock emulation.


Day 21: 25 Insights in 25 Days Holiday Marathon

Episode 19: From The Mailbag

Fixing Blotchy Skin Tone & Creating A Film Stock Emulation

In this edition of From The Mailbag, we take a look at two questions from members Chris Climer and Craig Winterbottom.

Both Chris’ and Craig’s questions are ones that we get asked a lot – how do we approach fixing skin tone problems and how do we recreate the look of a particular film stock?

As always, we dive right in discussing the question but explore some additional things to think about regarding each question.

Remember, if you have questions that you’d like to get an opinion on please use the contact form.

Your questions can be aesthetic, technical or even client related.

We’d love to hear from you, and your question might make future episodes of From The Mailbag.

Blotchy Skin – Several Approaches

First up, we discuss Chris’ question regarding how we fix skin tone problems.

Chris wrote in a few weeks ago describing a shot he was trying to fix of a person with really blotchy skin tone – the person had patches of red and yellow all over his face.  Chris was wondering if the best way to attack the problem was Power Windows or if there was another way?

Not surprisingly, all three of us had slightly different approaches including using secondary curves, keying and a combination of using keying with windows.

We also explore why mixed lighting can be challenging no matter what on skin tone and the importance of having a good make up artist on shoots.

Emulating The Film Look Of A Popular Show

Next, we discuss Craig’s question.

Craig wrote describing how he was trying to emulate the look of the popular series The Walking Dead.

If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s shot on film and has a pretty distinctive look. Here is a pretty interesting article with the DP and a little about the production process.

So, Craig got his hands on a LUT that emulated the film stock used on the show and while he was getting good results it was not quite spot on.

We discuss how LUTs are emulations of stocks and not replications as well as the dozens of other things that go into creating a look.  We also explore how we handle dealing with requests from clients to build grades based on popular TV shows and film.

Enjoy the Mail Bag! Happy Holidays!

– Team Mixing Light

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Homepage Forums Skin Corrections & The Film Look

  • Chris Climer

    Thanks guys, this and watching Dan’s two part insights on beauty grading, really have helped me. I am going to practice these techniques over the holidays while everyone is on vacation.

    thanks for the hard work and dealing with me and all my question.

  • Robbie Carman

    great to hear! Keep those great questions coming man!

  • Patrick Inhofer

    What Robbie said! We love answering your questions and the questions of all our members.

  • Great podcasts gentlemen. Robbie the hands not matching comment on skin makeup had me talking to the podcast saying ‘amen brother’! I really love to use the Hue vs. Hue for moving green/yellow skin, its a quick subtlety but powerful, great tips guys.

  • RobbieCarman

    LOL! The hands KILL me every time!

  • it would be cool to have an insight that explores Patricks comment about tweaking an image to to better generate a key then reversing the tweak after the fact. I can see a situation where you tweak and image pull a key , then export the mask and reapply it on the clean footage. I used to have to isolate a color channel, tweak it’s contrast use apply channels in after effects to make it a key of itself.

  • I appreciate your answers for the walking dead portion but it would have been interesting if you guys broke down the look and discussed the key elements the three of you believed the look consisted of

  • Patrick Inhofer

    For us to do that, we’d all have to have watched the series and need references in front of us that we can share with you. For legal reasons we’ve been very conservative and have avoided displaying images from content which we haven’t been given explicit authority to share… and that’s why it’s tough for us to talk about specific Looks from specific properties if we can’t all see the images we’re breaking down.

  • Absolutely loved the beauty insight as well. Likely my favorite of the year, watched it twice. The fiance was in the room as I was watching them, and now she spots nose shadows EVERYWHERE haha. It really nailed a LOT of the work I’m dealing with at the moment, and helped me see where I can practice further. It also helped me see where things go horribly awry (keying eyes instead of mini windows), so HUGE thanks re the discussion w skin tones.

  • The “zombie” hand……haha

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question guys, I think you all totally nailed it and what you say makes a lot of sense and I do totally agree that simply steeling a look isn’t creatively gratifying 🙂 I had recently watched Kings of Summer which was absolutely beautiful and then got a music promo through the door which was all shot in a forest in summer so as it excited and inspired me I used Kings of Summer as a reference (mostly because I’ve always had a hard time with foliage and they did such a great job) but adapted it to what I felt fit the narrative and my own particular style. I do however admit to trying to replicate other peoples looks from time to time. I never to use on my work but because I find I learn an awful lot along the way. Almost like a dissection I guess. And it’s fun 🙂

    One thing I will mention is that I did take on some of the advice and try again, particularly the advice on not over-grading had a surprisingly positive impact on getting closer to it looking more authentic so cheers guys!

    Anyway, thanks again,

    Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!


  • Patrick Inhofer

    Kraig – Just to be clear… seeing a Look and practicing replicating the Look is a time-honored tradition of artists that goes back hundreds of years. It’s a great way to hone your skill. Then – as you said – adapting those Looks to the project at hand becomes much easier and more creatively gratifying.

  • Toby Tomkins

    It’s important to know that not all emulation LUTs are created equal. I created my own photometric film negative emulation LUTs, sampling 1000s of patches on various formats and creating 3D LUTS that map 1000s of colours across the entire exposure range of the formats. I own all of my competitor LUT packages as well (mostly for comparison) and have come to the conclusion that a lot of these LUTs are quite conservative. There are reasons for this though, as a lot of people would be very surprised to see the huge change of a true emulation, some noise can be added from increasing colour contrast (especially in lower end formats) and some detail can be lost entirely, especially in the shadows. Film has quite a small shadow latitude compared to digital, and we we are now used to seeing that detail. Removing this shadow detail in a true emulation can be too shocking for many and so the companies making these emulations have eased this effect. Sadly it is these subjective adjustments by these lut companies that has resulted in LUTs that don’t truly work as advertised!

    Next time you are looking at footage acquired on film, look at the density (not necessarily value/darkness) of the shadows. In normal conditions (not pull processed or overexposed film) the shadows will be far denser than digital. When applying that density to digital however, there will be a reaction to the loss of detail, where as on film it was never there so people didn’t get used to it!

    There is also a fundamental flaw with film emulation, even on the higher end cameras, and that is the latitude distribution. Generally speaking film has 3-4 stops under exposure, and 6-8 stops overexposure (and one middle). The opposite is true with digital. This is a fundamental problem when mapping one to the other, and the only way to truly match them is to adjust the exposure and possibly lighting style, exposing and lighting for the emulation later down the line, ideally with on set emulation LUTS.

    Having said all of that, the lighting and final grade will still have a much more significant effect on the look!!!

    I only wanted to say this as I have invested a lot of time and money in my own film emulation and want to clarify that better results CAN be achieved with better LUTS!


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