Evaluating Skin Tones, Working With Drone Footage, Grading On Laptops

April 22, 2022

Team Mixing Light helps our members work through confidence problems color grading skin tones, drones, and laptop displays in a live call.


Office Hours LIVE! – April 14, 2022

Mixing Light Contributors Joey D’Anna, Cullen Kelly, and Rich Roddman join host Patrick Inhofer taking member questions in a live conference call format.

After starting the conversation by sharing things we’ve learned recently, the team dives into the questions that are at the top of mind for our members. Today, members ask questions about:

  • Are my skin tones as bad as my client says?
  • How to format DJI Cine Mags at the DIT cart?
  • How to improve playback performance with HVEC Main 10 codecs?
  • Tips for color grading drone footage?
  • How feasible is it to get a proper cailbration on a new MacBookPro display for on-the-road color grading?

Special shout-out: The entire Mixing Light team applauds the bravery of Annie for attacking a perceived weakness in her color grading skillset and asking for advice! It’s how we all grow as artists.

Questions or Comments?

Feel free to continue the conversation below in the comments!

Mentioned in this Insight

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Table of Contents

(bold are Mixing Light member questions)

00:00 – Introductions
00:58 – What have we learned new recently?
06:32 – Annie: Am I as bad at skin tones as my client says?
09:46 – Mixing Light Contributors react to stills Annie shared with them.
14:39 – A discussion on managing shadows for skin tones
18:39 – The effect and power of contrast on human perception
20:03 – How camera-specific LUTs effect skin tones (and your client’s expectation of ‘proper’ skin tones)
23:37 – What tools are recommended for targeting color bias in the shadows?

29:43 – Is it possible to format DJI Cine Mags without a drone inside the DIT cart?
33:42 – Is there an easy way to improve HVEC Main 10 Codec editing performance?
42:28 – How do I solve for a consistently magenta tint that I’m getting in drone footage?
48:00 – How feasible is it to get a proper calibration from a MacBookPro display?
53:10 – NDI and iPadPro as a portable laptop monitoring solution?
56:15 – Conclusion

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Homepage Forums Evaluating Skin Tones, Working With Drone Footage, Grading On Laptops

  • I have a question about something Cullen Kelly said about skin tones.  He described a situation which I run into all the time, I think.  It was that log footage converted to rec709 makes skin tones redder at 18:40.  I deal a lot with film scans in log that I have to grade to rec709 and I’ve fought with that problem a lot.  I don’t like to do secondaries if I don’t have to since a film timing wouldn’t have been able to, and I’m trying to be true to how the film would like.  Not that I haven’t used secondaries, I get that it’s a different medium and maybe neccessary sometimes, especially with faded prints that have already had their color polluted.  What would you recommend as the best way to deal with this and keep it honest.  Isolate the darker skin tones and adjust the color and saturation?  A desaturation with luminance vs saturation with a lower setting in the dark end?  Sometimes I do a desaturation with color boost and that helps.  Any advice there?

    • Ethan Thomas

      This write up below might help. Cullen linked this to me a month back and it definitely helped me understand the relationship between Hue and Tone curve. (And it has visuals!). Not sure if he’s a ML member.. but big credit to Jed Smith! It’s a really good write up.


      • Thank you.  I’ll check that out.  Hopefully it explains this particular phenomenon.

    • Cullen Kelly

      Great suggestion from Ethan. One conclusion we can reach from Jed’s excellent write-up is that if you apply your contrast to a luminance channel instead of directly to the RGB channels, you won’t get the hue/saturation shifts we’re discussing.

      • I’ll try that.

      • I read through all the articles and I have a couple of questions if you don’t mind.  On the RGB Tonemap page, the Gamma Down hue sweep graph shows saturated colors pushing to the primaries.  But further down the page the 3d graph of using an s-curve tonemapping to scale down a log signal (which since it’s lowering the values, I believe would be akin to the gamma down process), shows saturated colors as pushing to secondaries instead.  I don’t get why it would flip-flop like that.

        Also, this is in reference to what you said about applying contrast to the luminance channel only.  I am bringing the blacks of my cineon-like log footage down to 0 and using a color transform node to convert from Davinci Intermediate (which has a black point of 0 or near 0) to rec70.  I then do work before and after the CST node.  Would just bringing the footage down to 0 in the first node with a luminance channel move only be enough?  Or should I make my own log to rec709 curve that works in luminance only?

  • I’m looking forward to Cullen’s next project on mid-gray! And his assault upon False Color.

  • And I just downloaded Cullen’s book. Great timing, we fly home from NAB on Saturday, and I’ll start reading it on the two hour flight.



  • I totally feel the same way about grading skin tones as Annie – I’ve struggled getting the ‘filmic’ tone I was looking for. I do now feel I’m getting closer since I’ve started using my new favourite tool, the Sat vs Luma curve. I pick a point about 1/5th of the way from the left and drag down a bit. Then maybe drag the point at the far right down too. This makes the saturated skin tones go darker, denser. I’m loving this effect – although it can sometimes highlight artifacts in the picture, use it carefully!

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