The 10-Minute Grade: Creating Global Contrast

May 16, 2020

In the first installment of a new series, Cullen Kelly shares his strategies for quickly getting a grade on its feet by creating global contrast


Dialing in Contrast Quickly

Sooner or later, we all encounter a situation where we need to get a grade on its feet fast.

Maybe you’ve fallen behind due to other projects, maybe you’ve had this one dropped in your lap last minute, or maybe it’s a small budget and you need to be disciplined with your time in order to make it work.

Whatever the reason, in these moments our success hinges on having an efficient and effective approach. Finding that ideal approach for the various aspects of our grades is what this new series, The 10-Minute Grade, is all about. 

In this first installment, I’m going to show you how to quickly establish solid contrast across all your shots using a three-step process:

  1. Creating a global contrast curve that provides a consistent starting point for all your images
  2. Taking a high-speed pass through your shots with focus on a single metric: exposure
  3. Circling back to ‘priority shots’ to give them a few minutes of extra attention

If you have any questions, thoughts or something to add to the discussion, please use the comments below.


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Homepage Forums The 10-Minute Grade: Creating Global Contrast

  • Jeffrey S

    Good one. It’s great to take a bird’s eye view of your grade and work from the top, down. Instead of starting at the first shot and spending minutes gazing and adjusting. I feel like this quick approach also helps defeat adaptation.

  • Scott Stacy

    This is a great way to mix things up for me, Cullen. I am usually establishing contrast for each of my hero shots per scene and then working in a linear, matching, manner. I am going to give this a try. Thanks!

  • Cullen Kelly

    Thanks Scott, really glad to hear this is giving you some fresh ideas. Would love to hear how it goes for you!

  • Cullen Kelly

    Thanks Jeffrey, really well put. And great point about defeating adaptation by staying light on your feet — I think you’re absolutely right!

  • Steve B

    Do you think this is realistic on a film with upward of 1500 shots. I can’t decide if you would end up losing time overall.

  • Pat Inhofer

    In my thinking, this is a terrific idea for a Hero Shots workflow on longform when setting looks. then you just copy off the contrast transform and integrate it into the fixed node tree you develop for the project.

    This could also work on a scene basis.

  • Cullen Kelly

    Great question Steve! In my experience this approach is totally viable for long-form — I’m working on a feature right now where I’m using it. As Pat says, you can ultimately copy the curve node onto your individual node trees if you want more control, OR, if you want to have a few distinct but consistent looks, you could put shots/scenes into groups and create different contrast nodes in each post-group node tree.

  • Raul F. Ballester

    Really like this global approach. Thanks for this tutorial.

  • Cullen Kelly

    Thanks Raul, my pleasure! Happy grading.

  • Darren H

    Great insight, I often take advantage of timeline nodes in the same manner, but I usually do it ‘after the fact’ if I want to make a global adjustment after working on a good portion of a project along with grouped clips. This is a good idea for those light-speed turnaround projects though.

  • R Neil Haugen

    Loved watching this … good thinking process.

  • Shawn Convey

    Thanks so much for this series… Quick Question — When using the Custom ACES workflow like Joey D’Anna talks about in ML0952 where you are setting your input and output nodes using ACES transform, Joey talks about moving the ODT to the TIMELINE (away from the CLIPS) so would placing the GLOBAL CONTRAST node on the TIMELINE before the ODT make sense in this case or will that cause issues down the line. (sorry I am new to color and am attempting to build good habits so I apologize if this is somewhat redundant or obvious)

  • Adrian A

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve tried this approach on my last project, but under a shared node instead that over the time line just to be able to adjust each clip after it for client changes and it worked so well and it was so fast that I I made it part of my fixed node tree.
    Thank you so much again!

  • Steve B

    Ok I can see how that would be easier to manage. Cheers

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