How To Upgrade Your Contrast, Pivot, Lift, and Gain Adjustments

July 22, 2022

Learn why colorist Cullen Kelly loves Contrast-Pivot for his contrast adjustments - and how you can upgrade them for more nuanced control.


Flexing Fundamentals Part 2 – Revisiting Contrast

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about the most important adjustment in any image we grade: exposure. Today we’re discussing a close second: contrast. No matter what I’m grading, the very next thing I start dialing in after exposure is tonal contrast, and my preferred tool for this is the contrast/pivot knob pair. I love these adjustments for their simplicity and intuitive operation, but I’ve learned over the years there’s far more to them than meets the eye.

Let’s explore!

Key Take-aways for this Insight

In this Insight we’re focusing on getting the most out of two of my favorite knobs in Resolve: contrast and pivot. Most of us take these knobs for granted, but as you’ll learn, they’re an incredibly versatile pair whose behavior can be tweaked and tuned with just a few simple setup adjustments.

Given how often we reach for contrast/pivot, getting the exact response you want out of them can make a huge difference in your grading results. In this Insight you should learn:

  • Increased awareness of the kind of contrast you’re introducing or removing from the image — linear or curved?
  • The difference between applying contrast to RGB channels vs Y/L channels, and how to set up your node graph to execute either with equal ease

– Cullen

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Homepage Forums How To Upgrade Your Contrast, Pivot, Lift, and Gain Adjustments

Viewing 4 reply threads

    • Rajab Y

      That was so helpful, Thanks alot Cullen, i would love to see more technique like this with other colourspaces such as YUV HSV or HSL also;

    • Stefan R

      Very helpful. Tip: You can also try out the contrast tool in the “HDR Wheel” section. It gives similar results (similar, but not the same). It behaves very differently compared to the default contrast tool.

    • Jon Coy

      Really useful technique here, Cullen. I like the idea of this being set up in my fixed node tree in LAB. Will definitely try it on my next grade! Thanks for the insight.

    • Jamie N

      The thing to remember here is if the S curve option is ticked, the response will change depending on timeline colourspace.

      The HDR contrast has a rolled bottom and more linear response in the highlights but make sure to dial in your colourspace on the HDR palette tab to make the most of that feature.

      With the S curve option ticked the LAB/Log C combo tucks the shadows and rolls the highlights. Which makes for a great/fast way to compress your shadows and roll your highlights.

      Great tip Cullen! So many options.

    • Clement B

      Hi Cullen,

      Could you show us how to do the “Lab contrast” technique in Fusion? With a custom tool and color transforms?

      I have been following your Creative color science masterclasses and I would like to add this tool into my lookdev process.

      I am already trying to find out how to do that on my own. No success yet ^^

      Thank you



      • Clement B

        All good. I remember the formula.


        In Lab CS, with a custom tool

        R: (c1 – n2) * n1 + n2

        G: g1

        B: b1


        Silly me.


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