Color Grading. What is it?
Good color grading can bring a project to its absolute best level. When people saw this commercial, we didn’t want them to feel like they were watching an ad.
Let me start this off by saying, this is not a scientific or technical article. I’m not about to tell you how a textbook defines color grading, or the number values I chose for the different options in my color application.
I want to talk about what color grading accomplishes. Why do we spend any time doing it, let alone hours? It’s a very complicated art, but when done well, it can completely transform a video.
In my mind, great color grading is the best companion to cinematography. A good grade can really push the emotion of a shot or the weather of the area around your subject. (Ex. 1 – Below) It can be the difference between a pretty plain looking room, and a colorful studio with almost a retro/video game vibe. Especially with the curvature/distortion around the edges from how wide the lens is.
[Top: Plain Looking Room] -- Ex. 1 -- [Bottom: Colorful Studio]
That’s the result of multiple, complicated layers, including one layer dedicated to reducing a slightly distracting shine that appeared on a couple objects in the background after the initial color grade. It’s a lot of work, like I was saying. That being said, it’s totally worth it. It’s a much more interesting shot to look at than the version on the left which is straight out of the camera. You’ve got blues, oranges, green tones. And the objects in the background are a lot more interesting now, because they each have a more noticeable color.
Color is like stitching that holds everything together.
“Okay, sure, but I use XYZ camera, or my iPhone, and it’s already brightly colored, why bother with this process?” — Good question. It does seem unnecessary, when technically we’re solving a “problem” that wouldn’t exist if we used different cameras. However, what you can’t see here, is that in that very bland, almost colorless image, is tons and tons of data which lets me color this image in absolutely any way I could possibly want to without losing quality, sharpness, etc. You can make incredible videos with iPhones and more inexpensive cameras, there is no doubt about that. But when we’re talking about high end video production, that extra freedom to tweak your emotion, lighting, and ambiance in such a variety of ways allows you to really create something unique.
Ex. 2 -- [Color Process for The Meaning of Comfort]
(Ex. 2 – Above) You should be able to see a gif that cycles through each individual layer of adjustment that the shot went through to get from original footage to finished product. This shot is a part of this television and social spot for Joyce Cooling & Heating, one of our members. It lasts just 3.5 seconds, and it’s one of 13 other shots, graphics, some minor visual effects, over a dozen layers of foley/sound effects, and music.
Good color grading can bring a project to its absolute best level. When people saw this commercial, we didn’t want them to feel like they were watching an ad. We wanted them to feel like they were being introduced to a community. Joyce Cooling & Heating isn’t even mentioned by name until the very end. The color pushed this into the realm of cinema and made it interesting to watch. It keeps people’s eyes engaged, even as we slowly introduce the brand through shots of Joyce’s logo on the side of their vehicles.
[Alternate Grade for The Meaning of Comfort] [A bleak look, similar to Netflix's Original Show Ozark]
This is why we “bother with this process”. Color is like stitching that holds everything together. With the proper set design, lighting, and cinematography, color can wrap all of it together in a lovely, cinematic package.
Oh, before you reach the end of the article and leave… If you’d like to read more like this, or you think you might like to work with us some day, you should add your name to this email list so we can keep you up to date.
I’ll leave you with a minute or two of a video from a great channel on YouTube. The video talks about how color isn’t all you need to make a great shot, but also how important color is.