Monday, May 26, 2014

Anatomy of a Grade - Episode 11 - Keepin' It Consistent and Grading for the Bigger Picture

In this episode of Anatomy of a Grade I decided to take a look at more a "grading concept" than an actual technique. Often times I find myself in the color suite with a client who is unsure of what they want out of a specific shot or scene. I'll usually show them a very basic primary grade at first to get the wheels turning inside our heads around what's possible with the footage and where its ideal "natural balance" lies. Often times, just adding a bit of contrast and balancing out some overall color casts can greatly enhance an image and garner that "wow" from the client couch that all colorists secretly relish - and sometimes, that's it, that's all a shot needs. It looks "better", you've done your job as a colorist by enhancing the image in front of you and satisfying the client's desires - mission accomplished. But sometimes just making an image "look better" can be missing the bigger picture. Often times, in long form content, one has to step back and take a look at the visual design of the entire piece as a whole and ask the question, "Is this right for the movie? Or, more specifically, is this right for this scene or this character or this point in the story?" Is simply "making it better" the "right" grade or correction for a shot? The answer quite often is, no, it may not be. Although you've made a shot look better by enhancing it, you may have "missed the boat" on the overall visual scheme and arc of the project in its entirety. And this is the difference between "Color Correction" and "Color Grading" in my book.

Simple color correction brings out the full visual potential of an image and balances out any impurities or imperfections that might exist in the original photography. Color grading, however, adds an intentional color/contrast bias or "look" to a shot or scene based on an overall visual design and scheme for an entire film or piece of work. Often times the "right" grade is very different from even the most "visually pleasing" grade. The "right" grade should still look good, but it needs to "fit" with the rest of the movie or piece in terms of its palette and feel. Now, this is of course completely subjective between you and the filmmaker, but I often times find that when I'm stuck on how to grade a particular shot or scene its most likely because I've become a bit myopic in my view and I'm not looking at the shot or scene from the perspective of the whole film. Usually the "right" grade for a shot is staring you right in the face and can be as clear as day once you have a better grasp of where the whole film is going visually.

In this particular example, from the feature film "The Scribbler", the "right" grade for the shot was based on keeping things consistent chromatically across the entire film. Once I was able to bring in the right color palette, the shot felt much more intentional in its appearance and design. The answer here was to grade for color consistency to keep a coherent visual feel from scene to scene. That was the answer this time at least...

No comments:

Post a Comment