How To Properly Grade Your Videos
Correct colour grading can be the difference between your footage looking dull and flat or looking like a professional high-end piece. In recent years, colour grading is being managed by video editors in post-production instead of experts with calibrated displays. It helps to set the mood and feel of your footage, as well as making it more visually pleasing. If you are shooting footage in multiple cameras, then proper grading and colour correction is an absolute must for consistency and making every scene look like it is part of the same project. Knowing how to properly grade your videos can be confusing, especially if you are new to the video editing game. Here are our top tips and tricks for properly grading your video footage.
Before you can begin grading your footage, you first have to choose which kind of application you are going to use. Colour grading can be done in either your NLE, such as Premiere Pro, or in a dedicated colour grading application. If you are already knowledgeable on using an NLE for your video editing, then it is usually best to stick to this piece of software that you are familiar with.
As a video editor, the chances are you are constantly hopping between various machines and locations when you are working on your videos. Working on your colour grading across multiple monitors will result in inconsistencies in your final footage. The chances are none of your displays are perfectly calibrated for colour grading, but at least if you stick to just one monitor for the whole process then everything will be graded at the same level.
The same can be said for your environment. If you regularly change where you do your editing, it can lead to your colour grading not matching throughout. The type of lighting in your office and even the colour of the walls can impact your final colour grading finish. Our eyes and brain make constant adjustments to our perception of colour and brightness, so changing light conditions can make a big difference to your colour grading.
Your NLE will already have various tools and scopes available to adjust your footage, the difficult part is knowing what you are looking at and how to make a change in the correct direction. There will be a range of tools available to make sure your colour is perfect, but which tools you need to use will depend on the type of footage you have. It is likely that your footage will have been shot in either RAW, log-encoded or ‘video’ with or without a profile.
If you are using RAW or log-encoded videos, then the first step towards getting beautifully graded footage is to use a tool called a Look Up Table or LUT. A LUT will take a huge amount of your image data and reduce it to just the parts that you need. This process will change the way your image appears without changing the image itself. It can automatically transform footage that looks dull and washed out, into a bright beautifully coloured image.
Your NLE will likely have some kind of Auto Colour and Auto Balance tools that can be used for colour correction. These tools when used correctly can do a really good job of correcting your footage colour. Remember that colour correction is an additive process. This means that to get the correct balance, colour values must be added to the existing channels. For example, if the footage is too blue in the whites, then you can correct it by adding yellow in the highlights control.
One of the most difficult things to get right when colour grading is skin tones. Your audience will never notice when your skin tones are perfect, but they will definitely realise if they are wrong. All human skin is essentially the same colour, taking up a narrow band of a specific hue vector on a vector scope. The is known as the Flesh Tone Line (FTL) and it is the tonal differences that are most obvious.