Post Magazine

October 2017

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Page 36 of 43 35 POST OCTOBER 2017 COLOR me, and how can I use my tools to maxi- mize the emotion? One of the first things I was taught while training was to treat each shot like a baby, respecting the image and treating it with love. I know it sounds silly, but think of it this way: A cooked meal tastes better when you give it the proper care and attention. The same can be said for color grading an image. FINDING THE LOOK So, what makes for a well-graded image? The goal is to get as much out of the image without losing detail. From a technical point of view, one of my first lessons was to never crush the blacks or blow out the highlights. When working with watercolors, for example, you never start with the deepest black paint; you layer it up and build on top of the colors. Color grading works in the same way. It's almost like a puzzle. If I'm given near- blown highlights in an image, my job is to not push them any further while still bringing harmony to the picture. It's pos- sible to "find" incredible looks while also retaining the director and DP's image. I talk about "finding" looks because it's all there, but it's the colorist's task to delve into the image to bring them out. SKIN TONE When it comes to color grading humans in moving image, it's important to pay attention to skin tone. If you look at your own, you'll see a variety of differ- ent colors and textures. Everyone's skin possesses unique qualities. Even people wearing makeup will have texture: A pro- fessional makeup artist will literally paint and create contours of deeper and light- er tones. This is crucial to bear in mind when color grading, as no two pigments are exactly the same and they shouldn't be treated that way, otherwise the end result can appear flat and lifeless. Skin tone needs to suit its environ- ment and not feel out of place, but rather work in tandem with the mood of the story. However, if I'm working on a funeral scene, no matter how gloomy the atmosphere, it's still necessary to bring out some reds or pinks in people's skin to bring separation to the image. USING LUTS If you're interested in color grading and just starting out, my advice would be to avoid using LUTs for as long as possible. A LUT is a preset that you can put over a raw image to give an instant "look." While LUTs have their advantages, they can automatically narrow the color pal- ette. Learning the craft of color grading is more effective when grading from a raw image under your complete control. If you like the look of certain LUTs, I'd recommend matching them with basic color correction tools. With a bit of practice, you can imitate them and even beat the quality because you will have a greater range of separation. COLOR BALANCE Balancing an image makes for a fairly simple process. To start, I add contrast by stretching the highlights and the shadows, but I do not clip the signal. This can be checked by looking at a waveform monitor. Then I can bring up or down the exposure in the mid-tones, depending on whether there's too much or too little light in the image. Retaining detail is of utmost importance, especial- ly during the first balance of a project. Adding saturation at this point allows me to see where the color needs to be balanced, and if it's too much of one color in the shadows, highlights or mid- tones, I feed more of the opposite color in that area (for example, if it's very green in the mid-tones, I'd feed more magenta into that area). I aim for the waveform in the red, green and blue channels to look con- sistent in the highlights and shadows. That's when I know the image is bal- anced. The whites will be white and the blacks will be black. Even if there is a color palette involved, it's essential to have separation in this first balance. Separation is what brings an image to life, adding shape and dimen- sion to the image. It'll give the image a compelling presence once a "look" is built on top of it. IT'S ALL ABOUT PRACTICE A lot of people ask me what they need to do in order to make an image look good. It's all about practice. To anyone starting out in color, now is the perfect time to get started. You have a world of programs available at your fingertips, and getting footage has never been easier. It's not about the software; it's about training your eye and brain to view im- ages in a different way. Find a mentor. And remember, inspiration is every- where — in commercials, music videos, fashion magazines, even during your daily commute. The next time you adjust the color on any type of content, ask the question: What can I do to make the image better? Note: To view Matt's State Farm spot, visit: lio/3798/backstory%3A-car A recent LG World spot.

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