What is Color Grading and Why is it Important?

When it comes to filmmaking, there are notable differences between what the director can see during shooting and what is finally shown to viewers. This is because a lot of processing and post production changes takes place after the film has been made and part of that process is color grading.

Color grading in video is a post-production process that transforms footage by altering the color. As a result, the footage looks easier on the eye and is much more appealing to the viewer. Essentially, it brings the footage to life. So, let’s take a look at color grading and what it is all about.

Color plays a significant role in the way in which films are portrayed. Films that have a happy theme are likely to have splashes of vibrant colors while films that have a deep mood are likely to have darker tones. Effectively, color grading can help to enhance the mood in relation to what the director wants the audience to experience.

Color Grading and Color Correction – They Are Not The Same

Color grading and color correction are not the same thing. It might seem as though they are on the surface but they are both completely unique. What does color grading entail?

Color grading is the process of enhancing the color of film and the main purpose of this is to evoke emotions and feelings in those who are watching the film. As we have briefly touched on, films cause viewers to feel many different emotions ranging from happy to sad and romantic to scared and so, to achieve this, the correct colors have to be used. Color grading will provide you with the ability to add different tones or themes, all of which align with the message that will be delivered.

So, color grading is often applied after color correction and it forms part of the post-production process. This is down to the fact that the color grading becomes more apparent and successful on film that has been color corrected.

In reality, even for those films that have been perfectly shot, they are always going to require color correction because of the way in which it creates that perfect final look.This enables the story, the characters and scenes to come alive on screen.

As for color correction, this is a technical process that forms part of the post-production phase. It involves correcting colors so that it matches the hues and tones that you see in the real world. The aim of this process is to match the colours that are seen between each video clip so that there is consistency throughout. It will involve tweaking certain elements such as exposure and contrast to ensure that tones are represented accurately.

The Terms Used in Color Grading

There are a number of different terms that are used within the field of color grading.

Hue

This is used to depict a certain shade or color of a specific colour, making it possible to label it as purple, green, blue and red, however, it does not include white, black or shades of grey.

Saturation

Saturation relates to the way in which intensity and purity of a color are displayed in a film or image. As the saturation is increased, the color will become more pure looking and when decreased, the colors will look washed out.

Luminance

Luminance is influenced by the likes of highlights, mids and shadows but this term relates to brightness, how dark or how light a color might be.

Additive Color

These are non-primary colors but they come from mixing primary colors such as blue, red and green.

Color Cast

This term relates to the way in which the color of shot does not look as natural as it could or should. This is commonly caused by one or more incorrectly balanced light sources being used in a single shot, or the wrong white balance being set when the scene was being filmed.

Temperature

Colors and be cool or warm and the temperature will define this. Blues and purples are known as cool temperatures while warmth relates to oranges and reds.

White Balance

Using white balance, it is possible to alter the coolness and warmth of footage. It is also used to help create a more natural appearance.

Three-Way Color Corrector

The hue, saturation, brightness and contrast can all be altered using this tool. It makes it easier to make alterations and removes the need to switch between different functions

Curves

Curves make it possible to give images a shaper appearance by adjusting contrast. However, it has to be applied correctly to ensure that the footage does not look oversharpened.

Is Color Grading Required?

When it comes to filmmaking, from an artistic angle, color grading is considered to play a pivotal role. Through grading, it is possible to add a variety of styles and elements to your film. For decades, filmmakers have used color grading to create a certain atmosphere, enhance mood and even alter character traits. It is a useful tool that can completely transform the look and feel of the footage. So, yes, color grading is an integral part of the process because it can give film the ability to capture viewers through color alone.

When is Color Grading Implemented?

There are a number of different stages involved in post-production but color grading comes towards the end of the process. At this point, color grading will involve matching up images with the lookbook and color palette. Then, any opportunities to alter the mood or the feeling of a setting through the use of color will take place. This tweaking process is highly vital but it has to be completed with precision because it can be all too easy to overdo it.
Color Grading Software

As you might expect, the best color grading is carried out using dedicated software such as DaVinci Resolve 12 and Baselight, but also there are some mainstream tools on the market that will allow you to dip your toes into grading, such as Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro X.

Color grading is a vital part of the post-production process but without it, film would look completely different and would not capture the viewer in the same way as footage that has been color graded.

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