The Importance Of Color Grading In Film And Video Production

Ask people what they consider to be the most important part of a film and they will more than likely reply with “the storyline”. Of course, this is true but it is not the only element of film that stands out. So many different elements have to come into play such as the location or setting, the actors and the way in which the film is filmed and processed. Everything works together to create a final product that captures the audience, evokes certain emotions and leaves them wanting more.

With this in mind, there is one element of filmmaking that is extremely important – color.

Think about films through the years and the way in which color brings them to life. Moody films are set to dark tones to create the right atmosphere while lively, fun and happy films are more than likely to include pops of color throughout to heighten the mood of the viewer. So, it is fair to say that color is crucial.

Films take viewers on an emotional journey and it gets our mind working in wonderful ways and it is often the reason why people consider watching films as a form of escapism. Both consciously and subconsciously, they can engage with use and allow us to enter a whole new world.

What is Color Grading?

Essentially, color grading could be considered a type of color correction but it is important to recognise that the two are completely different. Color grading is much more than balancing color which is part of the correction process because it gives footage a specific feel.

Color grading is one of the final steps when it comes to processing film and for that reason, it could be considered one of the most important. When it comes to film, both the director as well as the cinematographer will play a part in helping the colorist to create that final look.

The process involves adjusting white balance, adjusting blacks and whites, adjusting saturation and contrast as well as many other elements. Effectively, the process can take dull and flat footage and bring it to life.

How is Color Grading Used?

In the early days of film, color was not as important as it is today and that was mainly down to capabilities and technology. As technology developed and post-production processing became an integral part of the process, color grading is now considered extremely important.

From romantic films to thrillers and comedy, the colors will all help to create a certain feeling based on the film itself and that forces viewers to respond in a way that connects them to the film.

Color grading is not just a process that is used primarily in the film industry. We now live in a connected world whereby almost everything we consume has to engage and deliver a message. Spend time on social media and you will be met with ads. These ads have nothing more than a few seconds to capture your attention and to do this, color is often used. The same can be said for TV ads and even personal videos such as wedding videos. Essentially, whatever the viewer is consuming, they have to become emotionally connected with it.

When Should Color Grading Be Used?

There are a large number of reasons why color grading would be used as part of a project. Of course, much like the many other tools available, it is important to know when color grading should be used. In fact, it has to be implemented correctly or else it can detract from the film or video and the message it is delivering.

Color grading and using color to create a specific mood is not a new concept. Throughout the decades, mood rings have been used because color is known to evoke certain responses but what really matters is understanding when to use color grading and how to use it.

The reality is that colorists should be involved in the process as early as possible. This is down to the fact that it is common for new filmmakers to completely miss or overlook the importance of color. This can lead to the outcome of the film being impacted by lack of power and emotion when it comes to color.

The Positive Effects of Color Grading

Color grading is crucial for any video regardless of whether it is being used for a relatively small marketing campaign or being watched by millions of people globally. As far as film goes, viewers have high expectations and to meet those expectations, color has to be balanced throughout. It has to have the right tone and feel and there is a whole variety of genres that have been improved as a result of color grading.

An example of this is the film Saving Private Ryan which was given the bleach bypass effectively. This creates a desaturated look but when you look at the film, you can see exactly what it brought to the overall feel and how it worked with the type of film that it was.

A film that has been professionally color graded will be technically clean but will work in harmony with the creative element of the film.

The Process

Color grading is not a process that can be carried out in a matter of hours. It is an important part of ensuring that film leaps from the screen and comes to life. Therefore, it has to be done in a way that ensures it creates an immersive experience that keeps viewers hooked. As a result, the process can take a matter of days or weeks or months to ensure that the image is perfect in every possible way.

As far as post-production processing goes, color grading is more important than many might realise. A colorist will have an understanding of the look and atmosphere that needs to be created, ensuring that the power of color gives footage a completely new feel and meaning.

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