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Colour Correction/Colour Grading, and the workflow thereof...

Oct 1, 2013 5:45 AM



I have had a sit down discussion with the team here, and we are thrashing out the final bits and pieces of our workflow for the project. We are finding it rather unique, in the way that we will have to employ different workflows specifically tailored to specific shot types - IE - the workflow for a set of 4 characters sitting is a ship bridge, would be different to the workflow for creating an exterior space flight scene. I assume this is normal, and I am not going completely mad, but the question of colour correction VS colour grading has been raised again now.


There is so much confusion online, as the terms are used very interchangeably - In my view, it boils down to this:


1) Colour correction = getting each element on its own layer to match the other elements on the other layers within a particular comosition - in other words, making it look like the ship was actually shot against the selected background

2) Colour Grading = Applying a final "Look" on the entire scene/production. - EG. desaturating all elements to provide a harsh "Flying over a desert" feel.

3) Colour correction = performed per layer/per comp

4) Colour Grading = performed at the end as one of the final steps


Apart from the actual understanding of what the terms mean, and where they fit in, I am trying to figure out how it would best work in our workflow, and what tools are best to accomplish the task.


I have an example scene that I would like to discuss, and get the forums opinion on how we go about it.


The Scene:


A space ship flying against a star background. 2 shots in the scene, each comprising of 3 layers - Layer 01=space scene, layer 02=engine flare, layer 03=filmed space ship (each with different lighting)


Capture.JPG(The elements in this screenshot are stunt doubles!) 


In After Effects, I create the space scene and the lens flare for each shot and import the 2 footage items. I then do the composite, and end up with two complete shots. The client comes in, and decides that he prefers shot 01, as it is darker and more to his taste. Would I be correct in saying that at this point in the workflow, I should use colour correction tools to match the two elements (working within shot 02's composition) ? The tools used would be a possible combination of Curves,levels,brightness/contrast or SA Color Finess.


Once I have the two shots matched, the client then decides that the dome of the ship is too black, he would prefer to bring the purple hue out a bit more - now, still in after effects and still using the same tools (with the exception of brightness/contrast), I get the colours of the dome more to his liking - (maybe upping saturation, maybe using masks, etc). At this point, I have a completed shot, that is pretty much 100% how the client wants it to look in the final render.


Once all the shots for the scenes are done, and the scenes are handed to the editor and placed into a complete timeline, this is the point where we decide on each scenes specific "feel". The scenes are then rendered out (as intermediates) and a tool like speedgrade is used to apply a a colour grade - knowing that this adjustment will affect the entire composite, and not just elements within it (like the dome and not the flare for instance)


Those are the thoughts I am struggling with at the moment - I hope it makes sense to the readers, and is not really as jumbled as I fear it might be!


The bottom line is this - I am trying to find the most optimized way to get the best possible output, using the correct tools at the correct time (and of course, in the correct Application - AE, Prem or Speedgrade).


I still need to do some reading up on speedgrade, as I am not 100% sure how it fits into the production workflow between AE and Prem. I remember chatting about it previously and will go back to those chats for clarity)


Thank you all for your time



  • Currently Being Moderated
    Oct 1, 2013 6:23 AM   in reply to Pierre Devereux

    "Bringing out the purple hue a bit more" is definitely color grading not color correction. If they're gonna get that picky on the color that early in the workflow, I'm not sure you can do much color grading after that as they've already locked down what they want it to look like.

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    Oct 1, 2013 7:05 AM   in reply to Pierre Devereux
    How would you do this later on in the project, if the layers are all baked into an intermediate render?

    Colorists always have masks, mattes, power windows, custom shapes or whatever they called in their toolkit.

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    Oct 1, 2013 7:26 AM   in reply to Pierre Devereux
    Does that sound right?

    Yes, it does. Aside from the fact it is just one of sound scenarios. In real life projects resourses can be allocated in various ways and performing tasks may overlap or go in parallel, not just sequentially.

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    Oct 1, 2013 8:48 PM   in reply to Fuzzy Barsik

    The most important thing to do is to create a looks or color bible. Take a few shots and grade them through what you think will be the final, then flatten that a bit so that you have room in final color grading to make more corrections. Publish this color bible and have it available online for everyone that has anything to do with the production from the filming, to the model making, to the compositing. Without an approved and locked color bible for your project you're headed for a headache.

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    Oct 2, 2013 6:24 AM   in reply to Pierre Devereux

    Put very simply Flatten means to reduce the contrast. You want as much room to adjust things as you can get down the road. When you setup a look for a camera the best option is to have the image as flat as possible so that the blacks are not crushed and the whites are open. Think of curves.  ⎠is not flat, / is. Here's an example from a GoPro set to Raw (flat) that I crushed the blacks lifted the mids and and the whites on the top compared to the flat original image. Once those blacks are crushed and whites are pushed up it's very hard to get them back later.


    Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 6.18.57 AM.png

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