What is Color Grading?
At Videvo we offer stock footage, sound effects and royalty-free music. We’re passionate about everything video related: from capturing amazing footage up to the post-production process that takes your projects to the next level. Our stock footage library can help you save time and resources by providing you with professionally captured footage for your projects. With high-quality footage in hand, you can begin practicing some of the most popular post-production techniques right away. We often get the question of how to get started with color-grading, which is exactly what the focus of this article is.
Color grading is a process that involves changing or enhancing the colors of a video or a film. Successful videos not only rely on the quality of the content but also on how it appears visually. Color or even the complete absence of color (B&W) gives meaning to the film. It brings a vibrancy that will engage the audience and help put the story together. In essence, color grading is a process used in a creative way to make videos more custom. It allows content creators to set mood and emotion into the result.
How to begin?
It is essential to know that color grading is a process that happens in post-production. Most, if not all, occur with an editing software/application installed on a computer. It is then paired with a monitor that should be color calibrated to represent the colors you will adjust later accurately. There are currently many options to choose from when it comes to editing software. Some range in the tens of thousands of dollars, and some are free and available to download. Regardless of which one you choose, they are all equipped with the same essential editing tools used in color grading. If you don’t have any video content available to grade, it is best to download stock video footage to test color grading.
Color Grading vs. Color Correction
These two terms explain very similar processes in the editing workflow of video content. The difference is that color correction is more of the technical approach for correcting errors in the video. Such errors include dust, spots, or artifacts that affect color or skin tone. Color grading is the stylistic process that adjusts the “look” of a video. You might have heard the term “cinematic” when describing a video. It is pertaining to how the film looks and feels. For that style, color grading conveys attitude through the film’s color.
Color Grading Workflow
Being a creative process, it is fair to say that color grading will differ from editor to editor. However, there is a general process that they all follow to accomplish their style.
The first method that is used is normalizing the footage – it starts in the camera. Inside the camera, you can select to shoot in a LOG format or with a LUT applied. A LOG format provides a neutral, low contrast file. The format retains more data in the colors, highlights, mid-tones, and shadows, making the footage more “editable.” A LUT (Lookup Table) is a pre-set color template or a shortcut “look” that can make the whole grading process faster because you have already applied it to the file before editing. Most video cameras on the market give both options, but shooting in LOG is highly recommended.
Next, begin grading to find the style you want. Use editing tools to focus on adjusting contrast, saturation, brightness, white balance, and sharpness. These tools are essential to understand because they are most used in making your video consistent from shot to shot. Most graders use white balance as the first rough edit since many videos are seldomly shot in the exact location or even at the same time of day. Because light is captured in many different variations, adjust white balance as a starting point before using other editing tools. The goal is to create a style with color continuity.
The next step is where you’ll use all the other tools. You might find yourself adjusting curves, selecting specific areas in highlights, mid-tones, and shadows. All of this will lead to a final look. When making some of these more precise adjustments, where the colors need to be measured more accurately, there are tools like vectorscopes available in almost every editing software to assist. These are often used to measure skin tones because they read color digitally, making it easier to match color values when making correct adjustments.
Final Thoughts on Color Grading
Now that you see how color grading can make a video look and feel cinematic or moody, try it out. Begin by shooting some footage or downloading a stock video. Practice refining your color grading skills, and develop your editing style!