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I’ve said before that color grading is one of my favorite tasks in video production.  It is also where, at Molly Media Studios, we like to invite our clients down to the Editing Studio for the day to come along and have fun with this process.

Creative and powerful color grading sets amateurs apart from the professional.  A good production company will always include color grading as part of their production process.  Too many times, though, I find that when I’m researching what other companies are doing out there, oftentimes they are leaving color grading behind.

At Molly Media Studios, color grading happens in a program from Apple called, appropriately, Color.  Color is part of Apple’s professional video production suite, Final Cut Studio.  Final Cut Studio is a collection of programs, including Color, DVD Studio Pro, Motion, Cinema Tools, Compressor and the industry standard editing software, Final Cut Pro.

At Molly Media Studios, we try to do things differently.

After the video has been through Final Cut Pro, after all the cuts and fades and music placement and voiceover and everything else that happens in a rough cut, the video then goes to Color for grading.

Color Grading is sometimes misnamed “color correction”.  This is a misnomer because during the color grading process, so much more is done than simply correcting for exposure problems and lighting inconsistencies.  Color grading accomplishes all that, too, but does so much more.

All the following images are from our current production for the City of Sault Ste. Marie, and their Immigration Web Portal — which is under construction.  Within a few weeks, twelve videos by Molly Media Studios, which are currently under production, will be showcased on this site.  These twelve videos are instructional videos designed to help new immigrants to the Sault orient themselves, and help them find information to help them get settled in their new home.

All images from this blog entry are from the new video we’ve been producing for the City of Sault Ste. Marie:  Education.

(Other videos in the series include a Welcome Message video, a video message on getting settled, and various other videos to help the newcomer orient themselves to the Sault.)

On this project for the Corporation of the City of Sault Ste. Marie, take a look at the scene below.  This is a shot taken at Sault College in the chefs school, as the students were taking exams and cooking up a storm (the food smelled incredible).  The scene looks pretty good as is, right?  No color “correction” needed.

Molly Media Studios visits the Chefs School at Sault College

Now take a look at this same scene, after the color grading process.  Notice the differences?  It pops out more, has a little more punch to it.  It seems more alive.

This image pops out much better, doesn't it?

To get this effect, I’ve darkened the blacks and pushed up the whites a little.  Basic contrast stuff, using the controls below.

Screenshot from Color - the color grading program we use at Molly Media Studios.

But then I also adjusted the amount of saturation in the greens and yellows, shown by the curvature of the line in the saturation controls.

Take a look at this next scene, also taken from our current work with the City of Sault Ste. Marie.  This shot was filmed in the machine shop of Sault College, and the original looks pretty good.

The Machine Shop at Sault College

But it’s a little light, don’t you think?  There’s no real black anywhere in the shot.  There’s lots of darks moments in the shot, where it looks like it should be black, but it’s just a dark, washed out grey.  This can be confirmed by looking at the scopes below that analyze everything about the shot.

After color grading, with scopes in view.

On the scopes, black is represented by the 0% line, while white is represented by the 100% line.  Everything in between is represented by the scatter in the distance between them, indicating a range of tones that are weighted toward the lower half of the scope.  This indicates that the shot has a dark feel to it, but still there are no blacks, because none of the scatter actually reaches the 0% line.

In this shot, after grading, I’ve brought the blacks down and expanded the distance between scatter in the mid tones.  You can see the black now in the image, and this is represented by the scatter which either touches or falls below the 0% line in the scopes.  The brighter mid tones are represented by the increased range of scatter between the 100% and 0% lines.

This next shot of Algoma University, again for the City of Sault Ste. Marie, is a little washed out.  You can see this in the scopes because of the lack of blacks or whites, and also how squished up the scatter is toward the middle of the range.

Notice the lack of blacks anywhere in the shot of Algoma University.

Take a look at the scatter in this color graded version.  Stretched out more evenly along the range of mid tones, with some black now present in the shot.

Looks much better, doesn't it?

Now take a look at the saturation control line.  I’ve increased the saturation of only the blues in the image, represented by the curvature of the line along the blue spectrum.

The Saturation Curve

But notice something else: the luminosity curve.  I’ve lowered the luminosity in the same color range as I’ve increased the saturation, the blues.  This makes the blues in the shot darker, less bright, and helps to bring out the white, fluffy clouds in the distance that so beautifully frame the upper part of the image.

The Luminosity Curve

And in this instance I’ve made the sky above Algoma University purple rather than its original blue.  Fun, huh?

So I’ve shown some basic looks in color grading, and explained what I’ve done to achieve these looks.  Take a look at the before and after stills below.  Try to see the differences between the two images, and check the scopes to figure out what I’ve done to achieve these looks.

Before color grading.

After color grading.

Before

After

Before

After (don't they look scrumptious?

Before

After

Before

After

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