Entries in color (14)


Entrata Braveheart Spot- artificial lighting techniques

Vignettes have the power to direct the eye more dramatically than any other method- 

until they're noticeable. 

Then they're shlock. 


example of bad vignettes: Wherever You Go

I shot this through a canon AE1 camera body with a badly vignietted focusing screen.

 But with the ability to track windows (attach them to elements within the shot) and animate opacity, a good colorist can make them invisible. This is one of my favorite features in DaVinci Resolve. 

 To get the look right in this spot, I needed some power windows to bring down the background and focus the shots. With a static camera on a tripod this would be really simple, but some of these are handheld. So as soon as the camera bumps around organically it looks like somebody's smudged ink on the lens. 

 To marry them to the shots I had to track the backgrounds, but the default tracker sets points inside the window you've created. If an arm moves across any point, it starts tracking their hand instead of the background and you've lost it. So I needed to set my own points on the background where no arms or heads would cross. 

Once the windows were tracked to the background I feathered off the edges and opacity to hide them. Whenever you start creating artificial lighting, subtlety is key. I always end up lowering my key mixing gain(or opacity in english) once I've got an effect working the way I want through a shot. Its how I lower a node's impact without messing up other settings.

I've also got highlight punches pulled on most of the character's faces to draw attention to their reactions in the wider shots and to make the overall blue gray look match without effecting skin tone and hair color. 

Here's one of the referance shots to compare



Still I Strive

I just recently finished coloring this beautiful story about children in a Cambodian orphanage and their journey to perform before the royal family. This was a touching project to work on. Cambodia has suffered a cripplingly violent past. There are many orphans. Working on something so important is pretty humbling.

This project was colored on a limited budget. The director told me that since it was documentary it didn't need to be perfect. Mainly he just wanted the night segments to be visable and for the narrative portions to be as polished as I could get them in such a short amount of time. But as I started working through the images I was struck by how good the story was. I couldn't see the subtitels or hear the audio, but I could feel it. So I went ahead and did as much extra matching and polishing as time would allow. Its at that level where I forget what I'm doing and just focus in on the work. When its that good, you can't not make it your best work.

The trailer below was cut before I worked on it, so I've included some stills to show how I got things looking. This was really special to be a part of. I don't think I can take much credit for polishing something that already shines.

Here's the Trailer:


The Color Run

You'll notice in the before and after shots below how many times the sky was not blue when I started. Changing the weather is challenging enough as a colorist but when you add in clouds of colored chalk pitching back and forth across the sky, it introduces a whole new set of problems. There are lots of different ways to tilt an overcast sky. The simple route is to select it and push everything to blue. But when the sky is white and the balloons are white like in one of the shots, you've got to play with how far to push before it gets really really noticeable. Honestly the biggest thing you're doing when changing wheather is working as many corrections as it takes to cover your tracks and make it as natural as you can without drawing attention. 

It doesn't always work as well as you'd like it to. Often you end up pulling it back farther than youd like to keep edges clean, but overall it turned out well and gave it the vibe it needed. Enjoy.



Luminance First

Have you ever been blown away by the cinematography in old movies?

I have.

We're so used to little color screens on everything it just seems natural, but back then, what you saw through the camera wasn't what the movie would look like. You saw color. There weren't any electronics. You were looking through a series of mirrors and through the lens at the people on set in front of you. Cinematographers had to translate in their head what sucking the color out would do to the image... and they were GOOD at it!

They had to think in terms of luminance. 

How to use luminance to sculpt your images



This is a good example of what I'm talking about. The raw image is pretty flat and uninteresting. But switching to black and white to work with luminance saved it.

I worked with eye first.

That's not good advice. Its just where I like to start because its usually my focal point and I always find it most interesting. I painted in light highlighting the bright points in the iris all the way around the pupils. the left eye is out of focus so I needed to mirror that with my brush strokes. If its blurry, use bigger brushes.

With that same light I went ahead and highlighted the highs in his features beginning to sculpt the face more. Then I countered that with the shadows painting darkness in around the iris and back out to the rest of the face. I finished with a few separate passes on the image as a whole to direct the light subtly across the eyes to add some feeling.


By this time I was getting it where I wanted it, but I decided to add the color back in.

I liked it. I compared the two a few times and yeah, I liked it.

With just a quick adjustment to tweak the color, it was done.

When I first started doing this, I'd spend all my time shifting the color around and maybe ten seconds on a quick contrast tweak at the end. More and more I find that working to get the lighting right first makes all the difference. Your eye can be fooled by color contrast and saturation. Taking it back to black and white helps you focus on what you're actually doing. Then, any color work just adds to that. This isn't a hard and fast rule, just a suggestion. So next time you've got something that's just not getting there, consider switching to black and white!


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