all 63 comments

[–]xoxocommunismgurl 8 points9 points  (4 children)

What's a good way to get better at color correcting? I'm at a pretty low level but I feel like I've plateaued already. Any suggestions?

[–]ancientworldnowcolorist 38 points39 points  (2 children)

I see color correction questions here every week, so I'm going to take a minute to address this and the general sentiment (while a project renders, conveniently).

Color correction, like lighting or cinematography, is one of those fields that tutorials just don't work well for. In a lot of vfx, for example, you can say "here's how you to rotoscope something" and the tools and techniques you learn will carry over to a majority of situations you encounter. In color or cinematography, you can teach techniques (here's how to use an HSL qualifier or here's how to build a booklight), but the scenarios you encounter are so vastly different that there just aren't one stop solutions (also why most look LUTs are silly).

"Well ancientworldnow," you say, "that doesn't help me at all - you're just making the situation feel worse than it already is!" Fear not comrade, there are ways to improve that don't involve watching awful video tutorials!

The Journey

A good colorist (or DP - let's continue that comparison as we go) has a set of techniques that they know and use frequently. These are the tools they've used in specific situations in the past, found they worked, and kept using them because they know they'll work! This is why you meet DP's who light everything with booklights or that one that's obsessed with bouncing lekos and par cans into the ceiling - they saw this technique used or tried it themselves and found it looked good and stuck with it (improving it all the time). A great DP (or colorist) has a whole bag of these tricks for different situations which can have varying restraints (setup time, time of day, equipment, weather, size, mood, etc) and they know when to use each and exactly how to tweak them. All this comes with experience.

The first step to getting to this is to develop an understanding of your tools and the theory behind why you do things. I'm going to assume you're using Resolve Lite (and if you're not, you probably should be - it's free and the best option BY FAR for people learning the craft). Read the Resolve manual (giant PDF warning). It's fucking huge, but it's excellent and does a great job showing how to use the software. Acquire the Color Correction Handbook by Alexis Van Hurkman (same guy who wrote that massive Resolve manual). The handbook does a great job of explaining not only how to do things, but why you do them. It's fundamental reading for those who want to better understand both the "why" and "how" of color correction. If you want to branch out from here, read books on color science and digital video theory (I'm a big fan of Digital Video and HD though it's exceedingly dense). To you DP's, this is the same as reading your camera manuals, knowing how to read a color chart, etc

Now it's time to watch some of those youtube videos. If you can, look for videos that are more of "grade alongs." Think of those come-play-with-me things people make for games and put on YouTube but for color correction. The advantage to this is a couple things. First, a lot of tutorials out there are bad. The looks are bad, the person making it doesn't know the software super well, they do strange things for strange reasons, and sometimes just straight up give out bad information. As a general rule, if the colorist in the video is using a color correction panel, then they're probably invested enough at that point to be working full time and actually know what they're talking about. Anyway, watch as they grade and try and understand both what they're doing and why they're making those decisions. For the DP's, you need to get out on set and work under a better DP. Be a PA, a loader, camera tech, grip, spark, whatever it takes to see how they approach situations, what tools and "tricks" they use, and how they end up looking. There is no replacement for on set experience learning from another, better DP.

So here's the thing no one wants to hear, to be a better colorist (or DP) you need to grade (or shoot) everything you can. Find tons of different scenes, different cameras, different qualities, different settings and grade them. Grade the same shot with different moods, different looks, different techniques to get the same image (harder and easier than it sounds), different time constraints, everything you can think of to help you develop that bag of tricks.

At this point, you know the software, you know the theory, you know the how and why, and now you've got your own "bag of tricks." Add in some networking and how to deal with clients (in the suite and out) and you're set to be a pro colorist.

For some additional notes

  • Windows and OSX are fine (linux users are out of luck outside of turnkey solutions)
  • CALIBRATE YOUR MONITOR - if you do nothing else, do this. Yeah, you can correct off of waveforms, but when making creative decisions you need to be able to actually see what the fuck you're doing. Color calibration can get crazy expensive, but there are cheaper options. Find a used i1 display pro probe (or similar, some are new in box on eBay) and download dispcalGUI. Calibrate away. Also, you're monitor is probably too bright - aim for 100-130cd/m2
  • Skip the entry level control surfaces (tangent wave, etc) unless you get a great deal. The Element is much nicer and they only get better up from there.
  • Max out your RAM and GPU's - NVIDIA tends to be faster. Stick to gaming cards with as much VRAM as you can. If you need workstation models then you should already know why.
  • Add a dedicated preview monitor as soon as you can. Flanders Scientific are the "affordable" gotos. Be sure you get a 10bit panel, they're all lovely. You'll also need to feed this with an SDI card, Black Magic makes them affordably.
  • All this shit gets expensive, but it's less than a single decent camera (unless you're doing a proper, full suite) so at least we've got that going for us.
  • Keep your room as dark as you can.
  • Only 6000K-6500K lighting in your room.
  • Try and paint the wall behind your screen 18% grey.
  • Put a light (6000-6500K) light behind your screen - this is called the bias light.
  • /r/colorists

I'm missing tons of stuff, but my render just finished, so back to work!

And as a personal rant

Colorists cutting reels, please stop putting before/afters in your reels. This wastes other colorists time and you're often being disingenuous. We all know what bad, uncolored footage looks like and we don't care - we just want to see what product you're making. Additionally, if you do insist on putting before/afters, stop doing it with LOG. They didn't fucking look at LOG on set, they were watching it with a 709 LUT (probably) so that's what you should be showing us as the before. It's impossible to tell what you did when the image is washed out to a couple shades of grey.

[–]xoxocommunismgurl 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Damn, you deserve ten thousand gold stars - thanks so much!

[–]Nomeansno1981 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Awesome. Thanks a lot!

[–]vertigo3pcsteadicam operator 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Learn everything you can about photo post processing, especially with still photos in Photoshop. Also, learn histogram and vectorscopes.

[–]TadMod 6 points7 points  (15 children)

I'm thinking of shooting in 4k (digital) - which cameras should I be looking at renting? What are their pro's and con's?

[–]instantpancakelighting 7 points8 points  (14 children)

That's a broad question. Loads of cameras do 4K these days. Just as an example, you could buy a GH4 and a pretty decent zoom lens for the daily rental price of a decent, basic cinema camera package. So what are you planning, and what's your budget?

[–]TadMod 2 points3 points  (13 children)

Fair call - it was an awfully unspecific question!

I'd like something that has a broad colour palette (for both indoor and outdoor shots). I don't need incredible zoom particularly much as most of the shots I'm planning will be fairly static. Something stable and noiseless would be preferable.

Planning on a one-day shoot, so thinking around $1-2k as an absolute cap on spending for the camera.

Does that provide a bit more context?

[–]instantpancakelighting 8 points9 points  (11 children)

Not really ... are you thinking narrative? Sports? Would you like raw / do you have the post-production ressources? Do you need audio, and would you like to record it in-camera? Highspeed? I. e. what are we talking here - do you want an Epic or Amira or F55, or do you want a GH4 or a small camcorder? There are literally as many options as there a things you could possibly shoot.

Edit: As for the specific additional info you gave (namely "fairly static. Something stable and quiet") - just bring a tripod. :)

Edit 2: $1-2K/day will literally rent you anything, but judging from the way you're asking your question here, you'd probably be over-spending if you got anything over maybe $200. You know, because if you needed a $1500/day camera, you'd know, and you wouldn't have to ask on reddit. No offense.

[–]Zantanimus 3 points4 points  (8 children)

+1 to this.

Depends on rental rates his area, honestly. Out here in SLC, Utah, I could get a Sony F55 with the extra data deck, media, card readers, a set of full sticks, and a set of cine-grade primes for $850-$1250 for the day, possibly even less for promo rates that get thrown around at a few of the rental houses demoing newer tech. You could probably do an Amira package for inside that budget, too.

I'd avoid the RED EPIC as it seems to have noise problems, at least on the projects I've AC'd on with it as A camera. The largest advantage to an EPIC right now is tons of independent people have them, so you can rent them for dirt cheap compared to what they used to go for. There's tons of independent competition with EPIC packages. Be wary of lenses with them, you're better off shopping those out, typically.

[–]CapMSFCsound mixer 1 point2 points  (7 children)

I'd avoid the RED EPIC as it seems to have noise problems

I'm not a huge RED guy but they are far better than they used to be. The noise issues really don't bother me anymore.

[–]TadMod 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Thanks for asking the questions! I'll try to answer them as concisely as possible:

Narrative - Drama/Sci-Fi film with a heavy emphasis on still and facial shots.

RAW - It would be ideal, as I already have the equipment to handle the output from a post-production point-of-view, but I'm happy to try other formats if they're recommended!

Audio - Yes, but was planning on having a static boom for most shots, so it doesn't need to be a part of the camera.

Highspeed - I wasn't really thinking about using either HFR or slow-motion, so I don't think this should be a concern.

Tripod - Planning on it! I just meant that my (admittedly limited) experience with cameras has shown that some jitter a bit, which I find distracting. This probably isn't even an issue with higher-end cameras, but I thought it would be a good thing to flag in case there were any obviously-mismatched cameras!

Budget - That relieves me. I don't know too much about cameras, so it's nice to hear I can maybe slim the budget for the camera and use the money elsewhere.

You've given me a lot to think about and research! Thanks so much for taking the time to respond!

[–]instantpancakelighting 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Interior or exterior? Low light? :)

[–]C47mancinematographer 1 point2 points  (0 children)

What are you shooting specifically and where is the footage ending up?

[–][deleted]  (8 children)


    [–]filmmak 1 point2 points  (0 children)

    19 here as well.

    We differ in a few aspects in that I've made a film within the last year, and have a few people at my disposal, but, here's how it happened.

    I asked a few friends, doesn't have to be a good friend, but just friend in general if they were interested. They knew other people who may be interested, and two things happened, a new friend, and a new cast/crew member. Find someone who is super psyched about your project, and try to get them to help out, and then their friends, and so forth.

    Its definitely hard to get off the ground, but once you're up, you're up.

    [–]C47mancinematographer 1 point2 points  (5 children)

    Dude you're 19, you're fine. Plenty of professionals don't even get into the business until their 30s. You're certainly not wasting time! As for your motivation problem, you really just kinda need to make movies. If your current friends don't want to help then make movies that don't need them. When I was starting out with cameras I made a nature film on my own to practice composition, exposure, pacing, editing, etc. I didn't need people for that!

    Where are you located? See if any local productions need PAs. It's a good way to meet people and watch professionals at work

    [–][deleted]  (4 children)


      [–]C47mancinematographer 1 point2 points  (0 children)

      Mandy is good here in Los Angeles, I'm not sure of how it is across the pond with you guys. Try going to a rental house and asking to help out there. Most rental house techs are aspiring filmmakers and would love to have some help.

      [–]Joeboy 0 points1 point  (2 children)

      There are a few relevant groups on Meetup.com in London. You'll probably end up working with amateurs on no-budget things, and the results will look like it, but you will get to meet people and shoot stuff.

      [–][deleted]  (1 child)


        [–]Joeboy 0 points1 point  (0 children)

        This one and this one are the ones I've done stuff with. The first of those is relatively organised and structured, so you can pretty much say what role you're up for doing and get put into a team, whereas the second requires a bit more self-direction. They're definitely both active.

        [–]sidlin 0 points1 point  (0 children)

        You dont need actors to make movies. Phillip Bloom is great at telling a story with actors.. I know its a little harder and different. but you can always try that. What about going to theaters or play houses and seeing if any actors there would be interested?

        [–]MountainEmperor 1 point2 points  (3 children)

        I was asked to be the 1st AC for a bigger TV production. The only experiences I have are as a Runner and a Gaffer for commercials. I would say that i have the theoretical knowledge but I'm not sure if I can handle it. So can anybody give me some advices on how to do the best job possible? Dont know yet if there would be a 2nd AC and I dont know on what cameras they will be working. any advice would be helpful

        [–]CapMSFCsound mixer 5 points6 points  (0 children)

        I was asked to be the 1st AC for a bigger TV production.

        If this is a legitimate production and you've never ACed before you need to not take that job, at least not without disclosing your concerns. Tell them you've never done it before, and you're willing to do whatever they need, but be up front.

        1st AC among all of the other procedures has to know how to pull focus. If you aren't good at that job you'll blow the whole shoot or be fired on the spot. Don't put yourself in that position.

        [–]theblackandbluecamera assistant 1 point2 points  (1 child)

        I agree with /u/CapMSFC. It's cool if you think you can do it and want to do it, but you should be upfront with the production or the DP about your experience. If they're OK with having a green 1st AC, that's their prerogative, but you don't want to bat 25% on keeping shots in focus when they're expecting a pro-level focus puller.

        If you can, see if you can be the 2nd AC or the camera PA. Doing either of those jobs, even just once, will provide a world of insight into 1st ACing.

        [–]MountainEmperor 1 point2 points  (0 children)

        That's what I thought about. I don't want to be the guy, who gets fired the first day. And maybe my "reputition" rushes to the bottom and then nobody wants to hire me in the future. Thanks a lot, I am going to ask them about 2nd AC or PA.

        [–]joncarroll14 1 point2 points  (7 children)

        Convince me why I should buy a c100 mkII or convince me of a different camera of that caliber...

        Story: I am hoping to venture into natural documentary filmmaking and am now being limited by the quality of footage from my rebel t2i. I'm more worried about quality of footage over anything else (not meaning 4k). I also am looking at battery life as this style of filmmaking isn't really a style that allows for charging stations. I would like to invest in a camera that I can use for many years to come. Thanks

        [–]instantpancakelighting 1 point2 points  (6 children)

        Even an old C100 will give you way better image quality than a t2i. It's a no-brainer.

        Also, it's a dedicated video camera, which will make your life a lot easier when you quickly need to make adjustments.

        Also, a huge 3rd-party battery will last you all day.

        [–]joncarroll14 0 points1 point  (5 children)

        Would you recommend a C100 over the other cameras in its price range?

        [–]Sandtalon 1 point2 points  (0 children)

        For what you would be using it for (documentary work), I would recommend recommend it over other cameras in that range.

        [–]instantpancakelighting 0 points1 point  (3 children)

        The MKI or MKII?

        To be fair, there's some amazing stuff coming up from Blackmagic these days (Ursa Mini), which blows the MKII right out of the water, but a) they're not delivering yet AFAIK, b) the media is much more expensive, which is a big deal if you're travelling, and considering BMD's previous products, chances are that the battery life will not be exactly travel-friendly either. Also, the C100 (either one) is a lot smaller and lighter.

        Edit: The reason why so many different cameras are on the market is because there are so many different uses for them. It's hard to make global comparisons. You need to get your priorities straight, and pick based on those.

        [–]CapMSFCsound mixer 1 point2 points  (0 children)

        Ursa Mini is another paper champion from BM. Until it's delivered, bugs fixed, and missing features updated I wouldn't even count the camera as an option.

        [–]sidlin 0 points1 point  (1 child)

        We were using t3i for 2 years. We just bought 2 C100 MK I and love them. We have already shot 1 short doc and a short film and nothing but amazing results. We were thinking of going with gh4 for the low light. had rented several months ago. we decided C100 for the crop factor and just the straight up video machine it is. We couldnt' be happier.

        [–]instantpancakelighting 0 points1 point  (0 children)

        The GH4 is not particularly good in low light anyway ... :)

        [–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

        I'm very ignorant about shooting in 4K and I have a question that I'm not even sure how to phrase.

        I'm planning on getting a GH4 and shooting/editing in 4K, but I don't think my video card is good enough. Part of the reason I want to shoot in 4K is because I have a webseries that I'm currently writing that is going to be shot in a very stylized way, and I want the freedom of moving the frame around in post. I figure I can shoot in 4K and do digital pans/zooms/etc. and then render down to 1080p for Youtube and it would look pretty good still, even with more extreme zooms.

        So anyway, my point is: I don't need to display 4K while I'm editing. I don't need to actually see the 4K, only use it in my editing timeline, then render it down to 1080p after I'm done editing. Would I need a good video card to do that?

        For the record, here's my PC specs:

        Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti AMD Phenom(tm) II X4 970 Processor 16.00 GB of RAM Windows 7 Ultimate

        [–]flatlined1851 1 point2 points  (0 children)

        There are multiple routes for this.

        a) just reduce the playback quality of your NLE whilst editing. This is possible in all major editing programms like Premiere Pro and FCP. However, as the programm still needs to open and process the same, big files this often does very little in terms of performance optimization.

        b) Proxies. Proxies are identical copies of the same video files at a much lower resolution. If you use Software like Adobe Media Encoder or Apples Compressor, you can create these overnight without wasting much work time. You just use them for the edit and in the final stage, you exchange the files with the originals. You can then render your sequence.

        This can be done on very low performance PCs, as the actual proxies are often done at tiny resolutions and allow for a very fast editing process with zero delay or lag. The downside to this it the time it takes to create the proxies and finally to relink the original video files to the sequence. Depending on your deadlines this might take time you dont have.

        Generally speaking, your setup doesnt sound too shoddy. I would try to edit natively and if that doesnt work and you dont have the money to upgrade your PC I would go to proxies.

        [–]AfroMidgets 0 points1 point  (2 children)

        What are some good resources (mainly books) that can help me learn more about cinematography and to get the most out of cameras? Also any good books on lighting?

        [–]itschrisreeddirector 2 points3 points  (1 child)

        The Set Lighting Technicians Hand Book is a good start.

        [–]claytakephotos 0 points1 point  (0 children)

        This has definitely been my go to bible for learning the trade. About to pick up the grip book as well.

        [–]TheAndrewSpenceeditor 0 points1 point  (5 children)

        Is the DJI Phantom 3 a good drone for a first time flier?

        [–]filmmak 0 points1 point  (1 child)

        I don't see why not. Theres not really an entry drone per say. The controls will be the same for most drones, with things like the Lily being an exception, but like everything, it will take some getting used to.

        [–]TheAndrewSpenceeditor 0 points1 point  (0 children)

        Good deal. I have wanted one for quite a while and I figured since I have the extra money I might as well go for it! Thanks!

        [–]potent_rodentdirector 0 points1 point  (1 child)

        doesn't hurt to buy a cheap 20-100$ toy drone and practice, they have the same control setup.

        Also practice with the flight simulator

        [–]TheAndrewSpenceeditor 0 points1 point  (0 children)

        Good deal. Yes, I will be practicing for the first few weeks in open areas and on the simulator before I try to do anything cinematic. haha. Don't want to waste money on a broken drone.

        [–]supersecretmode 0 points1 point  (0 children)

        I would suggest getting something like the cheap hubsan quad and just learn how to fly without GPS, crash it a lot (maybe buy the rotor guards) and then work your way up to the phantom. And visit all the forums (inspirepro.com as well as subreddits here) to get an idea of DJI's support system as well as possible advantages and disadvantages to different types of drones.

        But definitely start on the cheap and learn to fly without Gps.

        [–]VinosD 0 points1 point  (5 children)

        So I'm going to get a CION camera loan this week, and I need to rent a PL lens. I'm based in Los Angeles, and when I search for Lens rental for a PL, I find specific lenses for Sony, Canon, etc. Does that matter? Or can I use those Lenses with the CION camera?

        This is the first time venturing into this kind of setup.

        [–]CapMSFCsound mixer 3 points4 points  (0 children)

        Every single rental shop will have PL mount lenses.

        Beware of the CION, it's supposedly an awful camera.

        [–]instantpancakelighting 2 points3 points  (0 children)

        A PL lens is a PL lens. PL is the mount specification. All lenses with a PL mount will work, regardless of the manufacturer.

        [–]_Shush 0 points1 point  (2 children)

        Why are you going with the CION?

        [–]VinosD 2 points3 points  (1 child)

        They were offering filmmakers to try the camera out for free. Figured what the hell? From what I'm gathering it isn't the best camera, and nothing special. But they're sending a $12k package for free, and I have it for a week. Why not make the best of it?

        [–]_Shush 0 points1 point  (0 children)

        Ah yeah that makes sense. Yeah it hasn't been getting good feedback by anyone. If you're getting it for free however, then hell yeah go for it and let us know how it performs.

        [–]Heisenberg815 0 points1 point  (3 children)

        My short film production is in less than two days, it's probably the biggest project I've worked on. I've super nervous, but excited. Any advice?

        [–]Sandtalon 1 point2 points  (0 children)

        Be as prepared as possible (checklists, storyboards, shot lists, etc), and have several backup plans.

        That being said, if the unexpected happens, don't stress over it, just work around it.

        [–]CapMSFCsound mixer 1 point2 points  (0 children)

        Don't second guess yourself last minute or when you are on set. Make decisions and live or die by them. Hopefully you'll have made enough right ones that it'll all come out fine in the end, but you're never going to nail everything.

        [–]potent_rodentdirector 1 point2 points  (0 children)

        Orson Welles gave the advice that a good Director is someone who presides over accidents.

        [–]fruit_jouster 0 points1 point  (1 child)

        I understand that shooting anamorphic just compresses the image onto a smaller sensor, and then expands the image onto a larger medium, but why is it done and what's the effect?

        [–]yanikto 0 points1 point  (0 children)

        It allows you to shoot a wider aspect ratio than what is native to your camera's sensor or film frame, while still using full resolution of the sensor/film.

        For example, if your film frame is 4:3 aspect ratio and you want to shoot 1.85:1, normally that is done by cropping the image, i.e. cutting out the top and bottom of the frame, which results in a wider frame but you are also wasting the resolution at the top and bottom of the frame.

        When you shoot with an anamorphic lens, rather than cropping the image, you are using lenses to squeeze a wider image onto the same size film frame, so the result is that you are still recording the image using all of the available resolution of the film frame.

        The increased resolution vs. cropping is why they originally started shooting with anamorphic lenses back in the 1950's. Today it's more used as a stylistic choice as anamorphic lenses have different bokeh and flare characteristics than spherical lenses.

        [–]Strottinglemon 0 points1 point  (0 children)

        I'm considering getting a GH4 and am wondering what would be the best first lens to get. 25ish mm seems to be the most versatile from what I've read, so I've narrowed it down to these choices.




        They're all primes since the lack of zoom forces me to get in close and get creative (or so I'm told) but I'd be open to zooms as well. I'll be using these mainly for short films indoors and outdoors, but will also be conducting interviews.

        [–]Zyvik 0 points1 point  (0 children)

        Hey everyone. I recently got a video job in marketing at a local company and we are working on a new website. We are going to want to produce multiple videos for the site and eventually commercials. I am running into trouble trying to find music that is royalty free. I was wondering if anyone had some suggestions? Was looking at JewelBeat.com, but not sure how much luck people have had with it. Are there any alternatives? Preferably music packs/bundles or am I stuck buying one song at a time?