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Red Giant Color Suite, with Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 and Colorista II

  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz

Color Correcting Food with Colorista II

My friend Pete came by with some Canon 7D (UPDATE: Oops, it’s the 5D Mark II) video and stills. We sat together for about an hour grading the video to match the stills, which had been professionally shot and processed by photographer Eric Wolfinger. We used After Effects CS5, Colorista II, and the DV Rebel Tools scripts from The DV Rebel’s Guide.

What I find interesting about this session is that it provides one answer to a common question: “Why doesn’t the video I shoot with my DSLR look as good as the stills?” Setting aside numerous technical issues, a big part of it is that stills shooters, as a rule, color correct their shots before letting the world see them.

Here’s the session:

And here’s the before/after:

Reader Comments (22)

I find this sort of video so enjoyable to watch. Rather than having a very explicit goal, it just shows the nature in which you approach a color grade and I really loved the insight. I hope for more videos in this very nature.

January 27, 2011 | Registered Commenterandy g

Best tutorial in color correcting that I've seen in a long time! Thanks Stu!

January 27, 2011 | Registered CommenterFotis F

Thanks Stu, I have only watch 15 minutes of it so far, but I really like this format and have learned a ton.

Dave Dugdale

January 27, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Dugdale

This is great Stu. Not only do you make great tools but the way you go through the process in a working scenario is a major reason I bought colorista II in the first place. Thanks for your tips, tricks and know-how.


January 27, 2011 | Registered CommenterBen Perrin

Very nice video and tutorial Stu.
It's kinda hard to find documentaries on real jobs, so we (beginners) end up not knowing what to do when the time comes. Posts and videos like this one actually makes things a lot easier to understand, not only the color correction process but the entire process of making the video match the photograph, using tools like Colorista.
It gives a way more clear look on how good and how to apply the tool other than trailers and presentation videos.
Keep posting stuff like this one everytime you can! :D

January 27, 2011 | Registered CommenterRenato Murakami

Hey Stu, hands down my favorite tutorial so far.
Didn't think I'd watch the whole thing this evening but it was so damn interesting to watch how you approached a session!
Thanks for the insight.

January 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterChris B

Hi Stu,
Very talented work. Really like your workflow approach, the same I've seen in Red Giant TV episode 22.
What's scares me a little is to see how much time is needed for a trained guy like you, color correcting just several seconds shots. That shows how much time can be saved in post when shooting is done properly, being as even as possible.
By the way : where can I find these DV rebel tools we see on the lower right corner of your screen ?

January 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterChristophe DELAUNAY

Thanks Christophe. I wouldn't take the running time of this session as any indication of how long an actual client section would take. Explaining takes a lot of time.

The scripts come with The DV Rebel's Guide.

January 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu

It is a great tutorial. But to me it shows that the image processing done automatically for stills is on a much more elevated plane than the image processing done for video.

What I mean by that is that I don't think I have EVER done anything as complicated and fiddly as this to get a stills shot looking great, and I doubt that the photographer who produced the reference shot took anything LIKE that long with that much work to produce the reference still.

Colorista or Color have more controls and dials to fiddle with than Lightroom, Aperture or Phocus. Comprehensive as those are, they don't have three sets of multiple interacting controls. Video correctors need them, because the footage out of the camera just seems to have many more issues than stills do.

My suspicion is that the manufacturers and RAW processing software writers have done much more analysis of how to produce a great looking still from a given camera than they have done how to produce a great looking video. Every camera has its own RAW profile, fairly simplified if processing in Aperture or Lightroom or very involved indeed in the case of the manufacturer's own software. When did you last see a colour management tool that did anything LIKE that for video? I don't even know of a profile building tool to use.

I know that because video processing has to be done so fast, and so much information has to be thrown away, that it is a somewhat unfair comparison. In camera JPEG with highest compression might be fairer- but even then, one seems to be able to rely more on the camera to do a really good job of stills, whereas with video it just tends to quit, throw up its hands and let all your skin tones burn out to yellow. I've seen it happen shooting JPEG in camera too, but the whole thing seems to be under much better control.

It's a great tutorial, but the moral of the story to me is not that stills photographers always do all this colour correction before showing the shot- it is that much, much more of it is handled automatically and properly by the software, so they simply need to do a lot less colour correction to get the shot to look nice.

January 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterHywel Phillips

This is great Stu.

As I watched this I was struck by how much this sounds like one of my sessions. Sure, I know it was moving a little slower because you were explaining everything, but I actually find myself doing a fair bit of that (along with LOTS) of A/B toggling in client grading sessions as well.

The explanation about how colors change when individual color channels clip is something I just had with a client last week! (wanted to know why I couldn't make the sky any 'bluer---I actually ended up pulling back some luma on the whole shot to get what he was going for from an 'everything is relative' perspective).

BTW RGB Parade Waveforms are VERY useful for watching individual channel clipping. Love the way this works in 'Looks'

Anyway, nice job!

January 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterCarey Dissmore

Thanks for a great tutorial.

Manual Trackback to comment on Jem Scholfiend's webcast blog, Gearbox.

How much time would it have saved you on this footage if all the light had been adjusted to the same color temperature? I.E. is it cheaper to "fix it in post" or balance the light on location?

Does Looks contain the same functionality as Colorista II? It seems like Looks is going to need the same kind of control that Colorista II has and just adds the presets. This has confused me for a while and when I'm confused (which happens often) I don't buy.

Do you recommend one or the other ... or both? Do you use Colorista II to do the color grade first then apply Looks or do you use one or the other and don't mix them.

Thanks. Rob:-]

January 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterRob Shaver

Hywel, I think you're giving the software too much credit. These shots look good because of creative decisions made by a skilled photographer. There's nothing automatic about it.

Video color correction is a very different thing than stills work, but to insinuate that these stills are not as manipulated creatively as Pete and I did with the video is a bad guess.

Ultimately, for all our chatter, what did Pete and I do? We balanced color temperature, manipulated a transfer curve, tweaked shadow colors, and adjusted some individual hues and saturations. That's about a dozen controls, all of which are matched in Lightroom and are the most popular controls to adjust there.

It's when we get to fixing the "yellow belly" that things begin to appear complicated, but those complications are strictly due to the demands of working with motion. In Lightroom, that would be a single dab of an adjustment brush.

We also imposed on ourselves the additional demands of precisely matching some reference, as well as matching shot-to-shot.

If your takeaway from this is that photo software does magic and video is hard to work with, I'm afraid I've given you very much the wrong impression. I do at least this much post work on my photos, usually more — and I'm not a professional photographer.

January 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu

Hi Stu,

I *am* a professional photographer! Definitely stills rather than video as my main activity for the last decade, although trying to get up the learning curve to make movies that look as good as my stills.

I can put my hand on my heart and say that I VERY rarely need to make anything like as extensive a correction to my still photos. Usually, I need to fine tune the white balance, maybe correct exposure a little from shot to shot in a set, but I don't have the fight to get a good realistic colour rendition before I start stylising.

I'm sure there are many reasons for that- video lighting seems awfully hit and miss compared with strobes with controlled colour temperature that are adjustable in tenths of a stop over a six stop range, for example. And the baked-in 8-bit highly compressed nature of the prosumer video cams I am using doesn't compare to the richness of data you get off a medium format digital back.

But still... the amount of messing around I seem to need to do just to get to a neutral, realistic starting point on video is... horrid. Especially if matching two cams, even nominally identical HVX200's with the same scene files, both white balanced to the same card on set will show slight but annoying colour shifts- cam A may have a delicate green tint to skin highlights, where cam B will look quite magenta by comparison.

I maintain that the number of calibrations done automatically based on manufacturers measurements in their RAW processing software is a big part of why stills photos take less correcting to get to a good, calibrated starting point.

I use a Hasselblad H3Dii-31 as my workhorse stills camera. This produces RAW files which can be processed by Hasselblad's Phocus raw processor. The accuracy of colours you get over a wide range of lighting conditions and lighting temperatures is very impressive. Hasselblad have put enough work into it that they feel the need to give it an acronym- HCNS. (It performs better than Aperture or Lightroom do on the same files, but even those do very well at shot to shot consistency over a long set of photos, they're just not quite as close to the proper values).

One could swiftly build an improved RAW processing profile especially for one's own camera-lens-light combination using an X-rite colour checker or similar. Calibrate your monitor for stills with a Spyder, and bingo! The first step - getting a consistent, realistic colour rendering in many different conditions is very nearly automatic- and one shot of the colour target at the start of each location change is the most one needs.

That means one is regularly starting from a known, calibrated colour rendition (so long as you get the white balance correct). Applying a look is MUCH easier if you know you are going to be starting from a good calibration.

On video, I've yet to see anything that compares to this. I can shoot my colour checker passport, but there doesn't seem to be a way of automating the colour correction to get to that known good calibration. The chances of getting odd colour shifts in the image, varying from shot to shot, seem to be much greater on video, and there doesn't seem to be the same range of calibration tools to let you get to the "natural neutral" starting point before constructing the look.

Am I wrong? Have I missed some technology which can automate the colour calibration? (And don't get me started on the Quicktime Gamma Shift issue!!)

Cheers, Hywel.

January 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterHywel Phillips

You're not wrong — about any of the above as far as I'm concerned. I've never done a direct comparison of JPEG stills from my Canon DSLRs with video of the same scene. Might be interesting to see how hampered the rapid processing of the video is by comparison.

There are numerous technical shortcomings to HDSLR video, most of which I've harped on here to the point of annoying some readers. Comparing a raw workflow, whether heavy handed (in my case) or with a light touch (as would seem to be your preference) with video grading is, of course, going to result in a bleak picture of video. The JPEG analogy is much better.

January 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu

Darn. I was really hoping you'd say "Oh man, just run SuperVideoAutoCalibrateSoftware (TM), you mean you haven't done that? No wonder you can't get your colours looking right!"


Just taken delivery of my new AF100 (woo!) and while I like a lot of its features, the 8 bit 420 colour is just a bit... depressing. I really hope Red finally releases something that can do better colour (maybe even more regulated too) in a smaller, lighter and cheaper package than the Red One sometime soon.

My feeling is that throwing data rate at the problem is the ultimate solution. At least then you can be confident of being able to pull it back if things are just a little off in camera.

In the meantime I'll be shooting my colour checker very, very often to give me a know reference on set for every set-up, and trying to build a known good reference by hand that way (so I can see that colour swatch number 3 looks a bit green on the scope and know to pull down the green in the mid-tones as a result).

Stu- big thanks for Colorista II and Looks, without which this would be a damn site slower, harder and less fun!

January 29, 2011 | Registered CommenterHywel Phillips

A very well formatted and useful video for explaining color correction principles and it even uses the coolest tools available!

It was an excellent demonstration of a "real world example" that reminds those of us still learning the tools of good solid working fundamentals. I definitly took notes.

A lot of us graduating film students have been keen on Colorista since we watched the "Blockbuster Movie Look" tutorial and Colorista II definitly brings the Apollo Creed.

In the words of the late and great Blake Snyder, sequels rarely surpass the original, but when they do it is super rad.

January 29, 2011 | Registered CommenterGrant Ellis

Thanks for the great walkthrough Stu.

I do find it a bit unusual that you didn't involve scopes in your session, especially with all of the overblown footage. Where in your workflow do you generally switch from 'creative' grading over to more 'technical' grading? What is your primary scope setup when working with Colorista?

I've really fallen in love with some of the tools in Colorista (especially the HSL tools), but I definitely wish there was some sort of software scope setup (I can't always work with a hardware setup - a lot of my work is in the field on a laptop). I'm curious if you use anything in AE for scopes or if you're all hardware.

January 30, 2011 | Registered CommenterShaun Gish

Good point Shaun, scopes would have helped illustrate some of the points I was making about blown-out colors. I'm a fan of Test Gear from Synthetic Aperture.

January 31, 2011 | Registered CommenterStu

Tremendous insights Stu - many thanks for this!

January 31, 2011 | Registered CommenterTodd Miro

WOW! What an incredibly insightful demonstration into using Colorista and color correction in general. It was a great idea to record it. Thank you! This really shows what the tool can do beyond giving footage the "Michael Bay" look that's so popular (yet so awesome) nowadays. I was really surprised it was a whole hour long at first, but now I'm glad. Very helpful, especially with all the explanations to your friend. Please record more of these as you get the chance to do them.

February 3, 2011 | Registered CommenterArt Chong

Excellent info and a real resource for those of us learning the finer points of color correction. Probably the best tutorial I have seen in a real world situation.

As a professional photographer (and aspiring cinematographer) I think the issue of the work involved in photo precessing is very dependent on the image itself. While Lightroom (and other processors) are designed for efficiency in workflow, some images will require extensive post processing, especially when they are part of a cohesive group. That said, video just seems more involved and time consuming - at least from my perspective.

Thanks for sharing - really great!

February 6, 2011 | Registered CommenterRobert Rodriguez Jr

full length tutorials in color = awesome!

January 17, 2012 | Registered CommenterMichael Hickey
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