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color timing and color grading


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#1 Vedran Rupich

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Posted 01 April 2006 - 06:29 AM

Hi!
this is perhaps a strange question but I´m very eager to know..
what is the difference between color grading and color timing?
I wish to learn more about the two processes..
how can I learn?
is there any litterature?
How does one become a good color timer/grader?
The software i have tried so far is lustre and color finess...
any advice that can help me as a future colorgrader/timer is accepted...

(and please no relative answers that apply to everything in life: like it all depends on the material shoot, on your previous skill and "it's not the tool it´s the operator" I know all this so I'm trying to save same time for those prepared with these kind of answers)
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#2 Michael Most

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Posted 01 April 2006 - 09:42 AM

Hi!
this is perhaps a strange question but I´m very eager to know..
what is the difference between color grading and color timing?


The difference is whether you're European (or Australian) - in which case you would call it grading - or American, in which case you would call it timing. They're the same thing.

is there any litterature?


Aside from Steve Hullfish's book ("Color Correction for Video..."), I can't think of any.

How does one become a good color timer/grader?


Practice, practice, practice.

I'm only partially kidding. The only real way to learn is to do so from those who already know. In the post industry, that means finding a position at a post house that uses such equipment, usually starting in whatever entry level position you can get (vault, kitchen, customer service, whatever) and working your way into technical positions. Bottom line: it takes time. And dedication.

The software i have tried so far is lustre and color finess...
any advice that can help me as a future colorgrader/timer is accepted...


You might not like this, but the best advice I can give is to not try to teach yourself. Things need to be done in a particular order and proper controls must be used in particular situations in order to get the cleanest results. This can really only be learned through experience, in an environment in which there are others who already have those skills. You might have the best eye in the world, but unless you also possess the technical skill needed to achieve what's required, you're only half way there. Becoming a colorist is not based on book learning.

The answers you probably want to hear are just not the correct ones.
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#3 Vedran Rupich

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Posted 01 April 2006 - 01:34 PM

thanks for the reply! you are very informative...
but lets say i would like to work as one...
what kind of education is required from one?
is there someplace where you can study color correction?
the most resonable is that the people att the color grading companies
employ people with artistic education...
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#4 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 01 April 2006 - 04:56 PM

There is no education for it - it's far to specialized. It's a bit like learning how to drum - no education in the world can really do it unless you have a knack for it.

As Mike suggest, get an entry position at a post house and then work your way up. TK assistanst normally thread the telecines, keep the film rolls in order, are in charge of logistics and delivery of film and generally provide a technical support for the colorist. After a while you'll be able to set up the machine, probably do some one lights and have a go at some stuff under his/hers supervision or get to play around with footage after hours. After that it's just time and honing your skills. It's a very rewarding job, I think, if you learn it well.
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#5 Michael Most

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Posted 02 April 2006 - 08:58 AM

thanks for the reply! you are very informative...
but lets say i would like to work as one...
what kind of education is required from one?
is there someplace where you can study color correction?
the most resonable is that the people att the color grading companies
employ people with artistic education...


It sounds as if you've already decided what you want the answer to be. Unfortunately, the real answer doesn't happen to be what you apparently want it to be.

As noted by Adam, there is no educational path for color correction. Schools are not always the place to learn. Many positions in the film and television business require training that only experience in the business can provide, which is why so many in the industry started at entry level positions and worked their way up. An education in the arts is always useful in a profession that involves artistic creativity, but one can't think of this as a "trade school" type of relationship. Having an educational background that involves the arts is not a prerequisite, nor is it a ticket to employment.

What is required is what I (and Adam) have already mentioned: a willingness to work your way up, a willingness to learn from the professionals, and an ability to absorb it all. Not to mention a willingness to spend a lot of your own time observing, and interpersonal skills that allow you to execute the artistic desires of the clients you work with. Unless you're always doing your own projects, it's never your call as to how something should look. One of the biggest requirements of a professional colorist is the ability to understand what the client is looking for and figure out how to best achieve it. If you want to spend your life in artistic endeavors that are the product of your own creativity, becoming a professional colorist is probably not the way to do that.
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#6 stoop

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Posted 02 April 2006 - 12:08 PM

I recently sat in a telecine grade. I can honestly say that it's not a difficault job. To be honest I had more of an idea how to create my chosen look than he did. It's pretty much the same as tweaking an image in photoshop. Yes, speed is an issue, but once you could get your head around all the buttons it wouldn't take long to become pretty quick. As long as you have a good eye, and the ability to learn the technical side you should be ok. The hardest part would be getting in, and getting a job at a post house. You would prob have to work your way up, as is true in most things in life.
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#7 Michael Most

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Posted 02 April 2006 - 02:03 PM

I recently sat in a telecine grade. I can honestly say that it's not a difficault job.


No, you can't, because you weren't sitting in the chair doing it. You "honestly" have no idea what it takes to do that job day in and day out and be responsible for what you're turning out. I'm not saying it's rocket science, but just about every job looks easy when you're watching someone who knows how to do it. Operating a camera, pulling focus, editing, coloring - all of these things look reasonably simple when you watch an expert. It's when you try to sit down and try to do it yourself that you begin to understand that it's not a simple as it looks.
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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 02 April 2006 - 04:43 PM

Hi,

> No, you can't, because you weren't sitting in the chair doing it.

Michael, have you ever actually used photoshop or AE? A Da Vinci or Pogle colour corrector is about a quarter of a per cent of what either will do and the technical and artistic skills are exactly the same. Yes, exactly the same, down to knowing what order to do things in in order to be able to unpick things in "history" as the client directs you. No, I haven't done it for a major TV series or film, but if you're going to use that to differentiate the jobs then you're just claiming that someone is a better artist because he is more expensive, and I can't take that seriously.

Technically it is uncomplicated and artistically it is entirely a matter of opinion. I have seen colour grading on major, much-lauded TV series (Lost springs to mind) which I considered to be incompetent - tinted highlights, skin tone mismatches, noisy purple shadows, really horrible errors. The people sitting at those consoles are clearly not the supreme, infalliable and godlike beings you seem to want to paint them as.

Having an eye and an affinity with the technology does not make you a superior superhuman being.

Phil
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#9 David Cox

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Posted 02 April 2006 - 05:04 PM

I recently sat in a telecine grade. I can honestly say that it's not a difficault job.


Which is exactly the same as saying "I can use a pen therefore I am William Shakespear" or "I can cut a carrot so I am Gordan Ramsay" or "I have an autofocus DV camera, so being a DOP is easy"

etc,etc,etc

You will find it easy to create a look you like with the knowledge about grading you have. That's great for the films only you will watch. The problem is, film making is an ever evolving creative process and the best films utilize the best skills of many people to make sure all elements - shooting, editing, grading, sound are all fresh and right for that project.
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#10 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 02 April 2006 - 05:45 PM

I cannot disagree more. If you've ever sat in with some of the really good guys like Jean-Clement Soret, Dave Hussey and the other superstars, you'd know just how much of an art it is to it.

They do gammas, they ride exposures, the stick windows on, they have additive color AND subtractive, they have primaries and secondaries (I'm no expert in Photoshop, but I've never seen secondaries there), they kan kick color in to blacks in low's, mid's and high's, the can use white compression (try that in Photoshop), they can isolate stuff just and affect only that in a way that in Photoshop would take a mask or roto-job. They do so much stuff I don't even have a clue about. And so on.

Yes, anyone can do RGB. Very, very few can do what they do.
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 April 2006 - 08:24 PM

There is also more to running a telecine color-correction suite than just color-correcting the image; you've got the telecine to deal with, possibly syncing sound rolls, laying down timecode, dealing with HD, PAL, NTSC, issues, frame rates, dealing with the tape decks, doing frame grabs, and generally dealing with rather fiddly equipment, as anyone knows who has sat for half an hour or so in the suite as some bug is worked out. I'm sure none of this is particular hard for someone as bright as Phil (I'm not being facetious -- he's certifiably a genius) but there's more involved than knowing what color you want for the image.
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#12 Michael Most

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Posted 02 April 2006 - 10:21 PM

Michael, have you ever actually used photoshop or AE?


Many, many times for a number of years. On projects ranging from personal to feature film and everything in between.

A Da Vinci or Pogle colour corrector is about a quarter of a per cent of what either will do and the technical and artistic skills are exactly the same. Yes, exactly the same, down to knowing what order to do things in in order to be able to unpick things in "history" as the client directs you. No, I haven't done it for a major TV series or film, but if you're going to use that to differentiate the jobs then you're just claiming that someone is a better artist because he is more expensive, and I can't take that seriously.


With statements like this, I find it very difficult to take YOU seriously. And until you show me these alleged amazing skills, and until you do it with people in the room other than yourself, with time pressure and specific technical requirements, I will continue to find it difficult to take you seriously. I have never used price as a criteria, although you seem to want to. Your fixation on your own apparent lack of financial reward is getting very tiresome. Those who have met and know you have told me that you're really a very knowledgeable and nice guy, but frankly, statements like this just make me wonder why you refuse to show that here.

I have seen colour grading on major, much-lauded TV series (Lost springs to mind) which I considered to be incompetent - tinted highlights, skin tone mismatches, noisy purple shadows, really horrible errors. The people sitting at those consoles are clearly not the supreme, infalliable and godlike beings you seem to want to paint them as.


Nobody is infallible. But they're also dealing with material that is shot with constant extreme weather condition changes, changing lighting conditions, transferred in the middle of the night by inexperienced colorists, and having to make it all hang together in 12 hours or less. I'd like to see you do that. Then again, maybe not. And if you're going to use Lost as an example, I suggest you get a hold of one of the masters before you start going off on what you think might be wrong based on a PAL downconversion you're watching over the air on god knows what monitor in Europe. Criticise all you want, but I still maintain that regardless of your bravado, you really don't have a clue as to what the colorists at L.A. facilities go through week after week on a television series, or the condition of the source material they're working with. And that's the truth.

Having an eye and an affinity with the technology does not make you a superior superhuman being.


No, it just makes you a good colorist. You're the one attaching divinity to it, not me. Your lack of respect for L.A. based post people in general and all colorists in particular is getting really old, particularly in light of the fact that very few people here or anywhere else share any of it.
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#13 John King

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Posted 03 April 2006 - 03:17 AM

I have a question about colour correction too. Please bear with me, but let's assume here that all things being "normal" and relatively "equal", is'nt it possible to avoid the need of colour correction if you take care to use proper filters and lighting schemes?

Thanks in advance!

J.M. King
kin0pic_studio
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#14 Dominic Case

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Posted 03 April 2006 - 03:48 AM

The traditional view of colour grading is that film can reproduce accurately and consistently what you arrange in front of the camera: so as you say, if you do that right, you won't need much colour correction.

A few cinematographers have always been able to turn in good negatives, so that the grader's job has been easy.

But the grader has to put some sort of a light on the negative - even if it's all one light, s/he can make the whole reel consistently green , or warm and dark or whatever. There's no automatic "right".

Furthermore, it's not easy to exactly track the change in colour temperature through an afternoon, for example, so that the close-up you shoot in warm, fading late afternoon light fits with the mid-day master shot. That's what I call colour continuity, and it's one of the fundamental jobs of grading.

More significantly, the more modern approach to colour correction is to say that while the film emulsion might be able to reproduce what you put in front of the lens, you might want a look that isn't at all possible to set up.

It might simply be a matter of chasing sunlight (as above) or it might be that it's quicker or easier to use shapes in a digital grade to correct the light outside the window of an interior shot than it is to gel the entire window on the location.
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#15 Matthew Parnell

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Posted 03 April 2006 - 07:10 AM

I have a question about colour correction too. Please bear with me, but let's assume here that all things being "normal" and relatively "equal", is'nt it possible to avoid the need of colour correction if you take care to use proper filters and lighting schemes?

Thanks in advance!

J.M. King
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Colour Grading has become more than just a tool for correction. It allows more flexibility especially if you have a budget behind you. In the Chronicles of Narnia(AC Mag, December 05) Don McAlpine ACS, ASC shot with DI in mind shooting primarily using more neutral tones with the aim of 'colourizing' in the Grade, meaning that he was not neccerily lock into a look. It also saved time with lighting setups, which was important considering the use of children actors.
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#16 Hal Smith

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Posted 03 April 2006 - 08:24 AM

The traditional view of colour grading is that film can reproduce accurately and consistently what you arrange in front of the camera: so as you say, if you do that right, you won't need much colour correction.

A few cinematographers have always been able to turn in good negatives, so that the grader's job has been easy.

But the grader has to put some sort of a light on the negative - even if it's all one light, s/he can make the whole reel consistently green , or warm and dark or whatever. There's no automatic "right".

Furthermore, it's not easy to exactly track the change in colour temperature through an afternoon, for example, so that the close-up you shoot in warm, fading late afternoon light fits with the mid-day master shot. That's what I call colour continuity, and it's one of the fundamental jobs of grading.

More significantly, the more modern approach to colour correction is to say that while the film emulsion might be able to reproduce what you put in front of the lens, you might want a look that isn't at all possible to set up.

It might simply be a matter of chasing sunlight (as above) or it might be that it's quicker or easier to use shapes in a digital grade to correct the light outside the window of an interior shot than it is to gel the entire window on the location.


Nicely put Dominic!

For the readers of this thread who want to know just how technical color perception can get - take a look at: http://cit.dixie.edu...ding/gamuts.asp

And that's just the tip of a very large iceberg. :)
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#17 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 03 April 2006 - 08:38 AM

Hi,

> I'm no expert in Photoshop, but I've never seen secondaries there

"Selective Colour" or "Replace Colour" is intended to mimic this directly, but better, use "Select color range" or "Magic Wand", followed by "Hue and Saturation", "Levels" or "Curves". Photoshop is much more like something like Baselight in this regard as you can select something and then apply any grading operation you like to it whereas most of the hardware stuff only does hue and saturation.

> they kan kick color in to blacks in low's, mid's and high's

"Levels" or "Curves". Curves is a bit of a universal excuse as you can do any 2D LUT operation you want to spend time setting up, but "Levels" mimics the primary trackballs directly (though assuming there's six trackballs attached to lift, gamma, gain, high and low clip, and high pad). Levels is not as good as something with a truly set-upabble influence range - it's like having a really old-school processing amp with literally lift, gamma and gain functions, whereas Lustre, Baselight et al give you adjustable zones of influence. You can also go to "Hue and Saturation" here but the "affect shadows/midtones/highlights" is a bit coarse. There are ways around it (copy the entire image into the quick mask channel and Levels it down to what you want) but it's a bit of a fiddle.

> the can use white compression

"Shadow/Highlight" is a more or less direct implementation of "black/white clip/compress". Photoshop does lack a really satisfactory way of doing black or white desat as there is no corresponding "select by luminance range".

> they can isolate stuff just and affect only that in a way that in Photoshop would take a mask or roto-job.

Well the only way to isolate anything in Photoshop is with a mask, but that's exactly how anything else works - it just depends how you get to that mask. Assuming the same input data it should be possible to isolate anything with Photoshop "select by colour range" that can be isolated by a da Vinci secondary. It does lack good ways to keep several masks easily available (it's several clicks to load or save each one) which is a timewaster, but the upside is you can have as many as you like.

What we actually want is Photoshop for video. No colour corrector as far as I know offers more than a fraction of the breadth of functionality. I have processed video through Photoshop as a frame by frame batch operation, but it's hideously time consuming. After effects can do it almost as well but really isn't set up for it. I'm not positing either as a serious grading tool, but the skill set is more or less identical.

Phil
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#18 Keith Mottram

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Posted 03 April 2006 - 09:18 AM

I think there is a real problem here with confusing the gradist as 'operator' or 'look creator'. now an operator is a skill that is technical, that is learnt, that takes time to perfect etc. the 'look creator' is fundementally about having an 'eye'. Athough things can be done in the wrong way from a technical standpoint the actual creative choice about colours is purely subjective- even though i could argue that some colour 'looks' are as wrong as a dutch angle, but thats another thread.

If we take a DPX string and give it to a DP or Director (with a moderate amount of technical knowledge- understanding of layers/ tracked masks/ destrutive processes ) to work on in say After Effects, and they work in floating point with a callobrated monitor, then I cant see why they wont produce as good or better final image than the colourist. Now you could argue that because the colourist solely works in this field then he would produce better results and in the case of a time specific job i'd agree, but otherwise it is purely a subjective choice. to use the hated example of still photography, there was a time of proffessional retouchers (I was one ten years ago), but I know few photographers who currently give up that much control. of course spending an evening tweaking one frame is not an option for filmmakers. It is hard to relinquish control and I for one have frequently found that a colourists 'artistic eye' leaves a lot to desire (colour is also one of the hardest things to convey due to its personal emotional conotations), whereas I've been frequently impressed by the speed a colourist can match grade a series of shots.

With cheapish tools, the right amount of knowledge and the right amount of time any 'artist' can be a colourist. then again that is a pretty significant set of variables.

Keith
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#19 John King

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Posted 08 April 2006 - 12:50 PM

First of all my many many thanks to Dominic Case and all the others here who have posted such useful information! I would like to add something useful (I hope) to this discussion. In most circles its generally advised (and wisely so) that the filmmaker must maintain a close relationship with the colourist (or grader). Indeed its generally advised that the filmmaker set in with the colourist while the colour correction is being done. Now some have written about relinquishing a degree of control to the colourist, but really I would have no problem whatsoever with that as I am a firm believer in the collaborative view of filmmaking, not only do we need other people, but for me the real fun is working with other people. Sort of like songwriting, individuals have written some great songs, but the greatest songs ever written have almost always been collabourations.

Now the problem for me, and I'm sure many filmmakers, is avtually being able to sit in with a colourist during the session. I reckon that the majority of filmmakers are situated around filmmasking centers such as Los Angeles, New York, London, Munich, Berlin, Paris, ect. ect. and going to sit in with the colourist (or grader) during a session is a matter of a 'trip across town'. For the rest of us, not so located near filmmaking centers, it becomes a big logistic and economical problem. For example I live and work in south-central Kentucky. The nearest filmmaking centers to me that could even come close to providing such services are Atlanta, Georgia, and maybe Chicago, Ill, or Pittsburg (if WRS labs provide colour correction) Either way that's quite a haul for me and I'm suspecting that I'd have to plan for at least one overnight stay, if not more.

Already I'm looking at this worry with processing my film. Any way it goes I figure I'll be looking at a two to three day wait just to look at my dailies! To try and compensate for that I am trying to plan the shoot so that after the first batch of cans are sent in, another batch will go out the next day, hoping that I will cut the waiting time down by a day or so after the first reels come back. Anyway this is my big problem with hiring a colourist; it's an added expense to an already straining budget, and the prospect of having to travel and stay somewhere in order to attend the sessions is yet another cost. I'd have to establish a really good relationship with the colourist in advance in order to put so much trust into a long distance relationship.

I've considered saving money and purchasing an older Rank-Cintel machine from Alan Gordon Enterprises and was even tempted to make a bid on an even older Hazeltine machine that I saw on ebay. Could I do better by investing in da vinci or some other of the computerised programmes? Anyway these are the sorts of problems I'm looking at. For these films I was hoping to correct as much as I could with filters and careful lighting schemes, and maybe send some detailed notes to the colourists so that s/he would not 'correct' an effect that I had intentionally done.

Anyway thanks again!

J.M. King
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#20 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 08 April 2006 - 12:59 PM

Hi,

I don't think any telecine you can afford will give you results that you're happy with, or results that stand up well against other people's work, or results that compare well to current general practice.

If you want to grade stuff, then you can do that in many software programs if you are willing to put up with the render times - in fact, if you start off with the usual suspects such as Final Cut, Photoshop and AE, you'll probably come to consider hardware solutions like Pogle and da Vinci to be rather limited.

The critical step here is getting it off the film and onto a format the computer can get at. The best way to do this, I think, is by having it transferred onto a hard disk. Unfortunately the only people who do this at the moment have less-than-stellar telecines connected up to the recorder as it's considerd a "low end" technique.

Phil
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