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Color Correction Gone Too Far


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#1 Peter Moretti

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 03:19 AM

I went to a Red user group meeting in Burbank last Saturday to find out more about this impressive camera. A central philosophy is: record "clean data" and tweak it in post.

So the native .r3d files look slightly green/blue and washed out, but they can color corrected to look like almost anything. One cinematographer went so far as to say he hardly uses filters, lighting gels, etc. b/c he can fix it all in post (esp. with the Red workflow).

But, too much color correction drives me crazy. "American Spelndor" was a very artisitc film, IMHO. But the color correction put a pit in my stomach. I realize it's based on a comic book creator, so coloring IS part of the story. But still, some object were so obviously secondarily cc'd that they just had an unnatural glow.

I feel that color correction is taken way too far quite often. It may look "better" but does it begin to look unnatural? An analogue is the skin tone warming we see in broadcast interviews. Yeah, the person sitting in the chair looks a little better with a "tan" but does everyone really look orange... well during tv interviews they do.

Am I off base on complaining about extensive CCing being too ubiquitious? Are you guys experiencing or watching out for this when a colorist gets your work?

Curious about your thoughts. Thanks.

Edited by Peter Moretti, 15 May 2008 - 03:20 AM.

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#2 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 09:35 AM

It definitely is a slippery slope. Early on when I was getting some experience in CC'ing I tended to oversaturate my image because I was in love with the colors too much. But I've developed a better eye for what looks natural in an image now. But going into EXTREME! color correcting is always indicative of what the story is and how it is to be told. Simply, if it fits it's good, if it doesn't it's annoying...but then again, maybe sometimes it's meant to manipulate the audience by annoying, so there are all sorts of different motivations and tastes that are being put into the images we're seeing on the screen.
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#3 Chris Burke

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Posted 15 May 2008 - 03:39 PM

I went to a Red user group meeting in Burbank last Saturday to find out more about this impressive camera. A central philosophy is: record "clean data" and tweak it in post.

So the native .r3d files look slightly green/blue and washed out, but they can color corrected to look like almost anything. One cinematographer went so far as to say he hardly uses filters, lighting gels, etc. b/c he can fix it all in post (esp. with the Red workflow).

But, too much color correction drives me crazy. "American Spelndor" was a very artisitc film, IMHO. But the color correction put a pit in my stomach. I realize it's based on a comic book creator, so coloring IS part of the story. But still, some object were so obviously secondarily cc'd that they just had an unnatural glow.

I feel that color correction is taken way too far quite often. It may look "better" but does it begin to look unnatural? An analogue is the skin tone warming we see in broadcast interviews. Yeah, the person sitting in the chair looks a little better with a "tan" but does everyone really look orange... well during tv interviews they do.

Am I off base on complaining about extensive CCing being too ubiquitious? Are you guys experiencing or watching out for this when a colorist gets your work?

Curious about your thoughts. Thanks.



I agree whole heartedly. Alexander by Oliver Stone comes to mind as a film that had ridiculous color correction. The Bank Job was much more natural but they did some funky stuff to Jason what's his name's face. I saw it both digital and off a film print and his flesh tones were inconsistent and often weird. I guess the CC did not work in this case.
I am now and will always be a firm believer in trying to get the look on the negative first, then tweak as needed in post. Red for all its wonders and all the digital post color correction really does make it too simple sometimes. I would rather do the work to make something look a certain way, not a computer.
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#4 tylerhawes

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Posted 17 May 2008 - 01:45 PM

"Domino" is the film clients are always bringing up as a "what not to do". But it wasn't just color that was extreme, it was the editing and pretty much everything was taking the style knob and cranking it until it broke off at 11.

Ultimately you can only blame the Director or DP or whoever held the reigns of the colorist. I am sometimes asked to do things I don't agree with and have no choice but to get on board (or walk away from the project). I generally feel it is possible to get a bold, stylized look while still being controlled and having some nuance to it. An image can have a high contrast look without crushing any black or blowing white. But it takes more time and skill to pull that off, so a lot of people just short-cut to cranking the contrast and calling it good.

I just finished grading WICK shot on Dalsa 4K by Damian Acevedo, and it's a great example of having style in spades and high contrast, but never sacrificing detail in the shadows and highlights. I think more films should look like that.
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#5 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 17 May 2008 - 04:44 PM

Ultimately you can only blame the Director or DP or whoever held the reigns of the colorist. I am sometimes asked to do things I don't agree with and have no choice but to get on board (or walk away from the project). I generally feel it is possible to get a bold, stylized look while still being controlled and having some nuance to it. An image can have a high contrast look without crushing any black or blowing white. But it takes more time and skill to pull that off, so a lot of people just short-cut to cranking the contrast and calling it good.


The last short that I did, some of that happen to me. Both me and the director were in the Da Vinci CC suite with the colorist. He and the director dialed all this contrast on one shot that cuts to one that we had not put a lot of contrast to. I kept saying how much I disliked it and that it wouldn't cut with the other shot. They dialed it down a bit, and I insitisted it was still too much. The director decided to go for it and sure enough it was very hard to cut and for me to watch now.

Moral of the story: Listen to the DP!

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 17 May 2008 - 04:44 PM.

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#6 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 05:37 PM

Red for all its wonders and all the digital post color correction really does make it too simple sometimes. I would rather do the work to make something look a certain way, not a computer.


"Simple" is in the eye of the beholder I guess. Leaving the majority of the color work until post production leads to its own series of challenges.

1) For dailies what do you show the network or studio? You simply can not show Execs. the washed out looking image that comes from the Red or the Genesis. If you do, the first conversation the next morning will be about firing the DP. Execs. want to see great looking dailies. They want to know as soon as possible what the show really looks like.

2) Doing more work in post means increasing post budgets but will production budgets drop? I doubt it, so it ends up making a show more expensive.

3) Politics, who gets to define the final look of the show? As it stands I've been on many shows where the DPs were "managed" into having no notes, or they were given their pass and then all their notes were changed after the fact. The good news for DPs working in traditional formats is that they did most of the work on set and so there is only so much that can be done in post. But if the image coming out of the camera is something of a blank slate then it seems likely that the role of the DP will be greatly reduced, and the final look of a show, will be, to a greater extent than ever before left to the EPs and the network. Granted I know better than to think that the DP always knows best (they don't) but as a member of the creative team they should not be sidelined. But that is a risk posed by a post heavy workflow.
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