January 7, 2015

This Video Shows Why You Should Appreciate Your Colorist More

Color Correction Reel - The House on Pine Street
Few people truly understand just how much the color of an image can change from the moment it's captured by a camera to the moment it's projected onto a 60-foot high wall in a dark room.

Ever since the dawn of motion picture production, filmmakers have been finding ways to manipulate the color properties of the final image, whether through tediously coloring individual frames by hand, or through a variety of chemical, and more recently, digital, processes. In that sense, the image that ultimately makes its way to the audience is rarely the same as what was captured by the camera. However, with the recent proliferation of digital cinema cameras that shoot to incredibly flat logarithmic profiles that preserve as much information as possible, the gap between how the images captured by the camera look and what the eventually audience sees is wider than ever.

As easy as it is to say that the difference from camera to screen is massive, it's much easier to grasp this difference when you can watch an example. Film is a visual medium, after all. So without any further ado, here's the color reel from a recently Kickstarted independent horror called The House On Pine Streetwhich, being shot in a flat S-Log profile on a Sony F55, shows just how drastic a difference exists between the original image and the final grade. 

This was graded by Taylre Jones at GradeKC.

Ultimately, this nifty little color reel is not only a testament to how much the color of our footage changes from the moment it's shot to the moment it's delivered, but it's also a fantastic example of just how important a skilled colorist can be when dialing in the appropriate aesthetic for any given film. With The House on Pine Street, Jones took the insanely flat S-Log footage from the F55 and (hopefully in collaboration with DP Juan Sebastian Baron) crafted a unique look with loads of well-placed contrast and an uncomfortable cyan tint that works well to drive home the underlying psychological tension throughout the story.     

Your Comment

41 Comments

Wow! Wow! That was really nuts. I'm working on a trailer right now and god I wish I knew color grading more it would really add to the look. This was interesting. The hallway shot was a huge difference. Does anyone know what program they are using?

January 7, 2015 at 4:21PM, Edited January 7, 4:20PM

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Grant Strac
Video Editor/Producer
80

I used DaVinci Resolve.

January 7, 2015 at 4:41PM

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taylrejones
Colorist
207

Yes.. Great job. Couple of quick questions; are the original files Sony RAW or XAVC?(or SR if shot in HD). Whether it was applied to the RAW files or shot that way, I assume slog3 was used due to the brighter exposed originals. Did you use Sony's LC709A LUT in your grade at all or was it a custom LUT for a first past? Thanks..

January 7, 2015 at 5:21PM

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Bill Thomas
DP
225

I was given an MXF file in LOG. I wasn't involved in the process of the film until post so I just worked with what was given to me. I created a custom LUT for the film.

January 8, 2015 at 12:56AM

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taylrejones
Colorist
207

As always, strong amount of green, teal and orange... (Still a good work though.)

January 7, 2015 at 4:27PM, Edited January 7, 4:27PM

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Orange is the color of skin, anything else makes it look unnatural. Sometimes you can go for a more pale look but it all depends on the talent. So MOST of the time orange is a common color because...well, we are humans.

You also need to factor in basic lighting and how it reacts once something as simple as a curve is applied. The most used color temperatures are 5600k and 3200k. Daylight and Tungsten. When contrast/saturation is applied to either of these they push towards cyan (Daylight) and orange (tungsten).

You can obviously mess with these somewhat but that decision is made well before it gets to the colorist. That's the job of the Director, set designer, wardrobe, and the DP.

Again, you get teal and orange because we have orange skin after applying contrast/saturation and the resulting shadows usually turn to a more teal (cool) color depending on how you lit the scene.

January 7, 2015 at 6:56PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
2036

The sunlight is orange and the sky is blue.

DAE think hollywood is taking over??? I love how people think they are above it when they live with it.

January 7, 2015 at 7:22PM

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Tyler
166

Sunlight is certainly not orange in color temperature. I'm sorry to break the news. The tungsten light bulb in your lamp is orange. ;-)

January 8, 2015 at 12:59AM

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taylrejones
Colorist
207

I've also sort of given up on trying to tell people that many walls in the house were teal. That also plays a role in why things felt teal. ;-)

January 8, 2015 at 1:00AM

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taylrejones
Colorist
207

so the dreaded Orange & Teal has infected set design, wardrobe and such as well... oh my!

January 21, 2015 at 7:19AM

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Andrea
Amateur enthusiast
86

Thanks guys! Glad you enjoyed it!

January 7, 2015 at 4:30PM, Edited January 7, 4:30PM

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taylrejones
Colorist
207

"crafted a unique look with loads of well-placed contrast and an uncomfortable cyan tint"

How exactly is high contrast w/ a cyan tint something 'unique', hasn't Hollywood been doing it for almost a decade?

January 7, 2015 at 4:31PM

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E. David Nazario
Filmmaker
177

I would argue that the look in this piece differs from the typical Hollywood aesthetic, although there are definitely some key similarities. For me, the teal/cyan tints in some of those shots feel incredibly uncomfortable, as they clash with the warmth of the interior lighting which creates a nice sense of visual tension that fits perfectly with film's story and thematic content. The Hollywood look is usually far more balanced and mundane in terms of the ratio of cyan to orange and where those colors are used within any given shot. I mean, ultimately, it's all based on the same theory of cross processed color, but I think The House on Pine Street crew used it in a way that really pushed their film forward.

January 8, 2015 at 1:44AM

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Robert Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker's Process
3627

What's being altered in each of the swipes?

January 7, 2015 at 4:36PM

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These are a combination of effects I was applying. Swipe one is a combination of layer mixing, contrast, and saturation. Swipe two was exposures and saturations. Swipe three was color tones and corrections, and swipe 4 was light molding and all the rest.

All in all there were 10-15+ adjustments done to the images but I condensed the swipes to 4 to save time so they don't give a truly full display of all the adjustments. Just not that the final result is a combination of all 4 of the swipes.

January 7, 2015 at 4:45PM

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taylrejones
Colorist
207

These are a combination of adjustments*

Just note that the*

I need to learn how to type ;-)

January 7, 2015 at 4:46PM

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taylrejones
Colorist
207

I really hope someday you can make a tutorial on grading. Considering the budget and the lighting constraints, this is awesome.

January 7, 2015 at 11:27PM

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Sahit Anand
Director and Co-Founder of DO. Creative Labs
140

Thanks! When I find some time I enjoy explaining things via tutorials or blog entries.

January 8, 2015 at 1:01AM

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taylrejones
Colorist
207

"This is Why Colorists Should Be the Most Appreciated People in Post Production" ... Well, is it not enough to just ALSO appreciate them? I also want to have some appreciation left for my cutter, my sound editor, my VFX guys, my composer ...

January 7, 2015 at 4:36PM

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I am the colorist but I will always give higher praise to the sound ;-).

January 7, 2015 at 4:41PM

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taylrejones
Colorist
207

This is so excellent. I second some of Bill Thomas' questions above and would love to know more about the workflow and intricacies of coloring S-Log footage. I'm an editor who merely dabbles in SpeedGrade, and this really goes to show the power of a true colorist who has honed their craft. The value speaks for itself and this kind of thing goes way beyond drag-and-drop plugins that many of us are used to using in our NLEs.

January 7, 2015 at 6:57PM

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Ty
Cinematographer, Editor, Director
577

Thank you Ty. I appreciate that!

January 8, 2015 at 1:02AM

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taylrejones
Colorist
207

A little bit of background:

This movie was an extremely low budget feature (very well produced however), shot on a very tight schedule with a skeleton crew. That said there was a really great deal of coordination between the directors, the production designer, and myself in order to build as much of the look into the sets as possible.

The film was shot on an f55 to 4K XAVC S-Log3. On set we were viewing the onboard Rec709-Type A LUT. We originally tested different workflows including RAW but settled on this as the most efficient and cost effective given our budget and our needs. The name of the game on this show was speed and efficiency and while I did experiment with making custom LUTS it became overly complicated (I was pulling my own focus and gaffing with a limited crew).

As far as the look on set, my philosophy was to get the 709 as close as possible to the final look with lighting and exposure and monitor the LOG signal that you see at the start of every correction to make sure we gave ourselves a lot of options. As much as I would love to take the time and make perfect images in camera, when you have radically changing lighting conditions, a lot of scenes to shoot each day, and very little time to make decisions, having the extra information to work with really makes a difference.

It is deceiving seeing the LOG images at the beginning of the correction and then comparing to the final images. On set the actors were seeing environments very similar to the finished grade. The LOG does show just how much information this camera can grab at 1250. This being done on a very tiny lighting budget (I think $1000 for the entire 18 day shoot) did mean that sometimes I did have to have a "fix it in post" mentality. I'm not ashamed of it, and I knew that with the f55 and the support of a skilled colorist, I could move quickly and make decisions that benefited the production.

As far as the teal and orange look. I totally understand the overall vibe people have about this but honestly it's simply a matter of dealing with the two dominant color temperatures of light. This is a horror film that mostly takes place during the day and the dynamic between artificial and natural light, interiors and exteriors, real and imagined was thematic link in the script.

Fundamentally we see color reels like this, and there certainly is a lot of skill and craft that comes from the post production but the color decisions start in the writer's head and manifest themselves through all the key departments in the film. There was a lot of intelligent decision making on behalf of our very talented and resourceful production designer, Monique Thomas, that is the core of these images.

The last thing that needs to be taken into account is this feature is composed of over a thousand shots, and Taylre gave extreme attention to detail to each one. That really is the bread and butter of a professional colorist, I like to think of it akin to the restaurant business, everyone can learn to make a really good dish but serving hundreds of them to demanding customers day in and day out is the mark of a true professional.

January 7, 2015 at 7:06PM

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Juan Sebastian Baron
Director of Photography
89

I think the cyan look came out of the Alexa dominating digital procurement - which does seem to shift color into cyan levels vs standard blue.

I think a rich color palette of say "Spring Breakers" - with heavy red, blue colors vs like Anchorman II which is alexa and more cyan shadows and teal highlights - and you know I'm guilty of it too - we all are.

Does anyone complain when they see it in "the Master" and "Place Beyond the Pines" or "Out of the Furnace."

All visual looks go thru waves and tastes and we have this look - this Wes Anderson look that I love - I do it because people like it as well.

The internet comment section is always a tough one, but there is some truth in it.

I initially get freaked out by it, but then I learn to accept it. Sometimes :)

January 7, 2015 at 9:40PM

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Ed David
Director of Photography
1456

Thanks for all of the info Juan and nice job to the both of you working with what you had.

January 8, 2015 at 12:02PM

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Bill Thomas
DP
225

Honestly, at this point, anybody who does not understand and acknowledge that color grading is as essential a part of the movie-making process as shooting, editing and sound mixing needs a reality check. It is excruciating to have to explain to directors over and over again that the flat, gray image we see on set is not how the final movie is going to look like - and god forbid if they didn't set money aside for a colorist later on down the line...

January 7, 2015 at 10:09PM, Edited January 7, 10:09PM

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Oren Soffer
Director of Photography
1863

Firstly, nice to see the DP's name is now attached to this. I'm still a little disappointed that so little credit is given to him. I'm sure that Mr. Baron planned a lot of the final look of the film when he lit and shot it. Even though digital cameras shoot in RAW or Log for the maximum dynamic range, there are tools that are used on set to get an idea of the final look that you're after as you go. The simplest is Rec 709, which converts the image for monitoring purposes to a standard TV colour space. You can also set up any number of LUTs (look up tables) to assist in different sequences. For example, a night exterior look, a night interior look, a fire light look, a dream sequence look. These are called up during shooting to help with lighting continuity and ratios. Colourists are an amazingly talented group, and are great collaborators for directors of photography.

January 7, 2015 at 10:22PM

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Arthur Cooper csc
Director of Photography
171

Agreed. I could have made none of these images without the entire team, especially Juan Sebastian Baron.

January 8, 2015 at 1:10AM

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taylrejones
Colorist
207

Great! And I've just learnt a new word in comments - teal :D
I really loved the change in the scene on the stairs. I couldn't imagine the final change in light and contrast. I hope that one day I will get the feel for it

January 8, 2015 at 2:47AM, Edited January 8, 2:47AM

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Can I ask: how does one become a colorist? I mean, is a degree essential in this field or is it just about learning the right things and the right softwares?

January 8, 2015 at 4:17AM

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Isa
74

how does one become a DP - you fake it until you make it. We work in show business. It's the same with becoming a lion tamer in the circus. You just apprentice and off you go. Sure you can go to CIrcus school and learn the technique of being a liontamer or just get in there and start calling yourself that. You can pick your own path.

January 8, 2015 at 7:09AM

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Ed David
Director of Photography
1456

invest in a 100k coloring suite

I'd start by practising with the programs and see if there's a post production house willing to hire you

January 8, 2015 at 9:26AM

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Filmdudezero
Director
89

or download Davinci Resolve Lite for free and start learning for free using the huge variety of resources online. You can assemble a VERY good color suite for 1/10th of that, and you don't even need a many of the pieces of equipment until you start working professionally w clients. You can learn without a panel a reference monitor for a while. Technology \ equipment is NOT preventing anyone from learning about color

January 14, 2015 at 1:21PM

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Jason Bowdach
Colorist
100

What do your nodes look like? What do you mean by layer mixing?

January 8, 2015 at 11:59PM, Edited January 8, 11:58PM

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Ryan Zarra
Colorist
79

since this is NOFILMSCHOOL.COM . . how about some resources you can suggest?
i just looked up colorist tutorial on youtube/vimeo.

https://vimeo.com/35779997

i have experience with photoshop retouching and concept art illustration. its basically the same thing i guess. in after effects you just mess with the transparency of the layers. i'm pretty sure theres more advanced stuff (color grade highlights separately from mids/lows, edit in after effects 32bit)

can you guys link to actual good colorist work and good tutorials? (not all good colorists are good teachers)

thanks

January 9, 2015 at 12:17AM

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Nice job :) Thanks for sharing.

January 12, 2015 at 5:44AM

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Do you have any more information about this movie? I went to their website but couldn't find too much. I wanna know more about how they made such a good looking movie for such a low budget. Could be really inspiring for your readers (and me, obviously).

Thanks!

January 22, 2015 at 5:30PM

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Rebecca Low
Cinematographer
74

What are the four layers or steps that were used in every shot of this video to achieve such beautiful color? I would appreciate it Soo so so much! :)

February 28, 2015 at 8:28AM, Edited February 28, 8:28AM

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These are a combination of various adjustments I did throughout the film. It wasn't as simple as 4 steps. I just condensed many of the steps down into 4 or 5 wipes across the screen so you didn't have to spent a super long time on each shot watching every fine tuned adjustment.

June 28, 2016 at 11:12AM

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taylrejones
Colorist
207

Colorist? Ahh, a fake profession. Just adjusting some parameters.

Like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzpU5RjSuBI

yeah, this (also) makes home video to look like some pro.

June 28, 2016 at 5:42AM

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N. Peter
Community / Filmmaker Website leader
25

Great job! I particularly love the day-for-night look. You captured it so well. Thanks for sharing.

June 28, 2016 at 3:09PM

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Matt Spade
Director / Editor
89