Quick VFX Tutorial on Color Grading: Using Masks to Adjust Color Separately

Color correction can be a frustrating ordeal when you have to sacrifice over or under-exposing one section of your shot in order to make the rest look good. But, in this relatively simple color grading tutorial, we learn how to use masks to isolate parts of the frame that need different adjustments. Using this technique will help you grade your image to where you won't have to settle for muddy, over-saturated, or poorly exposed areas. Hit the jump to watch the tutorial.

Film Riot walks us through this beginner's level tutorial. Deciding what your plan of attack is in post is important before you start shooting. Ryan Connolly explains that he found a mid-ground exposure for his shot in order to keep the detail in his characters, the sky, and the plane.

Creating masks is simple, especially when your shot doesn't move. If you do opt for a pan, track, zoom, or any type of movement in your shot, you will have to set up key frames for your mask (which is also relatively easy.)

Check out the tutorial below, which shows you how to do more than just creating simple masks and color correction. Film Riot includes how to use optical flares, power windows, and how to get rid of problematic reflections using a blur tool.

Film Riot is a great resource for tutorials covering a wide range of topics, from recording gun foley to how to get the Star Trek transporter effect. Check them out here!

Do you have your own tricks for color grading? Let us know in the comments.

Link: Film Riot: VFX Color Grading-- YouTube

[via Filmmaker IQ]

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Your Comment


Film Riot is a great YouTube channel.

BTW, if you can add blur to any shot, you don't necessarily have to have a shallow depth of focus while shooting, do you?

July 19, 2013 at 2:25PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


It'll look better though.

July 19, 2013 at 2:26PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Ya but imagine a run&shoot where you're in a semi-automatic in F-5.6 or on a stabilizer without a focus puller, so you're just happy to capture whatever you can as fast as you can. It's nice to have the option to separate the foreground from the rest.

PS. In that Film Riot clip, you just have to tell the guy to take his "agent Foster Grant" glasses off.

July 19, 2013 at 6:30PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I would say, test it out and see how much you like it. But yeah, you can always add blur, you can't take it away.

July 20, 2013 at 7:05AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I've never done this in a film, but I use blurs in photography if I don't get the DOF I really want. It works for sure, but it definitely doesn't look the same. So, it's a good tool to have to clean up a mess (like your whole crew making a cameo in your character's shades.)

July 19, 2013 at 2:33PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

V Renée
Content Manager at Coverfly

Faking DOF with blur in video is a really, really bad idea. And virtually impossible to pull of properly except in the most favorable of circumstances.

July 23, 2013 at 3:10PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Nice and you can also do the same job with some nodes in Resolve and actually track it so you don't need to go keyframing.

July 19, 2013 at 2:27PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Alex Mand

AE seems like a funky tool for this kind of job. Resolve doesn't require any roto when tracking a power window.

July 19, 2013 at 3:16PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Wow an actual tutorial for after effects. I certainly wish I could use resolve, but I can't(iMac not powerful enough)
But he certainly didn't really teach me anything in this "tutorial" just let me know the possibilities of my software. He didn't actually show the process for anything.

July 19, 2013 at 9:11PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


less of the guy and more of just the tutorial - K.I.S.S

July 19, 2013 at 9:34PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Ha. Not for me. I love Film Riot to death. I watch tutorials like this regardless of if I'm already all over it, just for the laughs. Always gold. These guys and Andrew Kramer, could make watching paint dry interesting.

July 21, 2013 at 8:49AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


For simple camera movements you could easily track a shot like the sky correction in this tutorial with AE's 3D camera tracker and then drop in a 3D enabled adjustment layer and get away with almost no keyframes. For the glasses you can do a simple 2D track and parent an adjustment layer to the track through a null... which also brings down the amount of keyframes needed.

And about the question about doing shallow depth of field in post... yeah it kindof works... but if you want it to look great, you basically need to build something equivalent to a z-depth pass from a 3d renderer. Sort of akin to what they do when they post-convert to stereoscopic... you kind of need to make a judgement on what takes less time and money... either you take another take to nail it on set or you sit down and start the laborious process of rotoscoping several layers to get the same effect. Though, I could probably understand doing it in post if you can't get it shallow enough on set.

Or you could film it in several passes and use green-screens to speed up the process of layering. Or do like in the original Tron, shoot it in high res black & white and hire hundreds of animators to produce masks for the coloring and compositions...

Again, it all comes down to a calculation of speed, cost and quality... and you can usually only get two of those ;)

July 22, 2013 at 4:26AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

You voted '-1'.

I've been watching these guys forever, seriously. - Scott Craighead

July 26, 2013 at 7:52PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM