October 5, 2015

Make Your Wide Exterior Shots Shine with This Simple Post Production Trick

Larry Jordan Graduated ND Tutorial
Sometimes you just want your wide exterior and landscape shots to jump off the screen. This deceptively simple trick can help you accomplish that.

In an excerpt from one of Larry Jordan's fantastic webinars, he shares some tips for using gradients and blend modes to add some punch to images that otherwise look flat and uninspired. Check out the excerpt below:

This, of course, is basically a digital version of a graduated neutral density filter, something that has been used extensively throughout photographic history for this exact purpose (as well as a few others). While graduated ND filters are a good addition to any filter kit, especially if you shoot outdoors a lot, sometimes you don't have access to one when you need it, or you didn't realize that you needed one until your footage was already shot. In those cases, there's no need to worry because the post production version of this effect looks great, and is infinitely more customizable than shooting with a glass filter.

The best thing about this technique is that it's simple, non-proprietary, and completely free. You can create your own custom gradients in Photoshop (or even in most NLEs) within seconds, or you can just download pre-made ones and then add them atop your footage with the "overlay" blend mode, which is available in pretty much every modern NLE. To further customize this effect, you can manipulate the positioning of the gradient so that it lines up perfectly with the horizon in your image, and you can use the opacity control to dial the intensity of the effect up or down.

Have you used gradients to mimic graduated ND filters in post? If so, share your workflows and the results with us down in the comments!     

Your Comment

20 Comments

I'm honestly ashamed that I haven't used this more before.

October 5, 2015 at 5:41PM, Edited October 5, 5:41PM

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NTJordan
Cinematographer
74

Nice simple idea to add some more contrast and colour. Grading is one of my weakest areas, so love learning these kinds of things.

October 5, 2015 at 9:57PM

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Nick Kelly
IBeAFilmDude
143

Quality tip, thanks Rob.

October 5, 2015 at 11:22PM

7
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Great share Rob!

October 6, 2015 at 12:20AM, Edited October 6, 12:20AM

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Brian Roth
Cinematographer
161

This technique also works great on drone footage, I'm always surprised at how much it helps.

October 6, 2015 at 1:11AM

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Jonathan Daniel
Freelance Video Producer
22

Nice technique.

A similar video by Larry Jordan was already uploaded in 2013 regarding how to do implement the technique in Premiere) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTB569JLUY8

October 6, 2015 at 6:05AM

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Johnnie Behiri
DOP/Editor/Producer
74

Terrible audio

October 6, 2015 at 7:48AM

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wut

October 6, 2015 at 10:19AM, Edited October 6, 10:19AM

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What does wut mean? Another thing like lol? or couldn't be bothered typing a h?

If you meant what, can't you hear the sound removal process kicking in and out at the pauses? Much better we hear the noise than that.

October 7, 2015 at 6:28AM

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I didn't notice on the first pass, probably because I was playing PacMan, but I agree with Simon. It sounds like ATC recordings.

October 7, 2015 at 12:57PM, Edited October 7, 12:57PM

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I see this more like a cheap alternative to Color Correction if you don't have the time or the knowledge to correct your footage. If you have dark elements in the upper half of the frame they're going to be darken too, and if your camera hasn't picked up any details in the highlights, you're going to have a dark clipped area. Vice versa in the lower half of the frame, but in addition, if you already have bright areas they're going to be blown up.

conclusion: not an option for me...

October 6, 2015 at 10:34AM

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Thomas MULLER
Cinematographer ; Camera Operator ; Flycam 6000 Operator
74

Totally agree with you

October 6, 2015 at 1:22PM

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AvdS
1135

It's a simple and unique technique that can be very effective. Sometimes you don't know what different colors will do so you can experiment, you can tack on multiple overlays at different opacities I assume, you can create gradient images of all varieties - not just horizontal two-toned - diagonally, at different points - it just looks like a really neat thing to do without affecting all of a certain color in the scene. Changing the color of some of the wheat, not all, will have a different effect - sounds like pure unadulterated fun. Yes, a bit haphazard, but interesting nonetheless.

October 28, 2015 at 12:02PM

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Suzie Park
Director & DP
92

Larry Jordan goes down in my esteem, this is a very bad advice. I totally disagree with this way of color correcting images, it's a dumb trick that shouldn't be use when you know how easy it is to do it the right way with the color grading tool in final cut. Create a new color correction, make a rectangular mask in the top with a big softness that goes down to the bottom and then darken the inside and light the outside to taste. This will allow you to adapt to different situations and protect the high light and shadow.
If you want to know more about color grading you can find some very good free tutorials on www.colorgradingcentral.com

October 6, 2015 at 1:22PM, Edited October 6, 1:27PM

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AvdS
1135

It's just another way to enhance your footage and explained by someone trying to help you.
If it looks good, why not do it?

October 7, 2015 at 10:41AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1492

Great tip. I'm more excited about the fact that he is in Final Cut Pro X doing this haha

October 7, 2015 at 12:31AM

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Charles C.
Editor/ Director/ Director of Photography/ Wannabe Thinker
1110

saved.

October 7, 2015 at 10:54PM

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Ryan Duke
231

When darkening the sky I find a lot of noise and artifacts are introduced...

October 8, 2015 at 3:05AM

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George Peck
Filmmaker
147

Tradeoffs if you want the image. That's not to say its the right tradeoff to make all the time, and its good to know what you are giving up to get what you what you want.

October 21, 2015 at 5:02PM

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Sean Voysey
Creative Director
316

Cool!

October 21, 2015 at 5:01PM

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Sean Voysey
Creative Director
316