The tools for precise color grading are now widely available, but some of the techniques that professionals use day-in and day-out remain a mystery.
In a quick video from Alex Jordan at Learn Color Grading, Alex shares an extremely simple tip that could make a huge difference in the aesthetic of your film. That tip can be summed up nicely as: keep the shadows in your image relatively desaturated. With that said, it's a bit more complicated than that, so here's Alex to show you how it's done inside of DaVinci Resolve:
It's easy to think that saturation is something that you can only adjust in one fell swoop, an adjustment that applies to the entire image and not individual parts or luma ranges. And in many basic color correction plugins, that's definitely the case. You adjust the saturation control and the entire range of shadows, midtones, and highlights has its saturation manipulated by exactly the same amount. In DaVinci Resolve, however, there's a simple adjustment that allows you precisely control which parts of the image are saturated and which parts are not.
What Alex is doing in his example above is simple. In order to keep the darker parts of the image relatively desaturated, he's creating a new serial node that he leaves at the end of the chain. Any other nodes used to make adjustments to the image will be kept before this one. On that final node, he makes one adjustment. In the Curves editor he selects the Luma vs. Saturation control, and then drops the left side (the shadows) of the curve down while slightly boosting the saturation of the midtones.
It looks like this when it's all said and done:
And here's the massive difference that simple node at the end makes in the final look of the image. Both of these images have the same adjustment, with the shadows pushed towards blue, but the second one has the additional node with shadow desaturation enabled.
So there you have it. By keeping your shadows desaturated in relation to the rest of your image, you can really punch up the aesthetic, making color casts like the blue one above far more polished and professional.
If you're interested in learning more about color correction and grading inside of DaVinci Resolve 12, Alex has one of the absolute best online courses that you will find anywhere. Be sure to check it out.