3 Practical Tips for Using Scopes Now

0This article was originally published on PremiumBeat’s blog.

scopes-davinci-1

Not long ago, reading scopes was a basic part of a post-production job. The entry-level employee would typically begin learning how to calibrate monitors against test patterns and to evaluate inconsistencies and illegalities in tape workflows in the machine room.

Due to the gradual shift away from tape-based mediums and toward digital mastering, hardware scopes are used less, but still persist inside software. To those video industry creatives who were not trained in the machine room, scopes can be intimidating. Nevertheless, understanding scopes should be part of every video professional’s core knowledge base, and is especially crucial to the colorist. Here are three practical ways to use scopes in Resolve.

Ascertain Color Bias

Scopes can immediately tell you how an image is tinted. I like to grade in a subtractive manner by evaluating what’s wrong with the image and performing the opposite action to correct for the bias. Scopes communicate information in a more efficient way than our eyes, since our vision acclimates to an image within seconds. Our environment also affects how we perceive images, and sometimes grading is performed in suboptimal conditions, like on-set grading environments where a dark environment with neutral grey walls is unattainable. Scopes, on the other hand, present a readout of the visual image that is mathematically absolute as opposed to aesthetically subjective.

Scopes can also be used to balance the whites and blacks. Using the waveform view and the color wheels, the three color channels will combine to create white when there is no color contamination in the highlights or shadows. In the image below, the back wall has a reddish hue, and the scopes confirm this. In the correction, I nudge the highlights to compensate for the color shift to create a true white, which creates a more natural look.

In this image, the wall behind the subject looks strange, and sure enough the scopes read a red-magenta bias in the highlights (blue oval). A vectorscope blob representing the subject’s skin rests below the skin tone guideline (red circle). While the skin indicator is only a rough indicator of where skin tones are likely to land, these two clues will aid in creating an initial correction.

While the image is far from complete, already the image is looking better. The blacks and whites haven’t been too pushed and the highlights are now white, as indicated by the white in the waveform’s upper register. The smudge on the vectorscope representing the subject’s skin is closer aligned to the skin tone indicator, and sure enough the subject looks healthier than before.

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Grading Insights From Pro Colorist Patrick Inhofer

This article was originally published on PremiumBeat’s blog.

We sat down with pro colorist Patrick Inhofer to discuss his color grading process and how new colorists can jump into the color industry.

Top image: Sun Belt Express via IMDb

Last month we interviewed prolific author and colorist Alexis van Hurkman about his vantage point of the industry. We’ve got another exclusive, this time with colorist Patrick Inhofer, a 25-year veteran of the post community. His long list of clients include HBO, NBC, ABC, Showtime, and ESPN. His foray into teaching began in 2005, and Inhofer has since has made coaching a key part of his business with his sites Tao of Color, Colorist Flight School, and Mixing Light.

 

From Editing to Coloring

Inhofer went to school for television and film, working as an editor for about a decade in large Manhattan edit houses before making the switch to freelance. That’s how he found color grading.

When it came time for me to go freelance and start selling my services, I realized super quick that many of my competitors didn’t know what a good-looking picture looked like. They didn’t even know how to read a scope, which I learned in college. I decided to establish myself as someone who had this additional skillset. As software became more capable of digital color correction, I realized I loved it, and I made a conscious transition towards full-time color correction.

Having a color grading subspecialty benefitted Inhofer, and today continues to differentiate many of the editors he coaches.

I teach a lot of editors who are well served by not only being good at editing and putting a story together, but by having a subspecialty they can sell their clients on. Color correction is a great skill to have. It has a visual impact on the image. You can do a before and after and really see the difference. For a lot of the people I coach, color correction won’t be their primary job, but it allows them to differentiate themselves from their competition. I’m a big proponent for that.

Grading Insights from Pro Colorist Patrick Inhofer: Rivers Wash Over Me
Screencap from Rivers Wash Over Me

Five years ago, Inhofer started Tao of Color, a weekly colorist-focused newsletter, which in itself was a part-time job, taking up 20-25 hours a week.

Tao was designed as a community-building exercise when there was very little cohesive communication going on about color grading. That was a way of pulling together everything that was happening in the community.

With this split revenue system, I wondered about the balance of business intraditional coloring versus coaching.

It’s about 50-50 right now. I’d like for a bit more to come out of training. When you’re selling product, if you’re not constantly generating new product, any good will you’ve built up starts to evaporate. To go down that route, there’s a certain amount you have to commit to, and I haven’t found the right amount that allows me to run Mixing Light and Tao of Color.

For many of us that wear multiple hats, finding the right mix to devote time to each aspect of our business can clearly be challenging.

My goal is to cut back on grading about 15 percent, maintaining a smaller base of regular clients. That’ll free up time to revitalize Colorist Flight School, where I’ll be offering certifications. I need to keep the client base to keep me relevant on software, workflows, and changes in the industry, and the training allows me to live a more independent lifestyle that isn’t tied to any particular region.

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Color Grading Insight From Pro Colorist Alexis Van Hurkman

This article was originally published on PremiumBeat’s blog.

We interviewed professional colorist Alexis Van Hurkman and asked him to share how an aspiring colorist can tap into the competitive world of color grading.

The niche world of color grading is filled with highly specialized artists that have made it their craft to perfect the subtle art of manipulating moving images, matching shots, and crafting grades that realize their creator’s vision. I recently chatted withAlexis Van Hurkman, one of the more visible personalities in the field.

Hurkman has literally written the book on DaVinci Resolve, the instruction manual for the popular grading software that clocks in at a staggering one thousand pages, not to mention also having written The Color Correction Handbook and The Color Correction Lookbook.

Color Grading: Color Correction Lookbook
A still from the cover of Alexis Van Hurkman’s Color Correction Lookbook

“The Handbook is the vegetables,” Hurkman says, “while the Lookbook is the dessert.” The Lookbook is the smaller of the two volumes, but Hurkman says it’s the more fun of the two, focusing on interesting grades more so than the Handbook, which teaches a budding colorist the practice of color grading through an application-agnostic methodology. “The Handbook is about fixing the images, and the Lookbook is about screwing them back up.”

Hurkman also wrote an Encyclopedia of Color Correction which pertained to the now-defunct Final Cut Pro 7, but he’d written about color for Final Cut since software version 3 way back around 2001.

In addition to writing technical documentation, Hurkman has also created half-a-dozen Ripple Training series for Resolve. And then of course there’s the regular darkened-room grind of the professional colorist.

Best-Case Scenario

Color Grading: Zombie Movie Still
Video still via Alexis Van Hurkman

Obviously, Hurkman’s got many pots on the kettle, but we first discussed his writing career, his entrance point into the world of color.

When I write documentation like for Resolve, I consider myself to be the first end user for new features that have just been engineered or that are in the middle of being re-engineered. To make the writing resonate with an editor or colorist, it’s really helpful for me to know what users will want to use the new tools for. I try to present real-world examples on how to use the controls.

Hurkman found color correction in much the same way I did: while he was working as an editor, clients would ask him to make a few color tweaks to their footage.

Once you learn a little bit about color correction, you can’t unsee the problems. I’d make a few changes here and there. Gradually, clients came to me for that particular service.

For a while, Hurkman still didn’t consider himself a colorist, but clients liked the image fixes. Over time, Hurkman realized that he enjoyed color grading. This was 2005, a time when clients not commanding considerable commercial budgets were considered an underserved market for color.

As he started getting busier, Hurkman migrated to Final Touch, which later became the Color program in Final Cut Studio when it was acquired by Apple. He received a coincidental call around that time to write a user manual for the program, since he had written documentation for the color sections of Final Cut Pro in the past. It was a perfect fit and a great learning experience for the types of skills he was rapidly acquiring.

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Using Compound Clips in DaVinci Resolve

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Compound clips are a great way to group multiple clips together in DaVinci Resolve. Here’s how to use them.

Similar to grouped clips and compound nodes used during the grading process, compound clips allow users to cluster clips together in the Edit and Color pages. DaVinci Resolve’s compound clip functionality is essentially a grouping feature that works much like those in other nonlinear editing programs. Here’s how to make the most of compound clips in DaVinci Resolve.

Lasso or command-click the shots to be grouped together and right-click on them. At the top of the menu, choose New Compound Clip. Compound clips don’t necessarily need to be in sequence with one another.

Using Compound Clips in DaVinci Resolve: creating a compound clip

You’ll get a dialogue box that enables you to give a specific name to the compound clip. After clicking Create, the compound clip will show up in your Media Pool as a project element. After executing the New Compound Clip command, a dialogue box pops up, allowing you to name the compound clip and process the audio in one of two ways (see below).

Using Compound Clips in DaVinci Resolve: creating a compound clip: compound clip properties

You can also choose whether to group the audio as Single Adaptive, which will cluster them together as its own group, or as Multiple Mono, which retains the audio stems for further editing, but it will make a sort of mixdown of them (see image below).

You may choose to employ this method as an easier way to send stems, but it can be cumbersome when editing further. Here’s an example of choosing the Single Adaptive audio mode. All audio is “mixed” down to one channel:

Using Compound Clips in DaVinci Resolve: single adaptive option

Here’s an example of choosing the Multiple Mono audio mode. All audio is kept as discrete channels that are the length of the compound clip, regardless of the original audio durations.

Using Compound Clips in DaVinci Resolve: multiple mono option

Frankly, you may find that both audio modes disturb the integrity of your audio edits, as frequently one performs different functions on audio than video. To retain your audio edits as they were before creating the compound clip, make sure your video clips are unlinked by selecting them, right-clicking, and deselect Clip Link.

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Black Canvas Athletes

This short story was originally published at Across the Margin.

Competition, compulsion, and companionship – a story told in 8 bits…

videogames

Trinidad checks her crumpled shopping list. She’s just picked up the bouquet of flowers. That’s everything.

The drive home is quick despite intermittent traffic. Trinidad slips through the front door with grocery bags hooked over her arms, especially careful with the bouquet. Streeter hunches over a worn cardboard box in the living room, wrestling with a cluster of wires inside. “Tachyon” is scribbled on the box’s side in black.

Streeter plucks an ancient video game console out of the box and hooks it up to his 70-inch television. Trinidad smiles, realizing he has no idea she’s there. A brown-haired Swede, over the years she’s developed a hunched spine that betrays her thin body and lean face.

Computerized, simplistic beeps flow through the television’s speakers when Streeter switches on the console. The pixelated title screen is absurdly magnified on such a large display. Trinidad sets the bags down and comes into the living room with the bouquet. “I leave you alone for five minutes,” she says matter of factly.

Streeter whips around in surprise, his boyish slate-blue eyes peeking out from unkempt chestnut hair. “You’re back. Thought I’d play a quickie.”

“So, only a two-hour game?”

“I used to be so much worse.”

Trinidad shows him the bouquet. “How’s this by the way?”

Streeter shrugs. “That’s fine.”

“They had silk too, but I didn’t think you wanted that.”

Streeter unravels a clunky controller from its black wiring. “Real’s better.”

The uncomplicated, insistent game music draws Trinidad in. Small pixelated ships move around the screen in staccato animation. “Wow. This game’s ghetto.”

“Hey. Your boyfriend holds the world record in this ‘ghetto’ game. Show some respect.”

“Another online dating miracle.”

“Nine months of pure bliss, baby. And counting.”

1P START

The game makes a sound like a pitched-down kick drum run through a distortion pedal.

Streeter’s ship floats alone in space, until a wireframe tube comes out of nowhere. Enemy ships run along the perimeter, shooting at Streeter, who retaliates. His movements are graceful, like a master chef’s unwasted strokes; each serves a function. The gameplay is fast, even by today’s standards.

Trinidad’s gaze drifts to the cardboard box. Several crinkled 35mm photographs of Streeter rest on the mess of wires. She flicks through them. “These photos are amazing. Look at these corny t-shirts!” She studies one of Streeter with an older man resembling him. “Is this him?”

Streeter is silent, either from game focus or from memories.

Trinidad pulls out her phone and scrolls through her newsfeed. “I’ve been following BitPixel like you said. Someone tweeted the other day about beating your high score.”

“Whoa, really? All the more reason to practice.”

“You’ll beat him.” She reads from her phone. “This kid got a high score finding a glitch on level twenty-five. It shows you how on the site.”

Trinidad shows him the phone but he doesn’t look. Already the game’s tougher; enemy ships are firing homing missiles and triple-burst shots.

“Twenty-five….let’s see when I get there.”

“So wait. How’s that not cheating?”

“Yeah, it’s allowed if it’s in the programming. Obviously cheat codes, stuff like that, that’s notallowed.”

“Can’t believe people still play this game.”

“It’s big.” The game rewards Streeter with a shrill, klaxon sound for grabbing a bonus orb. “You’re coming to BitPixel this year, right? Maybe you’ll like it.”

Streeter doesn’t see her reluctant expression. “Yeah, I’ll check it out.” She watches him destroy three enemy ships with sniper-like precision. “You want to get going?”

“I already started a game.”

“Pause it.”

“This came out prior to pause.’”

An hour and a half later, Streeter runs out of lives, but he finds the level twenty-five glitch.

Training for the BitPixel competition coincides with Streeter’s annual cemetery pilgrimage, the one day of the year he drags himself out to visit his father’s grave. The March air is brisk, but it no longer slices at exposed skin.

The cemetery is near the pizzeria he and his father frequented when Streeter was little. It was on the way back from school, and on Fridays, his father took him for pizza to ring in the weekend. Streeter ate greasy pepperoni slices and listened to the owner and his father talk about off-track betting, their weekly poker nights, the shitty weather and most often, trouble with the misses.

Then the eighties arcade game explosion hit, and businesses were eager to cash in. The pizzeria owner installed a Tachyon arcade cabinet when Streeter was ten. Long after slices and idle conversation became stale, his father sat marveling at Streeter’s early gaming skills.

3,853,600

By twelve, the game transfixed Streeter. By fourteen he had the highest score on the leaderboard.

13,771,830

By sixteen he’d mastered the game, his score hundreds of thousands higher than second place. A friend told him about the world high score rankings; Streeter had a new goal.

204,602,170

By eighteen, he’d made out with a few girls and had gotten to second base with one, but, more importantly, he held the world’s highest score in Tachyon, having shattered the previous record holder by over a million points.

12,173,476,820

His goal achieved, Streeter turned to his college studies, largely forgetting about video games. But video games wouldn’t forget him. A few years after he finished college, BitPixel was formed.

b. 1942 – d. 2007

Trinidad gives Streeter space in front of the tombstone. He crouches over the grave and reads the inscription, once again doing the math in his head. Sixty-three. Trinidad squeezes his shoulder. He rises and hugs her in prolonged embrace, allowing the tears to flow.

For the next two months Trinidad has front-row seats to Streeter’s intense training. He wakes at six for a couple of hours of play before work, and hits the console immediately after, breaking only to eat a few protein bars and fill a water bottle to stay hydrated.

15,457,223,490

By week two, Streeter tapes a printout of the new high score in large type near the television, a visualization technique he picked up from a sports documentary. Streeter and Trinidad go to bed together at first, but by week four she’s jolted awake nightly by the trebly sounds signaling the game’s beginning. In his absence she discovers the comfort of keeping in touch with friends digitally, from commenting on friends’ vacation posts to joining interest groups to building boards and sharing those with her growing followers.

Streeter’s unwavering discipline is that of an athlete or a drug addict, depending on the day. Streeter’s ritualized discipline is one of his strong traits, but it pushes out other aspects of a well-rounded life. In these months he sacrifices human pleasures in service of the greater objective. Sex with Trinidad decreases, his sleep patterns are affected, and his posture becomes hunched. Before the start of the tournament he takes vacation days to train.

Read the full short story at Across the Margin and don’t forget to follow Tristan on Twitter.

Organize Your DaVinci Resolve Work Area with New Compound Nodes

This article was originally published on PremiumBeat’s blog.

In a fast-paced session, it’s easy to lose track of each node’s function in the tree, especially when time doesn’t allow for labelling each one. DaVinci Resolve 12′s compound nodes offer a solution.

When time doesn’t allow for proper labeling, it’s easy to lose track of each node’s function in the tree. New to DaVinci Resolve 12, the compound node condenses the complexity of the node tree, which can organize client comments or help otherwise clean up the node editor. Compound nodes can also allow for various workflow applications, like applying one correction that affects multiple nodes.

Or, consider a scenario: perhaps you’ve been addressing an art director’s comments for several minutes, creating multiple serial nodes that can be stepped back through if needed. Let’s say the art director now wants to toggle the result of all of those changes. The easiest way to show this would be to enable and disable a single node. In this case, compound nodes can also help.

To use this new feature, nodes must be in direct sequence with each other; the first and third node in a serial node tree can’t become a compound node. First, command-click on each node to be included. The active node doesn’t need to be one of these nodes.

Below, the third and fourth node are selected, denoted by the red bar above the thumbnail. The second node will not be included in the compound node even though it is the current node, as seen by the red box highlight.

1. Compound Node Selection

Right-click on any node and select Create Compound Node at the bottom.

Create Compound Node is revealed when several nodes in sequence with each other are highlighted.

2. Create Compound Node

The selected nodes will be grouped and the new node will be identified by a thicker border resembling a stack of cards. It’s subtle, which is why Blackmagic probably thought it was a good idea to label the node by default.

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Easier Interview Editing With DaVinci Resolve’s Smooth Cut Transition

This article was originally published on PremiumBeat’s blog.

DaVinci Resolve 12 debuts the Smooth Cut transition, mimicking Premiere’s Morph Dissolve tool. Interview editing has never been easier.

Interview editing can be tricky. But with DaVinci Resolve’s Smooth Cut transition, you’ll have no problem getting around line flubs or seamlessly blending two cuts together.

Let’s get into how DaVinci Resolve’s Smooth Cut works. In the Edit page, chop up the audio in your timeline as usual, taking out flubbed audio sections to create a more coherent performance. The video will be choppy since the person moves while talking; we’ll apply Smooth Cut to each of these edit points.

DaVinci Resolve's Smooth Cut Transition: Chopped Up Video
I’ve edited out some of the speaker’s flubs, resulting in a timeline with several edits.

Activate the Effects Library on the top left of the interface. Smooth Cut is in theTransitions category. Let’s be a little tricky. Hold down the Command key and click each of the edit points you made a moment ago, highlighting each of them. Right-click the Smooth Cut transition and choose Add to Selected Edit Points and Clips. The transition is added to every selection at once. Nice!

DaVinci Resolve's Smooth Cut Transition: Apply Smooth Cut
Open up the Effects Library; Smooth Cut is near the top.

If you just have one edit point or don’t feel like being tricky, simply drag the transition onto the edit point. Either way, you’ll have something that looks like the image below.

DaVinci Resolve's Smooth Cut Transition: Result Smooth Cut
The resulting clips all have the Smooth Cut transition on them with the default transition length set in the Editing preferences.

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