The Middle Ground: Ideal Shooting Conditions for Post Production

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It’s important for production personnel to know how footage should best be readied for video editing and color grading. In this post, we share actionable tips for optimizing your shoots for post.

When your crew is aware of the following production fundamentals it will lead to less headaches down the line. It will also optimizes other stops in the pipeline including, but not limited to, the color grading stage.

Most of my best grading work has resulted from being handed a great starting point from production, where I can work freely with the image, not correct shooting errors. Let’s discuss the elements that produce an optimal canvas from which to accomplish beautiful grades.

A Neutral Look

Unless you’re going for an extreme look, the best place to position the image is in a place I call “the middle ground.” Colorists prefer for the image to sit in a neutral space so the image can be swung wherever the client desires. Placing an extreme look on the footage while in production can tie everyone’s hands, especially the colorist. For instance, if you shoot everything with a blue wash, there will be limits to how warm the image can become. Depending on the shooting medium, the footage may only be able to withstand a certain amount of tweaking before artifacts become noticeable.

Log Mode, If Possible

The RED, Alexa, and other camera models have the ability to shoot or later convert to a logarithmic (‘log’ for short) mode. Low-contrast log images may look ugly because they’re so flat, but they’re actually the best place for a colorist to start. In log mode, the largest range of data has been captured by the camera, allowing the colorist to grade with the most freedom.

Log images can be treated with a Look Up Table (LUT) to recreate the look everyone saw on set with the ability to utilize the raw data underneath. Many LUTs are preinstalled in Resolve for use in these workflows.

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Using Neat Video: Exceptional Noise Reduction for Video

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Is grainy footage ruining your project? Neat Video packs a powerful punch for reducing grain and noise in footage. In this post we’ll show you how to get the most out of it in your projects.

Digital noise is an inevitable, undesirable facet of working with video. Unlike film grain, we find digital noise ugly and wish to eliminate or limit it. Luckily, noise reduction tools exist to combat grainy footage. While native software noise reducers suffice for many projects, sometimes additional firepower is required for egregiously dirty shots.

Enter Neat Video, a professional noise reduction plugin. At its price point (free or up to $199 – depending on the version), it’s become an industry standard. However, its interface is anything but intuitive. Let’s wrap our heads around it.

How Neat Video Works

Neat Video profiles a portion of the image to evaluate the noise in the overall frame. It is optimal that this portion should contain as few characteristics as possible. Good profiles might contain a piece of pure blue sky or a shadow region that lacks detail. Neat then reports a Quality level on this profile as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the more effective the reduction.

Once it’s gathered a profile for our shot, the Noise Filter Settings tab activates. The intra-frame controls are tweaked inside the plugin and temporal reduction is controlled outside the plugin.

Treating a Clip

Low light in a concert hall, a pretty classic candidate for potential noise. The noise is in this one for sure: offending_clip We’ll be working with an extremely noisy RED clip shot in a low-light concert hall. My chosen software is Davinci Resolve, but Neat works in a host of applications like After Effects, Premiere, Final Cut Pro, and others.

To use Neat Video in Resolve, add a new serial node and open up the FX panel. Drag the Reduce Noise plugin onto the new node. We’ll worry about the parameters here later. Click the Options button. Click the FX icon all the way on the right interface, above the timeline.

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The Isolated Color Look in Resolve

The isolated color look is a unique color grade used to great effect in movies like Pleasantville and Sin City. It involves keeping one or several colors intact while completely or partially desaturating the rest of the image. Let’s jump into the grade in DaVinci Resolve.

Achieving an isolated color look is pretty simple in Resolve and involves separating ranges of colors with keys. It works best when there’s an object that’s already naturally separated from the other elements in the scene in hue or saturation amount.

Approaching the Grade in DaVinci Resolve

For this example I chose this vibrant muscle car photo from Shutterstock. The same technique can easily be applied to any photo or video footage: original Perform your base correction just like you would with any other shot, then add a Serial Node to your tree. Select your Qualifier and click and drag to eyedropper across the object.Tight keys are necessary to pull off this effect. To make sure you have all of the object’s values, adjust the Hue Width, Saturation High Clip and Saturation Low Clip to control exactly what you need. Don’t forget to blur your key. Once you’ve pulled a sufficient key, dial in the saturation to your liking and create an Outside Node by pressing Option-O or by right-clicking the qualified node and selecting Add Outside Node. In the new node desaturate the image completely or partially to your desired effect. The keyed element will be the only thing that remains saturated. Success!

Here’s a quick pass of the image. Note that some of the stuff in the back would have to be taken care of since the qualifier is grabbing the same shades of red. You can use a polygonal vignette to cut out the car, and use the tracker for a moving shot.

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Using DaVinci Resolve’s Multiple Split Screens

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DaVinci Resolve has a little-known tool known as Split Screen which can be useful at various points in your color grading sessions.

See different graded versions of the same shot in DaVinci Resolve. In this post we’ll delve into Split Screen, and demonstrate its various modes and how each can be practically used when color grading.

Split Screen can be accessed by clicking on the little three-by-two icon above the main image viewer, between Image Wipe and Highlight.

Access Split Screen by clicking on that little grid:DaVinci Resolve Split Screen

Selecting this will kick us into our first option called Versions, which can display up to sixteen versions of the shot selected in the timeline. Sixteen versions is probably more than your creative mind can run through, so for all purposes we can hardly call this a limitation. Versions is useful at the session’s beginning if you have a client that is unsure of what look they want. The current version you have selected will be highlighted in the monitor with an outlined gray box.

For instance, I can show four versions of a shot to the client right when she comes in:DaVinci Resolve Versions

Certain fashion jobs may have no still image campaign to match the video to, so often the director will be open to grading suggestions. Fashion jobs also may not have a clear answer as to where the grade wants to head due to their often otherworldly shooting environments. If you have time before the director comes in, roll through a bunch of tasteful options and select Versions when she comes in. It’s a great way to show a bunch of different styles and palettes. You may not get the palette right, but it’s still a useful talking point. Upon seeing the various grades the director will typically respond in one direction more strongly than another. At least, they should, if they’re a decent director.

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6 Color RGB Laser Primaries Create Better 3D Experiences

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Lasers have longer lifetimes and are more efficient, meaning costs will be curbed by implementing them. When dealing with 3D content, it turns out lasers provide some unique advantages as well.

One laser 3D technology uses a six primary system called Laser 6P for short. The system developed by Barco involves using two distinct sets of red, green and blue (RGB) primaries to create the 3D image. To clarify, this is not a system designed to fill out the color gamut of the system to display more of the visual spectrum by adding primaries, although this has been tried and is confusingly also referred to as 6P. Rather, this 3D projection system using lasers has unique, dedicated red, green and blue primaries for each eye.

Lamp vs. Laser-Based Systems

A lamp-based system contains the broadband spectrum of white light. To separate various bands of light, you have to block the color wavelengths you don’t want, in effect subtracting them from the system. This is considered inefficient because it leads to lower brightness overall in the system.

With lasers, you begin with very narrow bands of light that can be selected to produce a desired color, preventing the need to filter inside or in front of the projector. The bands are narrow enough that in 3D systems two sets of RGB primaries can be chosen far enough apart on the spectrum as to virtually eliminate “crosstalk” between the two eyes. This allows the correct primaries to be cleanly transmitted in one eye while locking them out of the other eye. When you put on a pair of 3D glasses, each eye sees only the images intended for that eye.

The Barco Laser3D laser system works by rapidly alternating each eye’s primary set, fusing the image in the viewer’s perception to see the image in 3D. Since we’re dealing with narrow bands of colors set by the lasers, the glasses can be made to pass or block these colors relatively efficiently. The system saves power since the lasers are only on when needed and no power is blocker or wasted. With the added benefit of lasting much longer than traditional lamps, lasers are a dramatic improvement over the old systems.

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