Color Grading: Bleach Bypass Looks in DaVinci Resolve

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Create extreme color looks in DaVinci Resolve. In this post we share a technique for achieving the stylized bleach bypass look, reminscent of films like 300 and Sin City.

When in session, you may hear the client mention a bleach bypass look. It’s a bit of an antiquated term hailing back to days of film processing. Bleach bypass involved skipping the bleaching process during the film’s development, which retains its natural silver elements. This leads to an extreme grade that holds higher contrast and very little saturation. This look was popular in the nineties and was used for many music videos, and today retains its edgy, extreme nature in feature films like 300 and Sin City. This color grading look holds a sense of tension because it’s not the first place most commercial ads would head. Let’s create the bleach bypass effect in DaVinci Resolve. The first step, as always, is bringing your footage into Resolve and doing an initial correction on all of your shots. I stress the importance of this not only to make you faster at grading in general, but to arrive at a base consistency when working with your footage. While it’s a good idea to balance all the images beforehand, it’s especially important when imposing this extreme look which involves clipping the high and low registers. The scopes may become harder to read when the black and white values are off the charts, pegging somewhere beyond legal IRE values. The untouched source image, courtesy of Shutterstock: Bleach Bypass DaVinci Resolve - Original My initial balance. Good starting point, nothing too crazy: Bleach Bypass DaVinci Resolve - Corrected After you’ve balanced your timeline, create a new node and head to the Custom Curves in the bottom center of Resolve’s interface. Fashion an S-curve by making several points along the contrast curve at the high and low ends. Drag the bottom points down and the top points up. This will alter any corrections you perform on your color panel (you’re using a panel, right?) along this curve, acting like a filter. Set up a standard contrast ‘S-curve’ to filter your adjustments as you work through the grade: DaVinci Resolve - Contrast Curves Now, we’ve quite quickly created a look reminsisent of bleach bypass, but we’ll tweak it a bit further. Its extreme nature will not make it a perfect fit for all projects, but its clear visual impact is the main reason it’s still used today. Bleach Bypass DaVinci Resolve - Bleach Bypass

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Sunkissed and Sepia Looks in DaVinci Resolve

 

A golden, sunkissed look is something all colorists should have in their toolbox.

Let’s break down what the  ‘sunkissed’ look entails and pull it off in a few different ways in Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve. We’ll also talk about applying a sepia tone grade that’s similar but has its own specific look.

Approaching the Grade

A sunkissed look, as one would imagine, is going to be skewed to the warmer side. However, we don’t just want to swing the blacks, mids, and highlights warm and call it a day. Sure, this is one way to go, but subtlety and nuance can also be employed to great effect. Depending on the source footage, the image may be highlight-dominant if it’s directed toward the sky. Or, the shot may contain lifted blacks, cueing us toward a look that is more slight. It’s contingent on how extreme of a look you want to impose on the image.

First, correct each shot in the timeline so that it looks balanced. This promotes consistency, giving you a more uniform place from which to start with each shot in the timeline. Once there you can exert a grade on every shot and make more minor adjustments to bring the shots to one level of uniformity. If you apply an extreme look right away, you may neglect small details of the shot that are getting lost due to an extreme grade. You might get lost in a sea of yellow.
The original image, courtesy of Shutterstock:

Original Image

My initial correction. Note the blacks were lifted. I made them a more true black and brightened up the image slightly:

Initial Correction

After your initial balance, push some yellow, orange or even red into the highlights. Note how even as different colors are put into the highlights, the effect can be quite pleasing to the eye. There are often many correct answers (or no wrong answers), it often comes down to the aesthetic of the creatives involved. In my image, I’ve had to compensate for the highlights which begin to clip in the red channel as the green and blue highlights diminish.

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