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: My initial balance. Good starting point, nothing too crazy: 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: 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.
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