Aug 7, 2009

How To Color Correct Your Movie

After the shooting is done, the editing is finalized, you need to pat yourself on the back. This is a major accomplishment, since many would-be filmmakers never finish the editing process. They watch their footage, realize they can't make it perfect, make their "vision" come to light, and they subsequently give up. But not you! You've got a final cut, and if you're smart, you've tested it on some samples of your intended audience. Not just your friends. A few people who don't know you, who will tell you the truth, and ideally, people who represent your intended audience, whether they are the Michael Bay 12-year old boys or the high-brow and endearingly neurotic Woody Allen crowd.

Now there are a few stages your film still needs to go through to be festival-worthy. Color correction (color timing) of the footage and sound clean up/mixing.

For color correction, I can recommend one book that cleared the fog: "The Art and Technique of Digital Color Correction", by Steve Hullfish.

Color correction tools are easy to come by now, with the progress of home computer apps and digital technology. Enjoy this! The world at your fingertips! You can color-time something you shot on your front lawn and make it look like a scene from "300". A decade ago, this was not possible -- you had to shoot on film and take it to the lab. Now you can test everything on Final Cut Pro, After Effects, etc.

Color timing comes down to several basic adjustments to your footage. The white level (how hot your brights are), the black level (how dark your darks are), and the most creative level -- the midrange. With these three adjustments, you will have a great looking picture (if the footage you shot has some range).

The next stage is where you can adjust colors and start to get really artistic, monkeying with saturations, crushing the blacks, or saturating everything to look like an old Ectachrome movie from the '60s, shot on vacation at the beach somewhere, with deep blues and bleeding reds.

Have fun. Do not underestimate the power of "post" (post-production). Do try to get the best footage you can while shooting, but tools at your color-correcting fingertips these days are a godsend. You can run your own film house now and make beautiful images limited only by your imagination.

One other tip: Save jpegs off the web of painting, photographic stills, and film stills that inspire you. When you are color-correcting your film, consult these, and something may jump out at you and inspire you in the scene you are working on. Don't be afraid to get crazy and try new things. Save multiple versions of your film cut if you are nervous.

B. Nathan


Mike said...

YaY! Glad to see an update, great stuff!

Rudeboy said...

Ey bro, your site rocks! Keep it up:)

B. Nathan said...

Thank you! I will do my best.

DKH/Kendra Tuthill said...

Thank you. But please do write more!

DKH/Kendra Tuthill said...

Thank you. But please do write more!

B. Nathan said...

Thank you so much, Kendra! I've been shooting a lot but do need to post more. :) I will try to do that in the future. If there's something you want me to talk about, just let me know. Happy filming.

Groupdmt said...

Color correction by using color gels, or filters, is a process used in stage lighting, photography, television etc......
photo correction