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RGB & Me: Malthus' Colour Correction Workshop

Malthus

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Disclaimer:
I do not consider myself an expert in this field. All the processes demonstrated and discussed in this thread are self taught. Where possible I'll signpost you to the resources I've used and have found particularly useful. It should be noted that just because I found said resources useful it doesn't imply that you will or that the content provided will demonstrate the optimum solutions or best workflow procedures.

Purpose:
In this thread I will attempt to provide an insight into my colour correction techniques via step by step tutorials, guides and experiments. The idea for this thread came from a suggestion by @maven48 and a subsequent poll in my ideas thread. The first few posts will look at some of my past colour work but I look forward to adding to this thread fairly regularly as I tackle new projects.

Organisation:
To make this thread as useful as possible I'll try to make single posts about single issues. For example: "Tackling a green tint". If I work on a subsequent edit that tackles a similar issue I'll go back and amend and elaborate on the original post.

Resources:
Colour Inverter
Hex Code Converter
 
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Malthus

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Introduction:

I joined the fanediting community on May 7th 2020. Prior to that I had never heard of NLEs let alone used one. I had no prior experience working with film or any education on the matter. My background is one of science, I studied Chemistry at university and I have spent the last 14 years teaching mathematics. As such I like to approach things fairly analytically. I have tried to choose my projects carefully so that each one presents a fresh challenge and an opportunity to develop new skills. My earlier projects taught me the basics of editing while my more recent projects have focused in on various aspects of colour correction and audio work. Currently I've attempted colour correction on the following films:

Listed chronologically:

Jupiter Ascending - Lighten and brighten
The Amazing Spider-Man 1+2 - Colour matching
A Good Day To Die Hard - Removal of green tint
Underworld - Removal of blue tint
The Magnificent Seven (2016) - Removal of yellow tint
Avengers (2012) - Adding depth
Godzilla (2014) - Lighten and brighten

I will use these projects and their focuses as the basis for my future posts. I don't have all the answers but I'm happy to share what I've learned so far. I'll try to keep things as clear as possible.

The Malthus Method:

Before I go into how I tried to achieve individual goals I'd like to share some general lessons I have learned and thoughts I have about this field of editing:

M is for "make small changes". A little can go a long way in colour work.
A is for "anything you change can be undone" don't be afraid to experiment.
L is for "Lighten with gamma". Gamma can unlock a world of hidden detail.
T is for "Transferable skills". Learn how to tackle X and you'll be more prepared to tackle Y.
H is for "Hue, Saturation and luminance". The keys to vibrant yet natural images.
U is for "use those curves!". Curve work is fiddly but rewarding.
S is for "shadows" The dark side of colour grading will reveal your flaws. Watch for unintended tints!
 
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motleycat Enterprises inc

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I'm looking forward to this specifically. I used a few excellent LUTs from Triune Digital for my BF fan edit.
 

Malthus

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Tackling Tints

A decade ago some filmmakers decided to add blue tints to their movies. Why you ask? Well because colour can aid in conveying a specific tone, the cool blue tones made movies look er... cool. Naturally, like all trends, this aesthetic was mimicked by others hoping to capture the "look" with predictably varying degrees of success. Never forget the first rule of tint club: A little goes a long way. Things weren't always blue. In the post-Matrix world of the early 2000s greenish tints were de rigueur. And now blue, like green before, it has been usurped by a new contented for the tint crown, the king in yellow. So what can be done about this yellow fever or the previous tints I hear you cry. Well, fear not for I have a very simple way to address your tinted woes.

Step one: Identify the colour code of the tint

Step two: Invert the tint's hex colour code

Step three: Apply the inverted tint to your footage

Step four: Optimise to your taste


Step one: Identify the colour code of the tint​


Find a scene where the tinted footage is most egregious, export an image, and using a pipette tool identify the hex colour code. I've found it best to draw from highlights. You may wish to do this several times to get a varied baseline. I suggest making a simple spreadsheet to record the various codes you collect.

Step two: Invert the tint's hex color code​


Use this link to invert your identified hex code or codes. If you made a spreadsheet simply copy the codes across so you can easily reference them.

Step three: Apply the inverted tint to your footage​


I'm lucky that my NLE of choice includes colour correction options. I work in Lightworks but I've seen screenshots of various colour correction setups and they are all built around similar principles. You want to use the colour wheels for shadows, midtones, and highlights to apply your inverted colour. I tend to convert my hex code into a HSL degree to identify the colour on the wheel. I tend to begin with 2-5% intensity and increase where necessary. When applying an inverted tint the first rule of tints applies so less is always more. However, this applies doubly so to shadows and highlights. So if I add a 4% inverted tint to the midtones I'll typically apply a 2% tint to shadows and highlights to avoid discoloration.

Step four: Optimize​


If you're lucky it'll look fab first time. If not try a different hex code as your base. You might also like to adjust the shadows and highlights by moving each about 5°. I like to move shadows anti-clockwise and highlights clockwise but it is done on a case-by-case basis and according to personal taste.

I applied this process to Underworld. Here is a before and after.

9Q6R7mG.png

R0YuIhy.png
 
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Malthus

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Perfectly balanced as all things should be.

Okay so you tried my inverted tint correction method and it didn't produce the results you wanted. Firstly, welcome to the wonderful world of colour correction. Secondly, strap in for another colour correction tutorial. This time I'll demonstrate how I use "white balancing" to mitigate excessive tints. Unlike the above method which only used a single process this method employees a variety of tools to fine-tune the final look.

Step one: Balance white

Step two: Optimise


Step one: Balance whites​

Processes for white balancing will vary depending on your NLE or software of choice but the ultimate results will be the same. I strongly recommend you search for tutorials on how to accomplish this task with your software. Personally, I do all my work using Lightworks. White balancing in lightworks is super easy, barely an inconvenience. All you need to do is select the white balance pipette tool and then sample something in a shot from the edit that is known to be white. So the secret to success is finding a shot in the film you are editing that contains obviously white objects. I rather like to use clouds. In the example below I have sampled one of the clouds with the pipette and you can see in the after image how it removes the sickly yellow tint.

Before white balancing:​


xa2tgXC.png

After white balancing:​


iQsyJfY.png


Step two: Optimisation​


While the above image is a definite improvement it wasn't to my tastes. So it was time to adjust a few settings. Obviously how you choose to optimise is your business as long as you remember the first rule. A little goes a long way. In this example I adjusted 7 additional settings to achieve the look I was after:
  1. Overall Saturation -3%
  2. Overall gamma +0.1
  3. Overall contrast +1%
  4. Overall brightness -1%
  5. Gain +1%
  6. RGB curve central point elevated slightly
  7. Luminance curve central point lowered slightly

And voilà here is the image after optimisation:​

s9n5rEW.png
 
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Malthus

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Subtle but effective​

Are you interested in showing off your flashy new colour grading but the subtle change makes it hard to immediately show off the difference? Why not employ the power of .GIFs!

Earlier today I showcased a new colour grading for Jurassic World using a variety of images including these two:

Before:
unknown.png


After:
unknown.png


After posting these Reddit was like:
de48e27f91fe98b9c7140caf5ca1c18a9382fd1f.png


Apparently some people simply couldn't see any difference at all. So I put together a simple two image .GIF and viola...

20210523_173119.gif


FYI: The darker/more contrasting image is the regrade.
 
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motleycat Enterprises inc

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I would follow my steps for tackling tints. Sample a highlight, invert the colour and apply an inverted tint to the footage.
I was hoping you could demonstrate for us as I will soon be pursuing a Deathly Hallows FanFix. After having to deal with my two-week ban, I will soon be re-evaluating my current line-up of projects... again. 😅
 

Malthus

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I was hoping you could demonstrate for us as I will soon be pursuing a Deathly Hallows FanFix. After having to deal with my two-week ban, I will soon be re-evaluating my current line-up of projects... again. 😅

I can't demonstrate as I do not own the films but even if I did the point of this thread is to give you the methods I use. I've already outlined the method above. I'm not going to do this for you.
 
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L8wrtr

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This is an excellent, methodical, strategic approach, thank you for the effort of documenting the fruits of your efforts.
I’ve messed with color here and there primarily using my understanding of color via my printing background, I had a grasp of all the pieces and the tools all made sense, but my approach has always been wild (I embodied the Anything part of your process and was not afraid to try things, but I was also very scattershot, not noting/documenting steps or stages.

My Superman edit will definitely benefit from this.
I’m curious, as you break things down in sections, did you ever do a section, lock down, render that as a new base before the tackling say white balance etc? I find the layering of multiple needs sometimes a bit overwhelming if the clip needs multiple areas addresses (as is more typical than not)
 

Malthus

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I’m curious, as you break things down in sections, did you ever do a section, lock down, render that as a new base before the tackling say white balance etc?

That's an interesting idea, it isn't one if tried before but I will certainly explore it.
 
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