We return to the subject of colour correction and colour grading as I have been working more on learning how to transform my images from flat, over/underexposed, over saturated or bland, to something more vivid and eye catching. It’s a process the footage on pretty much every major film or TV show these days undergoes to give it life, atmosphere, and tone and many modern filmmakers and editors use it on their clips, no matter how short they are to give them a boost.


You may recall the first article I did on colour grading which featured my first attempts at cleaning up older footage from the OVFM archive as part of the showreel I made. I hope this article will show improvements in my understanding and application of this fiddly, trial-and-error process but a worthwhile one.


The footage being graded here is courtesy of Chris Coulson and Anna Littler, formerly of OVFM and now running Rentadinosaur, shot on an iPhone in HD 1080p at 30fps and used in the latest showreel I edited for them. It was edited using Premeire Pro CC 2018.


First, please look at this video detailing a number of shots from the showreel with “Before” and “After” examples, followed by a breakdown of the four stages of colour grading used in each case:



As you can see, the environment and lighting quality of the different clips demanded different levels of grading to create a consistent look for the showreel, though I am not yet at the stage where I can make any clip from any source look identical. Hopefully you also noticed that even though the results from each stage might look either subtle or counterproductive on it sown, they are play a vital part in the end result.


Now, let’s take two different shots from the above video and show you the settings I used in each of the four stages to achieve the colour grades I wanted.







The overcast sky is the first notable thing in this shot, along with the bright orange jacket and general flat look.





Here I lifted the blacks, and boosted the shadows and highlights to add some depth, cut the saturation and exposure a little, and moved the temperature slider towards the blue to give it some colour. It was necessary to cut the saturation due to the brightness of the orange jacket but this can be fixed in later stages.





This LUT (Look Up Table) is FGCineBAsic, which I believe is a preset within Premiere Pro. Only minor adjustments here as the default settings mostly provided what I wanted. The intensity is boosted a little as is the sharpness and the vibrancy, whilst again the saturation is cut a little because the vibrancy actually does most of the work, and cutting the saturation keeps the colours from being too strong without losing their tone.





Two curves in use here – general and hue/saturation. In the first I have lifted the black base to give the darker areas in the image a lift without overpushing them in the basic correction settings. The curve in the centre lifts the lightness without flooding the whole image, a very important feature to be aware of and to master.  For the Hue curve, I’ve boosted the blues whilst kept the orange very stable. Quite often this doesn’t seem to make a difference at first but when you start cutting primary colours, the effect is palpable.





These three wheels make a huge difference to the look of the image as they set the colour tints of the three main facets of its construct. The trick here is that if you boost one colour, you ideally need to counter it by boosting its opposite – like here, the midtnes are more in the orange, so the highlights are set in the blues then boosted above the midtones, which is how the sky in the finished image changes colour, whilst the shadows are kept pretty much neutral colourwise.





It might seem like the blue are overpowering the image but the intention was not only to make the day look brighter but also to create a filmic look and in this case, the usual trick of boosting orange wouldn’t work due to the orange jacket.







There might not seem anything outwardly wrong with this image, but it is a bit flat, the girls dresses look dull, and the light looks a bit gloomy for a summer’s day.





The first thing you’ll notice is the temperature is set towards a warmer tone whilst the tint is leaning towards the reddish end, which becomes more important later on.  The highlights and shadows are centralised for the moment with the blacks cut and the white boosted to give it a lift. Saturation has been boosted but this is dealt with in the next step.





A combination of  reduced vibrancy and saturation to the LUT help level out the saturation boost in the previous step, Aside from the higher intensity, very little was changed here.




Because the blacks were lifted in the first step, there was no need to alter them here, so the only change was to lift the middle of the image to keep the edges dark. For the hues, the blue are again boosted but only slightly this time.





Since the image only needed minor adjustment to give it some life, only the highlights were again give  push and the darker shadows cut, just to give them a some presence.





Now it isn’t so grey and gloomy, the dresses are whiter and there is more detail in the creases folds and depth to the image. The colours may not be bursting out but the overall feel is more serene and amiable, since the focus is the three girls.



I hope you have learned something from this article and maybe even inspired to try it yourself. I can’t profess to being an expert and I am sure not every example shown will be to your tastes, but it is a vital part of film editing these days and I am keen to improve. I realise that your editor might have a different set up for colour correction and grading, but I hope you can use these settings as a guide to know what to look for in your set up.


The secret to good grading is creating a memorable and striking look for your footage that doesn’t look like it has been graded at all, depending on what you want the visuals of your film to convey. Maybe one day I will get there and perhaps so will you.


Thanks for reading and happy grading!

Colour Grading


Lee Relph


You may recall last year John Epton held a talk on colour correction and colour grading (the video is HERE in the Members’ Only section) as an important step in the editing process. Editing suites have come a long way over the past decade or so and their colour correction facilities in particular have become much more sophisticated in what they can do for our footage yet are relatively easy to use.

Thanks to these developments it is now possible for amateur filmmakers like ourselves to create better looking clips and films and depending on the software – with an industry standard colour graded aesthetic. It can also help spruce up any old footage recorded on archaic formats like mini DV or video tape, give them a new lease of life, and not look so dated in comparison to modern digital output.

Recently I compiled and assembled a new SHOWREEL for the club for which I delved into the available archive of OVFM for snippets to use to showcase the array of films we have made over the past 60 years and the different genres. However, because much of the content was so old, the quality of the footage not only showed its age through faded colours or overexposure but also stood out against the pristine veneer of current clips shot with digital cameras.

This presented me with a challenge in trying to rectify this with a view of creating some kind of consistency across the whole presentation. If I’m being honest, this was possibly more time consuming than animating the text in the clip which in itself was a lot of trial and error! Luckily, I am currently using Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2018 as my editor which has an excellent and intuitive colour correction tool that was very much up to such a task.

Premiere Pro’s basic correction tools would have been sufficient in restoring some of the major picture elements (like contrast, exposure, highlights, saturation, etc) to something resembling their original state but a fairly recent and very handy tool to add extra depth to the colour is the LUT – Look Up Table. I don’t know if these have crossed over to other editors but a LUT is basically a preset to be added to a clip that has been set to create any kind of tone, atmosphere and colour boost to get the image you want.

Using LUTs is how we can achieve the professional looking colour grading I referred to early, by altering some of the picture’s dynamics to replicate certain looks, as well as the setting of specific cameras. These are not fixed so one can fiddle with them to suit their needs otherwise you can simply apply them to your clip and transform it immediately.

The most popular LUT among editors today is teal and orange which, as the name suggests, manipulates the blues and oranges to create a bright and vivid look and bring out some interesting hues in the process. You’ll have seen this effect used in many recent film, TV shows, and adverts which show off its flexibility. I also used it here too, as you will see in this selection of examples from the showreel of my own attempts at colour correction and grading.


Please note the image on the left is the original untouched footage whilst the image on the right is the “corrected” version. Click the image for a large version.


As you can see in this first example the original clip is lacking in depth and definition, and the colours are rather washed out as a result of being shot in natural light on tape then later digitised, losing a lot of its lustre. By altering the basic settings then adding the teal and orange LUT with a few minor adjustments, the new version looks and feels warmer and the colours and details stand out more:



The next example isn’t perfect giving the age of the original clip but I feel it has more definition and the geisha stands out more as again, the natural light seems make everything seem flat. The teal and orange LUT also give the background a bit of a lift too:


Also note that I used an additional mask to clean up the geisha’s yellow teeth:


One of my own clips now to show that even digital photography doesn’t automatically guarantee perfection. This was shot with my nephew in the living room and me in the adjacent dining room, with the main overhead light in the living room coming through orange tinted bulbs and the light from outside in the background. There is a slight compromise with the glare and exposure of the background light in the second image otherwise an overall improvement nonetheless:



This shot of the hot air balloons was another tricky one to get right because of the varied colours involved. I believe it was also shot very early in the morning so the light wouldn’t have been at its strongest and presumably on tape. The colours might look paler in the second shot but I would venture they are closer to how they were at the time, whilst the added depth to the landscape is more natural looking too:


Here’s another recently filmed shot on a digital camera that looks okay as it is but with the orange and teal LUT the blue skies are given a nice summery boost. Even the smallest touch can yield some great results:



The next two examples are from the same film, and I’d wager were shot on video tape! The first was a nighttime scene set during the war which was very hard to work with, as the light was intermittent thus there was no stability in the brightness or colour. Again, it was more about making the colours look more natural:


Clip number two from this film was shot indoors and whilst it looks alright, it is in fact lacking in contrast and everything is washed together by the light, perhaps a casualty of being passed through various different formats over the years. Being darker and less saturated brings out the “true” colours of the yellow jumper and the grey carpet:


Another very challenging older clip that was shot outdoors where the light reflecting off the snowy landscapes turned everything white! The orange and teal LUT gives the sky a refreshing blue tint as opposed to the pale mauve in the original to compliment the renewed sense of definition of the foreground objects:


Finally, the hardest clip of them all. Like the snow in the previous example, the location of the workshop dictates the lighting of the clip along with the age of the footage and the medium it was filmed on. As you can see, everything is bathed in green robbing the individual elements of their own colours and the picture of its depth. A lot of fiddling was involved in getting the exposure and definition right whilst our favourite LUT also needed some twiddling to restore the original colours to their former glory:



Now, I’m not going to say that these are by far the most perfect examples of what colour grading can do but I learned a heck of a lot in doing this and given my lack of experience and the quality and age of the clips, I am content with the results, and I hope this has been informative for you too.

So, next time you have a clip that looks a bit off or needs some tidying up, take a look at John’s tutorial on colour correction and, if your editor allows it, get some LUTs and make your old clips or your new footage look like a million dollars! There are plenty of further tutorials online about LUTs and colour grading so look them up and give it a go yourself!


Thanks for reading.




You lucky people as Tommy Trinder used to say. We have a second Workshop evening planned for you this week to help improve your filmmaking skills.

Jim Morton-Robertson returns to the presenter’s podium, joined this time by John Epton for a session concerning an overlooked part of the post-production process for amateur filmmakers, Colour Correction/Grading.

There is a difference between the two and if you aren’t already aware of this then Jim and John will explain to us in detail what they are and how to go about applying it to you films with live demonstrations.  John already has three clips and images sent to him by club members to use in these practical showcases but the offer is still open to anyone else who has a problem clip or images that would like to see improved.

Please use the FILEZILLA service to send your clips to John or bring them with you on the night; if you choose the latter it is preferred to be on USB stick, and we ask that you please let us know by replying below so we have enough to fit your clip, otherwise if we end up with a surfeit of clips some of you will go home disappointed.

Also, ahead of the AGM on the 17th, please ensure to bring in your completed nomination forms for the committee election if you have one.

I’m sure John and Jim will be tickled pink to see plenty of keen and green faces on Tuesday for this session, so don’t leave them feeling blue or red faced by being yellow and staying away, leaving a black mark against your name!