Color Wheels

Color Grading Process on Candy & Ronnie


I knew going into the color grading process that I wanted to make the look for at least one scene different than that of my other films. In previous movies I was mainly concerned with matching the shots as best as possible, bringing out the color and adjusting the contrast to get a more filmic quality to the images.

The scene that I had in mind for this alternate look is the scene in the back house after the lead characters have been awake partying for a number of days.  They have also not eaten, are still so high that sleep is impossible, the sun is blasting in through an open door, a menacing dog barks incessantly from a neighboring yard and they have run out of drugs and money.  I imagined that they are dehydrated because the only thing they’ve been drinking is alcohol and surely a massive headache is coming on.  The characters are in one hell of a place, literally speaking.

color_grading_before

Before

color_grading_after

After


Back House Color Grade

Mair Mulroney in desaturated back house

My hell would probably be a place lacking color so I desaturated the image about 65% to a point where it was not immediately apparent also brought up the gamma and gain (mids and highs) to make the room seem even brighter than it actually was.
Even though it is hard to tell, I brought the color temperature up (cooler, towards blue) to make the sunlit room feel less warm, except for the overhead practical fixture and the tungsten light outside on the porch.
Ninety-five percent of the scene takes place with both actors sitting on a filthy, bare, cement floor. When I desaturated the image I could actually feel the floor getting grittier and this made me feel pretty much the same way as I did on the day we shot it. The temperature outside was close to 100 degrees and I was also on the floor on the other side of camera trying not to let the drips of sweat fall into it.

Back House

Tyler Tackett in desaturated back house

For that particular scene we had to do a half day reshoot to get some closeups of Tyler, the male lead. We arranged the shoot to happen the exact same time we shot the original footage so that the sun would be in the same place and match perfectly.
What I had failed to realize is that two months earlier when we originally shot, the sun was lower in the sky and shined directly in the front door. Because of the new position of the sun, even though the sun was out, it completely failed to fill the room like it had done before. We lit the best we could with two Kino Select 30’s and crossed our fingers.

When I got back to my editing bay I found that the new shots were missing the gradual falloff of natural sunlight on the wall. I was able to recreate it using the power windows in DaVinci Resolve 12.5 to match our original wide shots.

Color Grading

Tyler & Mair Front Yard Scene | Color Grading

All of the front yard footage looked really good out of camera. I warmed up the mids a little which added a nice autumn feel to the leaves on the grass and cooled down the highs which felt a nice compliment. I keyed out the sky and made her a little bluer, but although it looked beautiful it didn’t quite look natural when it first appeared on screen so I animated the sky to gradually get a little bluer throughout the duration of the main shots. I also keyframed the vignette to gradually isolate the lead couple (and deemphasize the neighbor who kept trying to get into the shot by coming in and out of his front door all day long).

Many of the interior house shots were cast with a greenish tint because of the reflections off of the greenish walls, so tuning the skin tones was a little tricky. I knew in advance that much of the film was going to be on the darker side so I set the camera’s ISO to 320 to ensure I was feeding the sensor enough light and avoid a noisey image. During the heat of battle though I had to crank up the ISO a couple times during production because we didn’t have time to light properly. I regretted this after the fact but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Thankfully this was only on a few shots and DaVinci’s Noise Reduction was truly a life saver. The NR is not available in the free version of DaVinci but for three hundred bucks, the NR alone is well worth the investment IMHO.

Desaturated Back House

Desaturated Back House

My hell would probably be a place lacking color so I desaturated the image about 65% to a point where it was not immediately apparent. I  also brought up the gamma and gain (mids and highs) to make the room seem even brighter than it actually was.
Even though it is hard to tell, I brought the color temperature up (cooler, towards blue) to make the sunlit room feel less warm, except for the overhead practical fixture and the tungsten light outside on the porch.
Ninety-five percent of the scene takes place with both actors sitting on a filthy, bare, cement floor. When I desaturated the image I could actually feel the floor getting grittier and this made me feel pretty much the same way as I did on the day we shot it. The temperature outside was close to 100 degrees and I was also on the floor on the other side of camera trying not to let the drips of sweat fall into it.

Back House

walls with added gradient from davinci

For that particular scene we had to do a half day reshoot to get some closeups of Tyler, the male lead. We arranged the shoot to happen the exact same time we shot the original footage so that the sun would be in the same place and match perfectly.
What I had failed to realize is that two months earlier when we originally shot, the sun was lower in the sky and shined directly in the front door. Because of the new position of the sun, even though the sun was out, it completely failed to fill the room like it had done before. We lit the best we could with two Kino Select 30’s and crossed our fingers.

When I got back to my editing bay I found that the new shots were missing the gradual falloff of natural sunlight on the wall. I was able to recreate it using the power windows in DaVinci Resolve 12.5 to match our original wide shots.

Color Grading

Graded Front Yard Scene Tyler Tackett & Mair Mulroney

All of the front yard footage looked really good out of camera. I warmed up the mids a little which added a nice autumn feel to the leaves on the grass and cooled down the highs which felt a nice compliment. I keyed out the sky and made her a little bluer, but although it looked beautiful it didn’t quite look natural when it first appeared on screen so I animated the sky to gradually get a little bluer throughout the duration of the main shots. I also keyframed the vignette to gradually isolate the lead couple (and deemphasize the neighbor who kept trying to get into the shot by coming in and out of his front door all day long).


Many of the interior house shots were cast with a greenish tint because of the reflections off of the green colored walls, so tuning the skin tones was a little tricky. I knew in advance that much of the film was going to be on the darker side so I set the camera’s ISO to 320 to ensure I was feeding the sensor enough light and avoid a noisey image. During the heat of battle I had to crank up the ISO a couple times during production because we didn’t have time to light properly. I regretted this after the fact but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Thankfully this was only on a few shots and DaVinci’s Noise Reduction was truly a life saver. The NR is not available in the free version of DaVinci but for three hundred bucks, the NR alone is well worth the investment IMHO.


We shot the entire film in 6K on our Red Epic Dragon, edited it in Final Cut Pro X and round tripped to DaVinci Resolve 12.5 for the final color grading. I have a mid 2010 Mac Pro (With only 1 GB of GPU) so the video card was barely able to handle a 2K timeline. We do have a 2017 Macbook Pro (with 4 GB’s in the GPU) so we used that to render out our 2K master. We’re very happy with how it turned out but we’re also really looking forward to seeing how the 4K version will look!

I’m not sure if the Macbook Pro will handle exporting the entire film, especially a few shots where I did some extensive grading as well as processor heavy noise reduction. We may have to purchase an external Thunderbolt 3 chassis and throw in an additional GPU such as the Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti until the people at Macintosh decide to pull their heads out of their phones, get off their butts and upgrade their (extremely outdated) 2013 Mac Pro.

Ahhhhh, the fun never ends… Thanks for reading!

About the Author

Skyko

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On a beautiful one hundred degree day on August 13, 1984 - Skyko pulled into to L.A. on a Greyhound Bus with $35, an electric guitar and two changes of clothing rolled up in a belt. He has been hard at work and living the artists dream ever since.

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