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Beginner Color Grading - LUTS or Red Giant?

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As you can probably tell from a recent post of mine, I have been attempting to do a little color grading. You can probably also tell that I am not that good at it. So, I was wondering how many people would recommend, to a beginner, LUTS or a plug in from Red Giant like Magic Bullet or Mojo?

I am in the middle of writing a script that was originally intended to be a short but has now ended up as a feature. There are few characters and even less locations, but is a high concept script and very feasible to shoot on an extremely low budget.

For the past few weeks I have been running tests and trying to nail down a look for the movie. I have had the most luck using a plug in from Color Grading Central called CineLook, but it is extremely computer intensive and my Mac practically comes to a halt while editing. So, I decided to try my hand at grading some of the tests. In some ways I can come close to what I'm looking for, but it's still off, so to make a long story short, do slider plug ins like Magic Bullet degrade the image at all? Or would a simple LUT or FCPX "Look" be better? Or should I just bite the bullet and practice, practice, practice until I get better at grading?

Also, would using a color chart to balance my color make my efforts more fruitful?

Anyway, thanks. 

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12 minutes ago, mercer said:

As you can probably tell from a recent post of mine, I have been attempting to do a little color grading. You can probably also tell that I am not that good at it. So, I was wondering how many people would recommend, to a beginner, LUTS or a plug in from Red Giant like Magic Bullet or Mojo?

I am in the middle of writing a script that was originally intended to be a short but has now ended up as a feature. There are few characters and even less locations, but is a high concept script and very feasible to shoot on an extremely low budget.

For the past few weeks I have been running tests and trying to nail down a look for the movie. I have had the most luck using a plug in from Color Grading Central called CineLook, but it is extremely computer intensive and my Mac practically comes to a halt while editing. So, I decided to try my hand at grading some of the tests. In some ways I can come close to what I'm looking for, but it's still off, so to make a long story short, do slider plug ins like Magic Bullet degrade the image at all? Or would a simple LUT or FCPX "Look" be better? Or should I just bite the bullet and practice, practice, practice until I get better at grading?

Also, would using a color chart to balance my color make my efforts more fruitful?

Anyway, thanks. 

There is a free Colour Grading tutorial from Color Grading Central, which should give you a very good starting point:

http://www.colorgradingcentral.com/final-cut-pro-x-color-grading-table-of-contents

This got me started & was very useful.

My advice is to start with the tutorials before spending any cash, so you can understand the grading tools & process of FCPX. Then just use some free LUTs in combo with what you've learnt from the tutorials (LUTs will give you a starting point & thenn you can go from there to tweek stuff you're not happy with).

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2 minutes ago, Bioskop.Inc said:

There is a free Colour Grading tutorial from Color Grading Central, which should give you a very good starting point:

http://www.colorgradingcentral.com/final-cut-pro-x-color-grading-table-of-contents

This got me started & was very useful.

My advice is to start with the tutorials before spending any cash, so you can understand the grading tools & process of FCPX. Then just use some free LUTs in combo with what you've learnt from the tutorials (LUTs will give you a starting point & thenn you can go from there to tweek stuff you're not happy with).

Thanks Bio, I think I may have watched part of that a while back but I'll go back and give it a thorough watching. Do you use Color Finale?

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3 hours ago, Bioskop.Inc said:

There is a free Colour Grading tutorial from Color Grading Central, which should give you a very good starting point:

http://www.colorgradingcentral.com/final-cut-pro-x-color-grading-table-of-contents

This got me started & was very useful.

My advice is to start with the tutorials before spending any cash, so you can understand the grading tools & process of FCPX. Then just use some free LUTs in combo with what you've learnt from the tutorials (LUTs will give you a starting point & thenn you can go from there to tweek stuff you're not happy with).

Bio, do you have the BMPCC? If so, do you think it is easier to learn to grade with a more robust codec? Or is it better to sow your oats with 8 bit and learn how to manipulate a more fragile codec?

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13 hours ago, mercer said:

Thanks Bio, I think I may have watched part of that a while back but I'll go back and give it a thorough watching. Do you use Color Finale?

No I don't, as my iMac is too old & so can't get it. But if I could I would get it without a moments notice.

That series of videos is so useful & it'll help with solving the skintone problems that you were having in your other post.

 

10 hours ago, mercer said:

Bio, do you have the BMPCC? If so, do you think it is easier to learn to grade with a more robust codec? Or is it better to sow your oats with 8 bit and learn how to manipulate a more fragile codec?

Yes, I've got the BMPCC & grading with 10-bit footage is like discovering Eldorado!

The thing with 8-bit footage is that you can't really push it too hard - it'll just fall apart too easily. My rule of thumb, when I used to shoot 8-bit, was to get it as close to perfect in-camera & then any grading was performing minor tweeks so as not to destroy the footage. At the moment, I've been re-visiting a rejected project that I shot on my Canon 60D & most of the shots are fine, but some really need Film Grain to cover up stuff - but am really enjoying the limitations!

The way I've always seen filming is to get it right or as close as you can, when you are filming - thinking that you can or should just fix things in post is making more work for you in the long run & you won't really learn how to film properly with that mindset.

So 8-bit footage is a really good education, as it should teach you how to film properly. As for 10-bit footage (or Raw), it just gives you more options once you get your paint brush out - neither is going to save really badly shot footage. 

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I agree with Bio. You should definitely learn the basics of color correcting and grading first and play with footage until you get the hang of it. It's a very valuable skill to have when you don't have the budget for a colorist.

As far as plugins go, there are of course lots of opinions on this matter, but I prefer Filmconvert over MagicBullet and such. It is very easy to use on it's own and you can get great looking images when you learn how to use it in combination with all the standard tools you have in FCP.

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In my experience with Panasonic cameras, you should avoid using LUTs. I haven't shot with VLog (I'm a GH3 owner) but whenever using LUTs I have to dial them down a lot in order not to destroy the footage. What happens is that your greens will turn into yellow / brown and your reds will look off, too. This is exactly what happened with the footage you posted the other day, too. I really enjoy the GH3 and other Panasonic cameras for the image quality, conveniance, battery life etc. but I'm getting to a point where I simply don't want to use the camera anymore because of the colors. 

I use Final Cut Pro X, Color Finale and IWLTBAP LUTs that you can purchase from benymypony. What I usually do is I do basic color correction (highlights, shadows and mids) and then apply a Delut that flattens the image (9090) and then use whatever LUT is pleasing for the particular project. I usually dial down both LUTs to around 50% opacity. After that I do a few minor tweaks. Keep in mind that the footage isn't LOG footage, so be careful using LUTs. It brings your footage to life when you have LOG footage but doesn't work well with regular footage. 

Color Finale is a fantastic plugin for FCPX in my experience but your results will strongly depend on the camera you've shot the project with. 

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2 hours ago, Bioskop.Inc said:

No I don't, as my iMac is too old & so can't get it. But if I could I would get it without a moments notice.

That series of videos is so useful & it'll help with solving the skintone problems that you were having in your other post.

 

Yes, I've got the BMPCC & grading with 10-bit footage is like discovering Eldorado!

The thing with 8-bit footage is that you can't really push it too hard - it'll just fall apart too easily. My rule of thumb, when I used to shoot 8-bit, was to get it as close to perfect in-camera & then any grading was performing minor tweeks so as not to destroy the footage. At the moment, I've been re-visiting a rejected project that I shot on my Canon 60D & most of the shots are fine, but some really need Film Grain to cover up stuff - but am really enjoying the limitations!

The way I've always seen filming is to get it right or as close as you can, when you are filming - thinking that you can or should just fix things in post is making more work for you in the long run & you won't really learn how to film properly with that mindset.

So 8-bit footage is a really good education, as it should teach you how to film properly. As for 10-bit footage (or Raw), it just gives you more options once you get your paint brush out - neither is going to save really badly shot footage. 

I agree, my goal is not to fix in post, I am trying to get it as flat as I can, without ruining the image, so I can pull as much information as I can from the footage.

I really love the subtle nuances in shadows. Like many, I started with Canon as well using Prolost Flat. On most occasions, I'd only need to add a little contrast and that was it, and even lens choice played a bigger part in the look. With these newer cameras, there is so much more latitude and that extra stop or two is like fool's gold.

Anyway, thanks for your help, I'm going to use that tutorial series to help with my next round of tests.

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1 hour ago, mercer said:

I agree, my goal is not to fix in post, I am trying to get it as flat as I can, without ruining the image, so I can pull as much information as I can from the footage.

I really love the subtle nuances in shadows. Like many, I started with Canon as well using Prolost Flat. On most occasions, I'd only need to add a little contrast and that was it, and even lens choice played a bigger part in the look. With these newer cameras, there is so much more latitude and that extra stop or two is like fool's gold.

Anyway, thanks for your help, I'm going to use that tutorial series to help with my next round of tests.

Forgot to say, that yes, 10-bit footage would make learning CC a lot easier - a hell of a lot easier!

Also, FilmConvert is my favourite plug-in, but take a look at what Vision Color offer too, as they seem to be flavour of the month (used their Canon Picture Profile with great success) - but each to their own!

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25 minutes ago, Bioskop.Inc said:

Forgot to say, that yes, 10-bit footage would make learning CC a lot easier - a hell of a lot easier!

Also, FilmConvert is my favourite plug-in, but take a look at what Vision Color offer too, as they seem to be flavour of the month (used their Canon Picture Profile with great success) - but each to their own!

Thanks a bunch. I have always wanted a pocket cam and I may have a little extra money in a couple weeks, so I've been contemplating picking one up. But I'm not sure. Do you shoot Raw with it or prores? Are the raw files dramatically better than the prores?

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1 hour ago, mercer said:

Thanks a bunch. I have always wanted a pocket cam and I may have a little extra money in a couple weeks, so I've been contemplating picking one up. But I'm not sure. Do you shoot Raw with it or prores? Are the raw files dramatically better than the prores?

I shoot mostly ProRes with the pocket, which is mainly to do with the SD capacity (45mins vs. 12mins) and disk space - but Raw is an amazing feature to have. I'm really happy using ProRes as it exhibits little or zero moire/aliasing, whilst Raw (with a sharp lens) will be less forgiving - Raw will give you better DR & is slightly sharper. What I also like about ProRes is the filmlike grain it produces when you underexpose, it really looks nice. 

Basically the Pocket gives you the best of both worlds & really is the best of the BM bunch - the micro will almost certainly be on a par if not better than the pocket image. I stopped looking at cameras once I got the Pocket - just don't see anything that comes close to the image it produces & its a dream to colour. The one thing I would say is that it is a different filming experience than a DSLR, but not that much of a leap & once you get the hang of it, it becomes much easier to use than a DSLR.

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On February 24, 2016 at 3:36 PM, Bioskop.Inc said:

There is a free Colour Grading tutorial from Color Grading Central, which should give you a very good starting point:

http://www.colorgradingcentral.com/final-cut-pro-x-color-grading-table-of-contents

This got me started & was very useful.

My advice is to start with the tutorials before spending any cash, so you can understand the grading tools & process of FCPX. Then just use some free LUTs in combo with what you've learnt from the tutorials (LUTs will give you a starting point & thenn you can go from there to tweek stuff you're not happy with).

Hey, I wanted to thank you for giving me the link to that tutorial. I had watched the first part of it about 6 months ago when I first got the Color Finale demo, then when I upgraded to the full version, I forgot to go back to it. I just watched the first 20 minutes of it and I swear I have gotten better in the last 20 minutes than I have tinkering with Color Finale for the past 5 months.

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+1 for VIsionColor. Their VisionTech profile is great for Canon cameras, far better than the CineStyle profile in my opinion. VisionColor also sells a pack of LUTs called "Osiris" that look GREAT slapped on top of footage shot with the VT profile. Also, Magic Bullet Film and Looks might be worth looking into. Film involves a lot more tweaking, but Looks has a lot of really good looking presets. When I was starting to color grade, I would select a Look, place it on a clip, and I would try to emulate the Look on another clip with no effects. It was a pretty good exercise to learn about warm, cool, contrast etc. But I'm not sure how far along you are now after watching that tutorial video. It sounds like you've gotten a lot out of it.

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2 hours ago, jcoons32 said:

+1 for VIsionColor. Their VisionTech profile is great for Canon cameras, far better than the CineStyle profile in my opinion. VisionColor also sells a pack of LUTs called "Osiris" that look GREAT slapped on top of footage shot with the VT profile. Also, Magic Bullet Film and Looks might be worth looking into. Film involves a lot more tweaking, but Looks has a lot of really good looking presets. When I was starting to color grade, I would select a Look, place it on a clip, and I would try to emulate the Look on another clip with no effects. It was a pretty good exercise to learn about warm, cool, contrast etc. But I'm not sure how far along you are now after watching that tutorial video. It sounds like you've gotten a lot out of it.

I have the Magic Bullet film demo and it is great. I was able to get a lot of the "looks" I am after and I tried the same thing by attempting to emulate what Film did. It definitely helped me. And I actually learned a little trick. By using the demo, you can use FCPX Color Match to closely emulate the processed footage through Film and then tweak it a little more to get it closer. 

To be honest, I have no problem using one of these "looks" programs. My only concern is the quality of the look. I have a plug in called cinelook from color grading central that I like a lot, it gets the image to that stylized look I am after, but it seems like it may be degrading the image, I don't know. 

For instance this shot...

image.jpeg

That is directly from the camera and when I add the cinelook plug in to it, I get this...

image.jpeg

I also added a layer of curve adjustments. It seems like this tutorial will help me to get there, without using the plug in. We'll see. Thanks a lot for replying, I find coloring to be extremely difficult, so any pointers or tips are greatly appreciated!!!

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