5 Tips for DSLR Video Color Correction by Educator Anita Perminova

Today we’re pleased to have FilmingLife Academy Educator, and creator of the exclusive FLA workshop Transform Your Films with Advanced Color Grading, Anita Perminova, sharing her top 5 tips for getting started with colour correction for your DSLR video projects.

Anita utilises a number of different techniques to give her films that finishing touch. Read on for Anita’s top 5 tips for DSLR Video Color Correction…

Filmmaking is a huge process and color correction is just one step of many, but oh what a difference it can make. Through experimentation and watching other filmmakers using various techniques to grade their images, I’ve come up with some tips and tricks that work for me. I’m a Premiere Pro user, however, these tips are applicable to all Color Correction software.

 
These tips can be applied across a number of popular video editing software, from Premiere Pro to Final Cut Pro & DaVinci Resolve.

These tips can be applied across a number of popular video editing software, from Premiere Pro to Final Cut Pro & DaVinci Resolve.

 

When it comes to working with your footage to manipulate color, there are two main types of color manipulation: color correction and color grading. They might be similar in their process, however there is a difference in how and when they are used.

Color correction deals with technical aspects and adjustments made to exposure, white balance, ISO, and contrast (expanding contrast from log/flat recorded images). In other words, every clip is manually tweaked to get a good exposure and white balance.

Color grading is the process of making creative decisions & changes to further enhance your footage and create more detailed color profiles, match the shots, remove distractions, use shape masks and apply different looks. The sky is the limit here.

Tip #1: Break down your grading process into four actionable parts

 
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To ensure you extract the maximum information and maintain high quality in your work, the essential color grading process can be broken down into four actionable parts:

  1. Primary adjustments - balance your shots, adjust exposure and white balance, remove noise and other artifacts.

  2. Shot matching and scene balancing - match shots together, starting with brightness, then moving onto color, using scopes as a guide.

  3. Create depth and work on the details - skin tone consistency, skies, foliage, add gradients, vignettes, and other details.

  4. Creating style - grade your footage, simulate a film stock. Always pay attention to your videoscopes to keep your video signal within “legal” levels.

Tip #2: Trust the Video Scopes (Waveform, RGB parade and Vectorscope)

 
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I can’t stress enough how essential and effective it is to use these tools. There are so many things that can have a direct influence on how our eyes SEE color. Our eyes are pretty good at recognizing color and it’s brightness, but they are very sensitive and our brain tends to adapt very quickly to what our eyes see and “read” color differently. Oftentimes, I look at a combination of scopes to get a more cohesive technical view about what’s going on with my image. Scopes help me to form my color correction decisions.

In Premiere Pro, go to "Window" and then select "Lumetri Scopes":

 
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You can access different scope types using the wrench icon for Settings:

 
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Tip #3: Adjust your Black and White levels first

 
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In my workflow, I prefer to work from the bottom up, with my Blacks touching 0 IRE on the Waveform, giving the entire image solidity and density. To do this, I drag the Blacks control until the bottom of the graph in the Waveform monitors comes around 0 IRE. Watch the image in your Program window as you make this adjustment to make sure the dark portions of the picture aren’t becoming too dark, as we don’t want to eliminate detail in the blacks. I then push the Whites up to expand the image and get contrast. Next, I tweak the Midtones to my personal taste.

One thing to remember, the Midtones are where the skin tones live. If I want to make a little pop in the skin tone, I’d raise the Midtones after I’ve adjusted my exposure via the Blacks & Whites. It may feel easier to just drag the exposure slider to fix any exposure issues, however it won’t have the same impact as working with Blacks, Whites and Midtones individually.

Always keep in mind that one adjustment affects another, so you may have to do back and forth changes with small amounts so you get the footage where you like it.

Tip #4: Use Vectorscope for Balancing Skin Tones

 
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Adjusting white balance and skin tones is probably half the job in a grading process. One of the nice things about the skin tones is that regardless of ethnic background, the complexion of everyone on this planet falls within a fairly narrow range which can be seen via the vectorscope. Monitor the -i line (flesh line) on the Vectorscope to evaluate the skin tones. I like to work with the Three-Way Color Corrector effect to adjust skin tones. I move the wheel of the Midtones in the direction of the color I need more on the face. I watch the Vectorscope and drag the wheel until it lines up with the “-i” line (flesh line). I will also adjust Midtone Saturation to make sure the skin tones look natural.

Tip #5: Color correct your footage before applying a LUT

 
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A Look Up Table, or LUT, is essentially a digital file that's going to make up the difference between the source file and a destination result. It’s really important to keep in mind however that using a LUT is not a quick-fix for color correction or in-camera exposure issues such as white balance or under/overexposure.

There are different types of LUTs -- calibration LUTs, LUTs for normalizing log media (also known as input LUTs), print emulation LUTs, style LUTs & legalizing LUTs. The log-corrective LUTs are built on correcting an already perfectly exposed and perfectly color-balanced image. It’s for this reason that it’s so important to make your color & exposure corrections using your scopes before you apply your chosen LUT.


Anita Perminova shares all of this and more in her intensive quarterly workshop Transform Your Films with Advanced Color Grading, exclusive to FilmingLife Academy. Click below for more information on what you’ll learn in the workshop and details on enrollment dates.


 

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