Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Color Grading

All right, so originally I had planned to write my color correction and grading posts together but I realized they might become to lengthy and that it would be too much info to process. Anyways, hopefully breaking them up helps.

Color Grading. Generally a stylized coloring added to the movie to give it a certain mood or feel. Grading can make a you feel the scene is warm, or cold or find yourself in a bleak future or an action film with stars that resemble oompa-loompas (ech-hem the second Transformers movie...).

Originally, when film was shot on actual film and was processed, the end result and product were planned from the beginning. Each step of the journey moved towards the director’s vision. The film stock, lighting, filters, colors used on set were all picked very carefully. And after all of that, a colorist took it and finished the films look with his own processing.

Now a days, with so much of filmmaking becoming digitial (a lot of films are still shot on film but edited digitally), a lot of the finer moments put into development are lost and replaced with the frightening saying “we’ll fix it in post.” Software like Colorista and Magic Bullet are designed to give you high end stylized and popular color grades to add to your film. Adobe After effects is really good for completely removing any undesirable colors or problems found in post. Final Cut Pro can also be sued for Color Grading. However, I don’t feel it’s as powerful as some of the other options.

All this to say that the need for filters and a knowledge for planning your style in preproduction is quickly becoming antiquated. And someone who can do all this is now rare (like… nearing the endangered species list.). I don’t think using film or the need for colorists will go away completely, but it will become extremely uncommon.

Sorry… I’m here to teach you color grading. Not rant about the days of celluloid or the romanticize the silver screen. Ok… so you have a good white balance between your cameras. Contrast and levels are Kosher? Cool. What kind of film are you making?

Recently films have really been laying it on thick with color grading styles to help audiences quickly understand what kind of movie they’re seeing. The Matrix (1999) has green, blue and a red tone depending where in the films universe they are.

Terminator Salvation (2009) and the Book of Eli (2010) and other apocalyptic films tend to bleach out the highlights and tint green the dark tones.

Here, from the opening scene from the Book of Eli, you'll notice that the colors are tweeked so far from the norm that it instantly sets the mood for the rest of the film, letting the audience know that nothing in this world is what we would call "Normal."

The Transformer films (2007, 2009) are well known for over grading the films
I mean Megan Fox has one gnarly spray on tan.

How can you use these to help your production.

Figure out what style you want (preferably before filming).

Keep in mind: Blues give a cooling effect.

Reds/yellows give a warming effect.

High Contrast/De-saturating colors/Bleaching give a sterile or depressing look

Skin tones should still look like Skin tones. The audience will forgive a lot… but make someone the wrong color and people will be upset (again… look at the Transformers films.)

Websites like Kuler can help you determine your color pallet. And often you simply do what’s called a color split. Which looks like this (or what the color split might have looked like for transformers....)

Some examples of how I’ve used color grading (Original shot on the left, graded shot on the right.)

Click the link to see the finished DART trailer.

For the Diaries Trailer, I shot an additional scene with my friend Joel, from Male From Australia.

But the most heavily Color Graded of the 4 Diaries films was Part 3: Quarantine. Which I tried to emulate the Dark Greens and bleach lighter tones for the same type of feel found in several of the action films listed above.

I really recommend taking some time to watch movies new and old and see if you can recognize what style of grading was used, and how it makes you feel. The next post will be about picture styles. I’ll try to shoot a video to demonstrate how that can benefit your color grading. Any questions or comments? Feel free to post below or email me at

All of the above pictures from the films, "Terminator Salvation" "The Matrix" "The Book of Eli" "Transformer Revenge of the Fallen" we're simply used to demonstrate and educate my audience. I have no implied Copy right or claim to any of these film's or their properties. If you're still reading this, and a lawyer or someone who worked on these films... please don't sue me.

The other films and images created by, and belonging to Intense Entertainment are our property. However, I don't mind you using our stuff for educational purposes. Just please give credit where it's due. :) The End.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Getting Going on Youtube

Hey guys, real quick. saw this just a little bit ago and i think it's a pretty awesome video to check out if you're looking to make youtube videos for a living. or just... because it's awesome. i highly recommend you check it out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Minimalism and Photography/Filmmaking

Here’s a cool word that people keep throwing around. Some of you may know what it means, some maybe not. It seems to be pretty vague, but to put it simply; it’s a life that focuses on less being more.

I actually decided to move the “How I came to practicing minimalism” at the end of this blog as it’s really long and drawn out and I’d rather give you, the reader, the examples that I’m currently using. Feel free to keep reading for the history of if you so please.

However… in this blog I want this blog to focus on how you can apply minimalism to your filmmaking and photography as it might save you some money, and time when packing to head out on a shoot. I’ll briefly cover how I intend to pack my suitcase, my gear bag and how I justify calling myself a Minimalist at all.

Lets start at the bottom. Yes, there’s some conflict having a desire to be in an ever changing, technologically advancing industry. However, I love making films or shooting photography as a hobby, I feel buying equipment doubles as a business expense and a pastime when I purchase something. I’ve also begun letting go of many other hobbies and putting that money towards relieving debt and clearing up space in my house.

I’ve also noticed that while I’m not a hardcore minimalist and will never be able to fully follow that mindset, applying it to certain areas (especially impulse shopping) has seriously reduced the stress I have in my life.

I’ve also learned that spending money on experiences is much more rewarding than spending money on stuff. . I have the travel bug. And if not eating out at restaurants saves me money to travel the country or farther, so be it… it’s a small price to pay.

Now, packing. Seeing as I want to travel and not be over-burdened by bags of stuff I probably won’t use… here’s some tips I intend to put to use on my two week trip around Washington after Christmas.

With space like this... how can I not make it two weeks? My cat Lun Tha passed through to make sure that you could see the scale of the bag.

How I plan to pack is more simple than what I plan to pack… the how is really just use this small suitcase to keep me from needing to check anything if I fly. If I don’t fly, than it’s to keep me light and mobile.

What I’ll pack consists obviously about the weather. One pair of shoes (be that casual or work/tennis), a couple of shirts, two pairs of pants. My goal for packing my clothes is to keep it doable for five days before I need to do laundry. Rolling the clothes tightly will give them wrinkles but will leave me more space in the bag. Basic toiletries will also go in there. Something like toothbrush and paste, a travel thing of soap and shampoo (if I might be somewhere that I can’t just get some complimentary (I love hotels!) and deodorant and finally… cologne. The end. I don’t really need much more than that. It might change if I were going to say… a tropical island. I may leave a pair of pants in exchange for swim trunks and shorts. But whatever. I’ll post some pictures showing how I packed for the two week trip when I pack.

Now… my gear bag. That’s why you’re here right? You don’t care about my clothes or my minimalism other than how it can effect your photo/film situation. Ok well here’s how my ideal would pack and this is also what I’m working towards…

Canon 7d (although maybe later that would change to a 5d… Or a spare body)

Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 lens

Canon 24-70mm 2.8L lens

Canon 50mm 1.8 (could possibly be replaced with a zeiss 1.4, or the canon 1.4)

Canon 70-200mm 2.8L with Image Stabilization.

Canon x1.4 extender

2-4 batteries, charger and international adapter.

Memory cards (currently have two, want 4)

Laptop and external hard drives (preferably 2)

Zacuto Z-finder, Tripod, shoulder brace (and any other things that I need for specific jobs that I might be doing. These are interchangeable. Don’t take them unless you know you’ll need them.)

And of course… any related filters/cables/speedlights/etc.

Surprisingly I think I can get all of this to fit inside the bag I’m currently using. Though, there will come a time when possibly upgrading to something a little more heavy duty will become necessary. And although that seems like a lot… look at some of the stuff people take on EVERY shoot. I look at this list and it seems like a lot, and even just looking at it just makes me anxious because I’d love to get away with less. Maybe time would show me that I could do without all this. But I feel like the lenses cover everything I could need (except for very specific shoots) for the majority of the work I would do.

And if you’re looking at this list, and it seems familiar… well I did mention it previously in another post about "Building Your First Photography Kit." And you’ll also recognize the overall idea has some strong similarity to Chase Jarvis’ post about Mission Critical gear. So that’s where I took the idea from and worked it to fit my needs.

Now for the history (as briefly as I could… feel free to stop reading if you’re not interested) of how I started changing things to this minimalist style:

For me, minimalism began happening when I moved to Central Washington University in Ellensburg. It’s hard to really call my way of living “minimalism” but I had to adapt to living without a lot of my toys and hobbies, and being inconvenienced by not always having what I needed. I still had a lot.

My second year at CWU brought a new roommate (Kyle, the other ninja) who was in the process of minimalizing his life. It was hard for me to understand why we had selling everything and going to such extremes.

When I finished that year, I was done at school and began moving my belongings home. Boxed up, I filled up my car. 3 trips later, I had moved everything home (see what I mean by a lot?). I didn’t really unpack, just stuck the boxes in a storage room in the basement, out of the way. And that’s where it stayed while I packed up a few things and ran off to Australia.

**please note: each step of this process felt extremely rough to me. It was pretty stressful to say the least.**

I worked the baggage system for my flight. Packed to the brim was a duffel bag, my Molle 3 day pack (packed more like a 6 day pack), guitar case with guitar and as much clothing as I could shove in and around Misty (my guitar’s name) and finally my laptop/camera bag. All in all, around 250 lbs of stuff. None of it on wheels. And I packed poorly only taking two pairs of shorts… to Australia.

I immediately began to accumulate stuff. And I didn’t have an apartment yet. The first two weeks of my trip had me carrying all this stuff until I finally settled in.

As the months went on, little piles of knick knacks appeared, stress followed as I lived in a small apartment which felt more and more claustrophobic. The only way I could describe what I was feeling I needed to do was to purge as much as possible before heading home.

I found some blogs (zen habits, and miss minimalist) who helped me better articulate the feelings inside me and I began to pack and make a pile of clothes to donate. When I left Australia, my total weight for baggage was around 175-185 lbs. it was much easier toting that than it had been (plus, I got a cart this time haha).

When I finally began settling in at home and unpacked from both Australia and my time in Ellensburg, I realized there was also years of stuff sitting in boxes that belonged to me from before I left Vancouver. I tore apart my room and basement. I gathered the clothes, toys, stuff, you name it. Things were separated in three piles: donate, sell and trash. I’ve been home nearly a month and I’m still sorting through stuff. And I’ve made nearly $1000 with a lot more money still coming in.

There. That’s my story. Haha goodnight.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Color Correction Basics

All right, I’d like to come back swinging. This is my first real post since getting from Australia. I’ll have a few pictures and a video soon. But I’m talking about the difference between color correction and color grading. And I’ll try to keep it short and I’ll leave out the science. If the science is what you want let me know and I’ll do a post expanding. I’ve just had a few people say they don’t know why.

Color Correction

This has to do with light and how your camera interprets it. Light is measured in Kelvin. Your camera will have auto settings to take care of this part for you, but as you get better with your camera, or use multiple cameras, you’ll want your white balances to match.

The three most common temperatures you’ll be looking at are:

Outdoor/sunlight 5600 K. it generally has a blue tint to it.

Indoor/tungsten 3200 K. this is usually from the general unbalanced store bought bulbs found pretty much everywhere and usually in every light and home.

Fluorescent 3600 K. Found in stores/offices/casts a greenish tint and makes people look ill.

So, every digital camera should have manual white balance controls in the manual that came with it. read it. I say this because it makes sense… they’ve spent a lot of money putting the specific details for white balancing your specific in the manual. So use that. :)

Now… we’ll assume you get the basics of white balancing. However, you’re probably going to at some point work in mixed lighting environments or just had an accident and it got messed up (shoot, I think everyone does this once… or frequently.). We shot in a mixed lighting environment for a school project I did last year.

Diaries Part 2: The Escape was a part of my senior project. And what we didn't realize during the upstairs scenes was that we had three different light temperatures coming into the scene. there was very little we could do to correct this is the time we had... so we shot it and i spent a week tinkering just with that scene to make it work. The trick that actually worked in this case was to find a shot where all three light temperatures were affecting the scene. then try to white balance it as best as i could. this worked for that brief moment, but the rest of the scene looked terrible. so then i desaturated the footage, upped the contrast to compensate, and that turned out pretty good. Then I just needed the rest of the footage to match that scene, and that was easy.

Anyways, that was a tangent. And I didn't really know how to work that into the post. So, let's get back on topic... correcing your footage.

Here's a picture of Joel with some less than stellar white balancing. I promise he's not generally that red... but let's go ahead and make him look a little more healthy. Ok?

In Final Cut Pro, or whichever Editor you choose to use, there will be an effects tab/folder/storage facility where it is kept. Here you'll need to either choose a basic Color Corrector (some of them will even work automatically if you want, other's you'll need to do a little work). I prefer the 3-way color corrector as I'll usually use that to color grade later on... you'll see that below.

If you look closely under each circle, you'll find a little tear dropper. if you click on this and then click onto your footage on some place that SHOULD be white, the software will adjust the wheel and bring a more appropriate white balance to the clip.

I should also note that each wheel represents an approximate light value. dark tones, middle tones, and light tones. so each wheel will only effect the corresponding tones.

This is probably the quickest way to correct for white ballance. however it's not perfect.

With any luck... it should look something like... this:

You could do it manually… and if you’re getting paid, I’d recommending putting in the extra effort (put some time into practicing, in case you DO sometime need to do it the hard way for some reason.) you will get better results. However, if it’s just for fun, fix it quickly and move on to the fun parts. :) Next I’ll talk color grading as that’s a lot more interesting .

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Shot on the Nikon D7000

Here's a video that was shared with me the other day. I thought i'd mention it to you guys because it's shot with the new Nikon D7000 and a Rode Video mic. Normally I only talk about Canon because that's where the majority of my knowledge for DSLR filmmaking is. However the stuff I've seen made with the D7000 is amazing and might be worth checking out if you're really interested in getting your own DSLR to start filming with. feel free to check it out and leave any comments down below. :)

**I know nothing of this church other than what i saw on the website. But I just wanted to share this with you because I think it's really well done, fairly simple and the colors represented in the final product are amazing. I have no idea what was used for editing and if any color grading was used (i'd assume yes, because I live in Portland and I'm pretty sure the rivers around here aren't Gold. 0:00-0:02) :) Enjoy