Professional Color Grading Techniques in DaVinci Resolve

 

This course provides colorists with an in-depth overview of professional color grading techniques and look creation in DaVinci Resolve 16.

The main concepts discussed in the course are advanced contrast management, balancing techniques and look development. The focus is primarily on higher end color grading, color theory and teaching techniques that took professional colorists years of experience to master.

The course is presented by Kevin P. McAuliffe but is created together with professional colorists that have contributed with insight about their work methods. Kevin uses DaVinci Resolve 16, but it is taught with the goal of showing techniques that can be used in any color corrector.

The footage used in this course is available for download so that you can easily follow along. In addition, we have included power grades so that you can deeply study the node structures and color grading techniques demonstrated in the course, and a free sample of 35mm film grain from our friends over at Cinegrain.

 

COURSE OVERVIEW

 

LESSON 01: S-CURVE MANIPULATION

The curve is the key component of contrast creation, and in the first lesson we look at the basics of the curve and curve shaping.

LESSON 02: CORRECTIONS IN LOG SPACE AND GAMMA SPACE

We continue to explore how brightness affects the curve in log- and gamma space, and how to manipulate the curve in a log workflow.

LESSON 03: COMPRESSION TECHNIQUES

In this lesson we look at how to disturb the luma vs. distance ratio of the curve with compression techniques to challenge the contrast and create a printed look. This technique is often used as a base to create a painterly feeling with limited dynamic range.

LESSON 04: LOW LUMA COMPRESSION TECHNIQUES 

We dive deeper into compression techniques and how to compress low luminance levels, add speculars and  details with gamma stretching and the log controls.

LESSON 05: PRINTER LIGHTS FUNDAMENTALS

Now that we have a better understanding of contrast management, we look at the fundamentals of printer lights that we will use to balance and create looks later in the course.

LESSON 06: PRINTER LIGHTS WORKFLOW

In this lesson we look at using printer lights in a log workflow and watching the results through our curves.

LESSON 07: BALANCING TECHNIQUES

Now it's time to analyze and match shots with the help of what we have learned about printer lights. We also take a closer look into using the RGB-parade and the vectorscope. We will also discuss some thesis questions related to balancing in general.

LESSON 08: BOUNCING TO CREATE LOOKS

We are ready to create our first desaturated and moody look by bouncing in colors though a defined node structure.

LESSON 09: UNDERSTANDING COLOR HARMONY

Colorists need to understand what makes an image look pleasant to the eye and in this lesson we discuss the important of color harmony. We are building on the look from the previous lesson to create color separation and tweek the colors into an analogous color scheme.

LESSON 10: COLOR CHANNEL MIXING TO CREATE UNIQUE LOOKS

In this lesson we look at how to create a modern and cold look with the help of channel mixing and opacity control.

LESSON 11: GRIT AND TEXTURE

We will go though techniques to bouncing luma controls agains each other to bring out texture, create silver tints to add rawness, clip the blacks and advanced sharpen techniques to bring out grit.

LESSON 12: NODE COLOR MIXING

Node color mixing is a very important skill to master for every colorist, and by combining colors and strengths we will get access to unlimited color combinations that can be used in look development. We will see how our color combinations blends onto the tonal range we have established.

LESSON 13: PIPING A KEY DOWNSTREAM

In this lesson we work with separate streams and color transforms to pipe super clean keys.

LESSON 14: LOCAL EDGE SOFTENING

This lesson is about isolating the local edges in the images and working with them to create a softer image without loosing the overall sharpness.

LESSON 15: CREATING VOLUME IN THE WHITES

We will look at another important compression method for creating volume in the highlights and reduce the sharp thin feeling of digital images. 

LESSON 16: EVENING OUT SKIN TONES

Going through a very popular technique to even out skin tones and take care of imperfections.

LESSON 17: SOFT SATURATED LOOKS

In this lesson we will dial in a soft contrast and create color contrast with varying hue strenghts.

LESSON 18: FILM EMULATIONS AND GRAIN TECHNIQUES

In our final lesson we will create a new look with a Film Emulation LUT, the log controls and add texture with a 35mm fine grain sample (that you will get for free sponsored by Cinegrain). We will look at different techniques to enhance the structure of the grain.

 

 

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Another way to say the same thing: Color Correction is distinct from Color Grading in that Color Correction is about hitting certain normal targets (balanced whites, proper black levels, white levels, and midtones) and Grading is about making creative choices (intention color cast, lifted/colored blacks, altered/non-linear contrast curves, altered/quantized hues, saturation, etc).  Generally speaking, "Garbage In, Garbage Out" meaning that if you have wildly divergent shots coming in to the grading process, each grade is going to be unique (and uniquely error-prone) unto itself.  The more you can normalize (aka correct) your incoming clips, the more consistent you can be in applying a grade that behaves consistently in support of your story and aesthetics.  And of course the grading process may result in the need for some kind of post-grade correction so that you can be sure your outputs are legal for the intended delivery format.

 

Most LUTs (especially Log -> Gamma LUTs) presume you are feeding properly balanced and properly exposed image data, and so making corrections before applying LUTs ensures that the LUTs perform both optimally and as expected.  Of course there are always opportunities to break the rules, but it is best to consciously break the rules, rather than unwittingly breaking the rules and then wandering in oblivion wondering why all the rules you learned are not working as they should.  Generally speaking, corrections to get you to standard waypoints and grades should take you to creative intentions.

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Wow! I've learned so much with this course! Thanks a lot for sharing so many amazing techniques. I wish I would have found this earlier. I had so many aha-moments and found out about many things I'm always seeing in a lot of films but never knew how to achieve myself. Great work!

Do you guys think it's possible to make a video about combining most of the important techniques and nodes in a workflow for a whole shot or two? It would be very interessting to see how your node tree looks when you are balancing, compressing, keying, creating a look, working on skintones and adding grain all together. Especially with shots which are not too well recorded. Shots with very bright highlights and a uncorrectly set whitebalance etc. would be quite interesting since making mediocore footage look good is definitely not too easy 🙃

And a deeper lesson about techniques for creating looks in combination with color separation and skintones would be amazing. The color separation is always a problem when I work on a look. Too many unwanted colors are affected sometimes. The RGB Mixer technique from your lession was super interessting with a wonderful result (love how some important colors weren't affected too much in the end) but I don't understand how to work with this tool properly yet. So would definitely love to learn more about how to use the RGB mixer and see examples of how to use it with different colored shots or learn more about how to generate looks with the RGB curves.

Thanks a lot guys! Keep up the great work.

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How would i be able to make a perfect gradient so i can follow along in class? I tried the Generator and then compound clip but its not a perfect linear gradient.?

 

Update...I figured it out. lol...IDIOT. I was using the wrong scope.lol!!

Edited by Alexander Corcoran

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Hello thank you for this tutorial.

Tell please what is the difference between primary wheels panel and log panel?

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56 minutes ago, Evgeniy Shkolenko said:

Hello thank you for this tutorial.

Tell please what is the difference between primary wheels panel and log panel?

Log controls are mainly designed for log images and you can manually set how wide or narrow range you want to affect with your corrections. 

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2 hours ago, Tom Evans said:

Log controls are mainly designed for log images and you can manually set how wide or narrow range you want to affect with your corrections. 

Thank you!!!!!!!

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