Nick Oostdijk

Advice on grading film

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Hi everyone, new member here!


I will be grading film for the first time soon and i’m very curious how to go about this as I am only used to grading digital footage. 

Does anyone have some good tips/advice on grading film? Is it any different than for example grading a Rec.709 image converted from LogC?


Thanks in advance!


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Sorry for the late reply: I had an unexpected day off and just saw this question today.

The standards for film scanning are kind of nebulous, and I have seen vast differences in levels from film scans done by Technicolor, Fotokem, EFilm, ILM, Cinesite, and other companies; even NY and LA divisions of the same companies can be different. I just eyeball it, come up with a reasonable setting for Offset (Printer Lights), then add a node for a Custom Curve (generally an S-shape, but it depends), then subsequent nodes for balance and level, sometimes a few RGB tweaks if necessary. Once the picture is in kind of a "faux Rec709 zone," I color correct it as if it were digital. The same expectations and values still hold: it's not that much different from digital, really.

It does help if the filmmakers shoot color charts daily, and you can pull those up and see how far off or how close you are to reasonable hue and vector values. I was always skeptical about the Macbeth color chart in a digital world, but the DSC charts are good, and the XRite Color Checker Video is not bad (but I'm suspicious of the saturation levels). You can get a lot just out of a grayscale chart, which will at least help you balance out the blacks and whites.

I've remastered 32 films shot-on-film this year, and sometimes I have to throw my approach out the window because either the elements, the scans, or the actual exposure is just completely whacked. I find I use Printer Lights more than I do with an all-digital show, but other than that, it's essentially the same thing. Modern film emulsions are just about as clean and sharp a 4K digital, done right. 

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