Using an Alexa LUT with a Canon 5D Mark III in Resolve

using-an-alexa-lut-with-a-canon-5d-mark-iii-in-resolve-austin-color-correction-grading-finishing-services-for-filmvideo-post-production

Using an Alexa LUT with a Canon 5D Mark III in ResolveThis is a brief explaination of some experimentation I did for a video production using an ALEXA LUT in Davinci Resolve. Overall I really enjoyed the ‘look’ that came from this approach.  So did the director at www.LaughingCardinal.com.

I want to give a very special thank you to Kevin Shaw. During an advanced colorist training class last year he encouraged us to think out of the box with regards to working with LUTs.

Questions? Let me know.

Tom

PS – Have you been thinking about display calibration lately too? Check out the tools at SpectraCal.

What the 2013 Sundance Filmmakers Shot On

On occasion I find an article that catches my attention and I feel compelled to mention the story.  Recently IndieWire.com site posted an article “From ARRI Alexa to Sony HVR: What the 2013 Sundance Filmmakers Shot On.” Check it out.

There appears to be a fairly complete list of cameras used for the various films for Sundance 2013. As a colorist in Austin, Texas working with Indiefilm producers, I’m always curious what folks are shooting on, given all the changes in camera technology. I wonder if there is a similar list for the Oscars.

But wait – the first camera mentioned in this list is the iPhone.  Well, that’s because the list is in alphabetical order.  I chuckled to myself when I saw it sitting there at the top.  My guess is we will see more and more movies shot this way.  I can imagine  camera pros wrinkling their noses at this notion.  Truthfully, what can you really do with an iPhone with such a limited ability to adjust the iris opening, small sensor size, noise in low light, or inability to change the type of lens you want to use?  We shall see over time as mobile video cameras become more capable. In the end, though, it’s the story that counts. We all know that.

That said, some of the Sundance films were shot on GoPro and a FlipCam and a Canon Handycam. And from my count there are ~25 films shot on various Canon DSLR-type cameras. Fascinating in one sense, but in reality that’s what I see in the Austin Indiefilm scene. Lots of Canon SLRs being used.

When it comes to color correction and color grading, I simply focus on the creative aspects of the project with input from the director. Video shot on the Canon DSLRs has  its own unique look, and responds to color correction and grading well. Each camera responds differently in the color correction and grading process, and of course a lot of this is impacted by the way  the imagery is captured and recorded: raw, log C or Log S, ProRes, or H264 Quicktime. But I digress.

Personally, I am rather drawn to ARRI and the ARRI Alexa and imagine I’ll see more projects this year with stories shot on their cameras, given their rise in popularity with cinematographers.  Nationally I’ve seen comments from many colorists, saying they are seeing more work shot on ARRI Alexa come into their shops.

Go check out the complete list. In the comments section is a note from a reader that Before Midnight (Richard Linklater’s film, edited by Sandra Adair) was also shot on ARRI Alexa; however, it’s not mentioned on the main list.

As always, if you have a question feel free to contact me.

Tom

 

 

Before and After Grading on Invictus Fitness Video

Laughing Cardinal recently finished a piece for a local fitness group called Invictus Fitness. I used a handcrafted Arri LUT in Resolve to get a particular “look” I was going for. Here are a few before and after shots to demo the idea. Video was shot on a Canon 5D Mark III.  You have to consider that this may look different, depending on your monitor. Sigh. So it goes with color calibration.  Anyway, the differences are there, and as you can see, the original video clips had quite a yellow bias to them.  I wanted the gym to have a kind of cool blue cast to it, yet look real and saturated. This way the skin tones will pop out better from a color-contrast perspective.

Before and After Grading on Invictus Fitness Video

Before and After Grading on Invictus Fitness Video

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before and After Grading on Invictus Fitness VideoBefore and After Grading on Invictus Fitness Video

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before and After Grading on Invictus Fitness VideoBefore and After Grading on Invictus Fitness Video

 

 

 

 

 

 

A second video we produced includes some short bios of each coach. The original footage was a challenging color correction. But I made it work out. These photos do not do the end result full justice. I’ll show more soon in a short video I produced on how I graded these clips.  Special thanks to John Gleim for his inputs while visiting Austin!

Before and After Grading on Invictus Fitness Video

Before and After Grading on Invictus Fitness Video

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selective Color and Selective B/W Examples

Total length: 30 seconds. It’s a shortie.

Total length: 30 seconds. It’s a shortie. Examples of selective color and selective B/W strategies in color grading. These are from LaughingCardinal.com client projects in 2012. The boy and girl kissing shows them in full color initially then the surroundings turn black and white. Watch carefully. In the last segment of the kissing couple she pulls her hand and arm away and turns into the light. The guy turns gray. It’s like that sometimes guys. So goes life. This is from the Robyn Ludwick music video Hollywood.

The next examples are from a web video for Link CoWorking. In the first part of the video is an isolated color to capture the incompleteness of working at home versus a better solution of using a kind of timeshare office that has all the amenities and social structure of a real office at a reasonable price.

This demonstration video above shows the selective color clips from their web advertising piece. Kudus to Kai Salim for his creative direction and editing. He comes up with the most intriguing creatives for clients at LaughingCardinal.com. I’m using DaVinci Resolve 9. The music clip is “Heart” from the Light We Bring – LP by Love and Light. If you’re into that kind of music you’ll enjoy their entire album. I have it!

Tom

Colorist Austin Texas
Color finishing for Laughing Cardinal

 

Color Grading – The Horror and the Inspiration

This post is a brief review of Patrick Inhofer’s ‘Grade-along’ tutorials for the short film Dead Man’s Lake, which is a more advanced tutorial for Resolve 9 that includes access to some pretty cool ARRI Alexa 10-bit ProRes 4444 files from an actual production. This 8-hour set of tutorials is as close as you’ll get to sitting in the studio for hours at a time with a senior colorist to learn all their hard-earned tricks and insights. To heighten your interest further – this tutorial includes a fairly detailed explanation on how to incorporate a ‘grain’ look into the film using Resolve’s track feature. I could go on and on with all the goodness in this tutorial ….

But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s step back.

If you’re doing color grading work, it’s likely you have heard of Patrick Inhofer, who runs TaoOfColor.com. He publishes a weekly newsletter which is a virtual goldmine of links related to improving and understanding the craft of color grading, as well as divulging news related to software, hardware, and vendors. Finally I had discovered a way to connect with a community of professional colorists who shared a common vision in a craft I was interested in; a place to deepen my understanding of the art and science of color, and, perhaps more important, how to apply these principles meaningfully to tell a story.  Let’s face it — as a colorist you sit alone in a room (sometimes with clients) for hours at a time.  We all know that hardware color grading systems have given way to software solutions, and this dramatic change has occurred over a fairly short period of five years.

I first found Inhofer when I was doing projects with Final Cut Pro COLOR, which has been the tool of choice for a number of years but oh such a pain to use. His newsletter kept showing up each Sunday, and I quickly noticed a pattern: software-wise, DaVinci Resolve was the way to go. So I made the change to DaVinci Resolve a few years ago, back when you paid for the software. There is a free version now. My, how things change.

Despite my years of color grading, Inhofer surprised me with his Dead Man’s Lake tutorial.  He nails the importance of getting every single project in sync with the client’s offline file, and carefully explains all the pragmatic, ever-s0-necessary, little insights required to conform your project with the client’s files.  If you’re not careful, you can run into a virtual minefield of problems, and this is an area every colorist knows.  The impact of this important step did not really hit me until I took on a project before everything was properly locked by the director. I knew better, but everyone was in a hurry so I got caught up in the rush.  I made the mistake of plowing ahead anyway. Let’s just say I learned the hard way to never let this occur again. That project became its own horror story.

It’s not that I did not realize the importance of complete prep and conforming a project timeline; it was that I often found myself confused about how to solve issues that came up during the conform stage. This issue is compounded with Apple’s dropping FCP7, the lack of maturity in FCPX, Premiere sorta-kinda working but changing rapidly, and so forth.

Recently Inhofer took me up on an offer to edit his audio podcast shows for TaoOfColor, so I had a bird’s-eye view on his conversations with the creators of Dead Man’s Lake. Along with this I dedicated some time to carefully review and learn from the accompanying grade-along video tutorial called Dead Man’s Lake.

There are plenty of excellent tutorials around to help with the principles of color and how to use Resolve for completing a base or technical grade and a “look” grade. Experts like Warren Eagles, Alexis Van Hurkman and Denver Riddle all have accessible Resolve 9 training tutorials. Although all of these introductions to Resolve 9 courses are well structured and complete regarding the ‘how to’ of Resolve 9 features, they lack depth around ‘real-world’ project preparation, conforming and debugging issues mixed in with a real-live project, and customer feedback.

Watching each episode of Dead Man’s Lake is like being a fly on the wall with one of Inhofer’s clients. This perspective is what shapes Patrick’s unique approach to teaching, and I find it extremely useful for deepening my abilities as a color grader. To be fair, Inhofer does provide detailed explanations of Resolve 9’s features in the Dead Man’s Lake tutorial set, but this is not a starting place for someone with little prior knowledge with Resolve.

See, the important thing to remember with all the tutorials is that some are excellent for learning exactly how to perform a specific grading function in Resolve. You can move through them quickly and review them later for a spot tip on how to do something you forgot. All well and good, and I own a number of them. But once you start tackling longer, more complicated projects with clients, it becomes critical to prep the color grading workflow with a reference or offline video, and this is where you can get yourself into trouble if it’s not done right with the client.

I cannot emphasize how impressed I am with Inhofer’s treatment of these issues. He explains them in detail with support from several of his ‘war’ stories to help the grader avoid potential disaster, especially in his coverage of various XML issues. The entire experience is like sitting with a senior colorist as he openly and authentically explores the best way to set up the project, solves the gnarly conform issues that can arise, and then moves into the actual workflow of the color correction, grade, and ‘look’ development process.  OK, I’m repeating myself, but this is important if you’re getting all kinds of projects from different NLEs and digital creators who have a wide range of experience (or inexperience) in working with a colorist.

Here are a few highlights from the training. First is a quick overview of what you get:

Inhofer includes a wide spectrum of further reading in his nifty website that supports the Dead Man’s Lake tutorial. All the episodes are iTunes-friendly and, of course, play nicely with QuickTime. All the tutorial sections are extremely well organized so that they can be directly accessed via a drop-down menu on the QuickTime player (my preference).  There is a wealth of information to learn in Dead Man’s Lake, so give yourself time to work through the material slowly, as well as permission to revisit Inhofer’s workflow.  Though I’ve started to depart somewhat with my own workflow process, I always think about his thought process to reset my thinking when I get jammed up or lost in a longer grade.

One of the sections that I especially enjoyed was experimenting with the provided ARRI Alexa ProRes 4444 clips to see how they work in Resolve using various LUTs and nodes. He shows how you can build your own LUT from the ARRI website. Inhofer makes this rather mysterious topic approachable and gives the viewer the tools, references, and strategies to create and apply LUTs when setting up their look for the project. This alone was worth the cost. He also goes on to apply the look to sections of this 5-minute movie and continues to explain his techniques for managing the client and the grading process – again with customer feedback along the way.

One other observation about Inhofer’s tutorials is the way he includes a kind of HUD (heads up display) from three different screens on his desk, so you get the full impact of what he’s seeing while he’s talking. Again it’s literally like being right there next to him in his color suite.  This is one feature best seen versus described.  Those HUD elements come and go in different layouts to fit the flow of what he’s covering in the tutorial.

Check out the Dead Man’s Lake grade-along at the TaoOfColor. I’m not big on horror, but getting to color the project with an excellent soundtrack and beautiful ARRI Alexa footage was a lot of fun. It’s a nice way to learn something new or deepen what you know and hopefully eliminate the horror of a poorly organized and managed color-grading project.

Tom

 

Robyn Ludwick Video: "Hollywood" on YouTube

You’ll want to catch this review of the video Laughing Cardinal produced for Robyn Ludwick’s hit song “Hollywood.”  The review was written by No Depression – the Roots of Music Authority. In addition, there is another good read on the KUT.org radio station website. But if you’re just looking for Robyn’s video, here it is. We are quite proud of this one.

Visit www.LaughingCardinalProductions.com to see other productions by Laughing Cardinal Productions, or visit our YouTube channel. And now here’s Robyn!

Tom and Kai

Austin Color Finishing Services – DaVinci Resolve – Video Color Grading and Color Correcting

If you are in Austin working on a film or media project give us a shout and come by for a visit. Happy to help you find that special ‘look’ you have in mind for your project. If you’re looking for my rates just go here.  If you’re interested in learning more about my recent client work please take a look at these posts and to see more background on my craft please visit here.

We would like to show you our color grading suite that includes a 92″ theater screen with color corrected projector and a very comfy viewing area. The client also has a 50″ Panasonic Plasma which has also be properly color calibrated.

The color grading suite uses a FSI Flanders LCD monitor  and a Flanders OLED for the work desk area. We make the best cup of java in central Austin and always enjoy meeting new people. If you have a commercial piece, short film/video or independent film/video project in the works and you’d like to discuss some ideas, feel free to contact me here or drop by sometime at 602 Cliff Drive which is in central Austin near Zilker Park.  I’m sometimes in Los Angeles and Portland so just give me a call in advance of coming 512-782-4814. Rates and demo reel provided upon request. Tom Parish color finishing work for Laughing Cardinal also available for free lance.