Movie Making Manual/Colour Grading

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Colour grading is the process of manipulating each shot in a film in order to achieve a certain 'look'. The producer/director will require that the whole movie has the same range of colour saturation, contrast, highlights and shadows. The colour treatment is very important in conveying an emotional context that is consistent with and complements the action, sound design and musical treatment of the movie. Simple, but extreme examples are Bollywood extravaganzas that use strong lighting and clear saturated colors to complement a simple story. In contrast, art movies may use low contrast lighting, a palette of soft colours and subtle tones to convey a subtle nuanced story. The Lighting Cameraman or Director of Photography will be shooting to create the desired look, but colour grading is always necessary to fine tune the raw footage.

The job of colour grading is usually done by the editor, in lower budget work, or in higher budget productions the task falls to a specialist referred to as the colourist. Professional colourists can use sophisticated digital finishing units such as the Davinci 2k system.

Grading normally starts with analysis and colour correction of each shot to fix problems such as unwanted colour casts. Next, the colourist can use a myriad of techniques to colour the scene to reflect the artistic preference of the producer/director (for example, reducing saturation can give the scene a bleak look). Once a look is decided upon the grading process for the rest of that scene (or even the whole film) is generally routine, as the colourist aims to provide consistency between shots.