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Color is a powerful signal in video; it can subtly project emotion, mood, time of day, and location. Learn to manipulate these visual elements in a variety of shots, from interior spaces to outside landscapes, with color grading. Filmmaker, colorist, and experienced editor Simon Walker shows how to simulate a light source and different types of light, and choose an evocative color for your footage to tell the story of a particular location. Plus, learn techniques to change the time of day, the type of room, and the overall mood of a location.
Simon works with Adobe Premiere Pro and the Magic Bullet Colorista II and Looks plugins, but these lessons can be applied to any color correction workflow.
Crafting a day for night look really is an extension of the early evening look. Where we are reducing the ambient light and we're adding in some blue into the highlights. This is the shot we're going to correct. Here is the untreated look which was obviously shot during the day, and this is where we're going. This is the shot which now has much more of a feeling of night time to it. So let's just jump back to the first shot, select the clip and open up Looks.
So the first thing to do is to adjust the colors and the brightness settings. I'll drag a three way color correction from the subject section. And I'm going to reduce the ambient light, or simulate reducing the ambient light, using the LUMA control on the midtones. I'll also reduce the highlights a little, and I'll reduce or deepen the shadows. So the loomer levels are becoming much more we would expect. But this is a low-light situation so I need to add some desaturation. I'll grab a desaturation tool or a saturation tool and then desaturate. And I will drop the midtones even more, I think like so. So we're beginning to put together the pieces of the puzzle that create this look, but there are a number of key things to consider. Firstly, in low light situations the light does have this tendency to be blue, you definitely get a blue tinge to the light.
So let's add some into the highlights. And also, let's jot down the shadows a little more, because at nighttime, you can go out and observe this outside, that the shadows are quite dark. You do lose a lot of detail in the shadows. You can see on the RGB scope, we're really crushing the shadows, we're making the shadows dark and deep. Which simulates what actually happens in real life. So we've got low light situation, dark shadows, we need some more blue in this to simulate the sort of blue that happens that night. It's an interesting combination of things about this blue, the light at night is literally bluer.
But also, the way our eyes see light, is that they're designed to see detail first and color second. And in low light situations, colors not only become more and more desaturated. But the colors with the lowest or the smallest, shortest wavelength, which are blues, are the ones that are most visible to us. We see blues much more readily than we see reds. This doesn't necessarily mean that night time is bright blue, but it does have a certain blue tinge to it. This is where reality and stylistic grades kind of overlap, because in so many movies, night time is depicted as blue.
This is partly convention and partly because we're used to seeing this on screen. And partly lodged in the original truth about light being slightly blue and our eyes tending towards blue at night time. We have to cope with both these instances when we're grading. This is why often when you grade, you find yourself moving both the mid tone and the shadow wheels towards blue to get this kind of night time effect. Sometimes, you really have to move it towards blue to make this effect stand out and to drag both these pens towards this blue color. You'll notice that I haven't decreased the highlights a huge amount because at night time you still see detail in the brightest areas at night. Its not overly bright but there is a distinction between the darkest shadows and some of the details you see.
So I tend to leave the highlights not as dark as they could be. But there is a glaring issue in this shot which needs to be corrected. And that is the sky is a dead giveaway. Here's the before and after. The sky is very bright. And in this shot, we would not be convincing anyone that it was actually filmed at night. A good discipline when shooting night scenes is to try and avoid any sky in them. If you know you were going to shoot day for night. In this case, though, I have to fix it in post, which is possible by covering up this bright area where the gradient and the spot exposure.
I'll grab a gradient exposure from the subject section, drop down a couple of stops and then drag this gradient over the picture. Try and reduce the amount of light that's coming in from the top of the frame. Notice that because I've added this gradient exposure after the colorista 3-way, It's picking up the blues and the shadows. If you thing your blues and your shadows are too much, you can always just back off a little bit on them. So if you're going for more accurate rather than stylized look, adjusting the shadows in the tool chain before the grad exposure.
Also adjusts the shadows in the grad exposure because these tools are processed in order from left to right. We're reducing the amount of light coming in from the top of the frame. But we also need a Spot exposure tool to reduce this even more. I'm going to change the shape, and the spread here on screen. Position it up into place, and then just bring down that exposure slightly. You can drag the Aspect controls.
On the Spot exposure just to change the shape so its not a complete circle. It can be an oval shape. You can look at the before and after, and if you want to look at it without the screen controls you can deselect the tool and then turn the entire tool chain off and on. That's a much more convincing scene of something at night. I have to mention this happy accident here though, something which really helps sell this look is artificial lighting. The fact that this room has its lights on really helps this shot because it simulates actually what happens at night is that people have their lights on. So if you are setting up a shoot like this, if you're shooting a car driving through a scene and you know it's is going to be shot in the evening. Make sure that the car has its lights on, cause that will really help your gray. We'll make sure you have some artificial lights in the shot itself. Let's have a look at this on the timeline and playback. It's very useful to be able to apply shadows in post production. Because as great as modern video cameras are, in low light situations, they still introduce noise.
Some cameras are better than others. Plus, if you've shot more neutrally, then you'll have more options to change the mood, or look, of the piece when the director or client changes their mind. If they've decided that they didn't want it quite as dark. It's an easy fix to jump back into Lux, and increase the level of the mid-tone control. So, doing this post-production method can be cheaper, but it also can give you more options in post-productions for changing the look and feel of your video.
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