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Making contrast, lighting, and mood changes: A general rule of thumb

From: The Art of Color Correction: Color Grading for Locations and Times of Day

Video: Making contrast, lighting, and mood changes: A general rule of thumb

Just before we jump into some more specific color corrections in grades, I'd like to share with you two core concepts that I found really useful when I'm grading. And the first is contrast, the relationship between high and low contrast. So that, in an image, you can reduce the shadows. I'm using the Luma control on the shadows here to deepen the shadow. And then I'm using the same control button on the highlights to raise the highlights slightly, and that increases the distance between the brightest element and the darkest element in the shot. Here's the before and after.

Making contrast, lighting, and mood changes: A general rule of thumb

Just before we jump into some more specific color corrections in grades, I'd like to share with you two core concepts that I found really useful when I'm grading. And the first is contrast, the relationship between high and low contrast. So that, in an image, you can reduce the shadows. I'm using the Luma control on the shadows here to deepen the shadow. And then I'm using the same control button on the highlights to raise the highlights slightly, and that increases the distance between the brightest element and the darkest element in the shot. Here's the before and after.

And that increases detail and makes the image jump out, and suggests a higher drama or tension in the image. And the other side of this coin is reduced or flatter contrast. So, low contrast where you reduce the highlights with the highlight Luma control. And you make the shadows lighter, and this has the effect of a softer image. Or a more mysterious grade that can be interpreted a number of different ways according to the story being told. So, that's the first core concept about what kind of story and where I'm going with any particular grade.

And the second is, the relationship between what is real what we actually see in life and what is real in terms of movies. What mood or what stylized effect you tend to see in shots. What mood or stylized effect you'd like to introduce into a shot. And that can be summed up reasonably easily. Whenever the light changes, whenever you get either slightly cool light or warm light, in general, it tends to affect the highlights. So, if I wanted to suggest this was lit by a warmer light, maybe the sunshine, I could push the highlights towards this kind of yellow light.

And that suggests the actual real physical lighting I would see if I was looking at this with my own eyes. I don't intend to use the mid-tone slider for a similar correction to increase the mood in a shot. So, if I push this mid-tone slider in the same way, I push it into the oranges, I exaggerate the first correction I've made with what I would consider a mood correction. Would you necessarily see these colors in real life in this amount of saturation, or possibly not depending on the lighting of course.

But in general, for nondramatic lighting sources, this is the rule of thumb that I use. Use the highlights for something which is slightly more realistic, and use the mid-tones for something which is leaning towards mood. I'll just reset both of these and push them in the opposite direction. Much of the light that we get on earth is blue. It's the way that the atmosphere filters or scatters the different wave lengths of light, and that can be demonstrated by pushing your highlights slightly towards blue.

This isn't the over exaggerated blue that we see on many movies, this is a more technical correction to actually let us simulate the slightly bluer light that we see outdoors if you have a slightly overcast sky. I can then use the Mid-tone to exaggerate this. And then push those towards the same blues, and here we are changing the mood of the shot. We're making the shot much cooler. This is something we investigate more in the next chapter.

But I just found this core concept quite useful when I'm trying to decide which particular grade I'm working on. And what particular look I'd like to give a certain image. The exact corrections that you make for any particular shot has to vary, because you've got so many different considerations. You've got the exposure, lighting, the time of day, and the situation in which you're shooting, and the colors in the background, and the colors that the actors are wearing. But in general, I found it to be quite useful. The relationship between the technical tweak and a mood tweak if you like.

Something that I would consider that changes the tone of the movie, which is outside what I've actually seen in real life.

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This video is part of

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  1. 4m 45s
    1. Welcome
      1m 47s
    2. Telling a story with color
      2m 10s
    3. Using the exercise files
      48s
  2. 38m 20s
    1. What different colors tell the audience
      1m 6s
    2. How our eyes see color
      5m 12s
    3. Making sure color is consistent across multiple clips in a sequence
      4m 54s
    4. Understanding the correct order to apply color correction adjustments
      7m 43s
    5. Working with Premiere Pro and the Colorista II plugin
      7m 55s
    6. Working with Premiere Pro and Magic Bullet Looks
      7m 21s
    7. Making contrast, lighting, and mood changes: A general rule of thumb
      4m 9s
  3. 25m 13s
    1. Understanding how cool color frames emotion
      7m 39s
    2. Stylizing a cold location with color grading
      3m 18s
    3. Understanding how warm color frames emotion
      3m 16s
    4. Stylizing a hot location with color grading
      4m 40s
    5. Isolating and adjusting skies
      6m 20s
  4. 28m 0s
    1. Changing the times of day with color
      50s
    2. Creating an early morning look
      5m 24s
    3. Creating a midday look
      2m 36s
    4. Creating an afternoon look
      3m 46s
    5. Creating an evening look
      2m 34s
    6. Composing a day-for-night shot
      7m 28s
    7. Creating a flashback look
      5m 22s
  5. 17m 17s
    1. Changing colors to match the mood of the story
      28s
    2. Stylizing an office scene
      2m 31s
    3. Creating a bedroom color style
      2m 20s
    4. Designing a hospital look
      3m 13s
    5. Stylizing a morgue shot
      2m 56s
    6. Coloring an interrogation scene
      5m 49s
  6. 9m 26s
    1. Separating characters from the background
      44s
    2. Creating fake depth of field in Magic Bullet Looks
      2m 51s
    3. Creating fake depth of field in Colorista II
      5m 51s
  7. 3m 6s
    1. Next steps
      3m 6s

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