Join Simon Walker for an in-depth discussion in this video Making contrast, lighting, and mood changes: A general rule of thumb, part of The Art of Color Correction: Color Grading for Locations and Times of Day.
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.
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.
- How our eyes see color
- What colors tell the audience
- Making sure color is consistent
- Applying adjustments in the correct order
- Understanding how warm and cool colors frame emotion differently
- Isolating and adjusting skies
- Changing the time of day with color
- Designing interiors like an office, a hospital, or an interrogation room
- Creating fake depth of field