color grading

This week I have been thinking a lot about color correction and color grading. Probably because I had a lecture on it in two classes and I’m finishing up post on two projects. I’ve always enjoyed color grading and what you can do with the final image. My first visit to the color suite was in 1995 in film school. We shot color neg and took it in to get transferred and they used a telecine with a Davinci color corrector. It was amazing. And expensive. Fast forward 20 years and we have so many options for color correction that it is dizzying. Davinci, as Resolve, is still in the picture. The color correctors in the NLE programs are very powerful. What is the point of this post?

I thought I had a point when I was thinking about writing this post, but mostly it was random thoughts on color correction. We are in a period where the look of the film belongs to the colorist. As a DP this is very scary, but also freeing in that everything I do on set is not the final look. Small HD has released a monitor that allows you to load a custom LUT so you can view your RAW/Log files with a defined look. That is really cool. The cameras that have that ability are available at prices that would cost less than my telecine session in 1995 without inflation adjustment! There has never been a better time to be a filmmaker. And there has never been a worse time.

Here’s the link I sent my students to for a primer on color correction.

2014 predictions

NAB is just around the corner. There will be new tools and gadgets for sure. It is fun to speculate what will be the big trend. I’m not basing my predictions on anything too scientific, just what I have been seeing in my work, students’ work and others throughout the industry. Last year was all about 4K, with the Black Magic camera that I guessed they would make before it was announced. (it just started shipping last month I think). This year will be all about High Speed cameras. We’ve seen some of this with the basically boring Sony FS-700. A work horse video camera with a 4K upgrade path. The on-board recording is AVCHD but you can send an uncompressed signal out through SDI. What makes this thing cool is the ability to shoot a burst recording at high speed, what they call S&Q (slow and quick). It will do 120FPS, 240FPS, 480 and 960. Using some fancy math and at the expense of quality you can get all of those frame rates at 1080. The 120 and 240 look great, but 480 and 960 are really just for screwing around.

Ok, so this wasn’t intended to be a review of the FS-700, but it shows the path and trend we are on. People want slo-mo video in their projects. The Go Pro can do 120 at 720. The new GH4 has a burst up to 96 I believe. There was mention of a mirror-less camera from another manufacturer that had 240 and higher at reduced resolutions. Arri’s new Amira will do 200FPS with the purchase of the key$$$ to unlock it. My prediction is that we will see a lot of cameras with a 120fps capable rate and at least one under $5K that will do 240fps well.

In the mean time here is a clip from the FS-700 at 240FPS.

set-up test: Jami and Adam from little tree films on Vimeo.

set safety – Sarah Jones

By now much of the media and the world are aware of the story of the tragic accident on a film set last month. Here are the specifics in a Hollywood Reporter article. I don’t have any new information but it did get me to thinking about all of the sets I’ve been on over the years. I can think of some that could have ended badly. One where home-made squibs were used and burned a young man. On that same film there were other dangerous situations the crew and cast were put into, not necessarily by anyones’ direction just by inexperience and insecurities.

Every year I work with a group of new students and I express to them the importance of set safety, but also ask them to use good judgement about situations they may be put in during the course of the film. This tragic story is a reminder that even the most sensible professionals can end up in an unfortunate situation. Another article pointed out, those in a support role like 2nd AC would trust that the producer and other individuals involved in the production would have protected the safety of their crew. Take care of yourself and your crew.