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View Full Version : Bruce Allen's RAW finishing corner (resolve, after effects, more)



Kholi
04-22-2012, 08:28 PM
Starting with a post from Bruce himself, originally over at REDuser.


OK, OK, Tom - am on an insane deadline at work at the moment but will update this post w a nice description of the process tonight with pics etc...

Summary is:
1. Start with the most awesome footage imaginable

Then color correction is easy :)

Update pt1: BEGIN THE INSANELY-DETAILED TUTORIAL!

http://www.boacinema.com/projects/2011/for_forum_posts/timescapes_shot1_runthrough_pt1.jpg

http://www.boacinema.com/projects/2011/for_forum_posts/timescapes_shot1_runthrough_pt2.jpg

http://www.boacinema.com/projects/2011/for_forum_posts/timescapes_shot1_runthrough_pt3.jpg

http://www.boacinema.com/projects/2011/for_forum_posts/timescapes_shot1_runthrough_pt4.jpg

Bruce Allen
www.boacinema.com

More from the man himself soon.

Bruce Allen
04-23-2012, 07:10 PM
Haha, awesome. I have been drafted :)

Background on me:
My first encounter with color grading was in the late 90's when I interned in a high-end commercial post-production facility in South Africa that did high-end commercials. They had this awesome thing called a LASER FILM SCANNER (WOW!!!)... in a special dimly-lit room that smelled of expensive (it needed to - or else the clients wouldn't pay the cash :). You could kinda peek at the footage being scanned. It looked really weird but you could see that the detail was there in the negative. Then the color from this film was meticulously brought out. People would add effects and tweak sky looks using gigantic obelisk-like machines with names like SGI Onyx. It was a magical time. Now you can do it all on a laptop from shoot to grade for a few thousand bucks - also magical... but in a different way!

My current job is actually doing movie trailer titles and VFX rather than grading. I log 500 hours of overtime a year doing this and am well paid... so I don't really have much time to go off and grade often. I have been grading for myself and other indie projects for years though - starting with 25p XL1 footage on MiniDV, cut in Premiere 6.0, then taken into After Effects and colored shot-by-shot :) it's a bit difficult telling where VFX ends and grading begins these days, to be honest - it's basically all about the look. Anyway, I have definitely helped create the look for a bunch of things - from music vids (Ringo Starr, shot on RED in 2007, before RedCine even existed, haha!) to short films to features. One useful thing is that as a VFX artist, I deal with a lot of footage from every different camera, and deal with most of the big post houses in LA. Workflow is important. Even if you're not Technicolor, I think that there are a lot of things indies can learn from them.

Finally, with regard to grading, here are my thoughts to any folks starting on this journey:

1. It's often best to work from a natural place towards a stylized result. Personally, I like to balance out my images a bit first... and THEN introduce the dramatic color. So much grading these days is just slathering some stupid look on. Instead, take your time... discover the colors in the image... emphasize beauty... then put on the look. Rather than slapping a blue grade over everything, first take a look at the scene... bring out the tiny red and yellow highlights, and then make everything blue except for those. Powerful color can come from tiny iridescent details. Don't kill the details.

2. Studying painting is a really good idea. You get a great idea of the power of color and tone... and you also learn what flesh tones actually are. So many people on the internet boards say "great skin tones" when they see a desaturated homogenized blob that Hollywood is telling us is the cool skin color for films these days. Ignore that nonsense - it's mostly just because we're in a transition period from film to digital - and most digital cameras can't capture skin tones worth a damn... so people slap a look on everything to hide the defects of digital, or try to turn those defects into a "strength". Thinking about it as if you were actually painting a portrait helps. Sometimes it's more about local color contrasts than absolute color values. Likewise, study photography to learn about how to really do tonal values justice.

3. Learn as much as you can from the pros. There are a lot of really generous, good people out there doing awesome stuff. Read every making-of that you can. Learn, learn, learn! Even if they're not using the software you are, chances are you can pick up a lot.

4. Watch older movies too. Film has a really pleasing color response - because it was developed that way over decades.

5. Don't clip details. When in doubt, tone down the effect you were going for. Less is often more. You can always push things to the maximum in a final pass.

6. Try to adopt industry-standard practices. They're sometimes standard for very good reasons.

7. Back up your work. Hard drives are really cheap. Time - and morale - is not.

8. Try to give yourself a neutral monitoring environment. This includes not only having a monitor that's somewhere close in color rendition to what your target market will be watching your content on... but also try to give yourself objectivity by going for a walk... structuring the grade over several days so that you can get some sleep and look at it with fresh eyes, etc. Scopes are also useful for this reason - they are an objective measurement of what is going on.

9. Don't be afraid of the creative possibilities of sharpening, local contrast enhancement and noise reduction. Use VFX techniques - lens flares, add chromatic aberration and glows, etc. Do whatever suits the look.

10. Interactivity is key to creativity. You don't need to work at full resolution. Work at proxy res and then render at full resolution. Or divide the processing into steps. If your computer is too slow, don't stay in RAW. Just convert to DNxHD or ProRes or EXR or DPX - as long as you don't clip color info and don't introduce too much banding, you should be OK. Keep the workflow fluid. At the same time... if you're wasting a lot of time, upgrade your darn computer. If you're doing a passion project, then take on some paying work, get the cash for the stuff you need, then return to your passion project.

I dunno. May add more later. Yay.

Bruce Allen
www.boacinema.com

bumkicho
04-23-2012, 07:52 PM
Bruce,
That was a great read for me. Thank you. If you could, please keep adding whatever you can share.

Steve Wake
04-23-2012, 09:08 PM
Joined just to say thanks! I'm so glad it looks like Bruce will be a regular here. He just raised the collective IQ and average experience level a few notches.

mattbatt
06-25-2012, 05:54 PM
Great write-up Bruce, thanks! I wonder if Resolve 9 will have CA correction built in? Is neat video or noise ninja that much better than Resolves NR that the roundtripping is necessary? Just questions as I'm still learning roundtripping best practices.

Jake Vincent
06-25-2012, 10:38 PM
awesome! thanks for the tips Bruce!

Bruce Allen
06-25-2012, 11:17 PM
Great write-up Bruce, thanks! I wonder if Resolve 9 will have CA correction built in? Is neat video or noise ninja that much better than Resolves NR that the roundtripping is necessary?
1. CA correction is a good feature request!
2. Neat Video is better (though a lot slower) - and in certain cases, it makes the roundtripping worth it for me. I suspect it varies per persona / project...
3. As for Resolve 9... I very very very sadly can't yet yell about how nifty it is cannot comment on non-publicly available products!


Just questions as I'm still learning roundtripping best practices.

All good questions - I think that the amount of roundtripping necessary really depends on the project and also how close to final you are...

If you're doing something with a time limit and funding limit... not necessary. Unless the client wants to pay for specific shots where you are de-noising (or you have to de-noise in order to make the client happy).

On the other extreme, take a look at Prometheus (graded in Resolve, shot on RED Epic). I'm sure that the images out of the camera were pretty darn nice. However, the final grade was done entirely from DPX files that had been pre-processed. Or... every David Fincher movie is run through the Lowry process, which is an extensive set of denoising, resolution enhancement, etc processes. The end result is something more consistent and filmic, at least according to Fincher.

For me, I'm really really busy during the day, so I have plenty of CPU cycles to burn on my own personal film stuff while I'm working. So I don't really mind doing my own "Bruce-ry process" in the background... other folks may be in more of a hurry!

My personal process is the old, boring one: offline, the online.

It's kinda like sketching: work rough to fine. I think it's because at my day job, we work on really big movies (Avengers, Inception, etc) but we get them at super low resolution, with tons of watermarks, etc. We work super-compressed on Avid for a really long time. Then finally something is approved and we worry about finishing it :)

Bruce Allen
www.boacinema.com

nickjbedford
06-25-2012, 11:27 PM
3. Learn as much as you can from the pros. There are a lot of really generous, good people out there doing awesome stuff. Read every making-of that you can. Learn, learn, learn! Even if they're not using the software you are, chances are you can pick up a lot.

Aim for for nothing but the highest standard with what you have at your disposal.

P.S. Thanks for writing this :)

Brad Ferrell
07-23-2012, 08:41 PM
Speaking selfishly, this is a great thread. Thanks Bruce. Nice corner.

mattbatt
07-25-2012, 01:24 PM
Yes, thanks again Bruce for your great write-up. I have a lot to learn!

awbacon
07-25-2012, 05:08 PM
awesome write up! I am equally as excited for the in box copy of Resolve as I am for the camera itself, since I have been recoloring my footage for the last eight years, and always love to learn a new method / application

nilsonium
07-27-2012, 02:26 AM
Woeow, that was an awesome read! I got so much out of that! More! :)