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How do I get this look when grading a flat scan?


Matthew W. Phillips
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I have been spending the last 6 months obsessing over color grading in Davinci Resolve. I have worked a lot on my digital footage and gotten decent results once I started shooting color charts but my old film footage leaves a lot to be desired when I try to grade it.

I found a beautiful 16mm clip on Vimeo and this is a screen shot of it. I really want to know what techniques the colorist used to get this look. Any help would be appreciated as I think I have been looking at footage too much lately and am losing perspective.

vlcsnap-2021-11-23-03h55m35s681.png

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I mean it first has to be shot properly. The example above does not look like it has a crazy grade. The skin tones are right on and that's probably in the negative. Where there is for sure some touch up in the contrast especially, I don't see much else. 

So how would you mimic this? The first power window would be a base grade, get the shot in a good place balance wise. The second power window would be to deal with the color contrast. A lot of that can be done in the LOG area, but I find the refinement 2nd stage tools in version 17.4 to work wonders without resorting to LOG grading. The next power window would be to deal with the skin tones. I use the 3D tool to select the skin color and then alter it. Once the skin is in good shape, your final power window will be a face refinement. This helps dial in the skin features. Hard to do without 2 eyes in frame, but if you have a normal shot, it's pretty easy. So 5 power windows is where I'd be at and the end result will come out pretty good, as long as it's shot right. If you've got something that isn't shot right, then you maybe in a bit of a problem. That compositing trick has saved my ass on so many grades.

I'm not much of a colorist because I focus on nailing it in camera. Then it's just down to the scan from that point on. With film it's so easy to get things to look great. With digital, it's a lot harder. Color science plays a huge role and the results can be, shall we say, not so good. 

This shit is not graded, it's 100% direct off the scanner with a base LUT applied. The trick to decent skin tones is really exposure and light, direct light doesn't work as well as heavily diffused. You really want to pretend like you're shooting on a cloudy day most of the time or at magic hour like the first frame grab.

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Edited by Tyler Purcell
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6 hours ago, Matthew W. Phillips said:

I have been spending the last 6 months obsessing over color grading in Davinci Resolve. I have worked a lot on my digital footage and gotten decent results once I started shooting color charts but my old film footage leaves a lot to be desired when I try to grade it.

I found a beautiful 16mm clip on Vimeo and this is a screen shot of it. I really want to know what techniques the colorist used to get this look. Any help would be appreciated as I think I have been looking at footage too much lately and am losing perspective.

vlcsnap-2021-11-23-03h55m35s681.png

Was your old film footage scanned long time ago? Modern scanners yield really great images from film. Just a bit of contrast and offset adjustment should get you to the quality of that image above if scanned, in log,  on a good scanner. 

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