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Michael Essaf

How to get these style of Grades? (or maybe its lighting, not sure)

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Hello, I've been noticing lately in movies, hardly anything is natural color, its either cool, warm ora combonation of the two. I've tried just about everything (from lighting to multiple grading techniques) and can't seem to nail the look and feel of the shots I see. I've included 2 examples of what I'm talking about. The first is a very cool grade from the catching fire trailer (awesome). Somehow the highlights and shadows remain neutral, and it almost looks as if the midtones are a little bit neutral, but somehow it still seems blue. the 2nd picture is a scene from inception with a very orange feel. My question is how are these achieved, is it through grading, lighting, white balance, or a combination of them? Thanks for any advice!



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Hey Michael, I'm no colorist but I am trying to learn more and more. Here are some helpful links that's I came across for those cool/warm.


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The first (blue) shot is almost certainly graded that way, or filtered with in-camera settings. Looks like some desaturation and boosting the blues slightly in the midtones. Some applications have a hue interface (I'm thinking Apple Color) that can do the same with a little more finesse.


The second still could be accomplished with gels on the lights (since it was shot entirely with artificial light), but no reason it couldn't have been shot with a natural color cast and graded that way later.


When shooting with DSLR's or other prosumer gear (or anything for that matter, but the decision is not so permanent with RAW formats), I dial the kelvin scale cool or warm if that's the effect I want in the final image. Just remember these cameras don't hold up to heavy grading so well, so you may not be able to do much about it if you decide you don't want the effect later... at least not without adding some noise or other artifacts.


Simply adjusting the Kelvin above or below what's 'natural' for your light source can do 90% of the effect, with some minimal tweaks in post (if, say, you want your warm image to be more yellow or more red).


Frankly, I think the overall warm/cool cast is overused, exactly because it's easy to do in post and creates a 'distinctive' look without much effort. For example, I find the subtle contrast in the Alexa footage linked above much more striking than an image that just appears to have a blue filter on the lens. There's so much more going on in the color pallete than simply 'warm' or 'cool'--and alot of that is production design. Overall color cast has it's place, but I see it used too often as a crutch when colorists, DP's or directors think the picture seems too plain.

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Inception was a 35mm answer print, so in #2 it was a combination of set, lighting and photochemical timing, the first is the new Hunger Games film which is also 35mm but probably timed digitally maybe with tungsten under daylight stock.



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