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Davinci resolve: highlight roll off tweaking

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Hello group:

so a colorist I was speaking to told me the secret to get a filmic image besides the obvious lighting,  production design etc is the way you deal with the highlights in post.  So in doing reasearch I discovered a lot of Colorist’s isolate the highlights in davinci and slightly blur them. Is there anything more in working with highlights in order to get the professional look? Like I look at Roger Deakins work with digital and that’s what I aspire to obtain.





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I would think that blurring highlights in post is only usually done when there is some issue with the camera original capture clipping highlights in an unnatural way.  I've not usually found any need for this, but I have used a "glow" filter, that kind of mimics a promist filter on the camera, to spread the highlights a bit, but it's a different effect than blurring highlights.


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One thing I like to do is to simply lower the highlights from full 100% to something like 90-95%. With scanned negative film, there is often some detail in the brightest highlights and yet with a log scan, white never gets anywhere near 100% unless you choose to raise them. 

With most manufacturer-provided Rec.709 transforms for digital cameras, they generally push highlights to 100% (or 109% in non-broadcast situations) by default. To me, this is a part of the ‘video look.’ So by avoiding highlight clipping in-camera and lowering the white point in post, you are sort of mimicking part of the scanned film look.

Also, slightly halating (glowing) highlights with a warm reddish tinge is another part of the film look. It’s a subtle visual cue that signals the film has reached it’s peak brightness level, yet because of the film scanning process it does not have to be reproduced as 100% white. You can get the halation part from in-camera diffusion filters, old soft lenses, or in post with a glow filter. In Resolve you can isolate highlights and soften the Red channel separately to get a red halo. But that will leave you will a cyan tinge to the in-focus areas. A better way would be to composite a red highlight glow as a separate VFX element.

Another part is the color - most high end digital cameras produce colors differently than film. Deep blues, purples, cyans, yellows and especially greens can be more saturated on digital cameras. And reds tend to be purer on film, they can appear more orange on some digital cameras. This is where a plug-in like Filmconvert can help to quickly shift colors into a more pleasing starting point. It may not necessarily be more accurate to real life, but it can be more aesthetically pleasing and ‘film-like.’

Lastly, there is film grain which also helps to bring the highlights down a bit and add some texture to give the impression of more detail. 

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I would only blur highlights for a cosmetic diffusion effect on close-ups if needed, it's not standard operating procedure in color-correction.  Isolating bright highlights (like lamp shades, curtain sheers, skies, etc.) and then perhaps bringing them down so they don't clip in Rec.709 gamma is pretty common though.

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