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Hollywood color grade vs Non professional color grade


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Hello group:

So I have always wondered this question.  What is the workflow or grading process that is different from an amateur color grading one.  For example I have never seen a low budget film shot on a shoe string budget have the same polish of a Hollywood film shot on the same camera.  Besides the obvious production design,  sets,  cinematography the lower budgets in my opinion never come close to the prestine look.  Is there a secret sauce they use in the process?  Even when they release deleted scenes which they didnt bother to finish their footage looks amazing. IN TIME shot by Roger Deakins has a lot of deleted scenes that werent finished but they still look great.  And yes I know Deakins is a genius.

Thanks

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Personally, I think it is just the obvious things you’ve mentioned. I also think that having recognizable actors does make a film ‘look’ more polished, as unfair as that may be. I’m sure every colorist has their own ‘special sauce’ just like every DP does with lighting techniques. I’ve noticed that every colorist works in a radically different way too, but they all make it look good in the end. So how ‘special’ can the sauce be then?

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At some point, the technology becomes less of a factor than the talent, skill, and experience of the colorist. Besides that, the only issue I have sometimes with home color-correction is the lack of calibrated monitors and working within delivery standards, so if you take the finished product later to a post house, you find that it doesn't look like you thought it would.

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It all depends on how it's shot on set. Most modern productions will only require a custom LUT to look good. Where a really high end grade, where you isolate every single element in a given shot and treat it, can make things pop, it's not a necessity. I frankly hate that form of grading. Where I do a few power windows to help smoothen things out and clean up mistakes, I don't think it's necessary to do as much work as the top colorists do. In my eyes, a lot of coloring today is overkill. 

You can very easily learn how to grade at home with professional tools these days. Buying a decently accurate grading monitor. Getting the appropriate hardware/software to make it all work, is not that costly. It really comes down to talent at that point, much like cinematography in general. 

So in my eyes; do a good job on set, pretend you don't have coloring tools in post and only use the tools to cleanup . 

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There really isn't any difference any more on the tech side between pro and amateur colorists. Lots of professional colorists use Resolve. They have panels to control everything faster, professional calibrated monitors, super fast computers, but other then that it's the same thing. 

 

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1 minute ago, Albion Hockney said:

There really isn't any difference any more on the tech side between pro and amateur colorists. Lots of professional colorists use Resolve. They have panels to control everything faster, professional calibrated monitors, super fast computers, but other then that it's the same thing. 

 

Honestly, for most work these days, unless you're doing outrageously complex grades with noise reduction on high frame rate, ultra high resolution material, a decent gaming computer will be absolutely fine. Whether or not you like or need trackballs is a matter of opinion; a lot of people are more used to mousing these days.

The big issue is the monitoring, but it doesn't cost that much to get a half-decent display and get someone to come and set it up for you. If you want to finish Dolby Vision, that's another matter, but anything up to and including that... it's not that hard anymore.

I should probably point out that there's a massive amount of politics involved and, as so often, the gap between what can be done technically and what people will take seriously is quite large. 

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The colorists at the post house's do have immense experience and often a lot of creative input in the grades. They spend their whole day grading, every day. So what you pay for is their eye, just like a DP. That said....yea like everything in this industry lots of BS/Politics/Smoke and Mirrors too. 

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1 hour ago, Albion Hockney said:

The colorists at the post house's do have immense experience and often a lot of creative input in the grades. They spend their whole day grading, every day. So what you pay for is their eye, just like a DP. That said....yea like everything in this industry lots of BS/Politics/Smoke and Mirrors too. 

I think colour is a very good example of the smoke and mirrors. I have seen stuff I thought was borderline incompetent praised to the heavens, frankly on no basis more than that it was done for a very popular and widely-distributed series. Consistency is a challenge, no matter what result you're aiming for, and dealing with less-than-ideal material makes that even harder, but the correctness of any particular result is, within reason, a matter of opinion, and the emperor has many impressive outfits as a result.

It's a really good example of a bit of cognitive science called choice-supportive bias, in which people seek to justify their decisions by being overly positive about them. People who make colour adjustments to film and TV pictures are often paid very high salaries and the more expensive something is, the more people tend to big it up after buying it. It's the only reason brands work as a sales tactic; do Reebok really make better sneakers than an off brand? No, but after you've spent considerably over the odds buying them, you're probably going to want to make yourself feel better about having done that, by telling your friends how brilliant your new shoes are. Apple as a company probably only exists in its current form because of choice-supportive bias. Add in industry politics and it's easy to see why the world is full of people falling over themselves to praise colourists.

Most colourists do not have significantly greater technical ability that a decent photographer with a working knowledge (not even a mastery, really) of Photoshop. Many people lack even this and therefore what a colourist does often looks more complex and impressive than it is. The consistency and matching thing is an additional skill, certainly, but none of this is more important than the soft skills of client and session management and attracting business in the first place.

In short as long as you can make a sequence look like it all happened in the same place at the same time, the rest of it is more about persuading people of your personal awesomeness.

P

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  • 5 weeks later...

OP...look at the credits on the big budget films. I never counted them, but how many hundred people worked on 1917? Hollywood can buy the best talent.

How many people work on a low budget film...20 or 30?   Or in my case...1.

Someone on another forum asked a similar question of why their fashion shots did not compare to a pro's work they saw.  Reality is $$ buys an art director, set designer, a nice studio, assistants, hair stylist, food stylist, $$ camera, exotic locals, top models, prop man, fixer, post processing, cooperation and connections. Even so, amateurs can produce decent quality still work...if they have the talent.

I can't post the photo because I can't reduce it enough to fit my KB limits here, but look at Mary Ellen Mark's crew for her project Twins from an old post I did a few years ago. 

NSFW

Is it easier for the rich photog? – Daniel D. Teoli Jr. (wordpress.com)

Unless you are rich / well funded, who could even afford to feed that crew for just a couple of days, let alone hire them for a project. She was able to scout out the project years ahead of time and took 2 years to shoot it. She drove down there with 2 vans, a huge crew and loads of equipment.

At that post I go into detail about a project I shot in Amsterdam. My budget allowed me 5 days to shoot it. 

Also at the end of that post is a sample of my BW still contrast grading. It is very high level. Now, my movie grading is not great. Still learning the ropes. 

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
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There’s a documentary about Vogue called “The September Issue” and based on various comments by different people in the film it’s possible to work out that their budget at the time (over ten years ago) was roughly $10,000 per page. Some of those pages only have a single photo on. 

It’s possible to buy a lot of talent for that amount of money.  

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Similarly, consider a big budget film that costs $100,000,000- 200,000,000.

Sounds like a lot of money already, but break it down a bit further. 

It’s $1,000,000 per minute. 

Over $15,000 per second. 

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On 1/2/2021 at 3:43 PM, Mei Lewis said:

Similarly, consider a big budget film that costs $100,000,000- 200,000,000.

Sounds like a lot of money already, but break it down a bit further. 

It’s $1,000,000 per minute. 

Over $15,000 per second. 

I'm not sure how much of that really goes on talent.

OK, much of it is absurd fees for above-the-title people. Avengers: Infinity War cost, according to online numbers, anywhere between 300 and 400 million. It has been publicly suggested that even the less-prominent members of the huge numbers of principal cast were paid $15m for what can't have been more than a few weeks' work. Presumably people like Downey make significantly more.

It made over two billion, so nobody at Marvel is complaining, but I'm not sure there's anything objective about Chris Hemsworth that makes it worthwhile. There might be something from a business perspective, sure, but if the thing had had crap cinematography or sound design or whatever it would still have failed just as hard.

 

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On 11/30/2020 at 8:16 PM, omar robles said:

Hello group:

So I have always wondered this question.  What is the workflow or grading process that is different from an amateur color grading one.  For example I have never seen a low budget film shot on a shoe string budget have the same polish of a Hollywood film shot on the same camera.  Besides the obvious production design,  sets,  cinematography the lower budgets in my opinion never come close to the prestine look.  Is there a secret sauce they use in the process?  Even when they release deleted scenes which they didnt bother to finish their footage looks amazing. IN TIME shot by Roger Deakins has a lot of deleted scenes that werent finished but they still look great.  And yes I know Deakins is a genius.

Thanks

There is... no "secret sauce".  Well, except that production design, wardrobe, and movie star good looks make photography look much much better!  

So, assuming equally good cinematography... these days anyone can color grade a movie at home to look as good as many expensive post houses can produce.  There are a few superb colorists out there, a whole bunch of competent ones, and ... lots of guys who know the knobs, but not photography.

I'm a cinematographer who has color corrected some of the films I've photographed, at home.  So, call me a "semi-pro" colorist 🙂  I'm using Davinci Resolve, an Eizo display I've calibrated myself, and a few thousand dollars worth of computer stuff.

If you're interested in what can be done at home, here are some clips of the last theatrical picture I color corrected in my house...  It's a "lowish budget" movie, shot on location without a major Hollywood production design, though we did our best!

 

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Just saw this response . Your work looks amazing out of curiosity you mentioned an Enzio monitor, I am in the market for one which one do you use?

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