Welcome to another ISA feature article. Today, we're diving deep into a topic that often takes a backseat in the adrenaline-filled realm of action and stunt filmmaking ... colour grading. If you wonder, "Why focus on that when there are high-octane explosions and heart-stopping stunts to choreograph?" The answer is simple: colour grading is an unsung hero of Film that amplifies the visual impact and sensory experience of those very elements, giving your audience an unforgettable cinematic experience instead of bland / realistic colour and tone.
When executed correctly, color grading can heighten the tension in a chase sequence, add depth to a dramatic standoff, or even enhance the raw energy of a fight scene. Just like a well-timed stunt or a meticulously choreographed action sequence, colours on screen play a crucial role in storytelling. Whether you're a filmmaker, editor, or anyone involved in the creative process, understanding the nuances of color grading is indispensable.
In this comprehensive article, we'll demystify the art and science of colour grading. You'll learn about its significance and some iconic uses in film, and even get hands-on advice to start grading your own sequences. Step into the edit suite and let's begin...
In the fast-paced world of film and action sequences, the devil is often in the details. One of the "devils" that has the most impact but is also ignored the most is colour. When we speak about colour here we're also talking about tone, contrast and all the things that influence how we perceive colour.
Often we focused on things like good lenses, great capture, performing the perfect the stunt or capturing the ideal angle ... and then waste the opportunity for a perfect finish. Your colour palette silently works its magic to create a captivating visual experience, or it doesn't. In this article, we're exploring what colour grading is, why it's done, some iconic instances where it's made a massive impact, and how you can do it yourself using Adobe Premiere Pro as the demo software.
What Is Colour Grading?
Colour grading is the process of altering and enhancing the color of a film, video, or still image either electronically, photo-chemically, or digitally. The goal is to create a visual tone that complements the story or thematic elements of the film. Unlike colour correction, which aims to make the colours as accurate as possible, colour grading is an artistic endeavor.
Why Is It Done?
Iconic Uses of Colour Grading
"The Matrix" (1999)
The film used a green tint to distinguish the Matrix from the real world. This not only created a visual cue for viewers but also added to the film's surreal, unsettling atmosphere.
"Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015)
The film famously used a unique color grading scheme that featured desaturated backgrounds but vibrant skin tones, providing an intense visual contrast that matched the film’s raw energy.
This Oscar-winning film used color grading effectively to signify class divisions, with the rich family's home appearing in vibrant, golden hues, and the poor family's environment in dull, bluish tones.
A warm, golden palette brought to life the whimsical world of Amélie, creating an almost dream-like reality.
Beyond using a film as the final example, let's talk about a Director and their whole style. Wes Anderson's distinct filmmaking style is deeply intertwined with colour grading, among other visual techniques. Anderson is known for his meticulously crafted worlds, each filled with a particular colour palette that is essential to the narrative and emotional undertones of his films.
How Wes Anderson Uses Color Grading:
How Can You Do It?
A Brief Guide to Color Grading in Adobe Premiere Pro
Colour grading is an under-appreciated yet incredibly significant aspect of filmmaking. As an action filmmaker or editor, understanding and leveraging this can be the ace up your sleeve and make your work really stand out in a competitive market where everything ultimately looks the same.
Note: While Adobe Premiere Pro is a robust tool for colour grading, dedicated colour grading programmes such as DaVinci Resolve offers more specialised functionalities for those wanting to dive deeper.
Insights from our ISA Masterclass: Tips and Rules for Mastering Colour Grading in Film
Understand Your Story's Tone.
Work With High-Quality Footage
Do's and Don'ts
Do: Begin with Color Correction
Do: Use Adjustment Layers
Do: Remember that Consistency is Key
Do: Test Across Different Screens
Don't: Overdo It
Don't: Forget About Skin Tones
Use Masks and Trackers
Use Parallels and Complementaries
Experiment with LUTs
Mastering the craft of color grading is much like fine-tuning your action choreography or tweaking your script. It needs patience, practice, and above all, a discerning eye for detail. With these tips and rules at your disposal, you're well on your way to creating visually arresting narratives that resonate on both an emotional and aesthetic level.
This blog os co-authored by The ISA Team