The Video Editor’s Guide to Color Grading
Increasingly, color grading is being handled by video editors working on laptops and desktops instead of calibrated displays. Here are some ways to make this reality work for you.
Professional color grading applications have plummeted in price from six figures to zero. Meanwhile, accurate, grade-quality monitors have continued to remain expensive and out of reach. This bifurcation of technology has created a whole generation of people doing color work on video without the ability to evaluate the results on a properly calibrated display.
First off, a caveat: it is a much better experience to color grade in an environment suited for accuracy with a color-calibrated display. The problem with color is that it is so hard to do right, and so easy to really screw up.
If your pipeline includes finishing in a color suite with a skilled colorist, then stop reading now. If, however, you are part of the vast majority of people doing color work for video who are precisely NOT colorists, then this article will have some helpful tips to get you through to the finish line.
Increasingly, color correction and grading is being handled by editors on portables and desktops, creating content that will live on mobile phones and in someone’s Facebook feed. For most content, color doesn’t need to be perfect — it just has to be in the ballpark.
You’re Not a Colorist. So What?
You are not a trained colorist, yet your post-production pipeline requires you to play that role. This is especially true on the corporate, indie, and industrial end and for material that will live in the social media ecosystem. It’s not wrong, it’s just projects with deadlines and low budgets — how media is created now.
For decades, shows were shot and edited with post-color handled as an afterthought — if it was ever thought about at all. In the early 1990s, I used a Time Base Corrector (TBC) to make sure color values were “kinda right” and that was the extent of it.
It was up to the DP and camera crew to make sure the light sources were a consistent color temperature, and the camera was properly black and white balanced. Everything came to me as Rec 709 on a tape, and there wasn’t a lot I could do beyond the most basic of signal adjustments.
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