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Color Grading and Color Matching for the Film Look

Everyone can instantly picture the look and feel of films like Saving Private Ryan, with it's raw, gritty footage, or the Matrix, with is green-tinged digital world. Color Grading and color matching are two major components that enhance films and separate them from the look of video. Using some basic techniques, your next project can stand out with it's own unique look and feel.

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Video Transcript

Everyone can instantly picture the look and feel of films like Saving Private Ryan, with it's raw, gritty footage, or the Matrix, with is green-tinged digital world. Color Grading and color matching are two major components that enhance films and separate them from the look of video. Using some basic techniques, your next project can stand out with it's own unique look and feel. In this segment, we talk about
color matching, track mattes, and applying looks to your footage.
Knowing these basic techniques are some of the final steps to make your video, look like film.

Color matching ensures that footage shot in the same location under different circumstances has the same look and feel for continuity. Let's take a look at an example of color matching using premiere pro CS5.
These two clips were shot at different times with slightly different settings. You can see that the two shots are noticeably different. When color matching, it's important to choose a shot to be your master clip. This is the shot we'll use to match all other shots to from the same location. In this case, we've already done tonality and color correction on our master clip. Examine the two clips and use the crop effect or a mask to isolate a similar area in each shot. This will give you an "apples to apples" comparison on your scope. Position your master clip on the left, scaling the clip down if necessary, and place the clip you will be adjusting on top of your master clip in the timeline. Position this clip to the right of the master clip, scaling the clip down if necessary. Now we can see both clips side by side on our scopes. The first step is to change the tonality of the clip to match the master clip. In this case we'll use the fast color corrector to achieve this. We'll adjust the black input.... the white input.... and the midtones until it looks fairly similar to our master clip. The next step is matching the color. In this case we'll use the RGB curves effect. It's important to use the RGB parade scope here, as the vectorscope won't separate the hue and saturation data from the two images. Using the curves, adjust your color intensities, until the two shots match. If necessary, you can also apply the 3-way color corrector and adjust the color of the shadows, mid-tones, and highlights separately to get a precise match.
Sometimes, you'd like to darken a certain area of your shot, or you might want to create some artificial depth of field. You can accomplish this by using a track matte. Mattes work by using a greyscale image to define what areas of a shot are transparent, and what areas are opaque. Depending on your settings, white or black will be fully opaque or transparent, while the shades of grey will have varying degrees of transparency, based on the luminance
In premiere pro, we'll create a mask around our subject using the titler. The pen tool is used to draw a matte around our subject.... once the points are set, we can adjust the feather to give it a smooth transition... Now in the timeline, we'll create a second copy of our clip and place it above our original. We then take the matte we created and place it above our copied clip. The next step is to apply the track matte key effect onto our copied clip. Open up the effect controls and select the layer that the track matte is placed on to activate it. If you turn off the original clip, you'll see that your matte is working. From here, we can use the fast color corrector to darken the background. You can also use a blur effect to create some artificial depth of field. This same principal can be used to apply numerous different affects to specific areas of your clip.
Using a vignette on your footage is another effective tool you can use to help create the film look. A vignette creates some darkening around the edges of your footage, and pulls the viewers eyes toward the middle of the scene. Let's see how this is done in premiere pro cs5.
First right click an empty area of your project window and create a piece of black video. Place this video above the footage you wish apply the vignette effect to. Now apply the circle effect to your black video. Open the controls for the circle effect and check the invert circle box. Click on the color box and change the default white color to black. Now make your circle larger using the scale parameter, until the top and bottom edges of the circle reach the edge of your footage. Next, Drop down the settings for the motion parameters, and uncheck uniform scale. Now increase the width scale until the edges of the circle reach the sides of your footage. Back in the circle parameters, drop down the settings for feather and increase the feather until you have a nice gradual fade. And finally, lower the opacity on the circle effect until your vignette reaches your desired intensity.
So you've got your footage matched and corrected for color, you've used mattes to pull the audiences focus, and you're still looking to put a final touch on your project to make it stand out. Color Grading applies an intentional "look" to your footage to achieve a desired effect. There are endless combinations of settings you can play with to achieve unique looks, and we'll look at two simple techniques you can achieve in most edit programs.

Tinting your footage can help accentuate a particular mood or location in film. Whether you're trying to give a cold blue feel, or re-create the green-tinted world of the matrix, you can achieve multiple looks using simple techniques. Let's look at creating the matrix type look in premier pro.
Using the fast color corrector effect in premiere pro, the first step is to drop your saturation levels. This will reduce the intensity of the color in your shot. Now drag the circle on the color wheel toward the hue you're looking for. In this case, we'll drag it toward green to mimic the matrix. You can see that even these two simple steps has created an interesting look and feel to our footage. You can adjust the black input levels to darken your shadows, or the white input levels to give an overexposed look. Adjusting the hue on the color wheel can give you cool or warm looks as well.
The second look we'll create is a bleach bypass look, such as the one seen in saving private ryan.
In order to accomplish this, we'll create a copy of our footage and place it directly on top of the original. Using the Fast color corrector effect, we can take the saturation of the top clip down to 0. now open the opacity setting for the top clip and change your blending mode to screen. From here, you can adjust the opacity until you achieve the look you want. You can also experiment with other blending modes and opacity levels to get different effects, or apply another layer of color correcting to apply tinting to your clip.
Color Grading, mattes, and Shot matching are great tools to refine your project, and truly make it stand out. When you combine these skills with well lit shots, and great camera work that utilizes shallow depth of field, you can make your video, look like film.

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