Sunday, February 07, 2010

Grading, NOT Correction

Tonight Jeff and I sat down and began grading the color and B/W levels of our film. It's taken a while to get to this point, but we're finally doing it. I say "grading" because apparently that's the correct term to use when referring to color correcting an image. The term "correcting" implies that something is wrong. Oh so terribly, terribly wrong.

When color grading, it's important to adjust the ambient room lighting. Too much glare on the monitor and you won't be able to accurately adjust the black, white and grey levels. These adjustments are made using a waveform monitor. First, grade or "crush" the blacks. No that's not supposed to be offensive, it simply means that you lower the black levels to the point where detail is lost. For example, shadows. This creates a contrasting look and is ideal for making the image pop. Once the black levels are set, it's time to further increase the image contrast by grading the white levels, or highlights. The goal is to push the white levels to the top line of the waveform monitor and drive the black levels to the bottom. Here's some video of Jeff doing just that:

Both Jeff and I shared the grading duties. He gets a Grade A+ for a job well done!

So, there you have it! Color correction 101. Jeff and I managed to finish 3:23 minutes of our film. Just 23-plus minutes to go and we'll be ready to compress for DVD and online viewing.

More to come...

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Color Correction Commences

Now that our film is locked, it's time to make some final adjustments. Color Correction for film and video is not as easy as one might think. It takes a keen eye, patience and most of all a total lack of color blindness. The obvious solution to color correcting any film would be to hire a color corrector. But since we have limited funding, Jeff and I will have to perform all of the correction. Which isn't a bad thing. I come from a family of artists, so I feel as though I can claim to know what the hell I'm doing. Even if I really have no clue whatsoever.

Tonight we calibrated our HD Monitors. A task that took over an hour and a half. First, we threw color bars onto the screen. For most people, color bars are the annoying image that appears on network television just after the end of a broadcast day. Usually right after the Star Spangled Banner and just before the arrival of the Poltergeists. Several things must be adjusted in order to have a perfectly calibrated monitor: Hue, Gamma, Contrast, Brightness.

We first called upon Jeff's friend Nate to help us adjust our Sony monitor. Nate served as our projectionist for the premier of "Continue" and knows his stuff. Once our monitor was calibrated, we calibrated the color bars on that monitor. These two calibrations are critical to the color correction process. It is impossible to correctly adjust color (including whites, mids and black levels) without a perfectly calibrated monitor. We are also sending a true 720p signal to the monitor, which means that all pixels are mapped 1:1. There is no zooming or upscaling. What you see on the monitor is true 720p.

Our next step will be to calibrate for a Standard Definition (SD) monitor. We will be sending our video signal to both HD and SD monitors to color correct for both. Why? Because some people will see this film on an HD screen and others will watch it on a non-HD (Analog) television set. We want everyone to be happy with the final image.

Once the HD and SD monitors are calibrated, Jeff and I will begin the painstaking process of color correcting each shot in our film.

Next: More color correction.