So You Want to Buy a Spectroradiometer?

It all started with me wanting to analyze the color of some out-of-calibration projectors with potentially aged bulbs in order to see if I could create a “poorly calibrated projector” LUT to more closely examine the effects of poor projector quality on a graded image. Why is a tale for another time; suffice it to say, it’s a research project.

I have a Klein K-10 Colorimeter which I was originally intending to use for the project, but while discussing my plan with Bram Desmet at Flanders Scientific, who’s an extremely knowledgable fellow when it comes to display calibration, he pointed out that a Colorimeter would be unsuitable for my purposes since the potentially aged bulbs of the projectors that I needed to measure would have an unknown spectral distribution, and Colorimeters assume a known spectral distribution for any given device (which is supplied as a profile for each device).

Crap.

Turns out I needed to use a Spectroradiometer, which is another device for measuring color, that directly measures the short, medium, and long wavelengths of light that we see as color – making it able to accurately measure the spectral distribution of any light source without any other information.

I’ve avoided Spectroradiometers up until now because (a) they’ve traditionally been pretty expensive, and (b) like I said, I’ve already got a Colorimeter. However, given some projects on the horizon, it had occurred to me that it might not be a bad thing to bite the bullet and invest in another measurement instrument, not only for its value in future color research, but also because I could then use it to recalibrate my Colorimeter, since all Colorimeters benefit from periodic recalibration to make sure that everything is being measured accurately.

The Colorimetry Research CR-250 Spectroradiometer

The Colorimetry Research CR-250 Spectroradiometer, the model shown is with the optional targeting scope.

Of course, it turns out that you ALSO need to get the Spectroradiometer periodically calibrated. However, I discovered that I had no idea how Spectroradiometers got calibrated. And I hate not knowing things.

Bram introduced me to Guillermo Keller, President of Colorimetry Research, who graciously invited me to the lab where the Spectroradiometers they make (the CR-250) are calibrated before being shipped out, so I could see the whole process in person.

I’ve written about display calibration before, both on this blog, and in my Color Correction Handbook. In order to do color-critical work such as grading a movie, episodic show, or music video for the public’s enjoyment, it’s essential to have a display capable of outputting accurate, standards-compliant video. Displays are made accurate via a calibration procedure whereby thousands of color patches are displayed on that monitor and measured by a color probe of some kind, either a Colorimeter or Spectroradiometer.

Using the CR-250 with LightSpace to calibrate a theater screen.

Using the CR-250 with LightSpace to calibrate a theater screen.

The software that generates the color patches going to the display and simultaneously records measurements made with the probe (applications include Light Illusion’s LightSpace and SpectraCal’s CalMan) then compares the actual color of each patch with the measured color being emitted by your display, and compiles the thousands of measurements being taken into a characterization that describes how that display is really showing color. The calibration software can then mathematically compare a display’s characterization to the desired video standard that display is supposed to be outputting (BT.709, P3, or Rec.2020), and generate a calibration LUT to load back onto the display (or onto a LUT box sending a video signal to the display) that is used to guarantee that display is outputting accurate color across the spectrum according to the appropriate video standard in use.

Display calibration is dependent on the accuracy of your measuring device, and Colorimeters and Spectroradiometers can subtly shift over time, so unfortunately it’s not enough to simply buy an expensive probe and put it on your shelf, you need to have your probe of choice recalibrated over time. Guillermo recommends having both the CR-250 and CR-100 recalibrated once yearly.

Calibration, in fact, is a carefully controlled chain of device measurements. Monitors can be calibrated using Colorimeters. Colorimeters can be calibrated using Spectroradiometers. But how then are Spectroradiometers calibrated?

Very carefully, it turns out. And using equipment that is itself calibrated, extending the chain of calibration all the way back to fundamental components that are manufactured and performance-tracked by companies such as Gooch and Housego, that are themselves compared to light sources that are traceable to devices and methods standardized by NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. So, if you’re wondering who, through the long chain of calibration, is ultimately responsible for the color accuracy of every movie, television show, promo, and advertisement you watch, it’s the federal government.

But this is going all the way down the rabbit hole. For the film and video practitioner’s practical purposes, it is the calibration of Spectroradiometers upon which the scaffolding of our industry rests, and there are four fundamental procedures involved with this. Each of these tests rely on taking spectral measurements of a known light source. The accuracy of everything else relies entirely on the maintenance and care taken with these light sources.

First, a Helium-gas lamp is used to calibrate the Spectroradiometer sensor’s pixel-to-wavelength transformation.

Calibrating a Spectroradiometer to a Helium light source.

Calibrating a Spectroradiometer to a Helium light source.

The Helium-gas lamp bulb, which is similar in principle to a Neon sign tube, has a unique and utterly reliable spectral distribution that spikes at specific wavelengths. These spikes are clear to see, do not vary, and provide an easy way to calculate the difference between what the probe is reading, and the reality of physics. This offset is stored on the probe as a transformation.

Helium spectral distribution

The spectral distribution of a Helium-gas lamp.

Next, a tungsten light source reflecting diffusely within an integrated sphere is used to calibrate the probe’s reading of spectral distribution.

The integrated sphere is itself calibrated to NIST standards, and the bulb usage is carefully timed and recorded, since the whole sphere is periodically sent in for measurement. In fact, one of the measures taken to extend the life of this device is to only turn it on by slowly increasing the voltage from 0 to full, in order to prevent spikes of voltage causing unnecessary wear to the bulb.

As with the Helium measurement, the difference between the measured spectral radiance in linear pixels (the raw data that is recorded by the probe through the optics) and the known output of the integrated sphere is used to determine the transform from the pixel value recorded by the probe to an accurate reading of spectral radiance. This transform is also stored on the probe.

Spectral output of the diffuse tungsten lighting within the integrated sphere.

Spectral output of the diffuse tungsten lighting within the integrated sphere.

Lastly, as an alternate step, the quality of the integrated sphere’s output can be verified by measuring the reflectance of a NIST-traceable tungsten bulb (a $1000 200-watt lamp) shining on a similarly NIST-standardized diffuse “reflectance standard” from a specific distance. To highlight how picky these devices are, the bulb must be sent in to be re-measured every 600 minutes, with the new measurements being factored in to subsequent use of that bulb. Meanwhile, the reflectance target, which is comprised of compressed chalk-like particles, must be certified to be close to 100% reflective.

This is only done for spot checking, in order to verify that the integrated sphere is operating correctly. The bulb and reflectance target are mounted a measured distance apart (the intensity of the reflected light is controlled in this way via the inverse square law), with the probe pointed at the target, and another measurement is taken and compared.

Spectroradiometer measuring the NIST traceable bulb reflecting off of the reflectance standard target.

Spectroradiometer measuring the NIST traceable bulb reflecting off of the reflectance standard target.

And that’s it. Once each Spectroradiometer has been calibrated in this way with the offsets stored on the probe, they’re shipped out to manufacturers, calibrators, and facility people who in turn use them to calibrate the displays we use in the world of film and video.

In the process of learning how Spectroradiometers are calibrated, I also learned much more about how they actually work, and how they fundamentally differ in operation from Colorimeters. These differences are key to understanding each device’s differing advantages and disadvantages when it comes to you making a choice about what kind of device to use.

Spectroradiometers measure the wavelengths of light directly. Optics are used to gather light through the front lens and  focus it through a “diffraction grating,” which is a grooved filter where each groove works as a tiny prism to split the light apart for measurement. In Spectroradiometers, the quality of these optics determine the quality of the instrument, given in nanometers (for example, the CR-250 is a 4 nm probe, which is considered extremely accurate for purposes of video calibration).

The CR-250 shown connected to an Android phone running portable measurement software.

The CR-250 shown connected to an Android phone running portable measurement software.

The light that’s split apart via the diffraction grating then falls upon the 250-pixel grid of the Spectroradiometer’s CMOS sensor, which is set up to measure the 380 to 780 nanometer range of the spectrum that CIE 1931 specifies as the visible range of light. Because Spectroradiometers measure the spectral distribution of light directly, they need no other information about the source being measured.

However, because of the physics of how they function, Spectroradiometers are slow. The diffraction grating is not efficient at transmitting light; two-thirds of the light coming in through the front lens is lost right off the bat. Then, only 1/250th of the remaining light is measured by each pixel of the probe’s sensor. The only way to compensate for this low sensitivity is to increase the exposure time of light falling onto the sensor. This isn’t a problem when measuring bright colors, but it becomes a significant problem when measuring very dark colors. For example, measuring a 3 candela source requires a 30 second exposure for a Spectroradiometer. This means that they’re slow to operate.

Colorimeters work much differently. Colorimetry Research also makes a Colorimeter, the CR-100, but the principle is the same for colorimeters made by anyone. For the CR-100, light coming through the front lens is split and directed through three colored glass filters, one each for Red, Green, and Blue, with the filtration specified by the CIE 1931 2 degree standard observer spectral response curves, which attempt to model the sensitivity of the cones of human eyes to low, medium, and high wavelengths to light. The output of each filter is then measured, with the quality of the measurement depending entirely on how well the filters match the CIE 1931 standard observer model.

The CR-250 and CR-100 mounted side by side.

The CR-250 and CR-100 mounted side by side.

Because the sensors reading the output of the Red, Green, and Blue filters are each receiving one-third of the available light, Colorimeters are extremely fast. The same 3 candela source that takes 30 seconds to be read by a Spectroradiometer only takes 1 millisecond on a Colorimeter. However, the truth is that the speed of Colorimeter readings also depends on the refresh rate of the display device (in Hz), so assuming a display running at 60 Hz, the measurement actually takes 16.6 milliseconds. Either way, this is considerably faster than a Spectroradiometer.

And this increased sensitivity means that Colorimeters are also better at measuring extremely dark colors, with the CR-100 capable of taking accurate color measurements all the way down to .03 cd/m2, and accurate luminance measurements all the way down to .003 cd/m2.

However, because Colorimeters are using fixed filters based on CIE 1931, they must be supplied with specific information about the spectral distribution of the particular type of light they’re measuring, as different displays use completely different types of light sources to emit an image. Otherwise, they’ll give inaccurate results. This means that you need to store different profiles on the Colorimeter (which is typical) for Plasma, Fluorescent-backlit LCD, White-LED-backlit LCD, OLED, etcetera. Usually, Colorimeters store generic profiles on the probe itself (which are available via pop-up menus in the calibration software you’re using), for use in measuring each display you have, and typically this works fine.

Different profiles for each of the available display backlight technologies.

Different profiles for each of the available display backlight technologies.

However, depending on the quality of your display and the accuracy and age of its backlight, it’s possible that the backlight of your display may diverge from the optimism of the generic profile on your probe, in which case the resulting measurements may be a little off.

So, the basic choices are between a Spectroradiometer that will be totally accurate for any device, but will take a really, really long time to do a full 17 x 17 x 17 sampling of the RGB color cube to profile your display (that’s 4,913 color patches), or a Colorimeter which will do that same 4,913 color patch calibration in an hour, but that might be a tiny bit off if there’s something obscure that’s wrong with your display.

I’m not trying to scare you. To put this into perspective, many companies get great results when using a calibrated Colorimeter’s generic presets to measure a high-quality display device. This is yet another reason to not try and use a cheap television or computer display, since displays that are designed to be color-critical also happen to be easier to calibrate.

However, if you demand total accuracy and total efficiency in any situation, there is another path, and that is to use a Spectroradiometer in addition to a Colorimeter in what calibration applications refer to as offset mode. Both LightSpace and CalMan can do this, and it involves using the Spectroradiometer to take four readings from your monitor, Red, Green, Blue, and White. Those readings are then used to calculate an offset for the Colorimeter’s measurements, so that the Colorimeter’s 4,913 readings are totally accurate for that display at that moment in time.

So, if you were wondering why high-quality color probes are so expensive, this glimpse behind the curtain of the technologies involved hopefully provides some, ahem, illumination. Although I would be remiss were I not to point out that prices are lower than they’ve ever been, what with Colorimetry Research’s CR-250 Spectroradiometer going for $6,990, and their CR-100 Colorimeter going for $4,990 (prices taken from Flanders Scientific). Furthermore, there are many other vendors to consider, including Klein Instruments, Photo Research, Konica Minolta, and Xrite, to name the ones with which I’m familiar.

And hopefully this has clarified the concrete differences between the two kinds of probes, giving you some background for further research in the process of trying to figure out which will be more useful for your application.

Typically, the easy answer is usually the most expensive one. Buy one of each.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.

On Violence, Terrorism, and War

Rage is the engine, and retribution is the fuel that keeps the carousel of violence on which we find ourselves spinning. More rage and more retribution won’t solve or end anything, but it will result in more death, and it will keep the carousel spinning.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.

Generating Optimized Media That Won’t Clip

Here’s an important tip when using “Optimized Media” in DaVinci Resolve 12 (or higher) to spare yourself the processing overhead of debayering raw media. For those of you who don’t know, you can right-click a selection of clips in the Media Pool that are in one or more formats that are processor intensive to work with (camera raw clips, H.264, other intensive-to-decode media types), and choose “Generate Optimized Media” to have Resolve automatically create an alternate set of media files that let you work faster.

Generate Optimized Media

All Optimized Media you generate is compressed using whatever setting is currently selected in the General Options panel of the Project Settings. The default media format is ProRes 422 HQ.

Optimized Media Format

Once you’ve generated optimized media for a set of clips in a project, the Playback > Use Optimized Media if Available setting determines whether or not you’re using Optimized Media, or the original media files that you had imported into the Media Pool.

Use Optimized Media if Available

When using Optimized Media, you can also reveal an additional column in the Media Pool’s list view, which lets you see which clips have been optimized, and which clips haven’t.

Optimized Media Media Pool Column

However, there’s a potential problem with using Optimized Media, which can be seen in clips with high dynamic range; the highlights of any image data with levels above 1023 become clipped. In the following screenshots, you can see the winter exterior has plenty of levels above 1023, as evidenced by the waveform below.

Original Image

Original Waveform

However, after optimizing these CinemaDNG raw clips, any attempt to retrieve the highlights above 1023 by lowering the Gain or Offset controls results in flat, clipped highlights, which can also be seen as a flattening in the waveform.

Clipped Image

Clipped Waveform

This, of course, defeats the whole purpose of shooting camera raw media in the first place. However, there’s a way you can generate optimized media that actually preserves these highlights, and that’s by changing the format used for optimization in the General Options panel of the Project Settings to “Uncompressed 16-bit float.”

Changing Optimized Media Format

Uncompressed 16-bit float is a proprietary DaVinci image format designed to preserve out-of-gamut floating point image data. The only downside to this is that by using Uncompressed 16-bit float to generate optimized media, you create larger optimized media files. However, you still spare yourself the processor overhead of having to debayer your camera raw media, and you preserve high dynamic range image data for grading. So, you might need to make sure you have fast hard drive storage, but you’ll still work faster.

Preserved Highlights Image

Preserved Highlights Waveform

Incidentally, the exact same issue occurs when using the Smart Cache, which generates cache media for timeline and grading effects that are too processor intensive to play back in real time, except you’ll need to change the “Cache frames in” pop-up in the General Options panel of the Project Settings to Uncompressed 16-bit float, instead.

Cache Frames Format

Optimized Media and the Smart Cache are two of Resolve’s best features for letting you grade higher quality media on systems with lower processing power. If you’re careful about what media format you use, you can preserve the quality of high dynamic range media, and you can even use Optimized Media for finishing and final output.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.

Brand New DaVinci Resolve 12 Editing Tutorials

Editing and Finishing in DaVinci Resolve 12

I’m very happy to announce that, after a huge amount of recording, and even more time spent editing and organizing, my new Editing & Finishing in DaVinci Resolve 12 video training is now available from Ripple Training, for $99 USD. I’m really happy with how these lessons turned out, so if you want to understand how editing in Resolve works, than this is the title for you.

It’s an exhaustive look at editing in DaVinci Resolve, detailing every nook and cranny of the Media and Edit pages. There are nine hours and thirty minutes of videos, spanning 90 meticulously organized lessons complete with chapter markers that let you jump to whatever topic you want to focus on next, making this useful as a reference as well as a class.

01-Metadata-Editor

And every relevant topic is covered, from choosing whether to use the free or studio version of Resolve and touring the application, to setting up and organizing projects, importing and organizing media, improving performance and managing media, drag & drop editing, precision editing, cutting dialog, multicam editing, trimming and rearranging clips, using effects and transitions, and working with audio. Absolutely every available editing technique in DaVinci Resolve is demonstrated in detail.

04-Track-Audio-Controls

However, the true power of Resolve is in its seamless marriage between editing and color, so there are also over an hour of tutorials dedicated to color correction and grading. Starting with how you can prep the color of your clips prior to editing, and continuing with learning the basics of the Color page, making automatic and manual color adjustments using Lift/Gamma/Gain and curve controls, copying and matching grades, and adding secondary adjustments.

07-Split-Screen

And since Resolve is such a capable finishing environment, additional lessons cover audio mixing and effects, creating still and animated video effects, compositing, titling,  stabilization, green-screen compositing, and the use of third party filters.

06-Transition-Curves-Editor

And, in a first for me, this tutorial is accompanied by a complete set of high-quality media and project files so you can follow along as I demonstrate each feature and technique, and then continue to experiment on your own.

At this point, I have several titles available covering DaVinci Resolve from Ripple Training, so here’s how they all fit together.

If you’re wanting a complete understanding of how to edit in Resolve, along some grading basics, then the nine hour Editing & Finishing in DaVinci Resolve 12 is for you.

On the other hand, if you want a faster overview of how both editing and grading works in Resolve, you might want to check out my DaVinci Resolve 12 Quick Start, which is a more approachable 4 hour overview of how to use Resolve, focusing only on the basics.

And of course if you’re interested in learning more about how to grade color, then you should check out my 13 hour Color Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11, along with the 5 hour companion What’s New in DaVinci Resolve 12 (together, these titles cover all of grading in DaVinci Resolve).

And finally, if you want to learn absolutely everything I have to teach about DaVinci Resolve, Ripple Training has put together a five title DaVinci Resolve Essentials Training Bundle (includes Editing & Finishing, Color Grading, What’s New in 12, Color Grading a Scene, and Creative Looks).

So, no matter what aspect of DaVinci Resolve interests you, I’ve got a set of lessons that covers it. I hope you find these useful!


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.

“The Place Where You Live” — A Science Fiction Short

TPWYL_Second_Poster

This is it. After two years of production and post-production, and a year traveling on the film festival circuit, I can finally release my Science Fiction short “The Place Where You Live” free on the web to the general public, available both on both YouTube and Vimeo. It’s been a long time coming.

While the shoot itself went fairly quickly, with two-and-a-half days of principal photography, and another day of pickups a year later, post-production took a good long time for everyone involved. It’s tough squeezing in ambitious VFX composites in-between paid gigs, and even I wasn’t immune as this came during the same year I ended up writing and revising a total of five different books (Adobe SpeedGrade Classroom in a Book, Autodesk Smoke Essentials, the DaVinci Resolve 10 manual, Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition, and Color Correction Look Book), in addition to the color grading gigs I had that year. Squeezing in my portion of the post where I could was hard, and not a day passed where I didn’t wake up and feel guilt over not being able to get to my film (I’m never writing that many books in a year ever, ever again).

In the end, nothing motivates finishing like a deadline, and an early look at the trailer and a teaser convinced the organizer of the Midwest Sci-Fi Film Festival that he wanted my short in their lineup. This prompted my last and most break-neck month of post-production and finishing, to wrap up the project once and for all, and to embark upon what would become a total of 18 festival screenings, plus one promotional screening (in Beijing, no less). In the process, we garnered six awards for everything from “Best Science Fiction Short” (Big Easy International Film Festival) to “Best Leading Actress” (ConCarolinas Short Film Festival), to a “Special Jury Prize” at the Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival. I travelled to what festivals I could, along the way meeting many talented filmmakers, actors, and film enthusiasts at screenings both in the U.S. and abroad.

Film Festivals are always a great experience; films are meant to be seen by an audience, so it’s gratifying to put the work in front of people, which to me is the the whole point. Happily, we had great audiences who were, on the whole, enthusiastic about the film. And being in the Science Fiction category of a lot of festivals, I have to say there’s a lot of really fantastic work out there right now. “The Place Where You Live” was in great company in every shorts program in which it played.

Please watch the credits, as I can’t thank the folks who worked with me on this nearly enough. Additionally, I want to give a huge shout-out of thanks to Autodesk, who sponsored the project, and develop the software that made it possible (the entire short was entirely edited and composited in Autodesk Smoke). Their support was key to this film’s creation, and helped me to get up to speed with an incredibly capable and deep application. Smoke’s fantastic integration of node-based compositing and editing made it easy to tweak every shot in this movie until the day it was finished. Autodesk 3D Studio Max was also used by artist B.J. West to create the CG effects, so Autodesk Software touches every single frame of this film (along with Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and After Effects to create animated graphics elements, DaVinci Resolve Studio to create dailies and do the final grade, GenArts Sapphire plugins to help all along the way, and Avid ProTools to do the sound design and mix). If you’re interested in learning more about the workflow I and the other artists who worked on this project used, you can see a presentation I gave at the 2013 Amsterdam SuperMeet here. In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting a couple more “making of” videos showing preproduction and workflow.

And now, my only appeal. If you like this short movie, please help spread the word among your friends, colleagues, or anyone you know who likes thoughtful Science Fiction. Promotion is one of the great challenges facing independent filmmakers, and word of mouth on social media and in person is one of the best ways you can reward this project if you like what you see.

And so, without further ado, it’s showtime!

Thank you for watching! If you want to read more about our adventures making this film and following the film festival circuit, please check out The Place Where You Live website.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.

Having Fun With Post – Grading, Compositing, and Editing in Resolve

The shoot for my goofy little rant, “The Importance of Color Correction,” came on the heels of some promos that Steve Martin wanted me to record for my newest Ripple Training titles for DaVinci Resolve 12. I figured, since I’m there on a stage, why not have a bit of fun with it?

A confession – I suffer from incurable impatience between a shoot and the beginning of the cut, so once home I immediately fired up Resolve 12 and got to work. I was determined to do the entire thing inside of Resolve, to test the workflow of grading, compositing, cutting, and finishing a green-screen intensive project, all within Resolve 12. Since I knew I wanted to edit a series of dynamically changing backgrounds that reacted to what was being said, my first order of business was to grade the clip, and create transparency from the green background for compositing within the timeline.

I shot with the BMD Production 4K camera, but I made the decision to record to ProRes HQ, instead of raw, as I wasn’t sure how many takes I’d burn through, or how much space I’d ultimately need. This meant that, although I recorded a log-encoded image, my camera settings were burned into the files. The result, owing to a combination of camera color temperature settings and shooting through the glass of the teleprompter I was using, was the following image (after normalizing to Rec. 709 using Resolve Color Management):

Before the Grade

After a relatively straightforward grade, this was easily turned into:

After the Grade

This took two nodes. It could’ve been one, but I like keeping my HSL curves separate for organization.

My Original Grade

This was the original grade, but since I rendered out self-contained graded clips to hand off to Ripple, I ended up re-importing the graded media and using it as the basis of my next few adjustments and the edit. This wasn’t necessary at all, it just seemed like the thing to do, since I had the media and all.

With the grade accomplished, it was time to create transparency, which I did using the blue-labeled Alpha Output in the Color page’s Node Editor, connecting a matte I created using a combination of techniques (nodes 3, 4, and the Key node), while the color adjustment nodes (1 and 2) connected to the RGB output.

The Grade and Composite

In particular, since some idiot I rolled out of bed and threw on a green jacket with a green pocket square without thinking before rushing over to the stage, I needed to be a bit clever with how I created the matte. Although, being faced with this kind of issue, I was kind of glad to have an interesting test of the new 3D Keyer’s capabilities for green-screen compositing in a slightly awkward situation.

Turns out, the 3D Keyer (in node 3) did a fantastic job of specifically keying the green screen background while omitting the slightly different green of my jacket, while retaining nice edges without too much crunchiness, so big props to the 3D Keyer; it only took one sample of the background green and a second subtractive sample of the foreground jacket to do it (along with very slight application of the Clean Black and Clean White controls).

3D Keyer

However, no combination of samples would also omit the green pocket square, which was just too similar to the background. This required me to divide and conquer, using the Key mixer to combine the 3D Keyer matte with a second matte generated by a tracked window to cover the pocket square.

Keyer Combination

The window itself was easy to make and track, except for the part where some idiot the “talent” decided to wave his arms around.

Bad Tracking Scenario

The hand completely screwed up the track, but my body motion was so irregular that just deleting the disrupted part of the track and letting Resolve automatically interpolate between the areas of the clip that had good tracking data wouldn’t cut it (although that was the first step). So, I ended up using yet another one of Resolve 12’s new features to solve the issue, the new Frame mode of the Tracker palette, that makes it easier to auto-keyframe manual alterations to a window’s shape and position (i.e. a bit of rotoscoping). Five manual adjustments (and keyframes) later, and the hole in the tracking data was nicely filled.

Fixing the Track With Rotoscoping

Inverting the 3D Keyer matte in Node 3 (using the Invert button within the Keyer Palette) and letting the Key Mixer node add the two mattes together from nodes 3 and 4 gave me the overall matte I needed, which, when connected to the Alpha Output, punched out the background nicely.

Now, however, I needed to deal with the green spill that was figuratively (possibly even literally) hitting me in the head. Sadly, while the Despill checkbox that’s built into the 3D Keyer works wonderfully in situations where the person being keyed isn’t wearing fucking green, in my case I couldn’t use it without leeching all the color out of my jacket. So, time to go back to the old ways, isolating my head using a tracked circular window in node 2, and using the Hue vs. Sat curve to selectively desaturate the greens that I didn’t want contaminating my face.

Manual Despill

With all that done, I could now go back to the edit page and cut together the varied mix of backgrounds behind the foreground clip. While I was at it, although the entire rant is a single long take (thank you teleprompter), I wanted to chop it up to punch up the rhythm by rippling out a few pauses, masking the jumps with push-ins made using the Zoom controls of the Edit page Inspector. Thus, at the end of the edit, I had a timeline that looked like this:

The Edited Timeline

For the backdrops and audio cues, I used clips from the THAT Studio Effects collection of HD resolution effect clips (licensed from Rampant Design, which offers 2K–5K resolution media). The cut went smoothly, pretty much in real time on my 2010 Mac Pro with Nvidia GTX 770 GPU. (I can’t believe how much life I’ve gotten out of that five-year-old machine.)

However, I had one last problem. Because I had decided to record to ProRes HQ at 1080 resolution, some of my more aggressive push-ins started to look soft, softer then I liked going out the door. Mulling over how to deal with the issue, I thought it would be funny to try and emulate the effect of zooming into a televised image, such that you’d see the pixels of the TV. Red Giant Universe to the rescue, I used their Holomatrix OpenFX filter to add vertical scan lines (hey, why not) to the zoom-ins, stylizing them to the point where the softness is irrelevant.

Adding OpenFX

And that, as they say, was that. A composite-heavy green-screen promotional piece graded, composited, edited, and finished entirely within DaVinci Resolve. I did the mix as well, but that was nothing to brag about as the first version I uploaded to Vimeo had all of my dialog mixed to the left channel (there’s a reason I send final mixes for my projects to dedicated audio professionals). Still, I fixed the problem, tuned the mix, and completed the program, which you can see in the previous blog post.

All in all, it was a great experience, and while I’m the first to say I’m biased since I work with the DaVinci design team, I’m also being completely honest when I say that I’ve been really enjoying editing in Resolve 12, and using the hell out of all the new grading features, to boot.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.

Do You Need to Grade Your Program?

I suspect you know what I’m going to say, but on the premise that it’s how you say it…


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.

More Resolve 12 Mini-Tutorials on YouTube

Ripple Training is hard at work editing my “New Features in Resolve 12” title, which should be coming out really, really soon. To tide folks over until then, they’ve started posting some free new features videos I’ve made on the “DaVinci Resolve in Under 5 Minutes” section of their YouTube channel. Two came out today, and there are more to come covering both editing and grading features in the public beta of DaVinci Resolve 12.

The first of this week’s pair of new videos cover the new Smooth Cut transition in the Edit page, for eliminating “ums,” stutters, and other speech disfluencies, and patching up the hole. This feature’s effectiveness depends heavily on how much motion there is in the frame, so it won’t work for every jump cut you throw at it, and it works best when there’s a minimum of subject and camera movement. This video shows what it does.

The second video summarizes how to use the new 3D Qualifier, which is a brand new keyer in Resolve 12 that is often faster, more accurate, and can in many cases be more pleasant to use then the older HSL qualifier. Bottom line, this keyer should let you work more efficiently for most chroma key isolations.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.

A Resolve 12 User Manual Reader’s Guide

Resolve 12 User Manual

The beta edition of the Resolve 12 User Manual is included with the installation in the DaVinci Resolve application folder

The day has come. After months of development, the DaVinci Resolve 12 public beta is upon us, with dozens upon dozens of new features to use and explore, encompassing both the evolution of Resolve into a fully satisfying creative editing solution, as well as an extension of Resolve’s already powerful grading tools with fantastic new features and numerous workflow enhancements to make grading and finishing faster and smoother then ever.

(update) If you like video tutorials, Ripple Training has just released my “What’s New in DaVinci Resolve 12” title, in which over the course of five hours I provide an in-depth look at nearly every new feature found in DaVinci Resolve 12. If you hate reading, this is the next best thing to all the chapters I’m about to recommend in the updated user manual.

It’s no secret that I work with the Resolve design team at DaVinci, and also write the User Manual. Given the massive collection of features in this year’s release, the accompanying User Manual update was similarly enormous, and now that the manual has cracked the 1000 page mark (1095 pages in the beta version), with 704 new and updated screenshots at last count, it was clearly time to do a full reorganization of the chapters, in an effort to make it easier to find the information you’re looking for. Consequently, the Resolve 12 User Manual is divided into 44 chapters, with many valuable topics now appearing within their very own chapter for the first time. Check out the table of contents on pages 3-19 and you’ll see what I mean.

So, you ask, where do I start if I’m looking for what’s new?

Chapter 2, “Logging In and The Project Manager” will give you some new insights into how and why multi-user login screen is now optional for new installations, and how upgrading Resolve will work on current installations. There’s also updated information on new things you can do using Dynamic Project Switching (it’s now possible to copy/paste clips and timelines among different projects, and Dynamic Project Switching makes this faster), and it covers the new Archive feature, which is great for putting projects with media into long-term storage, or archiving projects to make it easier to hand them off to other facilities.

ArchiveProject

The Archive and Restore commands in the Project Manager

Chapter 5, “Improving Performance, Proxies, and the Render Cache,” is required reading. This chapter consolidates everything you can do to make Resolve run faster, which now includes the all-new ability to use “Optimized Media” (an updated spin on the old Pre-Rendered proxies mechanism Resolve had before) to work faster by turning processor-intensive media formats into faster-to-work-with clips using a format and proxy size of your choosing. Once you’ve optimized media, you can switch back and forth between the optimized and original media without needing to reconform or relink—it’s all managed by Resolve. Additionally, optimized media works with the real-time proxy command (which now lets you choose from Half and Quarter proxies), the Smart cache, and all of Resolve’s other features for improving performance, so this is a chapter worth understanding in its entirety if you want to get the most performance out of Resolve 12.

OptimizedMediaSettings

Customizable options for how Optimized Media is created, you can select the format and the size

Chapter 6, “Data Levels, Color Management, and ACES” covers the brand new DaVinci Resolve Color Management, so head next to page 154 to learn all about how you can use Resolve Color Management (RCM) to deal with the varied color spaces of multiple media formats and log-encoded media without needing to use LUTs. Whether you’re a colorist, a finishing editor, or a creative editor, this new way of managing color just might speed you up.

Color Management

Resolve Color Management lets you specify the Input Colorspace of your media, the Timeline Colorspace (or working color space), and the Output Colorspace

Chapter 8, “Adding and Organizing Media,” has the new section on page 179 covering “Creating and Using Smart Bins,” which is Resolve’s way of letting you use multi-criteria searches employing clip metadata to automatically pull together all clips sharing a particular set of metadata. It’s a really sophisticated implementation that allows you to search for all of some criteria but any of other criteria, enabling you to build really flexible searches.

Complex Smart Bin

You can create Smart Bins for automatically gathering media in your project using simple or complex metadata searches

Chapter 9, “Working With Media,” starts out with information on the new Display Name column of the Media Pool, that lets you create more human-readable clip names that will be displayed in the Timeline. Chapter 9 also includes information on Resolve’s new “Auto-Sync Audio Based On Waveform” commands, which do waveform matching to sync dual-source audio with video recordings that have matching camera audio recorded. Additionally, the section on Changing Clip Attributes has been updated with much more information on how you can use the Clip Attributes window to tailor the clips in your project to suit your needs.

ClipAttributesVideo

Clip Attributes lets you adjust the settings of one or more clips in the Media Pool

One of Resolve’s most powerful new tools is the ability to simply and easily relink media. This feature is explained succinctly on page 201, but it’s explained much more fully in Chapter 22, “Importing Projects and Relinking Media.” In particular, page 490, “How DaVinci Resolve Conforms Clips,” and page 529, “Manually Conforming and Relinking Media,” have been extensively rewritten to explain the difference between “Relinking” and “Conforming” (a new distinction I make to explain how Resolve works with media more clearly), and discusses the numerous methods Resolve 12 employs to manage the relationship between clips in the Media Pool and media files on disk (linking), versus the relationship between clips in a Timeline and clips in the Media Pool (conforming). If you want to understand what’s happening under the hood, this is an important chapter for you to read.

Of course, the vastly improved editing environment is one of the big new aspects of this release. Multicam editing, superior audio playback performance, better JKL responsiveness, expanded multi-selection trim capabilities, better dynamic trimming, media management tools, and hugely increased audio capabilities including audio filter support for both clips and tracks, track level and filter keyframing, mixer automation recording, and ProTools export make Resolve 12 into a great NLE with the tightest grading integration in the industry.

Audio Filters

Resolve 12 is now compatible with AudioUnit and VST audio plugins

The chapters that encompass Resolve’s editing capabilities range from Chapter 13, “Using the Edit Page, through Chapter 21, Media Management. That’s nine chapters of editing information, but here are the highlights.

Chapter 15, “Working in the Timeline,” covers Resolve’s new re-syncing contextual menu commands for automatically dealing with audio and video items that have gone out of sync.

Chapter 16, “Multicam Editing, Take Selectors, Compound Clips, and Nested Timelines” cover all of Resolve’s multi-clip editing capabilities, headlining with version 12’s new Multicam editing tools, which are comprehensive and incredible. This chapter also covers how you can nest one timeline inside of another, which is yet one more new feature available in version 12.

Multicam Switching

The new Multicam editor in Resolve 12

Chapter 17, “Trimming,” has expanded and rewritten this part of the manual to cover all of the newest trimming capabilities that Resolve offers, specifically the ability to make multiple selections on the same track to simultaneously ripple, roll, slip, and now even slide multiple clips or edits at once. This includes making selections to do asymmetric trims on the same track, which opens up some really useful new shortcuts when you’re hammering a sequence into shape. This chapter also covers the new Dynamic Trimming mode accessed using the “W” keyboard shortcut, which lets you use all of the JKL transport commands to trim whatever clips you have selected, in real time, with audio playback and the ability to choose which edit point you’re monitoring when you’ve selected multiple objects.

Ripple Credits, Before

A multi-edit selection, Before

Ripple Credits, After

Rippling a multi-edit selection in Resolve 12, After

Chapter 18, “Transitions,” covers the new transition curve you can use to customize transition timing, as well as the all new “Smooth Cut” transition that you can use to make small jump cuts, that result from removing unwanted verbalisms and pauses in interviews, disappear.

Chapter 19, “Edit Page Effects,” shows you how to use Resolve’s new motion path keyframing with easing controls right in the Edit Page, on page 432.

Motion Path

The new bezier-editable motion path with easing adjustment

Chapter 20, “Working With Audio,” has several new sections, including one at the beginning of the chapter covering Resolve’s new support for AAC, MP3, and AIF audio formats at sample rates up to 192 kHz. A revised section covers how assigning audio channels in the Media Pool affects your ability to edit multi-channel audio, and is required reading. Then, three new sections at the end cover how you can now record clip and track level automation in real time using the mixer, how to expose and keyframe using the new Track level overlay, how you can apply AudioUnit (on OS X) or VST (on OS X or Windows) audio filters to clips right in Resolve, and how you can export to ProTools when you decide it’s time to hand off your audio postproduction to a professional.

Automation Recording

Resolve 12 lets you record level automation in real time using the Mixer

Chapter 21, “Media Management,” covers the new Media Management commands in version 12, which let you move, copy, or transcode the media associated with clips in the Media Pool, or within specific timelines, with the ability to automatically relink your project’s timelines to the newly managed media you’ve put in another location.

Media Manage

All new media management in Resolve 12

If you’re a colorist, or an editor who does a lot of color, Resolve 12 has much more for you to love. Chapter 24, “Using the Color Page,” covers the new Smart Filter capabilities, that let you create your very own multi-criteria thumbnail timeline filters for filtering and sorting the clips you’re grading using any combination of metadata available from the Metadata Editor. Chapter 25, “Color Page Basics,” describes the new “Shot Match” command that lets you automatically grade multiple selected clips to match one another, as a prelude to grading a scene. Chapter 26, “Curves,” is a dedicated chapter that contains all new information on using Resolve’s new unified Custom Curve UI, that you’re going to love.

Custom Curves Palette

The new unified curve editor, with integrated Soft Clip controls

Moving on, Chapter 27, “Secondary Grading Controls,” has been expanded to include the new 3D Keyer mode of the Qualifier palette, which is a brand-new high-quality keyer focused on letting you work faster, and giving you more specific results right off the bat. In conjunction with the new Matte Finesse controls “Clean Black” and “Clean White,” (page 696) which let you remove speckles and holes from the background and foreground of a Key matte really easily, Resolve 12 makes it even easier to create great secondary corrections. Later in the chapter, page 722 covers the new Perspective 3D option of the tracker, which makes the tracking of windows to follow features in a scene even more powerful and accurate. Lastly, page 734 covers the new automatic keyframing for rotoscoping capabilities built into Resolve’s tracker palette. Once you try keyframing windows this new way, you’ll never want to use the Keyframe Editor to do this again.

3D QualiferKey

A Key qualified using the 3D Keyer

3D Qualifier

Controls of the 3D Keyer in the Qualifier Palette

Chapter 28, ” The Gallery and Grade Management,” has sections on version 12’s new ability to let you ripple adjustments made to one node to multiple selected clips (or to all clips in a group), as well as appending a new node to multiple selected clips. This is a great new capability for situations where you don’t want to have to make a group just to ripple a change to a selection of clips, and is the kind of feature that will enable you to grade faster then before.

Chapter 30, “Working in the Node Editor,” covers several new updates to node editing that you’ll want to read about. First, the Parallel, Layer, and Key Mixer nodes have been updated with a new look, making your node tree easier to read. Second, the Key Mixer node (page 886) has been made much easier to work with as all node input controls are now simultaneously exposed in the Key Palette. Third, you can now select multiple nodes and turn them into a single Compound node, which contains multiple nodes of adjustment while only exposing a single node in the Node Editor. You can open compound nodes to edit the contents, and even grade compound nodes to “trim” the contents, all of which is covered on page 865. Last, but not least, there’s a new Node Editor contextual command, “Cleanup Node Graph,” which lets you auto-organize messy node graphs with ease.

Key Mixer Setup

Mixer nodes have a new look, to make node trees easier to read

Furthermore, if you’re a pro colorist and you’ve always wished you knew what Resolve’s order of operations was under the hood, page 869 has a thorough explanation of which operations happen prior to the node editor, which operations happen within each node, and which operations take place after the node operator.

Resolve Order of Operations

Chapter 35, “Rendering Media,” has been updated to reflect the new ProTools Export easy setup, as well as the new reorganization of the Render Settings list to make it faster then ever for you to customize your renders to output what you need. Additionally, while not new, the section in Chapter 38, “Exporting Timelines to Other Applications,” has an expanded section on Exporting to ALE for anyone within a Media Composer workflow.

Obviously, there’s much, much more to this release, but these are the highlights that should get you started. (update) Even now, I’m recording (update) I’ve finished recording (update) As I’d mentioned at the top of this article, Ripple Training has released my “New Features in Resolve 12” video tutorials, which runs through all of these features and more with a fine-tooth comb, showing you how all the new toys work. I’m hoping it comes out within a couple of weeks. Also, check out Ripple Training’s YouTube channel for my ongoing “Resolve In A Rush” free Resolve tip series, which will soon include new tips for DaVinci Resolve 12.

(Updated Aug 20)


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.

“The Place Where You Live” Updates

 

The Place Where You Live Poster

(Updated 9/8/15) This is the last update, as we’ve played all of the film festivals that we were accepted to, and we’re not expecting to hear from any more. At final count, “The Place Where You Live” is up to eighteen festival acceptances, and one non-festival screening in Beijing, with six awards presented, and one additional award nomination. They were all great experiences, and the resulting laurels are a welcome addition to our poster.

The final list is as follows:

  • BIRTV screening in Beijing (screened August 26th)
  • On the Line Film Festival (screened August 7th)
  • From the Beyond Film Festival (screened August 8th)
  • 15th Annual Sci-Fi-London International Festival of Science Fiction (screened June 1st and June 7th)
  • ConCarolinas Short Film Festival (award for best leading actress) (screened May 30th)
  • 48th Annual Worldfest-Houston Int’l Film Festival (special jury award) (screened April 19th, 2015)
  • 34th Annual Minneapolis/St. Paul Int’l Film Festival (screened April 12th, 2015)
  • Big Muddy Film Festival (screened February 26th, 2015)
  • 40th Annual Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival (screened February 7th, 2015)
  • Beloit Int’l Film Festival (screened February 28th, 2015)
  • Idyllwild Int’l Festival of Cinema (nominee for Best Original Score) (screened January 7th, 2015)
  • Big Easy Int’l Film Festival (award for Best Science Fiction Short) (screened December 13th, 2015)
  • Chicago Paranormal Film Festival (screened November 30th, 2014)
  • Fort Lauderdale Int’l Film Festival (screened November 17th, 2014)
  • Wild Rose Independent Film Festival (awards for editing, production design, and VFX) (screened November 7th, 2014)
  • Fargo Fantastic Film Festival (screened October 26th, 2014)
  • East Lansing Film Festival (screened November 4th, 2014)
  • South Dakota Film Festival (screened September 27th, 2014)
  • Midwest Sci-Fi Film Festival (screened July 4th, 2014)

The last festival acceptances delayed the public release of “The Place Where You Live,” pushing it to September. Everyone’s been incredibly patient during my film festival adventures, and I apologize for this last push out, but I really hadn’t anticipated the last-minute festival response we got. Still, September is set in stone, and this gives me ample time to prepare its rollout.

As I mentioned previously, my last tour on the festival circuit with my indie feature “Four Weeks, Four Hours” garnered six acceptances, so this is what progress looks like, and I couldn’t be happier.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.

Previewing DaVinci Resolve 12

I gave a DaVinci Resolve 12 demo in June to the Mopictive User Group in New York, and they posted a video of the event for all to see. I give a look at how well integrated the new features of Resolve 12 are, letting you move quickly and easily from creative editing to grading to fine trimming to more grading to audio mixing to even more grading, going back and forth with a single click of the mouse. There are some really fantastic new features to show, including multicam editing, advanced color management, automatic shot matching, expanded trimming and dynamic trimming, automation recording and audio filter support, improved tracking, a new keyer, and way, way more.

As of this year, DaVinci Resolve 12 is truly an integrated editing and grading application in which you can begin an edit, grade it, and finish your program all within a single application. And of course I’ll have new Ripple Training titles available later this summer to help you learn how to use it all.

I start at 43 minutes in.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.

I Have More Resolve Tips and Techniques on YouTube

I’ve been continuing to post five minute tips videos about DaVinci Resolve via the Ripple Training YouTube channel; folks have really been liking them, so I’m inclined to continue doing them, and I thought it worth giving everyone a reminder that they’re there. Here are most two most recent videos that have gotten the most eyeballs. Enjoy!


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.

Who Says Women Can’t Direct?

There’s a Tumblr making the rounds called “Shit People Say to Women Directors.” It’s worth reading to see what women in our industry are having to put up with. It’s ridiculous, in this day and age, that anyone can make these sorts of comments with a straight face. I’ve spent my entire career, from film school through my various jobs in post, working with a variety of talented directors who happen to be women, and the notion that gender imposes any kind of limitation on the job is ludicrous.

Put more bluntly, there is no shortcoming I’ve seen ascribed to women directors that I’ve not also seen exhibited by male directors. I know from personal experience, as a director of one one feature and several shorts, that directing is a grueling gig. At the end of the day, it’s preparation, experience, creativity, and character that separate good directors from terrible ones.

I studied theater arts with an emphasis in film production at U.C. Santa Cruz, and of the professors I considered very influential, two were women. Deborah Fort was a visiting film production professor, whose critical eye and ability to articulate the importance of taking responsibility for the images in your frame stick with me on every project I direct. Marcia Taylor was a formidable directing and acting professor with vast experience, whose practical advice on stagecraft, and direct critiques of my various directing exercises drove me to work harder and prepare more rigorously; when she told the class that “every production you undertake as a director will require everything you’ve ever learned,” she wasn’t kidding, and I find this to be true even 25 years later.

If my memory serves me correctly, our film program’s small classes were somewhere around 75% male and 25% female, and I fell into to working alongside many of the women in my class on their projects; the nature of the program was that everyone did a little of everything, so I worked as a student on several woman-directed projects, and they worked with me on mine. Not once did I ever feel that the women were somehow less talented, in-charge, or in any other way less capable. We were all in it together, and good work (and tedious work) was exhibited equally by everyone.

Moving to San Francisco where I started my postproduction career, I encountered many women directors at the Film Arts Foundation and Bay Area Video Coalition, both organizations of which were dedicated to enabling work outside of the mainstream. As an editor, then later as a broadcast designer, I worked for many women clients, directors and producers, on many varied productions, and looking back I find no generalizations worth making that relate to gender.

Moving later to Los Angeles and Manhattan, where I completed the metamorphosis of the post-production part of my career into a colorist, I worked with many more women directors. And transgender directors. And of course male directors. The good ones were good because of preparation, experience, and creativity. Gender, in my experience, played no role in who was great to work with, and whose work I thought was solid.

And not that I need any more examples, but I’m married to a woman who’s an extremely talented director, with whom I’ve worked in both production and post on two shorts. With twin backgrounds in acting and art direction (she’s been the production designer on all of my recent films, as I’ve been the editor and colorist on hers), she comes at the craft from a different skill-set then I do, and I often find myself envious at the comfortable way she’s able to work with her actors.

If you think that men make better directors then women, you’re wrong. And if you’re lucky enough to get a job on a film, as tough as this industry is, and you can find yourself able to insult or demean the woman who’s directing because of her gender, then you should be fired. It’s the 21st century, and well past time to leave this kind of baggage behind us.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.

How’d You Like to Watch Me Grade?

3

If that sounds like a good time to you, then you’re in luck. As a bit of an experiment, I’ve done a brand new title for Ripple Training called “DaVinci Resolve: Color Grading a Scene” (catchy title, I know). Since Ripple had the misfortune of releasing it just as llamas and dresses were taking over the internet for a day, I figured I’d take the opportunity to describe it in more detail.

As long as I’ve been doing videos for Ripple Training, folks have been asking me for years to show more hands-on techniques and real-world workflows. So, when Steve sent me a short scene he’d shot that was just begging for aggressive stylization, it seemed like a perfect excuse to do something different. In this three-hour tutorial, I grade a short scene from beginning to end, using whatever techniques came to mind to turn this small 5D project into a stylized horror scene. In the process, I go beyond explaining the tools, showing them used as you would within the context of an entire project, illustrating concretely how Resolve works when grading real-world material.

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This project did a great job of showing Resolve’s various tools working together. Also, because it was shot using the 5D, it was a nice challenge to show how far you can push highly-compressed source material, if you’re careful. The nature of the scene was such that I used a wide variety of techniques, from primary Lift/Gamma/Gain corrections, to extensive curve adjustments, different methods for shot comparison, windows, tracking, HSL Qualifiers, keyframing, sharpening and midtone detail adjustments, blanking, pan & scan reframing using input sizing controls, and many more small tools and adjustments, all working together to create the final finished product.

So, if you’d like to kick back, watch me work and hear me talk my way through the grading of an actual project, and maybe pick up some new tricks, then this title is for you. Go check it out, it’s discounted for a limited time only.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.

Grading CinemaDNG Raw? Resolve 11.2.1 Makes Your Life Better

If you’re a DaVinci Resolve user who’s about to grade a project shot with any of the Blackmagic Design cameras and recorded using CinemaDNG raw, you should seriously consider upgrading to Resolve 11.2.1 if you haven’t already started your project (if you’ve already started, then don’t upgrade yet, as a matter of principle).

One of the more significant updates is an improvement to CinemaDNG debayering inside of Resolve, which will improve any CinemaDNG raw clip being debayered to Rec. 709 regardless of when it was shot or what Blackmagic Camera it’s from.

If you open the CinemaDNG option of the Camera Raw panel of the Project Settings, you’ll see the following Camera Raw controls. The new features are the “Apply Pre Tone Curve” and “Apply Soft Clip” checkboxes.

Camera raw settings for CinemaDNG

New debayer options for CinemaDNG raw media

The “Apply Pre Tone Curve” checkbox, which is on by default for previously created projects, exists to preserve backward compatibility with the previous method of debayering for projects you’ve already graded (in which your adjustments depend on the original debayered output). However, I’m also told that the Pre Tone Curve setting may look better with CinemaDNG raw files coming from other sources, so if you’re importing .dng media from cameras other then those from Blackmagic Design, you can always try toggling this on to see which type of debayering you prefer.

If you turn this checkbox off, or if you create a brand new project in Resolve 11.2.1 or higher in which this checkbox is off by default, then you’re using a newer, nicer-looking method of debayering for all CinemaDNG media in your project. Here’s a comparison of the old vs. new debayering:

Additionally, there’s also a new “Apply Soft Clip” checkbox (it’s off by default). With this checkbox turned on, you cannot reenable “Apply Pre Tone Curve,” as this is an optional function of the new debayering, that serves to bring high dynamic range parts of the signal (super bright highlights) back into the picture as image detail you can see and adjust, similarly to if you’d used the Highlights control to retrieve this part of the signal. Here’s a comparison of a snowy wide shot using the old debayering, versus the new debayering with Soft Clip turned on.

With the current project I’m working on, shot using the Blackmagic URSA camera, I’ve found the new debayering settings immediately provides an image with denser shadows, more neutral color balance, and richer color; an image that’s easier to grade right off the bat when debayering straight to Rec. 709. Obviously this is just a starting point, but a better starting point reduces the number of steps it takes you to get to the final image you want. This is a welcome improvement that, frankly, makes the raw output of all Blackmagic cameras look even better right from the get go, no matter when the material was shot.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
DaVinci Resolve 12 QuickStart: A 4 hr editing and grading overview from Ripple Training.
Editing & Finishing in Resolve 12: 9 hrs of tutorials from Ripple Training.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 12: In-depth look at every new feature in Resolve 12 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: Comprehensive 13 hr grading tutorials from Ripple Training.
Grading A Scene: Watch a short horror scene graded, from start to creative finish, Ripple Training.