Checking Out the Baselight Plugin

For a variety of reasons, I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to give Filmlight’s new Baselight plugin for Final Cut Pro 7 a whirl. Baselight has long been one of the industry’s premiere grading applications, used on projects both large and small, and among professional colorists I’ve always heard it spoken of glowingly.

When announced at last year’s NAB conference, everyone’s amazement that a high-end company like Filmlight would bring their technology to the Mac as, of all things, a plug-in was overshadowed by Apple’s announcement of Final Cut Pro X, which rendered all FCP7 news somewhat obsolete.

However, as there are many, many shops still using Final Cut Studio 3 regularly, and there are likely to be many who use it into the coming year, I can understand Filmlight’s interest in finishing the project and bringing their plug-in to market, especially given the unique workflow that it enables, of grading from within Final Cut Pro in such a way as to be able to export the corrections directly, with perfect fidelity, via XML to a full-blown Baselight workstation for a dedicated grading session.

What really drew me to work with the plug-in, however, was the desire to get my hands on Baselight’s well-regarded user interface. Having been exposed to Baselight while writing my Color Correction Handbook, I learned to appreciate the numerous tools and modes it provides, as well as some of their more unique takes on common color correction tools.

What is perhaps most impressive is that FilmLight has truly managed to squeeze nearly the entire Baselight UI into this plug-in, which makes this a great way to see what the Baselight interface offers.

So let’s have a look.

After running the installer and opening Final Cut Pro, the FilmLight plugin appears, innocuously, in your Video Filters bin in the Effects tab.

When you drop this plugin onto a clip, the Baselight loading screen appears.

This tells you right away that the Baselight plug-in is no small affair. It’s effectively an application within an application, similar to the approach of other color correction plug-in user interfaces such as Colorista II and Magic Bullet Looks.

For the best previewing performance while using Baselight, you’re recommended to use the Unlimited RT mode (resulting in orange render bars). Otherwise every clip you add this plugin to appears with the red render bars that force a complete render before previewing.

The plugin’s performance was good with the primary corrections I was making. Keeping in mind that you are able to stack many layers of correction one upon another, I was able to stack several layers of primary operations one on top of another and maintain good performance. However, after adding a few secondaries, I needed to select dynamic for both Playback Video Quality and Playback Frame Rate in order to maintain performance.

Incidentally, the accompanying documentation recommends legalizing out-of-bounds (over 100%) signals with a Color Corrector 3-Way filter prior to the FilmLight plugin, to make sure no part of the signal gets clipped when being fed to Baselight.

When you open your clip’s Filters tab, you’ll see the Baselight plugin collapsed vertically, with instructions to expand the Viewer window in order to see the UI within the Filters tab, or double-click the Baselight box to open a dedicated UI in its own window.

If you expand the size of the Viewer and the width of the Parameters column, most of the Baselight controls appear, which is an amazing sight to see inside of Final Cut Pro.

While the Baselight controls are visible in the Viewer, you can view your changes in the Canvas and via video-out on your video interface. However, if you instead double-click to open Baselight into its own window (or click the “pop out” button at the upper right corner), you get all of these controls, plus a viewer that’s useful for other Baselight functions (like drawing curves), as well as LUT and Viewer controls, and Baselight’s own take on the Histogram overlay scope.

This self-contained window can be enlarged to be full-screen, and the divider separating the controls from the image preview and histogram can be resized, giving either half of the interface priority.

Now is probably a good time to point out that the Baselight plug-in is compatible with the Avid Artist Color control panel, allowing you to control much of the UI using that panel’s trackballs, rings, knobs, and buttons.

The general idea behind Baselight is that you can build up a grade using layers. Each layer can use controls from a variety of toolsets that are available, either individually or in combination, to make adjustments of various kinds. These toolsets are the Film Grade, the Video Grade, the Curve Grade, the Hue Shift, and the Six Vector tools.

Each of these tools can be qualified using either keying or shapes, and each tool has parameters for making adjustments both inside and outside of a secondary qualification, simply by clicking the tools button in the appropriate column.

These different toolsets are a unique way in which Baselight organizes what you can do. In particular, the separated “Film Grade” and “Video Grade” tools are an interesting way of exposing two very different kinds of functionality to colorists of different backgrounds.

Examining the Film Grade first, two tabs with three main controls each are exposed.

The left-most tab, ExpContSat, contains an exposure section which provides you with a global exposure slider (raising or lowering the entire signal equally), as well as a global color control that allows for offset adjustments of color (letting you re-balance color by raising or lowering each color channel in its entirety).

The Contrast sliders let you expand or contract contrast with a single adjustment, about a pivot point that’s defined via the middle dotted cyan lines intersecting the diagonal graph found underneath. The R G and B contrast sliders are ganged by default, but an individual slider can be unganged by turning off its button, directly underneath.

Finally, the Saturation sliders provide global control over saturation, but interestingly you can selectively disable ganging on individual color channels, with the result being a sort of color rebalance that works quite differently.

Exposing the ShadsMidsHighs tab reveals another set of film-oriented controls.

Although this may appear to be a standard three-way color balancing system, it’s not. The names of the three color balance controls may be deceiving if you’re used to other grading applications that use the labels of Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights incorrectly, because these color balance controls influence a completely different set of tonal ranges then do the LiftGamma, and Gain controls found in the Video Grade toolset. The Shadows/Midtones/Highlights ranges are more restrictive, allowing far more specificity regarding which parts of the picture are excluded from each color balance control’s effect (I’ll be doing a separate blog entry on film-style grading tools later). Furthermore, in this mode the exposure sliders provide curved control of the knee and toe of the signal.

Colorists coming from more video-oriented toolsets may find these tools strange, but these controls were designed specifically for film colorists who come from a completely different tradition, and the truth is once you get used to this style of working, you’ll discover a range of situations for which they provide fast solutions.

However, the beauty of Baselight is that they don’t just give you some of the tools. They give you all of the tools, hence the Video Grade toolset that’s next in the list.

This set of controls provides the familiar Lift/Gamma/Gain toolset that many of you may be more familiar with, with Shadow and Highlight contrast controls that allow for controlled compression and expansion of the Luma, and color balance controls with broadly overlapping tonal regions of influence, allowing extremely soft and subtle interactions between adjustments made to the darkest and lightest regions of the image.

Incidentally, if you set the FilmLight pop-up menu to Default, you can then open the Region Graph tab, within which you can redefine the tonal ranges of influence exercised by the lift/gamma/gain controls.

Once you’ve created new curves, you can save the result as a graph that you can recall later.

You may also notice in the image above that an RGB Correction graph shows you the effect your adjustments are having on each of the three color channels of the signal. What you can’t see is the Region Graph tab, which exposes controls for customizing the default tonal overlap of the color balance controls.

Similarly to the Film Grade toolset, the Video Grade has two tabs, RGB and Y’CrCb.

These tabs put the lift/gamma/gain controls into either color space’s mode of operation. In RGB mode, contrast expansion increases saturation. In Y’CrCb mode, contrast expansion decreases saturation. As I mentioned, Baselight gives you all the tools, with every variation you might like.

Baselight also includes a powerful Curve Grade toolset.

Two tabs worth of curves are available. HueSaturationLightness provides a complete set of hue curves, while RedGreenBlue provides dedicated luma and color channel curves as a separate set. One of the really neat things about the Baselight curve UI is the automatic “zoomed” view provided to the right of each curve. You can manipulate control points either in the zoomed out view at left, or you can manipulate the selected control point more finely using the zoomed in view at right.

This provides a terrific degree of control for those super-fine detail adjustments that sometimes come up when adjusting skin tone or shadow detail. One thing that takes a bit of getting used to, by the way, is the default behavior of a locked X position for control points. This prevents you from shifting the hue or tonal area affected by a control point while you make adjustments to its intensity, but can be vexing until you discover how to disable the “Lock X Positions by Default” option in the Customize pop-up menu.

So, film controls, video controls, and curve controls, all within a plugin. But wait, there’s more… In a nod to tools available in other software and hardware based color correctors, Baselight provides two other toolsets that, while specific, allow quick adjustments of various kinds.

The first of these, the Hue Shift toolset, provides a slider-driven interface for making changes to hue, saturation, or lightness, with each individual slider governing a specific slice of hue.

While at first this might seem a bit primitive, like a “graphic eq” from 1987, the truth is this can be a really fast way to make a specific adjustment, sort of like a slider-driven hue curve. I imagine this is the type of control that’s much nicer to use from a control surface, where a set of knobs provide logical and quick access to these parameters, but the sliders can be handy, too.

Next up, the Six Vector controls expose a series of tabs that default to pie slices of the color wheel. In essence, this is a qualifier with default settings that, while completely customizable, are designed to be used to quickly target and adjust the primary and secondary ranges of color in the additive RGB model–RGBCMY.

This is a pretty standard HSL qualifier, but with a nice UI and a fast set of limited controls for making adjustments to the hue, saturation, and lightness of the isolated region, as opposed to creating a key with which to limit adjustments made using other toolsets. Again, this is a dedicated tool designed to do specific things very quickly. But don’t worry, there are other tools for doing proper secondary work.

So those are the main tools for adjustment within the Baselight interface. When it comes to secondaries, those are found in the Matte menu, which exposes the many methods that are available for creating a matte with which to limit one’s adjustments, creating a shape, using the DKey keyed, MatteRGB, or HueAngle.

MatteRGB and HueAngle are fairly standard methods of RGB and HSL qualification, so I’ll focus on the Shape and DKey controls, which are unique.

Baselight has a fantastic shapes interface, with two pop-up menus providing different shape drawing options. The first presents some standard freehand/rectangle/ellipse choices, along with the terrific addition of “edge.”

The Edge option exposes a single-line UI for creating gradients, as opposed to customizing a rectangle to do the same thing. This alone saves many mouse clicks.

It’s worth mentioning that the stand-alone window UI is the only place you can adjust shapes and draw freehand curves. Curves have a typical bezier handle interface, but it’s notable that there’s now a shape drawing interface available right within Final Cut Pro 7.

However, as nice as all of this is, what really got my attention was the Quickshape menu, which provides an array of frequently used shapes that you can invoke for isolating specific regions of the image without a lot of customization. Very, very cool.

Moving on, the DKey interface is a three-dimensional keyed, designed for “carving out” a region of RGB space in order to create a custom matte for secondary work.

Dragging a bounding box over the thumbnail to sample produces a targeted “blob” within the 3D Color Space View, and various sliders let you expand and contract the offset, radius, and softness of this blob in order to isolate the most useful range of color for your targeted operation. You can turn on one of three kinds of overlays to see the matte you’re creating as you work (the traditional black and white matte is shown above).

Once you’ve  created a matte using any of these tools, making an adjustment is as easy as clicking the “color” Mona Lisa tab to switch back to your grading tools, and making any adjustment you like using any of the available tools, either singly or in combination.

Since we’re talking about secondary corrections, these are added via additional layers, added using the layers pop-up menu, within which you can add, remove, and reorganize layers in order to control the sequence of operations.

Opening this menu and clicking the green plus icon, I got up to 20 layers before I gave up. It seems clear that there’s no artificial limit on how many layers you can stack up.

The other nice thing about having so many layers available is that you can divide multiple primary adjustments among multiple layers if you so choose. Baselight’s layers mechanism is a nicely flexible tool for managing your corrections.

Incidentally, when creating a matte for a secondary operation, you can click the Reference button while in Matte mode and choose which state of the image, or which layer, you want to use as the source for keying. A very nice bit of flexibility that can be invoked in a hurry.

As this “quick” look is running a bit long, I’m going to jump to a couple of other important features that are worth mentioning. One is support for LUTs.

The Baselight plug-in comes with a few LUTs (look up tables) built-in, or you have the option to import one of your own. The pop-up menu for this is available in the stand-alone window, above the histogram.

There’s also support for keyframing.

Each parameter in Baselight has its own keyframe button (shown turned on, in blue), from which key framing can be enabled or disabled for the current set of parameters. All keyframes then appear, when created, upon a single keyframe track running along the bottom of the Baselight UI. Individually keyframed parameters can be isolated using the Show All pop-up menu. While keyframing, you need to move the playhead in either the Timeline or Canvas, and while keyframing is enabled, new keyframes are automatically created when a keyframe-enabled parameter is adjusted.

So, that was my quick tour of the Baselight plug-in for Final Cut Pro. I’ve only just scratched the surface, there are many more features for refining one’s adjustments and customizing the UI. On the plus side, it provides terrific tools for grading. On the other hand, being a plug-in, it relies on Final Cut Pro 7 for all grade management and image comparison functions, and while that’s not the worst thing in the world, the experience still doesn’t come close to using a dedicated grading application (such as the full Baselight). Finally, the performance is fine so long as you’re willing to work at the proxy resolutions that Unlimited RT with Dynamic Video Quality and Frame Rates enables, but if you’re looking for an environment in which to create complex grades while monitoring at full quality, this isn’t necessarily going to be your best choice.

Bottom line, if you’re interested in learning more about Baselight, or you’re a post facility with a Baselight suite or two already, this is a great plugin to have. If you’re looking for a plugin-based environment for grading work inside of Final Cut Pro 7 because you don’t want to have to learn a whole other application for grading, download the trial version and give it a whirl to see how well it integrates into your FCP workflow.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.

Video Training for DaVinci Resolve

For some reason, everything always happens while I’m traveling.

After a long delay due to many unexpected happenings last fall, I’m happy to announce that my first video training title for DaVinci Resolve is now available from Ripple Training. It’s a seven hour overview covering every aspect of Resolve functionality, from project import, through the myriad grading tools Resolve provides, and finishing with Resolve’s flexible methods for outputting your project.

While I started out intending to do a “quick rundown” of how to use Resolve, the depth and breadth of the application forced me to expand what I was doing. After all, I didn’t want anyone to miss out on any of Resolve’s many features for making a colorist’s life easier.

As a result, the title consists of 53 individual movies, each covering short, specific topics. If you’ve already been using Resolve for a while, this makes it easy to focus on just those features that interest you. Ripple did a great job editing, indexing, and finessing the media to make the workings of the interface clear to see and easy to follow.

Lastly, I designed the lessons so that you can download the free (as in beer) DaVinci Lite version of the application from Blackmagic Designs support, then download the media I use from Ripple (instructions are included), and follow along for no extra money. And the free Resolve Lite now runs on either OS X or Windows, so you can follow along no matter what your platform.

So please, check it out. It’s like hanging out with me all day for $79 US bucks. That’s less then three martinis in Oslo, and there’s no hangover.

There are sample movies, a topic outline, and more at the Ripple Training web site.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.

International Women’s Day

I’m on the road at the moment, and up to my eyeballs in work and activities. However, as I’ve been catching glimpses of the news and chatting with friends and colleagues, it’s been impossible not to feel barraged by an inexplicable wave of state and federal legislation around the country, both attempted and successful, seeking to regulate various activities of women involving reproduction, health access, and child rearing. Invariably these regulatory measures are either restrictive or punitive.

I’m not going to go into more detail then that, because I frankly don’t think it matters. Whether you’re talking birth control, associated health care services, abortion services, or single motherhood, the core concept of the various regulatory attempts I’m referring to is to ultimately restrict the activities and options available to women, either directly or indirectly, financially, legally, and logistically.

This is inexcusable. If we, as a people, truly pride ourselves on freedom and self-determination, then intrusive regulation of issues affecting the private lives of women is insulting and degrading. We owe the women in our lives, across our nation, and throughout the world respect, and the acknowledgement that they’re capable of rational decision-making without the need for male mediation, be it medical, political, or bureaucratic, regarding issues of reproduction and health.

How we treat other people says a lot about who we are. Similarly, the quality of a society can be measured by the respect, dignity, and equality of thought and action accorded the women of that society. Without that, we are all of us diminished, left to play foolish roles written for us by frightened authors.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.

The Color of Emotion

Much is said about how color grading effects the emotions of a scene. However, I wanted to take a look at when emotions in a scene affect correction choices you make.

This is something that’s come up for me in documentary productions, but the topic also applies to any situation where people, be they interview subjects or performers, get emotionally worked up during a scene.

In general, it’s often tempting to try and normalize human skin tones the same way audio mixers normalize dialog levels, making everyone’s face in every shot identical, no matter what’s going on. Personally, I think this is a poor approach, since there are lots of things that differentiate human complexion, including ambient illumination, position within the lighting scheme of an environment, biological variation, deliberate differences in makeup from one scene to another, etc.

However, a tricky variation is when people get upset. If it’s genuine, it’s typical for one’s face to get flushed. Consider the following two images:

At left, the calm young man exhibits his ordinary complexion. At right, the upset young man is quite a bit ruddier, flushed as his face is with blood.

Here’s the issue you’ll face. As a scene progresses, the emotions in the room will build, and people’s complexions will shift as faces flush. What you do about it depends on you and your client’s philosophical approach to skin tone. Here are some things to consider:

  • Narrative scene with actors—I would suggest that you leave the color in. You’re theoretically paying your actors for powerful performances, and if you color correct the performance away, what’s the point? That said, there may be a challenge if, in the course of editing multiple takes together, the flush of an actor’s face is more pronounced in some shots and less in others, so it may be necessary to add or remove redness to a person’s face shot by shot to make sure their complexion matches the emotional build of the scene.
  • Documentary scene with interviewees—This can be trickier. If you’ve got talking head shots intercut with b-roll, and you cut from an unflushed bit of interview to a landscape shot and then back to a flushed bit of interview from later, you risk an odd disconnect. In this case, I would be temped to perhaps ease off on the flush to avoid too much discontinuity if the goal was a seamless transition. On the other hand, if the whole point of the interview excerpt being used is that the person is hugely upset, then you might want to leave things be.
  • An already ruddy-complexioned person has turned beet-red—The exception to any rule you might be following. If you’ve got an actor or interview subject who’s already got a reddish complexion, chances are they look like a grape once they get upset. In this case, I think you’d be absolutely right to ease off of the extent of their redness a bit, if only to ameliorate audience distraction. However, I’d still leave the actor somewhat flushed.
Obviously, at the end of the day you’re going to do what your client asks. In the last documentary I graded where this came up, the client wanted me to even out all of the woman’s headshots to ease off of the redness. However, if this comes up and your opinion is asked, the above considerations may add value to the conversation.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.

Flat Doesn’t Really Mean Flat

A thought for the day, as it’s come up a few times in conversation. “Shooting flat” really means “capturing image data flatly,” it doesn’t mean flat lighting. Please, I beg of you, light the set, paint with shadows, and use a deliberate iris setting for specific intention. The “flat” or “log” data capture setting of your camera will then protect as much as that particular camera is capable of in the highlights and shadows, so we can have more fun during the grading session.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.

My Small Contribution to the Superbowl

Production company Three Volts approached me to do some grading for a Park Nicollet spot they were doing. It’s a graphically treated spot (effects by Minneapolis-based Design Guys), but I was brought in to do specific work on the skin tones throughout.

The nature of the spot made the skin tones pretty easy to isolate for hue and saturation adjustment, but additional work involved whitening teeth, some subtle complexion smoothing, and contrast tweaking to match the graphics.

Interestingly, KARE 11 did a news story on locally-produced regional spots competing with their bigger-budget national counterparts that featured this commercial. Professionally produced graphics and color correction added necessary polish. If you ever ask yourself whether or not it’s worth the money to have your project graded, ask yourself how your project will compare to the competition if you don’t.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.

Cargo

Last year I was the lead colorist for director Yan Vizenberg’s first feature, Cargo. The premiere was this last fall, and it was glowingly reviewed in both the New York Times and Hollywood Reporter, but I only recently noticed the new trailer.

This was the first film I’ve worked on with a second colorist. Due to scheduling constraints, I brought friend and colleague Patrick Inhofer on to work with me on the piece. After I spent a week with the director setting detailed looks for 3-4 shots within each scene, Patrick finished balancing the scenes while I was out of town. On my return, I reviewed the reels with the director and producers and made the final revisions and tweaks.

This was the last project I graded in New York while co-located with Twitch Post, prior to my move to the Twin Cities. Congratulations and best wishes to Persona Films. It’s a daring film with great performances, see it if you get the chance.

 


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.

But It’s Just For the Web

On many, many occasions I’ve heard “It’s just for the web, so it doesn’t really need to be color corrected, right?”

It’s a misconception that color correction, or color grading, whichever you want to call it, is primarily about fixing problems and dealing with broadcast safe issues. Thus if your video is well shot, and destined for the web where broadcast legality does not matter, you can skip it. The truth is, while fixing problems is a significant part of what I do, that’s not really why you want to bring your project to me.

You bring it because you want it to look as good as it can.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. The following image is the camera original that was brought to me. It’s a nice shot, well exposed. No problems, no illegal levels for broadcast. It’s the kind of scene that many folks would feel didn’t need to be fixed. And they’d be right. There’s nothing really wrong with it.

However, if you gave me half a minute to make some adjustments, this reasonably nice looking shot can look like this:

This is not a complicated grade. I didn’t add any high style or make massive changes. I boosted contrast a bit, compressed the highlights up, added a bit of warmth, selectively adjusted the saturation of different colors, desaturated the shadows, adjusted the skin tone, and lightened the eyes (with the extra contrast, they were looking a bit too moody). All in all, only four sets of adjustments.

Okay, so the eyes are me overachieving a bit, but it wasn’t a big deal. The point is, having seen both the unadjusted and adjusted versions here, at reduced size on the web, I think it’s pretty clear that the difference is appreciable.

Or, say you give me another 30 seconds and the mandate for a grittier, more dramatic look. You could end up with something like this:

This time around, I jacked up the contrast with a luma-only curve, desaturated the skin tones, applied sharpening to the darker details of the man’s isolated face, and cooled down everything outside of his face (in the process intensifying the man’s already pale blue eyes; it’s really too much, but I thought it was fun). Generally speaking, I added one more correction and made some tweaks.

It’s natural, over the course of days, weeks, or even months of editorial, to get used to the way footage looks. You can get so used to it that it’s easy to imagine that there’s nothing to improve. I don’t know how many times I’ve had a client bring me a project and say something to the effect of “we think it looks good the way it is, it probably doesn’t even really need color correction, but I thought maybe you could take a look at a few shots.”

However, once I get going and they see what the process is really about, the few shots I’ve been asked to work on quickly expand into the entire program. Which is just fine with me. I like to make sure that folks I work with understand the process and feel good about what they’re paying for, and sitting in on a grading session is an eye-opening experience for many.

Similarly, it’s easy to think, since the web has no harsh requirements for video legality, and no quality control guidelines to adhere to, that color correction can conveniently be skipped. However, I hope you can see by the images in this comparison that even small adjustments can have a very big impact on how your project is perceived. Video doesn’t have to be on the big screen for improvements to be clearly seen and appreciated by your audience.

We, as content creators, are moving into an era where, for many programs, the web will be the primary and perhaps only venue. If you’re making a music video, a commercial spot, a short film, or a communications piece that will only exist for web viewership, you owe it to yourself to have it graded. Not to fix problems, but simply to make it look as good as it possibly can.

Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression.

Special thanks to Jake Cashill for the clip from his feature, “Oral Fixation.” If you found this article informative, you might want to check out “How to Talk to a Colorist

 


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.

An Author Looks at iBooks Author (Updated 2/6/12)

Note—Since Apple released an update addressing the controversial EULA pretty much immediately after their initial release, it seemed fair to reedit this article to account for their responsiveness. However, to avoid an Orwellian rewriting of the past, I’ve struck through the now outdated passages, and made my edits as visibly as possible. Kudos to Apple for listening to the users.

Much as I love color grading, everyone knows I spend just as much time writing about color correction as I spend doing it. Outside of this blog, I either spend a lot of time developing content using various arcane content management systems for the creation of software documentation, or I spend way too much time in Microsoft Word (which I don’t love, but my publisher requires). I’ve contemplated self-publishing, but honestly, for the kinds of technical titles I like to do, it’s good to have a publisher or a corporate benefactor paying the bills and managing sales.

However, when Apple announced iBooks Author yesterday, I immediately downloaded the application and tucked in, experimentally creating a template matching a past project, and importing some content to see how it worked. Perhaps there are a few titles I might consider self-publishing, after all.

I’ve used a lot of text editors in my day, and at this point in my life, I crave a WYSIWYG editor that’s capable of generating whatever multiples of output I need. Yes, yes, I know all about the power of XML and dedicated non-formatted text editors and all of that. I have BBEdit, I have OmniOutliner, I’ve used VI, and have struggled through several dedicated XML editing environments.

However, I am not a database. My interest when I write a technical book is in creating a formatted, highly organized, friendly-looking and digestible salad of information that doesn’t make readers’ eyes cross or heads explode during perusal. I’ve written abstractly using a content management system, and I’ve written according to format using WYSIWYG environments, and honestly I’m happier when I can see the intended formatting while I’m developing the content.

For technical writing, I find that formatting guides and channels my writing process. I’ll structure information differently depending on the styles that are available, because it’s the right thing to do for readers. If I have to use someone else’s format, then I’ll find a way to write that takes advantage of that format. If I’m doing my own thing, I’ll create whatever styles I want, and will write differently.

I’ve long had difficulty understanding why it’s so difficult to create a WYSIWYG book-writing environment, a true single-source multi-output environment, that isn’t a giant pain in the ass to use. For this reason, I was really interested in what iBooks Author would have to offer.

Updated—The answer appears to be, “a nice book-development and creation environment that’s only primarily for putting things in the iBook store.”

Let me first talk about the application itself, which I like. I happen to be a fan of Apple’s Pages. It’s a relatively light, responsive text editing application that has decent formatting and styles control suitable for many of the kinds of documents I create. It’s no InDesign, which I’ve always felt was too bad, but it’s a nice place to write a bunch of stuff, whether it’s technical in nature, or creative (I’m currently writing a novel in Pages, and enjoying it). So you know where I’m coming from, prior to Pages, I did my own work exclusively in Text Edit, because I hated Microsoft Word so passionately, and honestly, I still use Text Edit for lots of things.

That’s all a long prelude to the following opinion: if you like Pages, then you’ll probably like iBooks Author. Author looks and feels like Pages, but with a lot of the page-formatting, desktop-publishing UI that I’ve long wished for built on top of it. It comes with pre-made templates, but obviously it’s more fun to use your own, and more to the point, my clients would want me to use their own unique styles, so I immediately set to creating a custom template.

Two hours later, I was done. It was pretty straight forward, though I did need to peruse Apple’s now-typically brief help from time to time to get a hint on how to proceed. Still, unqualified success. Every element I wanted to create, I could, and I now had a set of page templates with which to develop some content.

Now I was really curious. After all, applications like InDesign are great for layout and typography, but freaking horrible for content development. Fortunately, iBooks Author seems quite nice to work within. Once you’ve set up the styles you need, and have your page templates, editing text and images is a breeze, and it’s very cool to be able to add rich-media widgets to it all, though I wonder how I’ll feel about that when publishers start leaning more aggressively on authors to “make more videos for your book, and make some interactive presentation bits, but turn it in on the same deadline and for the same advance.”

However, writing was fast and responsive, and things generally worked as I’d expected from experience with many other text editing and formatting applications. In this case, no surprises is a good thing.

Some specifics. The available styles default with H1 and H2 headings, and I imagine the missing H3 heading (of which I’m a fan) is easily added. Happily, these headings aren’t just decorative, they’re tagged and produce indexing when used, hooray!

While I’ve not spent enough time with the application to have a strong opinion, the Chapter/Section model with which content is organized in the Book Outline seems to be more analogous to what I’d call Part/Chapter. However, with more use I might revise that opinion.

Updating my iPad to iBooks 2, the Preview function worked really well, allowing me to immediately preview how my content would look and work on my iPad at any point I wanted. So, in terms of developing content specifically for the iPad via the iBook store, this appears to be an elegant solution. I also like the easy way that custom templates can be tailored for landscape vs. portrait viewing, reflowing the content to different layouts. I also liked that you can choose to develop your content in either orientation. While I suspect I’d mainly use the portrait mode for writing, it’s nice to have the option so easily invoked.

So, let me turn to my main technological disappointment. PDF export appears to be a grudging afterthought. Despite the existence of heading metadata for indexing, no auto-generated bookmarks appear in the PDF output from iBooks Author. My response, as it has been in Pages, is really? You’ve got the metadata, and you’re still going to make me go into Acrobat Pro and create new bookmarks by hand? Sigh.

Furthermore, PDF output seems to only happen using a landscape view, or at least I couldn’t figure out how to export a portrait-oriented PDF. Additionally, an annoying watermark (“iBooks Author,” with the Apple logo) appears on every page of all PDFs. I realize Apple’s giving this application away primarily for iBook store authoring, and this might be the tax they extract for making things free, but I’d rather pay cash money for the application in exchange for being able to turn the watermark off. Incidentally, the watermark doesn’t seem to appear on the ePub documents generated for the iBook store.

You can also export your content as plain text, but that only seems to be a safety valve for getting your content out of iBooks Author given the EULA.

Apple’s end user licensing agreement is tragically honest.

Updated—While Apple’s original End User Licence Agreement was surprisingly strident, it was quickly amended in a subsequent update. The current EULA states that files in the .ibooks format may only be sold in the iBooks store. However, it seems clear that PDFs exported from iBooks Author can be sold however you like. On the other hand, one might assume that files exported using the .ibooks format and then otherwise converted to a different, more universally distributable format would also be exempt from the requirement of iBooks store exclusivity, but I’m not a lawyer and I’d love some verification (seriously, if you know for sure one way or the other let me know in the comments).

(Incidentally, it always seemed clear to me that Apple claimed no ownership over your content, merely the container you put it in for sales. However, it’s nice that this distinction is now crystal clear.)

The updated EULA for iBooks Author

Again, it’s their application, they’re giving it away as a favor, and they can stipulate whatever they want to. However, it completely torpedoes this application in terms of being a useful, general-purpose book-creation tool for commercial use or self-publication.

And I mention self-publication because I know how hard it is to develop a book and format it for the end user, complete with screenshots and illustrations. If you’re going to go to all that work, and then have to ignore the Amazon bookstore, the Barnes & Noble bookstore, and god knows how many other eBook storefront opportunities you might have unless you export plain text and completely recreate your book using another application…

Well, why not just create the book in that other application to begin with? The closest analogy I can come up with is a video editing application that stipulates you can only sell your edited output via one particular store. Sure, you could export all the individual clips and reedit your program in another video editor, but why would you do that?

Updated—But, while the new EULA is a vast improvement, it doesn’t change the fact that exported PDFs are restricted to landscape layouts and zealously watermarked, thus limiting their appeal. Furthermore, I don’t really know how convertible .ibooks output is, so practically speaking I’m still not sure how feasible this application is for multi-storefront book development (assuming I was willing to forego embedded rich media).

And I do understand, clearly, that the whole purpose of this application is to create an authoring environment for rich-media-filled eTextbooks to be displayed within iBooks on an iPad. I get it. And I also understand that people are perfectly free to give their content away for free; it’s just a terrible business plan for a technical writer that’s trying to make a living.

Maybe if the iBook application was ported to other environments, this wouldn’t seem so limiting. Amazon has done this, porting their Kindle application to practically everything with a screen. If I knew that the iBook store would also reach PC users, Mac laptop users, Android users, Windows Phone users, and the other various tablet makers out on the market, then I would be a lot more comfortable making the iBook store my single point of presence. But it’s not, and much as I’m a somewhat overenthusiastic consumer of Apple technology, I’m very much aware that it’s a big world out there, with a lot of different people using a lot of different devices. It’d be nice to sell to them, too.

In the short term, it’s a bit disappointing, because the team that created iBooks Author made a really, really nice piece of software. Something that I think is better at what it does then most other applications of its type on the market, for this very small niche of technical and textbook writers. I’d love to use it, and I would have paid good money were it a more general purpose tool.

So I hope Apple realizes what a great piece of software they’ve created, and eventually decides to open it up for more general purpose use. Or perhaps ports the same book-creation goodness into Pages, generalizing it in the process for the single-source creation of books that can be sold in all eBook stores, and not just the iBook store. I would happily pay ten times the price of Pages on the App store (Pages Pro, perhaps?) for this, and for a commitment to continue developing these capabilities, for multiple output types, into the foreseeable future.

By the way, for you single-source document-creation fanatics out there, I’d be very happy to hear what you’re using and why it rocks, down in the comments.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.

Hello, Japan!

The Japanese edition of the Color Correction Handbook.

Was I ever surprised when my editor gave me a call and mentioned that my Color Correction Handbook has been translated into Japanese. I had no idea, but apparently it’s been on sale for a while. I’m flattered, and looking forward to hearing from someone who can actually read the language to tell me how I translate.

It’s pretty cool to flip through a book that you know so well, and see a completely different layout and language. I must say, I like what they’ve done with it, even if all I can do is gape at the pretty pictures. A strange, wondrous feeling of illiteracy while looking at my own book.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.

Happy Merry Holidays. And Contest!

Merry Happy!

Well, it’s been a heck of a year. Moving from NYC to Saint Paul. Traveling all over the place. Reestablishing my career in a new locale. Seeing how well my book’s been selling. Overall, things have been just fantastic.

Alas, I’ve been too busy to put together any kind of elaborate season’s greetings, so you’ll have to settle for this picture of me and my dog, Penny.

However, as a gesture of holiday giving, and in recognition that my “Color Correction Handbook” remains the number two most wished for item in its category on Amazon.com (apparently video game writing and design is a more highly desirable career then color correction, who knew?), I’m doing a little contest for those of you on twitter.

The first three folks who come closest to guessing the length of my Dachshund, in either inches or centimeters, by the end of the day on Xmas eve (Central Time) get a free signed copy of my book sent to them, anywhere in the world. To enter, you need to tweet your guess with the hashtag #howlongismydog (if you don’t include the hashtag, I may not see your guess as I’m using a hashtag search to survey the guesses).

I’ll announce the winners on Christmas day, as that’s how I roll. However, I welcome non-Xmas celebrators to enter as well, since I figure getting free stuff is enjoyable for pretty much anybody. The three closest guesses win, my decision, no appeal.

So, there you have it. Merry Happy Whatever, everybody! I hope the year’s been reasonably good to you, that you’ve many fine prospects on the horizon, and that you’re not working yourself to death. Maybe you’re even taking some time off.

-Alexis

Update—Congratulations to @oliveira_mau, @AaronWeiler, and @eduserrano who came closest to guessing her length. For the record, she comes to approximately 32 inches.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.

I Don’t Hate Stereoscopic Films

I continue to read a lot of negative opinion about stereoscopic filmmaking online, particularly within the postproduction community. Lots and lots, in fact.

While I have no great love of stereoscopy for its own sake, I must say that there’s a consistent criticism I read that makes no sense to me, either as a writer or as a postproduction professional. That criticism is that stereoscopy adds nothing to narrative, the implication being that it should be abandoned if it does not.

Roger Ebert articulated this when he wrote “It adds nothing to the experience. Recall the greatest moviegoing experiences of your lifetime. Did they “need” 3-D? A great film completely engages our imaginations. What would Fargo gain in 3-D? Precious? Casablanca?”

Okay, fair enough. But here’s a question in response: What exactly does widescreen add to narrative? Did Casablanca suffer due to a lack of widescreen? Citizen Kane? Sunset Boulevard?

Before you answer, recall that I asked what it added to narrative, not cinematography. As much as I believe that the purpose of cinema is to unify narrative with its visual representation as much as possible, I still draw a distinction between the two because any one narrative story can be represented via a plethora of cinematic approaches.

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t cinematic advantages to be mined from the different shot compositions that widescreen allows. However, plenty of spectacular films have been made without it, and aside from how many closeups you can fit inside of a frame, narratively speaking I don’t believe that widescreen adds anything to a story that couldn’t be handled in 1.37:1. Let me put this another way—you’re a filmmaker who wants to make a film at 2.39:1, but you can only get financing if you shoot at 1.85:1—are you going to turn down the money because you can’t tell the story in a narrower frame?

Visually speaking, widescreen can be a fantastic and immersive experience, if used wisely by a director and cinematographer with a thoughtful approach to shot composition. As a moviegoer, this immersion is something I value. It helps me to become wrapped in the movie. It’s fun.

From what I’ve seen so far, if used well stereo visuals can also add to the immersion and atmosphere of a scene. On the other hand, if used poorly, it’s distracting and irritating. Two examples come immediately to mind.

Martin Scorcese’s “Hugo,” in my opinion, uses stereoscopic visuals well, lending oomph to the cavernous spaces and depth of the film’s shot compositions. Do the same shot compositions have power when watched in 2D? Absolutely. The traditional depth cues of perspective, occlusion, depth-of-field, and parallax still hold sway. However, stereopsis adds a little something extra, and in Hugo this something extra was wielded with appropriate care. I didn’t feel bombarded by eye-fatiguing craziness, I felt enveloped.

Not so with Clash of the Titans. I wasn’t particularly thrilled by the film itself, but the stereoscopic visuals (in this case, post-produced 3D conversions) were completely obnoxious. Distracting. Ill conceived and pointless. That was a case where stereoscopic visuals earned their derision.

So, there are some good examples, and bad examples. However, for many even the good examples don’t seem to be worth it. I’ll be the first to say that the reduced light output in projected 3D venues is depressing, and the reduced and shifted color that results saddens my colorist’s eye. Similarly, I don’t wear glasses in my everyday life, and I’m not terribly thrilled at having something sitting on the bridge of my nose in the theater. In production, 3D rigs sure seem like a pain in the ass. In postproduction 3D workflows are an even bigger pain in the ass, although as software tools become more accommodating and automatable, life seems to be getting better on that front.

But, all of these are technological limitations. Technology improves. Sync-sound projection once forced all of the same problems on production, postproduction, and theatrical venues that stereoscopy imposes now. The problems were solved, and another tool for cinematic expression was added to the filmmaker’s arsenal.

Which brings me to another point. I find it interesting that other cinematic developments have engendered similar criticism upon their introduction. Synchronized sound was not universally hailed on its introduction, and the criticisms of film sound were not all technical in nature.

Rudolph Arnheim, an early film critic and theorist, was a well-documented opponent of synchronized sound/dialog in film, believing it to push cinema towards an undesirable level of realism, defeating the symbolism that a more purely visual cinema manifested. British film critic Paul Rotha, quoted in a Wikipedia article on sound in film, said “A film in which the speech and sound effects are perfectly synchronised and coincide with their visual image on the screen is absolutely contrary to the aims of cinema. It is a degenerate and misguided attempt to destroy the real use of the film and cannot be accepted as coming within the true boundaries of the cinema.”

Honestly, I don’t mean to set these opinions up for ridicule, because they had a point. “Silent” cinema had achieved a visual vocabulary and cinematic efficiency that sound completely demolished, at least initially. It took years of aesthetic exploration before sound in cinema became the designed sound that we appreciate today.

I’ve read similar historical criticisms corresponding to the introduction of color as well, more or less to the effect of “color is good for popular entertainments and children’s films but unsuitable for adult storytelling.” And I’m now reading plenty of opinion back and forth about the introduction of higher frame rates, with proponents wanting to shoot and project at a higher temporal quality of 48 fps, and opponents insisting that anything other then 24 fps is uncinematic and unworthy of anything other then television news and sitcoms.

Which is fair. We who have grown up with 2D, 24 fps progressive, shallow-depth-of-field, front-projected films shown in dark theaters have come to associate these qualities with the cinematic experience. However, that’s an aesthetic based on what we’ve grown up with. I doubt any of us have the kind of meaningful opposition to either sync-sound or color that those who spent 30 years growing up with “silent” pictures had.

Furthermore, there’s another parallel between stereoscopy and film audio, one I’ve discussed previously. I would submit that neither stereo audio nor surround-sound audio make any direct contributions to the narrative of a film. Mix down any soundtrack from 5.1 to stereo, or from stereo to mono, and let me know if there’s anything you can’t understand about what’s going on, or any diminishment of the story.

But it’s still nice to have. Like widescreen, stereo and surround sound are enriching experiences that aid immersion into the world of the film. Both stereo and surround went through teething periods of overenthusiastic audio engineers creating hyperactive and exhausting mixes, before coming to some collective conclusions about ideal ways of using available surround channels to enhance, rather then distract.

Bottom line, I don’t care if stereoscopic visuals are useful narratively. They’re not. And that’s just fine. I’m more interested in the continuing exploration into how to best and most creatively use the potentially visceral depth that stereopsis provides to enhance and extend the rest of the moviegoing experience. To create another level of audience immersion, if the distractions and irritating technical limitations can, in fact, be overcome.

Here’s an anecdote that I find interesting. I was speaking with the eleven-old daughter of a friend of mine about “Up.” She said she saw the movie three times; the first time she saw it in 3D, the second in 2D, and the third in 3D again. At the first and third showing, she was so emotionally involved that she cried. At the second, while she still enjoyed the film, she didn’t. She brought this up to me, being somewhat surprised herself that 3D in and of itself was what seemed to be making the events so much more affecting.

Makes me think stereoscopy is worth exploring.

As an end-note, I feel compelled to say that with regards to the exploration of a new tool for visual entertainment, I suspect that the great filmmaker of the fantastic, Georges Méliès, coincidentally one of the characters of “Hugo,” would have been delighted at the potential of stereoscopic visuals, and would have had enormous fun trying to figure out how to use them to best effect.

(Incidentally, at the end of Ebert’s article “Why I Hate 3D (and you should too),” he says something I wholeheartedly agree with. “I’m not opposed to 3-D as an option. I’m opposed to it as a way of life for Hollywood, where it seems to be skewing major studio output away from the kinds of films we think of as Oscar-worthy.” Well said. Filmmakers should have the flexibility to use the tools and methods they believe will best suit the story at hand, discarding those methods that don’t fit. Making every film 3D makes as little sense as making every film cinemascope, or giving every film an overbearingly complicated surround mix.)


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.

Seeing Green

Green undertones = "more cowbell"

I’ve been seeing this a lot, especially with projects coming from DIY filmmakers who are grading their own projects for the first time. Wall to wall green undertones. “It makes it look like a movie, am I right?”

If you don’t know what I mean, undertones (that’s how I define them, anyway) are coloration of the middle to light shadows of an image. Not all the shadows, for as you can see in the image above, there are still solid blacks in the image to provide healthy luma contrast. And the highlights and upper midtones (containing the all-important skin tone) are also left naturalistic, both to give popping highlights for contrast, and to lend appeal to the young woman (green faces work better in Star Trek or Wicked).

However, to add visual interest and a sense of situation, a wedge of the lighter shadows in the image is isolated (using either HSL qualification, a luma keyer, curves, or whatever tool works best in your grading application), and tinted.

I’ve also seen blue undertones (often in night scenes, or heavily shadowed daytime scenes), but honestly I’ve been seeing the green undertones look used all over the place, and seeing it used in a book cover made me have to say something. I used to blame The Matrix for the superabundance of green looks; while it was hardly the first use of green tints, it was popular and I believe put its use on client’s radars. Trailers, music videos, and indie features have flocked to implement this stylization over the years, and like excessively low-hanging jeans on teenage boys, it’s a style that has lingered for a surprisingly long time.

I will surprise you by not passing judgement. It’s your project, do what you want. I will point out that it’s been done, but then so have warm looks, cool looks, skip bleach looks, supersaturation, undersaturated blue, so on and so forth. We all try so hard to be original, and then our clients say “could you make this look like Saving Private Ryan?” and we sigh and implement our individual variation of the bleach bypass grade. You know you have one.

What interests me is how we, as colorists, justify approaches like the green undertone. I’m not really inclined to read anything more then stylistic preference into anyone else’s motivations, as I’ve read so many disparate justifications that I’m happy to accept “it looks neat” and leave it at that.

However, I think it’s useful to examine different approaches to creating color meaning for a particular project, especially as meanings can be fungible, depending on the narrative requirements of the project you’re working on.

Let’s look more closely at the image up top, which is the cover of a young adult novel involving vampires and boarding school. Based on the melodramatic content, one might work out the following use of color impressions to use for various scenes:

This makes sense, and falls in line with many visual tropes that viewers will be well aware of and comfortable with. However, this is not sacrosanct, and there are other interpretations of color that may be just as valid in different situations.

For example, if we were grading a movie taking place in the desert, the following mappings of color to mood might make more sense:

The point I’m trying to make is that the narrative content of a project can and should influence the interpretations of color that you decide to rationalize. While there are widely accepted correspondences between color and mood, these correspondences have lots of wiggle room, and depend heavily on situation to give one interpretation weight over another.

What’s less ideal is to impose a “look” onto your project just because you saw it somewhere else, or because you read in a book (mine included) that this kind of scene ought to look like that. What worked for their program might work for yours, or it might not. More importantly, you should always ask yourself if there’s a way of using the color palette that the art department designed and cinematographer photographed that is more specific to the story at hand, and perhaps more creative.

There’s more then one way to create a sense of situation, and green undertones are not the only tool in the box. Be a contrarian and try something different.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.

Gone to Texas For the Day

Note to all clients, while I’ll be in Austin, Texas doing a DaVinci Resolve workshop on Wednesday November 16th from 8-10pm, never fear. My trustworthy assistant will be taking care of all grading sessions in my absence.

I've been training him in for years

In other news that promises to make my presentation more interesting, at InterBEE (Japan’s equivalent of NAB or IBC), Blackmagic Designs announced that the newest version of DaVinci Resolve Lite now has no restrictions on the number of nodes you can use in a grade. Also, all versions of Resolve will start including DNxHD compatibility for free (you used to have to buy an additional $500 add-on).

Lite is still limited to SD/HD resolutions, has no noise reduction, stereoscopic tools, or remote grading, and is also limited to only using a single processing GPU. Otherwise, the free version just became a useful tool for doing all kinds of HD projects. You can read more here.

As I said on Twitter, use the money you save on Resolve Lite to buy yourself a control surface.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.

Boston and Austin Rhyme; With DaVinci Resolve

A few weeks ago I presented at the Boston Supermeet, showing off some new things in DaVinci Resolve 8.1 (the seventh update that Blackmagic Designs has released in 13 months, by the way). I discussed the many interoperability workflows that DaVinci Resolve is now compatible with (complete round trip workflows for FCP7, Media Composer, Premiere Pro, and FCPx), and I went on to show a variety of grading techniques using composite modes to create interesting effects.

Video of my Boston Supermeet presentation, hosted by the FCPUG network, has been edited and posted at the FCPUG SuperMeet YouTube channel, along with other presentations from the evening, including one by industry legend Walter Murch.

Boston Supermeet Resolve Presentation

And By the Way

I’m going to be doing a two hour workshop in Austin, Texas, Wednesday, Nov. 16th from 8-10pm at “The Flying Saucer” bar. Because nothing goes with color correction like beer. Register at the Eventbrite page I’ve linked to to make the organizers feel like flying me out there is a good idea.


Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.
What's New in DaVinci Resolve 15: Covering every new feature in Resolve 15 from Ripple Training.
DaVinci Resolve Tutorials: Far ranging DaVinci Resolve instruction from Ripple Training.