Please Don’t Overdo Digital Touchup

Given how much I’ve written about color over the years, from time to time I’m asked in casual conversation for my opinion on the photoshopping of models on magazine covers. This is an interesting topic as it has significant overlap with the process of color correction for cinema and video. It’s easy to find examples of the abuse of Photoshop, shaving pixels off of arms and thighs, blurring complexion until the face is a plastic mask, etcetera. And these examples may lead one to think that the digital manipulation of the people is an inappropriate or even morally questionable step, given how it skews the representation of models, creates unrealistic body-image norms, and generally gives readers and viewers an entirely wrong idea about how people look. The following two grades (using a clip that accompanies my Color Correction Handbook) show what I’m talking about.


In this version, the woman’s skin tone is altered using every trick in the book, changing her tone and smoothing her into a caricature of complexion


The same shot with a much lighter grade; still altering the hue and applying far slighter softening to subdue her freckles, but leaving the original character of the performer intact

This is a worthy topic of discussion, because I believe all those things to be true. However, in an increasingly raw-shooting world of media production, it’s also true that just about every image coming out of a digital camera needs to be adjusted to look its best. There are few cameras that put out a perfectly usable image right off of the memory card, and even in those cases it takes a talented DP to produce nice images. Even so, raw or log-encoded images typically require some decision-making in terms of how you want to produce a human-viewable image, and in cinema and broadcast, those decisions are going to be subjectively made by colorists, who are hired because they have (supposedly) the good taste to make the image look great, and the good sense to not do anything stupid.

And so, knowing on the one hand that all digital images given to me will benefit from some adjustment, and on the other hand realizing that overcorrection will encourage bad habits in an industry that is all-too-often guilty of encouraging unrealistic ideals, I’ve developed a simple rule that I try to adhere to when grading performers in a project.

  • Don’t make any correction to the color, contrast, or texture of someone’s complexion that couldn’t have been done by a makeup artist doing a naturalistic job.

This is the main rule I live by in the grading suite, and that’s the rationale I use with clients who want to push me to do more. Usually this explanation suffices. Sometimes it doesn’t and the client who’s paying my bills pushes me to go farther anyway, but I’m lucky in that being the exception rather then the rule.

That said, there are some adjustments that I do feel more comfortable making more aggressively. Pimples are obviously temporary, and no actor alive would keep me from removing such a blemish if they’re unlucky enough to have one appear during a shoot, which is easily done using a small window, some tracking, and a bit of blur (or using digital paint if you’ve got a tool that lets you clone one small area’s pixels onto another region).

In another example, actors who tend to freckle can sometimes end up looking craggy in grades where you’re deliberately upping the contrast for dramatic effect. In these instances, reducing the intensity of the freckles in the skin tone of the grade using a bit of blur, noise reduction, or other techniques (such as pulling Resolve’s Midtone Detail parameter to a negative value) actually brings those actors closer to how they ordinarily look in life.

Likewise with bags under the eyes due to exhaustingly long hours; I typically don’t annihilate them, but they’re easy enough to minimize using a couple of windows, some motion tracking, and a combination of slight contrast adjustments and very slight blur. I did this very thing for my short, “The Place Where You Live,” in one of the opening shots. It was a long day’s shoot, and the makeup artist wasn’t aware just how close in we’d be pushing into her face since we were squeezing a couple of shots into the schedule in a hurry.


The original VFX shot


Isolating the region under her eyes to subdue, but not eliminate, signs of fatigue

A slightly tougher call is on reality TV shows where you’ve got people on-camera with blotchy complexions. It’s one thing to adhere to the realistic portrayal of people, but consider that you probably have someone who wasn’t expecting to be on camera, who may not have the best (or any) hair and makeup provided to them that day, who are now being scrutinized in a closeup by an unforgiving lens and an even less forgiving camera format. Blotchy complexions (typically uneven patches of slightly redder hues in the blush areas of the face) are easily minimized using Hue vs. Hue curves to push the blotchy areas closer to the hue of the rest of the face, or by qualifying the face, desaturating it slightly, and then using the color balance control to push the subject’s skin towards the ordinary hue of their face. In these cases, it’s never a good idea to eliminate the blotchy complexion, that will look unnatural. Instead, you want to minimize the problem complexion such that it’s still there, but its importance is reduced within the framing of the image.

And that, to me, is the important thing for both colorists and directors to keep in mind; the best correction in my view is one that minimizes, rather then eliminates, perceived issues with a performer’s on-screen complexion. Barring some dramatic requirement (a sick or tired character, horror movies), you want performers to look as they normally would on their best, most well-rested and relaxed day. Even (especially) if the requirement is for an idealized grade, you don’t want them to look like a blurry-skinned sparkle-zombie.

At the end of the day, I think it’s important to integrate a more realistic portrayal of people, that doesn’t give the audience unrealistic expectations of what folks look like, with the need to do quality grading that puts the performer or subject’s best face forward. A clear image of a performer or interview subject combines careful lighting, hair and makeup, and sensible choices of lens and shooting format. Should any one of those be deficient, the Colorist should be prepared to step in and make a compensating adjustment, but that adjustment should ideally go no farther then was would have been realistic on the set.

Edit—(Appended the word texture in the central quote later in the day)

Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.

New Ripple Training Grading in Resolve 11


It’s taken Ripple Training a bit over a month to edit and polish the recordings I delivered just prior to getting out of town for my recent epic multi-country journey, but after much (amazingly well done) work, my brand new “Color Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11” title is finally available.

At 13 hours, this is my most comprehensive look at color grading in Resolve yet, and covers all features old and new found in Resolve 11 (this title supersedes my Resolve 9 and 10 titles). As with my previous titles, I methodically work my way through the workflows, tools, and features that are available, showing you how to grade using Resolve’s complete tool kit. Along the way, I do my best to liberally sprinkle tips and techniques that I find helpful throughout each topic, so you can get the most out of this powerful software.

If you’re a beginner, I do my best to concisely explain the background of each tool, so you’ll get a simple primer on color grading in addition to learning the tools. If you’re an advanced user, Ripple Training’s exhaustive bookmarks make it easy for you to jump right to the information you need.

For those of you’ve watched previous versions of my training for earlier iterations of Resolve, I’d estimate that this new title is approximately 30% new material, and 70% overlap. However, the comprehensive index makes it easy to jump straight to the information you’re looking for, so whether you’re only interested in new features, or looking to refresh your knowledge of seldom-used features, you can easily focus on the tools you need to learn.

And don’t forget that Resolve’s impressive new editing features are covered in my six-hour “Editing in Resolve 11” title. Between the Editing and Grading titles, you now have access to 19 hours of training covering nearly every aspect of DaVinci Resolve 11.

For more information, and sample movies from both titles, visit 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.

Post Production in Lisbon

On a hill overlooking Lisbon, Portugal

On a hill overlooking Lisbon, Portugal

I was fortunate enough to be hired to consult with Jennifer Mendes, the colorist at Lisbon post production facility Loudness Films. Comprised of four principals (Branko Neskov doing sound, Pedro Ribeiro doing editing, Jennifer Mendes doing color, and Nuno Oliveira taking care of the business side of things) this two-story facility has fantastic mixing, recording, and grading rooms designed by Joules Newell (Newell Acoustic Engineering) whom I also happened to meet as he was working on the addition of new audio editing rooms.

Mixing Stage

Branko Neskov standing on the Loudness Films Mixing Stage

The mixing and recording rooms are absolutely top notch, Dolby certified, and palatial to an indie filmmaker like me. Audio editing and mixing veteran Branko Neskov played excerpts from a few different projects for me, and the room sounded fantastic (the large-screen projection wasn’t too shabby either). They’ve also got a secondary recording stage large enough for a band, and fully equipped with foley pits and props for cinema work.

Recording Stage

The Recording and Foley stage at Loudness Films

The accompanying secondary mixing room is also a great audio suite in its own right.

Second Mixing Room

The second mixing room, connected to the recording stage

Of course, I was there to work with Jennifer Mendes in the color suite, which is fully equipped with 2K Barco projection,  a Doremi digital cinema server, a Sony OLED secondary display, and DaVinci Resolve on OS X driven by a set of Tangent Element panels and connected to the facility-wide SAN.

Grading Suite

The grading theater, with colorist Jennifer Mendes (pardon the cookie wrapper, that was my fault…)

I particularly love the glass-walled machine room just outside the grading suite. Not only does it get the projector out of the room and keep the gear cool, but it looks fantastic, and shows off the equipment nicely to clients.

Machine Room

The grading suite’s machine room and projector booth

Jennifer and I spent three days going over all her questions about workflow, Resolve operational details, and grading strategy. We used some of the projects she’s been working on as example footage, and judging from her work she’s got a great eye; I was happy to compare methods and share what I could. Overall, I was very impressed with the quality and variety of the work I saw being done in Lisbon for both cinema and broadcast.


From left to right, me, Jennifer Mendes, Pedro Ribeiro, Branko Neskov, and Nuno Oliveira

The folks at Loudness Films definitely have a sweet gig; Lisbon is a fantastic town, and the low overhead they’re able to maintain in Portugal makes them a compelling choice for cost-conscious filmmakers interested in working with them remotely to finish a project, or even for post artists flying in to rent the facilities to use themselves while enjoying Portugal’s unbelievable cuisine between sessions (and seriously, the food here is fantastic).

Being able to see how filmmaking and post are done in other parts of the world is one of the things I love about traveling, and from what I’ve seen in Lisbon I hope to be back someday.

Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.

Editing in Resolve

Great site – which I have just discovered. I am a technician at a UK university and we have recently made the move to shooting on Blackmagic cameras and using Resolve. You seem to be one of the few people going into depth about editing in resolve 11 – and I wondered if I could ask some advice. Is it now feasible to work completely in resolve 11? I am writing a new workflow and even though we also teach Avid and Final Cut – I thought maybe now is the time to actually teach editing and grading in the one package. Is this covered in your tutorials? creating and editing with proxies all with da vinci? 

To answer your last question first, my brand new “Editing in Resolve 11” title from Ripple Training is completely focused on how to edit in DaVinci Resolve, walking you through how to bring media into Resolve, organize it for editing, and cut and trim it into an edited program complete with transitions, composites, and other effects. There are a few lessons included that cover grading for editors, which are designed to give an introduction to those tools for folks that don’t know grading, but the overwhelming majority of the videos are all about the various editing, effects, and audio tools available in Resolve’s Edit page, and how they’re designed to be used together.

Now to answer your previous question. Yes, I consider it completely feasible to edit a project from scratch inside of Resolve 11. Obviously I’m biased since I helped design the feature set, but I’ve been using the editing tools as long as they’ve existed, and have cut a few very short projects with them, and I’m very happy cutting in Resolve.

Editing Tools in Resolve 11

Editing Tools in Resolve 11

Of course, the cool thing about Resolve is that it also has extensive support for importing and exporting XML, AAF, and EDL project exchange files between just about every NLE currently in use, so you can mix and match NLEs with your Resolve workflow in any way you want. But, if you want to take advantage of Resolve’s ability to let you cut away in the Edit page and then, with the single click of a button, start grading in the Color page, going back and forth as you please cutting and grading the same timeline within the same application, you’ve got a nice editing environment with which to do so.

Furthermore, Resolve 11 editing is based on an editor-friendly source-record style paradigm, with strong track management in the timeline that makes it easy to segue from craft editing into finishing. You’ve even got the ability to customize the name of each track. Bottom line, editors from other environments won’t have to relearn everything to start cutting in Resolve, and beginners will find a nice, clean UI that I consider to be very approachable.

The Editing Timeline in Resolve 11

The Editing Timeline in Resolve 11

However, in the spirit of complete honesty, there are a few caveats you should be aware of.

  1. There’s no multicam editing. If you require multicam, I recommend using FCP X’s wonderful multicam tools, and importing the result into Resolve via XML for finishing (works like a charm).
  2. Resolve 11’s current audio tools are a bit sparse. On the plus side, Resolve does have keyframable clip level overlays, multi-channel 16-channel adaptive timeline tracks, individual channel muting in source clips (via the Clip Attributes command), multi-channel waveform views in the Viewer and timeline, and a track/clip level mixer with assignable channel routing for both digital delivery and tape output, and crossfades. On the minus side, there are no audio filters, audio mixing cannot currently be automated at the track level, and there’s currently no way to export AAF to ProTools directly. However, you can export XML to FCP 7 and then export an OMF from there to ProTools (I’ve done it and it works).
  3. Media management in Resolve doesn’t work the way it does in other NLEs. That’s not to say Resolve doesn’t do media management, in fact it has a wealth of media management features, but they’re accessible in different ways, and they require some reading of the manual to get a handle on if you’re used to other applications.
  4. Given Resolve’s continued emphasis on top-quality, 32-bit floating point precision in all of its processing, even the editing tools benefit from the highest performance GPU you can give them. In particular, if you’re planning a classroom full of iMacs, getting the top-of-the-line GPU option is the best way to go (there’s an updated configuration guide if you want more information available at the Blackmagic Design support site).

Keep in mind that this is only DaVinci’s second year of adding serious editing tools, so there are bound to be small features here and there that you may find missing if you’re used to other NLEs. However, the team worked hard to put together as complete a set of editing tools as 24 months of arduous work has allowed, and there has been a lot of thought put into the current set of features to make sure the tools are robust and work together elegantly.

All of the basics are there including full JKL transport controls, absolute and relative timecode navigation and trimming, source-timeline viewer ganging, three-point editing, insert/overwrite/replace/place-on-top/fit-to-fill edits, a fantastic and complete set of trim tools, timeline and clip markers with multiple colors and notes with optional marker rippling, multi-clip selection with select all clips forward and backward commands, compound clip creation and editing, multi-take clip management in the timeline, per-clip transform and compositing controls, linear and variable speed effects with optical flow processing, keyframable effects with an in-timeline curve editor, paste attributes, some really nice media organization tools in the Media Pool, a filterable Edit Index that you can use to list all your markers, offline clips, through-edits, etc., and a great “Smart Cache” system for automatic render caching of processor-intensive effects. Obviously there’s much, much more to the Edit page then I can describe here, but these highlights should give you a good idea of how much there is to be found.

Markers in Resolve 11

Markers in Resolve 11

Furthermore, every function has been designed to work well using either the mouse, or via extensive keyboard shortcuts. An excellent example of this is the simple ability to add transitions. Using the mouse you can right-click on an edit and choose one of four different timings of the current standard transition. Or, if you select an edit by pressing the V key, you can use the U key to choose which side of the edit is selected (incoming, outgoing, or center), and then press Command-T to add the standard transition at the incoming, outgoing, or center of the edit, whichever is selected.

Adding Transitions

Adding Transitions

And of course Resolve’s extensive format support, support of mixed frame-rates/frame sizes/codecs within a single timeline, and extensive project import/export support for multiple XML, AAF, and EDL workflows makes it easy to use Resolve in an incredibly wide variety of workflows, including converting project exchange formats and exporting to just about any media format you’d want to.

Resolve 11 Export Formats

Resolve 11 Export Formats

Oh, and of course you can switch from editing to using Resolve’s incredibly deep grading environment with the single click of a button. No reconform needed, as you’re working on the exact same timeline in both pages.

Resolve 11 Grading at the Press of a Button

Resolve 11 Grading at the Press of a Button

While my current title for Ripple Training focuses on Editing, they’re working on my already-recorded “Grading in Resolve 11” title which is a completely updated grading title. It’ll probably be available in a month or so there’s a separate title on Grading that’s now available.

With all this said, I’d absolutely recommend downloading the Lite version (for free) and checking it out for yourself. The best way to get a feel for Resolve’s editing is to get your hands on it. I think you’ll like what you find. And don’t forget the newly updated Resolve 11 User Manual, written by yours truly, that comes along with the app (it’s installed in the same folder as the Resolve 11 application). The Edit chapters are totally revised, and worth a look if you want to understand how everything works.

Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.

A Film is Never Finished

Official-Selection-FLIFF-2014-solo    2014-SDFF-Laurels

I completed my science fiction short, “The Place Where You Live,” about a month ago. I would have spent more time crowing about it, but I almost immediately launched into the final work I had to do for the pending Resolve 11 release. However, since then I’ve been doing all those other things you need to do once you finish a film; entering festivals, creating press materials, writing blurbs, building a web site, making postcards and business cards, budgeting for screeners and deliverables, choosing a shirt to wear to the premiere, etcetera, etcetera.

The truth is, you’re never done, but you do manage to finish some things along the way, and today I completed the brand new home page of the film, located at (which was as close as I could get to the title with an available domain).

There’s lots of information about the movie, including a fantastic trailer edited by Monica Daniel (she of Shitting Sparkles). I’ll cheat and let you watch it here if you promise to check out the web site later…

There’s also (drum roll please) news about THE FIRST TWO FILM FESTIVALS THAT HAVE SELECTED TPWYL! Upper caps because I’m thrilled to have good news to share so soon. The Fort Lauterdale International Film Festival in Florida has selected us for their 2014 festival in November. And the South Dakota Film Festival has selected us for their upcoming September 25th-28th screenings in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

I’m delighted to be included in both, and hopeful that I’ll have more news along these lines to come, as I’ve been told that each additional laurel wreath of film festival acceptance brings a fairy back to life (zombie fairies being an as yet untapped corner of two genres, no less).

The current plan is to run TPWYL through the gauntlet of whichever festivals will have us through 2014 and part of 2015. Until that time, I can’t post it freely on the web as many festivals have prohibitions against that. However, once festival play concludes, I’ll be posting the movie for one and all to watch and enjoy. Until then, keep an eye on this and the movie page, as well as my twitter feed, for news of any possible big-screen experiences coming to a film festival near you.

Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.

The Public Beta of DaVinci Resolve 11


I’ve had a lot of fun working with DaVinci this year, and version 11 a big new release that expands editing, improves grading, and makes nearly every workflow better. While I’ve been nose-to-the-grindstone finishing my film, “The Place Where You Live” for the last two weeks (I finished the last of the VFX yesterday), I’ve continued to keep pace with the DaVinci development team as they’ve been putting the final touches on today’s giant new release of the DaVinci Resolve 11 public beta.

If you’re a current Resolve user, or curious about what Resolve can do for you, there are public betas for both the full dongle-protected version, and the free Lite version. And I need to point out that nearly every feature I talk about in this article is available for free in the lite version. Both can be obtained at a brand new support page:

This page also includes some videos showing what’s new, with specific looks at editing and grading in Resolve. However, if you were to ask me about my favorite new features, I would tell you to check out the following…

Editing, Editing, and Editing

One of the main themes of Resolve 11 is vastly expanded editing tools; you now have a video editor living directly alongside your grading environment, in which you can cut from scratch and immediately switch to grading with a single mouse-click. Or, if you’re like me, you can go back and forth between cutting and grading continuously, making grading tweaks to scenes right in the middle of your edit, creating quick matches when insert shots don’t look right, or creating that day-for-night look you need to make a particular scene work. I’ve actually cut a couple of short projects with these tools, and I think you’ll find the Resolve editing experience surprisingly robust given this is only the second year the team’s been working on it.

You need to check out the powerful trimming tools, including a fantastic implementation of dynamic JKL trimming (make a selection and hold the Command key down while using JKL), and the ability to disable tracks from rippling using the Auto Select controls. If you tried editing with version 10, rest assured that version 11 adds most of what you may have found lacking, including timecode entry for navigation and trimming, more JKL transport functionality, better keyframing and a new curve editor, improved copy/paste and option-drag to duplicate clips, Description/Comments/Keywords columns in the Media Pool, bin organization for timelines, trim start/end features and numerous trim functions, four-up trim viewer displays for slip and slide, key shortcuts for just about everything (including moving clips up and down among tracks) and editable key shortcuts, many improvements to the process of adding and modifying transitions, a new film style transition, an adjustable audio crossfade, new 16-channel capable adaptive audio tracks, a clip mixing mode in the Audio Mixer, title formatting improvements, compatibility with OFX transitions such as those in GenArts Sapphire, a find next/previous gap function, flag/marker/through-edit/offline filtering in the Edit Index, editable notes and colors for markers, a Paste Attributes function, new Compound Clip editing, and much, much more. Coupled with the multiple edit types, compositing and transform features, three-point-editing, speed effects, and draggable trimming that Resolve already had, these additions add up to a very nice experience. In fact, Editing is so big it’s now covered in chapters 6, 7, and 8 of the User Manual. And before you ask, no, there’s no multi-cam editing (I would point out that Final Cut Pro X has great multi-cam along with great import into Resolve).

And to reiterate, every single editing feature is available in Resolve Lite, for free, on both Windows and the Mac (there is no Resolve Lite for Linux).

Great New Grading Tools

There are many new grading tools, including the new Color Match palette for automatically grading a clip based on a color chart included in the shot, a new Sat vs. Sat curve that lets you precisely adjust the saturation of pixels in the image based on their level saturation in the picture, new LAB colorspace conversion within a node, vastly improved matte adjustment parameters in the HSL Qualifier palette, terrific new Highlights and Shadows parameters in both RAW and Color Match palettes for easily retrieving highlight and shadow detail in high dynamic range media, Color Boost and Midtone Detail parameters for creating adjustments similar to vibrance and definition, an Opacity setting for windows, improved automatic Color Matching tools for Stereo 3D media, updated LUTs, the ability to create multiple PowerGrade albums, Wipe, Split-Screen, and Highlight buttons at the top of the Viewer, new automatic Broadcast Safe settings, and UI improvements too numerous to get into here. Color grading has now been split into two chapters, 11 and 12, of the User Manual.

A New Take On an Old Tool, Groups

Also for colorists, the all new Group Grading features makes grading with groups easier and more intuitive than before. If you’ve avoided using groups in the past because they were too complicated to manage, give them another try in version 11. Creating a group enables two new modes in the Node Editor, Pre-Clip Group and Post-Clip Group, which can be used for creating node trees prior to and after the Clip node tree, both of which are automatically synced among each clip in the group. The Clip node remains separate from the group, allowing you to make individual per-clip adjustments. This way, you’ve got an easy way of creating one set of node trees that will ripple among the clips in the group, and a separate node tree that doesn’t. This feature let me remove a whole page of explanation from the manual because it’s so straightforward to use. Group grading is covered at the end of Chapter 13.

A New Render Cache

Whether you’re a colorist or an editor, all new Render Cache functionality lets you either manually or automatically (if you choose the Smart setting) cache source clip formats that won’t play in real time, cache Edit page timeline effects that are render intensive, and cache Color page nodes that are render intensive. Caching is done automatically and quickly, sneaking in cache processing whenever you pause working. Colorists can also turn on caching for a specific node in the Node Editor, which forces all image processing up to that node to cache, while leaving all downstream nodes live for editing. The format you cache to is user selectable (in the General Options of the Project Settings) and you can choose from among a wide range of video formats. Also, while exporting from the Delivery page, you have the option of choosing to either output the cached media, or force a re-render. Caching in Resolve is now a big topic, and full information can be found starting on page 97 of the User Manual. Not mentioned (yet) is the ability to delete your render cache, found at the bottom of the Playback menu.

Collaborative Workflow

Collaborative workflow (only available with the full version of Resolve) is a huge new feature that allows multi-workstation shops, both large and small, to have multiple Resolve users working on the same timeline at the same time. Setting up a shared Resolve project database to do this is relatively simple (there are complete instructions in Chapter 17 of the User Manual), and once you do so, an editor, a colorist, and some assistants can work together on the same timeline, at the same time, giving you yet another tool to manage those ridiculous client deadlines. Even if you’re a tiny boutique post house with two people, an editor and a colorist, you can set this up to use among your two workstations for the cost of only two licenses of Resolve.

Clone Tool

A new clone tool in the Media page makes it easy to duplicate camera card media, volumes, or even individual folders, to one or more destinations, complete with checksum reports written to the destination.


There are even new features for delivery, including a new UI separating the output options into Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced sets of controls depending on how much customization you require, new H.264 one-pass encoding with user-adjustable data rate throttling and AAC audio encoding that produces fast and quality H.264 files, MXF OP1A encoding, IMF encoding for owners of easyDCP, and the ability to output clips of mixed resolutions at their original frame sizes when outputting individual source clips. All this and more is covered in Chapter 14.

Get It Now

These are just the highlights, there’s much, much more to this release than I can easily summarize here. It’s all covered in the beta version of the newly updated User Manual that accompanies the disk installation (the User Manual is now automatically copied to the application folder that’s now installed). The User Manual has been significantly reorganized, and as you can imagine there’s a lot more information in the editing chapters than there used to be. So, download the software, skim the User Manual, and give it a whirl. Integration between editing and grading has never been tighter, and while I’m obviously biased since I work with the DaVinci design team, I think you’re going to really like what you see.

And yes, as you can imagine, I’m hard at work on the updated version of my training videos for version 11, through Ripple Training. This year will be a total overhaul, which is a colossal undertaking, but well worth it. Stay tuned on my twitter feed (@hurkman) if you want to be the first to hear about 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.

On Giving Software Feedback

Disclaimer—I’m not writing this on behalf of any company in particular, I share this as a freelancer who’s seen a lot of customer feedback over the years, for many different companies, as a postproduction consultant, technical writer, and third-party author. However, since EVERY company needs good feedback in order to fix bugs and make their products more enjoyable to use, I write this on behalf of everyone who shares the fervent hope that whatever software they use, over time, will become better.

What Doesn’t Work

I’m going to start by telling you what not to write when informing whatever company makes the application you use about something that’s bothering you, whether it’s a bug, or simply an aspect of its design that makes your life difficult. Do not, under any circumstances, send an email resembling the following:

Hey guys, feature X sucks. This other application does it better. You’ve had years to fix it. This makes the application unusable. If you don’t fix it I’m switching to something else. You need to take me seriously, because I’m important and do big jobs.

–Crankcase Sadheimer

This is an extreme example, and I’m poking fun to make a point, but I’m not entirely joking. I’ve seen actual emails resembling this, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that (a) they don’t help, (b) they won’t accomplish the meaningful change the author is longing for, and (c) they absolutely don’t endear the author to the people who have their hands in the code.

I get it. You’re frustrated. I’ve been there, and have done my fair share of swearing at my monitor when something makes me crazy. But in the immortal words of Ice Cube, check yourself before you wreck yourself.

It’s a mistake to think that nobody from company X, Y, or Z is going to read your forum post or email, so being incendiary will cut through the clutter. The truth is, folks at software companies do read forums and they do peruse these emails; not only management, but also the software designers and engineers in the trenches. Real people who’ve been staying up late nights trying to make the software you use better. So if there’s something you wouldn’t say to one of these folks in person at a meeting or party, you really should reconsider whether phrasing it that way in a forum is the most influential approach you could take.

Now, this doesn’t mean you’re ever going to get a reply. For a variety of reasons (company policy, too much feedback to respond to) you probably won’t ever hear back, but that doesn’t mean your missive will not be read. Quite the contrary.

Please, be professional.

What Does Work

Even more importantly, being vague won’t forward your agenda. Only saying that something sucks, or that something should be done better, or that application A’s feature is worse than application B, doesn’t give the people you’re writing to any concrete information with which to decide whether to take your request seriously. Exactly why does it suck? How should it be done better? In what specific way is application B’s feature superior?

You have to understand that professionals working at software companies usually care a lot about the user experience. That’s not to say that they always get things right, but they’re trying. Really, they are. And when a piece of software has a feature that’s either broken or ill-advised, they genuinely want to hear about it.

However, they need specific information about what the perceived problem is.

And they may not be able to get to it right away.

First, about the specific information. If it’s a bug, the following things really, really help engineers to track down what’s going wrong. (a) Clearly describe what’s going wrong, and is it repeatable? (b) What were the things you were doing that seemed to trigger the bug? (c) Machine configuration and software version? (d) Can you provide related media and/or project files that were involved?

I know, that’s a lot of work and you’re not being paid to do that company’s QA for them. However, if you really want the bug to be fixed, this kind of information can make the difference between your issue sitting on the bottom of an ever-growing pile of bug reports that are difficult to understand and/or reproduce, and your bug being immediately investigated and dealt with.

If you’re submitting a new feature request, either to change a current feature or to add a new one, there’s also a set of information you can provide that will make your request easier to consider. (a) Clearly describe the change or new feature you want. (b) Please articulate why it’s important, what problems it will solve, what it will make easier. (c) If another application does something better, please call out specific comparisons, how exactly is something done better, can you provide screenshot comparisons of the same thing done in both apps that illustrate the difference? (d) Will the improvement you want be useful to a wide variety of people and situations, or is it a one-trick pony? (e) Can your feature be implemented in a flexible way as to accomplish multiple things at once?

Again, this is a lot of work, but it makes all the difference between a new feature request being considered seriously, and being thrown in a pile with the five thousand other feature requests that have been made.

Patience—It’s a Numbers Game

I need to reiterate that software companies get hundreds and thousands of feature requests. However, these are in addition to the probably 500 item-strong to-do list of things that have already been approved. Every company suffers from this dilemma. You’ve only got so many engineers, you’ve only got so much time, so you’re only going to get to a subset of things on your to-do list every year.

This means that companies prioritize requests that have been repeated by many people over requests that only one or two folks have made. This is one reason why I often advise folks who ask me about their feature requests to sit down and give a few minutes of thought to how their request might be broadened to solve a variety of related needs, rather than the single isolated problem that you need solved for the one project you’re working on this week.

This also means a feature you want could already be on the to-do list, but it’s down so close to the bottom that it might take three years to get to. Hearing from you will be one more up-vote for that feature, and the better you can sell it, the more up-votes it might get, but that still doesn’t mean it’ll get done right away. However, if you’re professional and give good feedback, it will help move that feature along.

Here’s one last tip. Don’t send a list of twenty feature requests that are all vitally important. You’re not going to get twenty feature requests. Nobody gets twenty feature requests. If you’ve got a long list, pick the top five, make them good, and promote those. If any of them actually get done, then send along two or three more. Whether you know it or not, you’re building an invisible relationship with this company. Overwhelming decision makers with too long a list makes it difficult to prioritize what’s really important, so you need to do that for them.

Be specific. Be professional. It really will help, and getting a reputation for providing useful feedback will pay dividends, making everybody’s life a little better when those things do finally get implemented or fixed.

Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.

Old Tricks in a New Way—Color Wash

Offset Color Balance

As I was puttering around the other week, I happened upon a small DaVinci Resolve grading trick that seemed worth sharing. Nothing earth-shattering, just a handy tip that might help out when you’re trying to add a color wash or tint to a clip, but you want to make sure that some of the underlying color still shows through.

For reference, here’s the original:

Pre-Tint Original

The simplest way of introducing a tint is simply to push one of the color balance controls aggressively towards a particular color. Depending on which control you use, such a tint will be emphasized in the highlights (Gain), the midtones (Gamma), or the shadows (Lift). The most aggressive tints, affecting the entire image, can be accomplished using the Offset control, which rebalances the entire range of the signal indiscriminately.

Here’s the trick for retaining a bit of naturalism. Before you touch the color balance controls, right-click the node you’re using to apply the tint, and turn off “Enable channel 2” so there’s no check mark next to it.

Disabling Channels

This prevents anything you do in this node from affecting channel 2, which is the green channel. Now, when you push any of the color balance controls around, you’ll be rebalancing the red and blue channels, but not green. Even when using Offset to create a massive tint.

Offset Color Balance

The result is that you actually retain a good whiff of the original color balance in the midtones, as you can see in the following comparison of differently tinted versions, all using the Offset control.

Comparison of Grades

Why lock off the green channel to do this? Well, when you’re rebalancing color, the green channel sits right in the middle, betwixt and between red and blue. Locking green off means that red and blue then see-saw up and down on either side of green. The result is that, while the midtones do become tinted along with the rest of the image, they’re prevented from becoming tinted so much that the original balance of colors is obscured.

You can see this when comparing the original and tinted images in an RGB Parade scope. Here’s the original:

Untinted Image

Now here’s the tinted image:

Tinted Image

Since we’re pushing this image towards green using the offset control, you can see that the bottoms of the red and blue channels are being clipped, but the green channel remains stolidly where it was. A tint is being created, but leaving the green channel out of the operation prevents you from going overboard too easily.

So there you go. It’s a small thing, and while you probably already had about eight different ways of tinting an image if you’ve read my Color Correction Handbook and/or Look Book, this gives you one more for those special cases.

Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.

Don’t Hold Out for Perfect

It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be right.

Whether they’re aware of it or not, this attitude is something that I think distinguishes the more seasoned producers, directors, and cinematographers I’ve worked with from those at the beginning of their careers, and it’s something that every artist ought to think about during the course of a project.

You can drive yourself crazy trying to get the artist you’re working with to find the perfect solution to a creative problem. The perfect grade. The perfect cut.  The perfect draft. The perfect font. In a quest for perfection, you might try solution after solution, discarding one after the other because of the vague sense that no matter how good what you’ve got is, there must be something better.

This is a fantastic way to spend shedloads of money, consuming inordinate amounts of time creating lots of versions, many of which probably work extremely well to solve whatever creative issues need resolving. But you don’t need five different solutions, you just need one good one. Veteran clients know this.

I contend there’s a better way of framing the quest for creative excellence, which is to focus on finding the right solution to the creative problem at hand. While there can only be one perfect solution (attainable only after a Xeno’s paradox worth of cash-burning variations), there could be many right solutions, and you need only try the first one or two to finish the scene well and move on.

This is not the same as settling for less, or only doing “good enough.” A solution that’s truly right may not be easy, it may yet require a few versions to discover. However, when found, the right solution will achieve the look, timing, theme, or design that forwards your project’s agenda and allows you to move on to the next task in the endless conga-line of things you need to finish. And acknowledging that you’ve found the right solution will spare you the fear, doubt, and uncertainty that “oh god there must be an even better solution out there if only we’re smart and creative and tenacious and RICH enough to find it.”

If you find the right solution, everything should fit together in a satisfying way. Might you come up with an even better solution tomorrow? Sure, but you don’t have to worry about that now, because if something better presents itself, then you can always revisit. And if not, than you probably found the best solution in the first place, and aren’t you glad you stopped worrying about it and moved on?

So that’s my note for the clients and artists of the world. Focus on finding a solution that’s right for your project, and move on.

On the other hand, a piece of corollary advice for the creative professional doing client service is this—a solution that’s right for you might not be right for the client. Many are the colorists/editors/writers/compositors/motion graphics artists/sound designers who’ve pulled their hair out over a client’s rejection of their brilliant solution to a creative problem.

When other folks are paying us to be creative for them, it’s incumbent upon us to reverse-engineer the aesthetic of the client in order to develop solutions that the client will find fulfilling. In an ideal world, those would dovetail with our own inclinations, and those are moments to be treasured. When it doesn’t, it’ll spare you a lot of heartache if you focus on figuring out what it is the client actually wants and why they want it, rather than trying to convince them that your way is better (unless the client is utterly undecided, in which case it’s entirely appropriate to make recommendations to break the log-jam).

Admittedly, this is easier said then done, depending on the personalities in the room.

And this is where I go back to giving one more piece of advice to the clients of the world. If you’ve done your homework, and you’ve hired a skilled artist whose reputation and/or showreel you trust to perform a job for you, keep in mind during moments of uncertainty that you hired them because they grade/edit/compose/design for a living, and they’re trying to do what’s best for your project. If you’ve been given a solution that you generally like, but you want to see another version just because you think there’s something better out there but you’re not honestly sure if that’s even true, it’s probably okay to trust the artist you’re working with and move on to the next task.

If you still feel that way tomorrow, you can always revisit, but if you watch that section again and realize that the solution is just right, you’ll feel pretty smart about nailing the project and saving a few hours while doing so.

Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.

All About Resolve 10.1

This is just a quick post as I’m out of the country and about to take my first meaningful vacation in two years. DaVinci recently released version 10.1 of Resolve, with a bunch of great new features; not wanting to rerecord my just-finished “Resolve 10 In-Depth” title for Ripple that runs four hours and covers everything that’s new as of 10.0.2, I thought I’d make things easy for everybody and record a set of free tutorials that only cover the very newest features in 10.1, so that everyone can keep current.

There are seven movies totaling less then an hour, covering new editing features, improvements to Color Trace, an explanation of the new way the Resolve handles stereo, an update on different ways of copying grades in the color page, and much more. You can either access them on YouTube at the Ripple Training channel, or you can view them on a dedicated page at the Ripple Training site. For now, here’s a taste (for some reason I can only link to the very last movie), hope you find them 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.

Calibrate That Display!


One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve gotten over the years is “I’m planning on using a plasma display for color critical monitoring, but I’m not sure how to calibrate it.” I’ve been putting off answering this question for months, as the answer has, until recently, been a bit more complicated then I’ve wanted it to be. However, recent developments – specifically the release of DaVinci Resolve 10 – have dramatically simplified this process, making LUT calibration easier then it’s ever been for small shops.

In this article, I’m going to illustrate the process of automated LUT calibration using the particular software and hardware combination that I’ve been working with:

  •  LightSpace CMS (Color Management System) from Light Illusion
  • DaVinci Resolve 10 (this also works with the free Resolve Lite 10)
  • A Klein K-10 colorimeter (now superseded by the Klein K-10A)
  • A Panasonic VT30 series plasma display (since superseded by the VT60), which used to be my primary client display.

While I’m discussing my particular use case, it’s worth pointing out that these procedures are identical for calibrating any kind of display, be it plasma, LCD, OLED, or projection. In fact, with plasma displays soon to be discontinued by Panasonic (according to the last news I’ve heard), the various debates about whether or not plasma is truly suitable for professional use shall eventually become moot. However, for now, plasmas are still very much in use at facilities around the world, so this information is still relevant.


Monitor calibration is an obscure corner of the already obscure profession of color correction. However, once you know how things work, automated calibration should be a simple and straightforward procedure. Essentially, you use color management software to control both a color probe and a pattern generator (which can be either hardware or software) that work together to measure your display. The pattern generator outputs a series of color patches to the display you’re calibrating, the color probe measures each patch, and the software saves the resulting measurements.

LightSpace and Resolve Setup

The process of measuring tens or even hundreds of patches of different colors characterizes your display, providing data about what your display is actually capable of showing. This lets you see how much and where your display deviates from an ideal colorspace, such as the Rec. 709 standard for high definition video. Once your display has been characterized, the difference between an ideal calibration and your actual display can then be used to mathematically generate a LUT (Look Up Table) that can be used to transform whatever signal is sent to your display into how it should look on an ideal display.

Your Display

Before you get too excited about the promise of automated, LUT-based calibration, it’s important to know what it can’t do. LUT calibration only works well when your display is already capable of meeting or exceeding the full gamut, or range of colors, of the calibration standard you require. For example, if you’re calibrating a high-end plasma display that’s capable of Rec. 709 to precisely meet the Rec. 709 standard, then you’re in good shape. However, if you’re trying to calibrate it to meet the DCI standard of digital cinema calibration, which has a much larger gamut, then you’re out of luck.

LUTs, specifically 3D LUT cubes, are mathematical tables that automatically calculate what RGB value to output based on each RGB value that’s input. When used for calibration, 3D LUTs are capable of transforming larger gamuts to match smaller gamuts, but there’s no way you can make a display with a smaller gamut properly display a larger gamut. Physics denies you.

So, LUT calibration doesn’t let you off the hook as far as getting a good display; you still need to do the research and purchase the best display technology you can afford. LUT calibration is not about making poor displays good, it’s about making good displays accurate.

Whither Plasma?

In my case, in 2011 I purchased a Panasonic TC-P55VT30. Within the context of my small freelance grading practice, it’s been doing well for me. That model has been discontinued in favor of 2013’s VT60 series, about which I’ve heard many good things.

However, Panasonic’s professional series TH-42PF50U displays are an easier purchase to make for the colorist, albeit at greater expense. My understanding is that the pro monitors share panel technology with the consumer models, but they’re set up with more professionally oriented menu options for selection of gamut and gamma, so that it speaks the same language you do. There’s also the option to add HD-SDI inputs via an expansion slot. However, the base cost of this display with HDMI 1.4 built-in is quite reasonable, and while HD-SDI input is much more convenient for professional facilities, proper connection of an HDMI 1.4 signal path can yield perfectly useful results. Lastly, it comes in a 42 inch size which can be more appropriate for smaller rooms. I always take a look at Panasonic’s pro plasmas when I’m at NAB and usually come away impressed.

Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for Plasma is tempered by news that Panasonic is discontinuing plasma TV manufacturing, with the last Panasonic plasmas supposedly being sold in March of 2014. LG and Samsung are still making plasmas, but it’s been the Panasonic models (and the now legendary Pioneer Kuro plasma before them) that have really brought the quality. However, at the time of this writing there’s still a lot of plasma displays to go around, and they’re still viable contenders for color-critical monitoring, if you calibrate them properly.

Why Haters Hate

On the other hand, Plasma has plenty of detractors, and to be fair, they have valid points. To quote from my updated Color Correction Handbook, 2nd Edition:

The advantages these displays have in price and large size are partially offset by two less useful aspects of plasma technology. First, imaging detail in the very darkest shadows is not as good as LCD or OLED displays, owing to the subtle noise pattern that’s inherent in plasma technology. This isn’t the worst problem in the world, but it’s something to be aware of.

Additionally, plasma displays all have an auto brightness limiter (ABL) circuit, which is designed to reduce plasma power consumption by automatically dimming the display whenever image brightness exceeds a particular threshold. This can be readily exposed via test patterns and can be a problem if you work on graphics-heavy programs. However, most conventionally shot live-action video isn’t going to trigger this circuit in an appreciable way, and in any event these limitations have not stopped plasmas from seeing professional use.

So that’s what I have to say about the topic. If you’re mindful of these limitations, and you trust your video scopes, and you’re careful about how you set up and calibrate your plasma display, they can be useful in color-critical environments, and I’ve never had a project that I’ve graded with my plasma bounced back from a client (for which I’m very thankful).

But it’s also true that, as of 2014, I’ve finally moved away from Plasma, to a Flanders CM500TD (a process I’ll blog about after I’ve used it a little while longer). This decision was made for a wide variety of reasons – smaller size, passive stereoscopic 3D, more stable color needing fewer calibration passes over time, less noise in shadows, lighter weight, easier to switch among different monitoring standards and more standards supported, built-in LUT support, 3D SDI inputs standard, etcetera, etcetera, that makes more sense for the equipment I’m using and the programs I’m working on these days. I’m sacrificing the perceived blackness of shadow to a small extent, but in real-world use this is not proving to be a liability.

Here’s the thing; as I’ve tried to explain at length in “What Display Should I Buy? An Opinion Piece…,” buying a display is a highly personal decision that has as much to do with you and your clientele’s preferences as it does with a given display technologies’ level of accuracy. Don’t buy a display because you read that I like it, because my reasons may not be your reasons. Instead, you should evaluate the different legitimately color-critical options for yourself, and then get what suits your particular needs. This is the approach I’ve tried to take when describing the various display technologies that are currently available in chapter two of my updated Color Correction Handbook, 2nd Edition, and I think it’s the only way to be honest about this frequently debated subject.

Back to Calibration – The Software

Steve Shaw graciously provided me with a license of LightSpace CMS to work with in the comfort of my home grading suite for some classes I was running some time back. For those who don’t know, LightSpace is a fully featured color management application that has tools for display profiling, LUT generation, LUT conversion (with a truly long list of LUT formats you can convert among), CDL to LUT conversions, and batch LUT image processing tools. It also includes probe matching and probe offset capabilities (so you can calibrate your $500 colorimeter to your friend’s $26,000 spectroradiometer). In short, it’s a swiss army knife of calibration and LUT tools.

Note, if you’re only doing calibration and don’t need all those features, there’s a less expensive LightSpace CMS for Quick Profiling license that’s focused on display profiling and calibration, and if you have a facility with 50 Flanders Scientific displays, there’s a Flanders-specific version of LightSpace that you can get at a discount.

LightSpace runs on Windows only. At Steve’s suggestion, I bought an inexpensive Windows netbook-class computer a couple of years ago (Toshiba, if you must know) to run it portably for teaching purposes (it’s still going strong). When buying a standalone computer, CPU horsepower is less important then available RAM, and at least 2GB of RAM is recommended to insure a smooth flow of data from the probe to the computer. However, if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool OS X user, LightSpace will work just fine on an Apple laptop running bootcamp, or even more conveniently within OS X using Windows virtualization software such as Parallels or VMWare Fusion, so you’ve got several options.

The Probe

There are a wide variety of color probes designed for display calibration on the market, with several new models having become available in the last year. If you’re planning on doing your own calibration, your choice of probe is going to be dictated by (a) which probes are compatible with the color management software you’re using, (b) what kind of display you have, (c) where you need to set the bar for accuracy, and (d) how much money you care to spend.

LightSpace supports a variety of probes at several price points. As this article is not a review, I’m not going to compare probes other then to say that different models have different sensitivities, and may work faster or slower at various light levels. Less expensive probes are capable of solid results, but what you choose and how much you spend depends on how exacting you need to be.

Luhr Jensen, president of Klein Instruments, has been good enough to provide me with a Klein K-10 colorimeter, which I’ve been working with over the past two years. This model has since been superseded by the Klein K-10A, which is more accurate at lower lighting conditions. At $6,900, it’s at the middle of the pricing spectrum; as LightSpace-compatible probes range from $249 at the low end for an i1 Display Pro colorimeter from X-Rite, to $28,000 for a Konica Minolta CS-2000 Spectroradiometer.

The K-10 is a non-contact colorimeter suitable for a variety of display technologies including projection, CRT, plasma, and even OLED. Its sturdy, sealed construction and glass filters make it a rugged and professional choice for facility use. In the last year Klein has introduced the updated K-10A which sports increased low-light sensitivity, for faster and more accurate readings at low levels.

My K-10 came in a spiffy case, inside of which is the probe, a mini-tripod, and some accessories for different lighting and display situations.

While the included tripod is nice, it’s small, so I’ve been using a cheap $40 photo tripod instead, which has been better for getting the probe in the correct position for my suite. When positioning a probe, you want to make sure it’s perpendicular to the display, facing dead on, not angled. Luhr tells me that the probe’s distance from the display is not particularly critical. In my case, having it about ten inches away from the display works fine. Note that the photos shown don’t have my suite’s blackout shades drawn, for the sake of showing the setup. Ordinarily you should always take readings with the controlled lighting conditions you usually work under.

Once in position, the probe connects to the computer running LightSpace via USB.

Getting Test Patterns to Your Display

With a Windows computer running LightSpace, (or an OS X computer running Windows using virtualization software) and a probe that’s pointed at the display which is connected to your computer, you need to get the test patterns to be measured to play on your display in sync with the probe’s measurements. Fortunately, this has just become the simplest part of the process if you’re running DaVinci Resolve 10 (either the full or Lite versions).

Traditionally, LightSpace and other calibration solutions use a controllable hardware test signal generator to output the necessary color patches to the display being profiled. However, LightSpace is capable of using a new feature of DaVinci Resolve 10 in order to control Resolve as a “calibration client.” This means that, using either wired or wireless networking, LightSpace can remotely control Resolve to send colored test patches to your display in sync with LightSpace taking readings with the probe. Basically, Resolve Lite (which runs on OS X, Windows, or Linux) has become a free pattern generator.

All you have to do is to open Resolve 10 on your grading workstation, and then open LightSpace CMS on whatever computer it happens to be running on. In LightSpace, click the Network Manager button, and the Network Manager window opens with the controls you’ll need to synchronize Resolve to LightSpace.


This window lets you set up how LightSpace connects to client software that it will be using as a pattern generator. Now, if you’re calibrating plasma, you need to make sure that you’re not sending a full-screen color patch to the display, because this will trigger the plasma’s ABL circuit and render your calibration profile useless. LightSpace principal Steve Shaw suggests making sure the patch size is no larger then 1/6th of the screen size to avoid this problem. Fortunately, this can easily be accomplished by setting the W (width) and H (height) parameters of the Network Manager to 16, which is a percentage; set the X and Y coordinates to 40,40 to place the small patch near the center of the screen, which is the ideal area in which to take your measurements.

Other display technologies (LCD, Projectors, OLED) don’t need these settings, and can happily be calibrated using full-screen color patches. Either way, when you’re done setting what needs to be set, then clicking the Enable button sets LightSpace to watch for incoming connections from client software capable of being synchronized (the above screenshot shows this window after having made a connection).

In DaVinci Resolve, choose Color > Monitor Calibration > LightSpace to open the LightSpace dialog, and type in the second of the two network IP addresses that LightSpace lists in the Remote Machine field (making sure the Port number matches). Click the Connect button to connect Resolve to LightSpace, and you’re good to go.

LightSpace Calibration Window

Assuming all is well, the LightSpace Calibration dialog in Resolve should show the word “Connected,” and the Network Manager dialog in LightSpace should show that there is “1 available client/s.”  You can now close the Network Manager dialog in LightSpace and continue on to the next steps.

Performing the Calibration

Now that everything is set up, it’s time to use LightSpace to measure your display and generate a LUT for calibration. The broad strokes of how any calibration application works can be summarized in three steps.

  1. Measure how a series of color patches appear on your display, and save the results as a display characterization.
  2. Use this characterization to create a calibration LUT that transforms your display to the desired display standard, such as Rec. 709.
  3. Export this calibration as a LUT in a format that’s compatible with your particular system.
The following image shows what this looks like once everything’s ready to go. My little netbook is running LightSpace, which is taking readings from the connected Klein K-10 probe while the  display shows the test patches generated by DaVinci Resolve.

Calibration Setup

Since all the gory details would triple the size of this article and I’m only looking to provide an overview, if you’re interested in more information there are extensive instructions on using LightSpace at the Light Illusion website.

Using a Calibration LUT

Once you’ve created a calibration LUT for your display, you need to apply it to the video signal you’re monitoring. There are three ways of doing this.

The first, and least expensive, is to create a calibration LUT that’s compatible with your color correction application, which in my case is DaVinci Resolve. LightSpace can export LUTs in the .cube format, which Resolve can use, and you can apply the result as a 3D Video Monitor LUT in the Lookup Tables panel of the Project Settings. Since Display LUTs are never rendered into the output, this is a safe and inexpensive way of applying LUT calibration, at the expense of a tiny bit of real-time processing.

Resolve 10 LUTs

The second way of applying a calibration LUT is to use outboard hardware to apply the LUT transformation to the video signal. Typically, this is some kind of stand-alone box that sits in-between your video output interface and the display’s input. As of this writing, there are several options – the Pandora Pluto, the eeColor processor, and the FujiFilm IS-Mini are all trustworthy devices that support LUTs generated not only by LightSpace, but other color management software vendors as well.


This method has two advantages. First, it calibrates your display without imposing processing requirements on your computer. Second, this lets you apply a specific calibration LUT to just one display, without affecting video output on the whole. This is important if you’re using external video scopes and/or multiple displays in your suite.

A third possibility, depending on the model and manufacturer of your display, is to output a LUT that can be loaded directly on the display itself. For example, Flanders Scientific displays let you load both calibration LUTs and so-called DIT LUTs onto the display, so that no intermediary calibration box is necessary.

In Summary

So that’s what it takes to accurately calibrate your display on your own. Automated LUT calibration isn’t cheap, but it’s nowhere near as expensive as it used to be, and it gives you and your clients the peace of mind that your monitor is displaying as accurate a look at the program being graded as possible. As I repeat ad naseum, if you can’t see the true color and contrast of your images with accuracy, then you can’t do the work. Keep in mind that the principles of this workflow are similar for other color management applications and other color probes that you can choose from.

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 10 In-Depth From Ripple Training


I try not to post two promotional articles in a row, but I’m still wrapping up the whopping five book year I started in 2013, and I’ve been too busy to bloviate any further here since my last two books came out. However, many of you have been clamoring for Resolve 10 training, and with Resolve 10 finally shipping on November 7th, I’ve heard your pleas and have been working with Steve Martin and the good folks at Ripple Training to make it happen, incorporating updates for 10.0.1 and 10.0.2 as they’ve since come out.

It wasn’t easy! Resolve 10 was a deceptively gigantic release, as is reflected by the now-available DaVinci Resolve 10 In-Depth title’s length—5 hours divided into 48 movies that are focused exclusively on the new features found in DaVinci Resolve 10. And I do mean every feature, large and small. Updates to the Media page are discussed. There’s a whole series of movies on the brand new editing features in the updated Edit page. Of course, there’s lots of content covering the myriad new grading features to be found in the Color page, including an overview of how to use Resolve Live. Finally, there’s a substantial amount of updated workflow information, including tips on new Deliver page functionality and a quick look at easyDCP integration.

Best of all, we’ve kept the price low, so it’s an easy add-on for folks who already own the Resolve 9 Core Training title, or who are already familiar with Resolve. In fact, this title is designed to work together with the previous Resolve 9 Core Training title, which remains the main starting point for people who are just getting started with DaVinci Resolve, since most workflows and much of the basic and grading functionality remains the same.

Depending on what you need, there are three ways you can get Resolve 10 In-Depth:

Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.

Color Correction Handbook, 2nd Edition

Color Correction Handbook     Color Correction Look Book

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@hurkman) probably know that, among other things, I’ve been working on the second edition of my now three-year-old Color Correction Handbook, updating it to account for new developments in our industry, and expanding it to include topics that were not previously covered. What you didn’t know was that I added too much to be contained within a single volume. After a bit of reorganizing and even more writing, I’m proud to announce that Peachpit Press is now releasing TWO books, in both print and electronic form—

  • The now 672-page Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition continues to cover basic, intermediate, and advanced topics spanning the breadth of color correction technique, and adds about 200 pages of brand new content alongside many updates to existing topics; this includes a new chapter on grading workflow, a completely updated and expanded chapter on displays, calibration, and room setup, new sections on log-encoded grading, a new section examining the intersection of fine art portraiture and color grading, additional skin-grading techniques, and many, many new and updated techniques spread throughout nearly every chapter.
  • The former 69-page “Creative Techniques” chapter from the first edition has been split off from the handbook, and greatly expanded into its own self-contained 216-page Color Correction Look Book, focused entirely on creative grading techniques. Previously discussed techniques have been updated to cover the latest generation of software, and expanded to include even more creative options then before. Furthermore, entirely new techniques have been added including film stock emulations, flat looks, greenscreen grading for compositing, flaring, light leaks and color bleeds, vibrance and targeted saturation, monochrome looks, grain/noise and texture, and more.

Together, these two books provide over 800 pages of grading workflow, theory, technique, and application spanning the entire process of color correction for any program, and I’ve expanded the examples that are presented in DaVinci Resolve, Adobe SpeedGrade, FilmLight Baselight, Assimilate Scratch, Autodesk Smoke, and SGO Mistika.

Additionally, I was lucky enough to have two industry heavyweights review the contents; Charles Poynton, digital imaging authority and author of “Digital Video and HD: Algorithms and Interfaces” kept me honest by reviewing my more technically oriented chapters, while Dave Hussey, senior colorist at Company 3 and colorist of “Constantine,” “500 Days of Summer,” and music videos, television shows, and commercial spots too numerous to list reviewed both volumes, contributing some key insights and generously writing a new forward to the Handbook. To quote one of Dave’s closing paragraphs from the forward:

I’m a huge fan of Alexis’s book. This is a great tool for anyone who has ever wondered, “How did they get it to look like that?” Whether you’re an aspiring colorist or a seasoned pro, you’ll find it an amazing learning tool or a great book of reference. For the novice, it’s organized in a way to make even fairly advanced ideas easy to understand and to emulate. For an experienced professional like me, some of the techniques discussed here inspired me to try things in a different way than I might have. I can’t think of any major color correction issue that this book does not cover.

I’m incredibly proud of these books; they’re the best things I’ve written to date, and offer a definitive understanding of what it means to be a colorist for video and cinema. Whether you’re in film school exploring different disciplines in postproduction, already in postproduction and looking to add grading to your skill set, or you’re a producer or filmmaker who wants to understand the process of color grading in greater depth, the Color Correction Handbook and the Color Correction Look Book will expand your understanding of this highly interdisciplinary field, discussing how to analyze different images, how to methodically approach all manner of different situations, and showing you how to actually make each grade, with a heavy emphasis on the thought process that goes into each aspect of the work.

Additionally, each book is accompanied by an improved set of downloadable companion media, including many new clips, all in the ProRes 422 (HQ) format, so you can get better results as you use it to experiment with the techniques that are described.

It looks like the Handbook will be available late November/early December, and the Look Book will be available in late December (I just finished it). If you don’t yet own the color correction handbook, these two volumes are a huge step forward from the first edition, and should be worth the wait. If you’ve already read the previous edition, this update should provide enough new and updated material to make getting the new version worth your while. However, you also have the option to choose the book that has the most interesting new content for you.

For now, Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition and Color Correction Look Book are available for pre-order through Amazon, either in print or for Kindle. The Handbook is also available for pre-order through Barnes & Noble in print. I’m assuming both books will eventually be available through the Apple book store as was the previous edition. Finally, I also understand the Color Correction Handbook will be translated into both Chinese and Japanese at some point in the near future, I’m not sure of any other translations that are planned at this time.

Added December 3rd

I just received my author copies, and I wanted to add that the print quality of the 2nd Edition is simply phenomenal; it’s the best looking book I’ve ever had published. To my eye, all of the subtle examples I was worried about being clear enough look fantastic, and illustrate their points beautifully. Also, Suzann Beck’s artwork in chapter 8’s comparison of fine art portraiture and video looks particularly lovely. Kudos to the production department at Peachpit Press and to the printer for doing such a great job. Everyone who buys this in print should be thrilled.

Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.

Even Freelancers Need Health Care

The exchanges created by the affordable care act are now online, and here is a web page with information about heathcare for the self-employed.

If you’re in post-production, a writer, or a filmmaker, there’s a very good chance you’re self-employed, and unless you’re a veteran or you’ve been elected to office sometime in your life, self-purchased health care is the only game in town (unless you’ve access to union health-care and you’ve managed to put in the hours to keep it going). If you’re just getting started, or if you’re currently in a slow period, paying those premiums probably seems like a low priority relative to rent, groceries, and gas.

My advice? When it comes to your long term well-being, buying health insurance is not optional.

Believe me, as a long-time freelancer I know that self-purchased health care is a pain in the neck. Up until now it’s been difficult to get, difficult to navigate the bureaucracy, it’s been expensive, and in my experience it’s difficult to use when something other then a routine doctor-visit is involved. And this is with private insurers. Maybe folks who are paying way more money for higher-end insurance policies then mine are having better experiences, but as as the beneficiary of a middling plan, I’m not persuaded that the service being offered by the private sector is any better then the government-run services I’ve been dealing with, including Medicare, for my elderly mother. Frankly, Medicare has been much easier to deal with then either our current or last private insurance providers.

Granted, I’m not necessarily thrilled with the way the Affordable Care Act has been conceived, as I don’t think that being compelled to purchase a service from a private corporation is the best precedent. However, it would appear that the Affordable Care Act was the only politically possible way to get rid of the absolute evils of (a) preexisting conditions denying people coverage for critical care, (b) the ability of private companies to simply rescind coverage for a variety of bureaucratic technicalities, (c) lifetime limits on provided care, (d) uselessly low annual limits on coverage. Paying for this by taking some baby steps towards creating a pool of more affordable insurance plans is, in my view, a reasonable tradeoff to get more folks insured, so I’ll take what I can get.

Yes, being required to pay for something sucks. But I’ll say it again, regardless of the law, no matter how healthy you think you are, health insurance is not optional. If you think it is, then you’re gambling with your life and your happiness.

I briefly went without coverage for a few years in my twenties. Just out of college in 1992, I was interning for free at a postproduction facility and also at a production company (unpaid) while working a seven day schedule doing two part-time jobs – watching an art gallery on weekends and working part-time retail in a computer store on weekdays. Neither of the paying jobs offered health care, and it was an easy thing to put off because I was broke, and I had the imagined invulnerability of youth (never mind that I was bicycle commuting in San Francisco at the time, which was an accident waiting to happen).

But I had a wake-up call when another twenty-something colleague of mine revealed that he had survived a rare bout of testicular cancer at a young age. It was perhaps the first time I realized that something medically catastrophic could potentially happen to someone like me, youth or no youth, and it made an impression. It took a while, getting to the point where I had climbed the career ladder a bit after freelancing as an editor and broadcast designer in San Francisco, but I finally started purchasing health care at the age of 26. I didn’t particularly enjoy sinking a lot of money every month into something I felt I never used, but I didn’t really want to flirt with the alternative.

In the years since, the only time I’ve had employer health care was when I was on staff at Apple for five years (their health care was fantastic and wide ranging). When I left Apple to go freelance again, my wife (a life-long freelancer) and I went back to purchasing it independently. Going forward many years, now that we’re in our forties, we both consider health coverage to be a vital monthly payment. We’ve seen too many friends and colleagues suffer too many illnesses that required financially ruinous medical intervention.

Here’s one last personal anecdote. Kaylynn recently had “elective” knee surgery. I certainly didn’t think it was optional, unless you consider limping painfully for the rest of your life and not being able to work in your 20-year-plus profession to be a valid option. Without insurance, that surgery would have been prohibitively expensive. But we have insurance, and so this relatively simple issue could be taken care of.

For all of these reasons, I’m glad for what little the federal government has done, and hope that this is the beginning of a more serious look at how health care delivery in the United States can be improved to be more universally accessible.

Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.

Late-Breaking New Features in DaVinci Resolve 10

Resolve Icon

If you’re reading this, you probably already know the public beta of DaVinci Resolve 10 is available for download, soon to be followed by the final version. As is usually the case, I had to turn over the User Manual (also in beta) to production much sooner than the software was actually finished in order to create the final layout. Because the DaVinci engineering team is so ambitious, this means a few new features were slipped in at the last minute that either aren’t in the manual, or are easy to miss. Here, then, is a short list of some great new features you should know about, lest they slip beneath your radar.

Importing Media into a Blank Project Updates Project Settings

A welcome update, if small, is an automatic prompt whenever you import media into an empty project that lets you change your project settings to match the incoming media. No more accidentally creating quick projects for dailies processing that accidentally have the wrong frame rate.

Speed Change UI in the Edit Page

A late-breaking feature is a new “speed widget” for creating multi-speed effects in the timeline of the Edit page. Select any clip and press Command-R (for “retime”) to turn a clip into a speed effect clip.

A new UI for multiple-speed changes in the timeline.

Once the clip has been set up as a speed change, you use the pop-up menu at the bottom to set speed handles at the position of the playhead that you use to retime clip speed segments. Once handles have been added, you can drag them to the left or right to create fast or slow motion effects. Clicking the close button at the upper left-hand corner of the speed widget hides the speed controls, but a stopwatch icon in the collapsed clip shows you it’s a speed effect, and you can press Command-R again to open the speed controls back up for further manipulation.

The pop-up menu you use to add speed handles and choose from preset speed settings.

The pop-up menu you use to add speed handles and choose from preset speed settings.

This pop-up menu also has options for setting speed segments to preset speeds, reversing clips, and adding speed ramps to ease into or out of speed changes.

Independently Resizable Video and Audio Tracks

This one’s actually in the manual, but it’s easy to overlook. You can choose separate sizes for the video and audio tracks in the timeline. Handy for prioritizing space in the timeline depending on whether you’re working on the audio or video of your program.

Composite and Transform Settings in the Title Generators

This was a late-breaking feature that I wasn’t able to demo in any of the available videos, and that isn’t yet in the manual. There’s a set of composite, transform, and cropping parameters available at the bottom of the Inspector when you select a text effect in the timeline. These can be used to blend text into superimposed layers using any of the available transform modes, and to fly text around using keyframable pan/tilt/zoom/rotation and anchor point parameters.

Composite and transform settings are available in the Inspector for blending and flying text effects around.

Composite and transform settings are available in the Inspector for blending and flying text generators around.

Where’s the Loop Option in the Edit Page Viewers?

In the event you were looking for the Loop control in the Edit page, it’s a menu item in the Option menu (in the upper right-hand corner) of each of the Viewers.

Duplicate Timeline

FINALLY! I’m as excited about this small but meaningful feature as you are. Simply right-click any timeline in the Timelines list to access options to rename, duplicate, and alter the timecode of timelines. More than any other new feature, this makes me want to buy the whole engineering team beers.

Append At End and Select Clips Forward Key Shortcuts

This is in the category of features it’s easy to think Resolve doesn’t have because there’s no visible control. There’s a whole edit method hidden in the Edit menu, “Append At End,” which does exactly what it says. Additionally, there are commands to “Select Clips Forward” on the current track or all tracks. You can either use the Edit menu items, or the corresponding keyboard shortcuts shown below to initiate these commands.

Hidden features in plain sight

Hidden features in plain sight

Copy and Paste Grades in the Color Page

In the Color page, you now have a new way of copying grades. Simply select the thumbnail of any graded clip and press Command-C to copy the grade, then select another clip and press Command-V to paste the copied grade. As an added bonus, keyframes and motion tracking are also copied and pasted when using this method.

You should note that if you don’t want to copy tracking data and keyframes, you can still use the middle-mouse button method of copying grades.

Apply Grade Keyboard Shortcuts for Everyone

This one actually is in the manual, but I wanted to point it out to make sure you knew about it. Two features long enjoyed by owners of the DaVinci Control Surface are “Apply Grade From One Clip Prior” and “Apply Grade From Two Clips Prior.” They’re fantastic for rapidly moving through scenes shot with coverage when doing shot matching, and they’re now available to the masses via two keyboard shortcuts.

Split Screen > Gallery Grades

This is a feature I actually hadn’t seen until hitting the show floor at IBC (proving the DaVinci team surprises everybody). More options have been added to the Split Screen submenu for creating whole frame side-by-side comparisons in the Viewer of the Color page, and all of these options are now available in the Viewer submenu, which is very convenient.

Split Screen options in the Viewer submenu.

Split Screen options in the Viewer submenu.

One late-breaking new feature is “Neighbor Clips,” where you see a four-up display showing the current clip next to the previous and next clips in the timeline, automatically. However, another new feature that bears a bit more explanation is “Gallery Grades.” Basically, once you choose this option, any saved grades you select in the Gallery of the Color page are displayed side by side as they’d appear applied to the current clip. This can be seen below.

Using Split Screen > Gallery Grades to preview different grades as they'd look on the current clip.

Using Split Screen > Gallery Grades to preview different grades as they’d look on the current clip.

This’ll be a really useful feature for style-intensive projects in which you want to raid your personal collection of swank looks, and you want to preview a selection for your client. Like all the other split screen options, this will be displayed on your hero monitor via video out.

Grab Missing Stills

Another small new feature is “Grab Missing Stills,” which only grabs stills from clips you haven’t saved stills for already. This is useful for timelines where you’ve already saved a set of archival stills in a gallery, but in which you’ve added some shots that you’d also like to archive without spending time overwriting everything you’ve already saved.

Shape Presets UI

This made it into the manual, but it seemed worth pointing out here since it’s quite useful, but may not be immediately obvious. If you’ve created one or more windows that you think will be useful to apply to other shots later on, you can save and recall them using commands in the Window palette’s Option menu.

Saving preset shapes

Saving preset shapes

Choosing Save Preset As pops a dialog you can use to name the window preset.

Clicking OK saves your newly named windows preset to the preset pop-up menu in the lower right-hand corner of the Window palette.

To apply a window preset to the current node, choose the window preset you want from this pop-up menu, then open the Option menu and choose Apply Preset. Window presets overwrite any other windows you’ve already set up in the current node, so you may want to create a new node before applying window presets.

Burn-In Palette Gang Render Text Styles

Another small change that’s easy to overlook is the ability to either gang the styling of all text items you’re burning into the timeline, or to independently style each text item by disabling this option in the Options menu of the Data Burn In palette.

New Camera RAW Settings

Two new items available in the camera raw settings for all formats provide both convenience and quality for folks pursuing raw workflows. The first one, Decode Quality, lets you choose from Full, Half, or Quarter resolution debayer settings for all formats, making it easier to work with camera raw formats on lower power workstations.

An additional parameter, Sharpness, applies a brand new sharpening algorithm specifically for improving camera raw media conversions should you be someone who likes to add a bit of sharpening (similar to what Lightroom does by default). This new Sharpness parameter is automatically set to 10.

It’s a very subtle adjustment; the two images below show a comparison of the maximum setting of 100 (I cranked this setting to make it obvious) and the default setting of 10. You should zoom in to see the difference more clearly.

Max Sharpening

A zoom in of maximum debayer Sharpen being applied to a CinemaDNG image.

Default Sharpening

A zoom in of the default debayer Sharpen being applied to a CinemaDNG image.

Render to AVI

Personally, I can’t remember the last time I rendered an AVI file, but apparently there are still plenty of you who do, and the Resolve team has listened to your pleas.

You can now render to the AVI format.

You can now render to the AVI format.

When you choose AVI from the Render to pop-up menu of the Deliver page, you get access to the four codecs that are available to this format. This option is available to Resolve on OS X, Windows, and Linux.

Where Did the Select All Button Go?

Lastly, some folks have been asking where the Select All button I’ve been demoing in the Deliver page went. In a last-minute change, this was changed into an icon to conserve space, but don’t worry, it’s still there.

The now textless Select All button.

The now textless Select All button.

There’s Plenty More

That’s all for now, but of course there are many, many more new features available in DaVinci Resolve 10. In the coming weeks, I’ll be working with Ripple Training to create a new features tutorial specifically for covering all the changes for folks who’ve purchased my Resolve 9 training title. Until then, this and the manual should get you started with this big new release.

Color Correction Handbook 2nd Edition: Grading theory and technique for any application.
Color Correction Look Book: Stylized and creative grading techniques for any application.