Before and After: Color Grading a Movie (The video is impressive.)

"The House on Pines Street" before and after color grading.

“The House on Pines Street” before and after color grading.

The colors you see in the movie theater are not the original colors that came out of the movie camera. It is rare that we get to see clips from a movie before they have been color graded. This is your chance. The difference is dramatic and impressive, as you will see in the video clips below.

The top frame in the pair of frames above is from the original movie LOG file. The colors look desaturated and the scene lacks contrast. The LOG format is “flat” on purpose in order to capture the maximum amount of digital information. It needs to be “color graded” to bring out the colors, as in the bottom frame in the pair of frames above. This is very much like digital still photographers shooting RAW files that look a bit flat right out of the camera. The RAW files have to be processed to bring out the the color you want.

The “before” frame right out of the camera is not true to real life. The colors are de-saturated (washed out) and lower in contrast than a real life scene. The “after” frame is closer to real life (better color and more natural in contrast) but it may not be totally true to reality either. Movies are about creating feelings and moods, not about re-creating visual reality.

So the final colors and tonal rendition are a matter of interpretation. Warm, neutral, or cool color balance? Green, yellow, or blue or some other color cast? High, medium, or low contrast? High, medium, or low color saturation? It is all determined in the color grading in accordance with the wishes of the movie producers. The color grader can create several different interpretations of a scene and let the producers pick the one they want.

Incidentally, images out of a still camera don’t capture reality either. Still photographers have the same options when they interpret a digital photo file. They can go realistic (true to visual reality) or a whole different direction.

Color Reel – The House On Pine Street from GradeKC on Vimeo.

This fascinating video has several short scene snippets from the movie “The House on Pine Street”. Not only do you see before and after scenes, you get to see several different color interpretations of some of the scenes. The scenes were colored by Taylre Jones at Grade in Kansas City.


The House on Pine Street – A bigger version of the video clips at Vimeo

Grade KC – More examples of their work.

Petapixel article

Your Still Camera Does NOT Capture Reality – and what to do about it.