In Depth: Color Correction vs Color Grading
I’ve heard the terms Color Correction and Color Grading used interchangeably but they are not the same things. I’ll explain the difference, show you some tools to fix and tweak color, point you to a few tutorials, give you some side-by-side examples and breakdowns. Finally, I’ll link you to some free tools you can use for color correction or grading.
Image credit: Nijwam Swargiary @pixel_talkies
What is the difference between color correction and color grading? It seems like the words are used interchangeably in loose chat about projects.
While there is cross-over with software and plugins which are used for both purposes, there is a fundamental difference in the processes. The terms are NOT interchangeable.
- Color correction is used to make the colors more accurate by fixing white balance, black levels, saturation, contrast, etc. It is also used to match shots and elements in compositing. Color correction can even go into stabilizing flicker problems in your footage. Always color correct your footage before color grading your footage.
- Color grading is used to give style and an artistic look to footage and set the mood or tone. Sci-fi films tend to have crushed blacks and bluer tones. Romance movies may have warmer tones and a softer color palette. Action films often have saturated and contrasting colors.
30 Second Film School explains this question quite nicely.
I will barely touch on all of the tools available, but here are some of the well-known video color tools, and a few lesser-known plug-ins.
Adobe Creative Cloud (After Effects, Premiere Pro) has tools built in for Color, but Adobe SpeedGrade – part of Adobe Creative Cloud. Deliver balanced color and distinctive, visually vibrant looks for any type of video production. Grade faster with more connected tools and over a dozen powerful new features and a redesigned interface that’s both intuitive and familiar for Adobe Premiere Pro users.
Apple Final Cut Pro, Motion and other NLEs have built-in tools but here are some that are meant specifically for color. Apple Color – Standalone. Get it from the App Store.
Standalone. DaVinci color correctors have been the standard in post-production since 1984. There are thousands of colorists worldwide who understand the performance, quality and workflow of DaVinci. DaVinci is the name behind more feature films, television commercials, documentaries, television production, and music videos than any other grading system.
Plug-ins and Presets
- LookLabs SpeedLooks – Plug-in for Adobe SpeedGrade. Finally, a digital video ‘looks’ package that works in real time, the first time you use it. SpeedLooks was developed by artists, for artists. Inspired by the best films of today and yesterday, SpeedLooks will bring the personality, character, and beauty of 35mm film to any digital video project. SpeedLooks by LookLabs™. Revolutionizing the way you create beautiful footage. One look at a time.
- Synthetic Aperture Color Finesse – Standalone and plug-in for After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Motion, and Premiere Pro. Now you can have a telecine-style color correction that fits your workflow rather than imposing a new one. Color Finesse 3 gives you the high-end color correction and enhancement tools you need both as a plug-in for your favorite application.
- Red Giant Colorista II – Plug-in for After Effects, Premiere and Final Cut Pro. Colorista II brings gorgeous color grading to your favorite editors, and moves between them with consistent, natural-looking results. Its three stages of correction — Primary, Secondary, Master — use a color engine that’s similar to big-budget systems. Only available in the Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite.
- Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks – Plug-in for After Effects, Photoshop, Premiere, Final Cut Pro and FCP X, Motion, Avid, and Sony Vegas. This is a tool for color grading, and starts out very simple, with 100’s of beautifully designed presets/treatments that range from practical lighting to popular Hollywood cinema or create your own. Only available in the Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite.
- Boris Continuum Unit: Color and Tone – Plug-in for After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro and Motion. The Boris Continuum Color and Tone Unit provides professional grade color grading tools as well as videoscope monitoring to ensure that your colors are safe. BCC 3 Way Color Grade lets you independently adjust the bright, mid, and dark region of a clip via built-in color spheres which are not only easy to use but offer real-time results. Included with Boris Continuum.
- Yanobox Moods – Plug-in for FCPX, Motion, Premiere Pro and After Effects. Moods is a unique color grading plug-in with a full-screen interface.
- Nattress Levels and Curves – Plug-in for FCP, Motion and After Effects. The power of curve-based color adjustments applied in film-log space.
- Hawaiki Autograde – AutoGrade 3.0 lets you sample skin tones for even better results, and includes a new tool for quicker, “no configuration required” color correction. AutoGrade is available now for Premiere Pro, After Effects, Motion, Final Cut Pro X and Final Cut Pro 7.
Film Riot gives the basics on color grading to get a filmic, stylish look.
Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve
Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro
Apple Final Cut Pro and Other
Check out this tutorial and let Oliver Peters give you the rundown on how LUTs in Final Cut Pro X can help you out with your next project!
Adobe SpeedGrade and LookLabs SpeedLooks
Plug-ins for a variety of NLEs
Creating a Summer Blockbuster Film Look with Stu Maschwitz
Sin City’s Visual Effects Supervisor – and our new Creative Director – Stu Maschwitz, shows you how to get the Summer Blockbuster look seen in Transformers 2, Terminator: Salvation, and The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3.
Color Grading Breakdowns from Charles-Etienne Pascal
Below is Shot 2, with an explanation of the breakdown on the I See Hue blog.
Below is Shot 3, with an explanation of the breakdown on the I See Hue blog;
There are many more examples from I See Hue, and I suggest checking out their Color Grading section on their blog for more of the good stuff!
GRADING BREAK DOWN from Riingo Banerjee
Inspirations: A Conversation with Filmmaker Riingo Banerjee – Digital filmmaker Riingo Banerjee has been doing films with his company, Ring A Bell Films. Riingo talks about color grading his love of Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks and Mojo.
Posted by Michele Yamazaki