This is the beginning of a color grading breakdown series, which will be continued here
and then by our post production artists. Feel free to write a comment and discuss the look.
Step 1: Primary Grading through a Kodak 2393 LUT
In this lesson I want to show you how to create a modern, cinematic look with a high color
contrast out of a very flat, non-lit outdoor scene (Arri Alexa, ProRes4444, Log-C).
The Kodak LUT gives the footage a basic cinematic, analogue look, which I like to start
with. I set the LUT in the project settings as a standard output LUT, so I don‘t have to deal
with it in the nodes section (this can also be a creative part of the LUT grading, but there is
more to come in another grading tutorial).
As you can see on the vectorscope above, the hue level shows much more red / yellow
parts than cyan / blue. We want to achieve that kind of an „orange/teal“ cinematic look,
with a high contrast and a balance between complimentary colors.
Step 2: Isolation of the skin tones and adjustment of hue and saturation
I isolate the skin tones of the talent with a key to get the right amount of hue and
saturation. You should also adjust the brightness of this specific area because our eye is
very sensitive on skin tones, as well as grass or the sky for example because we see them
The parallel node inside DaVinci Resolve is a very powerful tool for this step. The problem
with the primary balanced image above is that the forest in the back has very much the
same hue as the skin of the talent as well as her yellow glasses and her blonde hair. To
get a clean skin tone key, the parallel node is what you need! It combines different keys
out of the same image, so you can adjust darker and brighter or more or less saturated
parts of the skin in different nodes. I suggest to soften the key and to add a tracked shape
around the face if you can not achieve a clean skin tone key. In this example two parallels
were enough, but sometimes you have to go for three, four or more nodes to get what you
Step 3: Reduce red / orange color from the mids. Saturation adjustments and back and
forth with step 2.
When you are happy with the skin color, saturation and brightness, the next step is to
create a color balance between the warm and cool parts of the image.
Look at the vectorscope above, there is pretty much the same amount of orange and
cyan / blue in the picture now.
One possibility is to create an outside node and add blue / cyan color to the mids. But for
me that always looks too separated and the warm colors do not mix in correctly.
So I go for a standard serial node and add blue color to the mids (or sometimes to the
shadows as well), so that the skin gets affected, too.
You have to play a little bit and probably you have to go back to step 2, to add or reduce
some saturation and hue there. It is a back and forth until it‘s a good mix of warm and cool
color to your eye. Have a look at the vectorscope if you are not sure about the amount of
saturation and hue.
In this case, I reduced the saturation of the highlights and shadows a bit, so I get clean
blacks and whites without any color shift.
Step 4: Simple Primary S-Curve to push the biker and darken the background. Bringing
back some clipped highlights of the jacket. Final saturation adjustments.
Now it‘s time for a second overall contrast adjustment. I mostly do that with curves
because you can adjust different luminance levels very precisely. In this case it‘s a simple
S-Curve which pushes the biker and darkens the background. I also bring back some
clipped highlights of the jacket and soften them and make a final, overall saturation
Step 5: Little Noise Reduction in Chroma Channels to avoid artefacts and blocking when
compressing the video for web.
This is only possible in the full version of DaVinci Resolve, you do not have noise
reduction in the lite version. But you can try Neat Video for example, it works with After
Effects and by now, as an Open FX plug-in for Resolve Lite.
Here is a link: http://www.neatvideo.com/news.html#Neat-Video-v3-5-2013-11-14
Thanks for reading this blog. If you have any questions, just let me know.
Grading done in DaVinci Resolve @KME-Studios, Rosenheim.