Hey Narrative Filmmakers, Want to Save Some Money?

Working with actor Geoff Briley while the crew sets up a jib on a dolly.

Working through blocking with actor Geoff Briley while the crew sets up a jib on a dolly

It’s time for some tough love.

Since I do both production and post, I’m in a position to observe where efficiencies lie all through the filmmaking process. In speaking with different people out in the industry, and comparing my practices with theirs, I’ve decided there’s a public service announcement I can make to the filmmaking community at large regarding how you can save money. A lot of money.

Rehearse your actors in advance of the shoot, dry run your blocking without running the cameras, and record fewer takes.

Really.

I know. You’re thinking “but digital is cheap,” “I don’t want the scene to go stale,” “why not run the camera in case some magic happens,” and “I need to get through those takes to find the scene.”

Bullshit. Digital is not cheap. Hard drives are expensive. Backups are expensive. Archiving camera cards takes time, and having a ton of cards because you want to shoot like a drunken sailor costs in either expendables or rentals. Generating dailies and logging all of your crap takes consumes hours and hours of your editor’s time. Dealing with Terabytes of unused data in the finishing process takes time. Time is money. Time is also frustration, which makes post folks not want to give you a discount. Less media is less hassle, and less hassle makes editors more inclined to maybe cut you a break.

Rehearsing in advance, assuming you have capable actors, will not make your scene go stale; centuries of theater give the lie to this way of thinking. What advance rehearsal will do is let you work through the scene in the abstract, without the necessary distractions of the cinematographer’s queries or your schedule running behind or what scarf should the lead wear or any other of the hundred things you need to weigh in on that have nothing to do with the actor’s actual performance.

In exploring the scene with your actors in rehearsal, I guarantee they’ll find nuances in performance that might otherwise be missed, and you’ll have time to try things out and make adjustments you need for consistency with your overall vision. All of this will let you know where there are moments to emphasize and trouble-spots you’ll need to correct in the performance. Ultimately, you’ll be better prepared for what’s to come. Come shooting day, you and the actors will both know what the goal is, and you’ll be less at risk forgetting about a key moment, gesture, or intention because you were distracted by a lens change. And, in the rush of production, there’ll be more then enough energy to hype up both you and the actors to keep things fresh, since you’re likely in the location for the very first time.

Running the camera while you’re rehearsing your blocking is a colossal waste of storage, unless you’re chasing a sunset or some other time critical element. Whether you’re doing jib, crane, dolly, gimbal stabilizer, or steadycam work, or just panning and tilting a camera on sticks, there is no magic while you and your actors are fumbling your way through the on-set blocking with a camera operator who’s seeing the actor move for the first time. Save your editor the heartbreak of watching four unusable takes and just rehearse the blocking without recording. The actor will be more at ease to experiment, and you’ll have more psychological freedom to change your mind and explore different ways of executing the move with your actor, cinematographer, and operator.

Regarding multiple takes, I am firmly of the belief that if you’ve had the opportunity to discuss and rehears the scene with your actor in advance (even if it’s in advance of the rest of the crew arriving for a day’s shoot), there should be no reason to ever go through more then 4-5 takes, unless there’s something physically specific you’re needing (I once did eleven takes trying to get a coin to fall on the ground in the right place for a closeup, what are you going to do?). There are plenty of stories of directors pushing an actor through 99 takes to wear them down, which is more strategic cruelty and not so much about trying to get a good read, and that’s fine if you’ve got 100 million dollars. Myself, I’d rather work out what I need in advance through appropriate casting and rehearsal, and then get the scene in three takes and move on to have another setup. Back in my film school days, a production professor told us that shooting twelve takes was probably a waste of time, since you’ll probably be unable to tell the difference between six of the takes later on when you start editing, and I’ve generally found this to be accurate.

So now you’re thinking, “okay, smart-ass, so what’s your shooting ratio?” My most recent project, which was one day’s shoot with over twelve camera setups with some additional alts spread among two locations recording to 4K CinemaDNG raw, ended up totaling about 500 GB of media for 50 clips in all for a generously covered 3 minute scene. Going back to my short, “The Place Where You Live,” four shooting days recording to 4K R3D raw resulted in a total of 487 GB of media. Usually when I mention this, people ask me what went wrong, and what I did about the lost media. Then I say that was all the media.

I started out shooting 16MM film, and being a broke-ass filmmaker I had all too many days of having pages to get through on two 100-ft rolls. Those experiences instilled in me an economy that serves me well even today. And so, I try to be careful about casting. I rehearse in advance whenever possible. I block the scenes with the actors without running the cameras. Then at that point I try to get out of any particular camera setup in 3-5 takes, sometimes altering the framing of any takes I want “for safety” just to squeeze in another push-in. Obviously if an unexpected challenge comes up, I’ll do more takes to get what is needed, but I try really hard to be prepared enough in advance to avoid that.

The result is that I never have to debate whether or not I want to shoot uncompressed RAW based on available storage, my DITs are usually bored, logging the footage is a breeze, and as a result the edit goes quickly. Backing up the project media doesn’t break the bank, and moving the project around for finishing is resultantly easy.

So that’s my advice. Save everyone some hassle and take a page from the theater—rehearse in advance. You’ll get better results dramatically, you’ll get more out of your time during the shoot without going over schedule, and you’ll have a project that should be noticeably cheaper to post.


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 DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.

New Project, New Camera

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve got two main opinions about gear. First, don’t buy gear, rent it. Today’s awesome stuff turns into tomorrow’s laughably obsolete curiosities. Second, I could care less about cameras. I’m a director, not a DP, and as long as the DP likes whatever camera we can afford to use, and the resulting image data is gradable, then I’m happy.

So it’s with some reluctance that I admit I’ve started buying camera accessories to have in reserve for the increasing number of small projects I seem to be directing. Starting with my next directorial excursion, a scene rather then a fully realized movie, designed to create some nicer material to use for my next book, video training, and presentation projects, and in the process work with another great local Minneapolis crew to create something very different from my previous two movies for my director’s reel, which by god I’ll actually put together one of these days.

Today was all about prepping the aforementioned camera equipment. DP Michael Handley, AC Brian Suerth (pictured later), and I poured over the three Blackmagic Design cameras we’ll be using, a brand new Ursa for most of the coverage, a Production 4K that we’ll be using with a Ronin gimbal stabilizer to fly around one of the day’s two locations, and a Pocket Cinema Camera for POV shots in tight spaces. I’ve been wondering if I’d find utility in the three different form factors of cameras that Blackmagic now offers, and I now appreciate that it’s really  nice to have different sized camera bodies for different tasks, each of which can be prepped simultaneously with different rigs. A far cry from my days of having a single CP 16 film camera to work with.

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The Ursa itself is a beefy camera, but resultantly quick to set up thanks to an attached battery mount plate (extra), built-in rails mounts, and a built-in handle; I really, really liked the speed of setup. The editor in me wants as many angles of coverage as I can shoot in a day, and I hate feeling like I’m waiting for a camera to be rebuilt from setup to setup.

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Since I usually prefer to have the camera on support rather then handheld, given the type of coverage I tend to go after, the Ursa’s weight (16.5 lbs without lens/etcetera) doesn’t really bother me—we’ll be using a jib, dolly, and slider to move things around when necessary. Of course, that’s easy for the director to say, I don’t have to move the camera from setup to setup, but nobody on the camera crew has had any complaints so far.

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Incidentally, the 10″ swing-out screen is pretty awesome. As are the two other touch-screens on either side of the body that switch between UI and monitoring for the assistant. Brian mentioned he still may use his own display for working the focus, but more because it’s the display he’s used to, which makes sense to me.

We toured the menu system, and were pleased to find it pretty straightforward. So, at least so far as setup goes, the Ursa seems to be a no-drama camera. And, pointing the camera at random things at Tasty Lighting’s Acme stage, the EF mount Rokinon cinema lenses I’m using coupled with the Ursa’s Super35 sensor made the kitchen area and random lighting instruments positioned here and there look delightfully dramatic framed in 2.35.

So far so good. I’m looking forward to seeing how it performs on location.


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 DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.

“The Place Where You Live” Updates

Color-Wreaths

(Updated 12/1/14) I’m happy to mention that my film, “The Place Where You Live,” now has 10, count ‘em, 10 festival acceptances. My last go-around on the festival circuit, “Four Weeks, Four Hours,” garnered six acceptances, so this is what progress looks like, and I couldn’t be happier.

Possessed as I am by a fit of braggadocio, the list of festivals is as follows:

If you’re in the New Orleanssouthern Wisconsin, or Southern California/Palm Springs regions, keep your eyes posted on the whereyoulivethemovie.com web site or my twitter feed for updates on those screenings.


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 DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.

The Prodigal Son With the Prostitutes

It’s an old saw that if you want to write, you should read as much as you can. Every piece of work you consume adds to your mental inventory of artistic possibility, and it’s as true for image-makers as it is for writers. If you want to create memorable visuals, you owe it to yourself to see what others have done before you.

In my various travels, I always try to squeeze in a trip to a gallery or two; no matter how good a print or digital reproduction is, it will never equal reflected light off an original canvas. The last time I was in Nürnberg, Germany, I squeezed in a trip to the very excellent Germanisches Nationalmuseum, which has what has become one of my favorite paintings, Johann Liss’ 1623 “The Prodigal Son With the Prostitutes.” (Image thanks to TimSpfd at flickr)

The Prodigal Son with the Prostitutes 1623 Johann Liss

It delights me no end that most of the techniques we seek to employ when shooting and grading cinematic images were pioneered and mastered centuries earlier by generation after generation of painters, sculptors, and fabric and glass artists. It’s staggeringly instructive to notice particular techniques made in completely different media that have direct application in your own work.

In the painting above, note the startlingly careful control of multiple planes of highlights. Not only is the overall image brilliantly high-contrast (although the photo diminishes this somewhat, in person the contrast is deep), but the highlights on each plane of subjects fall at progressively diminishing levels relative each figure’s distance from the camera. This control of highlight creates depth by keeping the most brilliant and crisp highlights on the couple nearest the viewer, while the highlights of figures farther away (the servers, couples in the background) are more muted. The one exception is the prodigal son himself, at the center of the room and thus behind the front-most couple; his cuff and sleeve are rendered with brilliant, sparkling highlights equal to those of the foreground characters, thus keeping him at the forefront of the viewer’s attention.

Negative space is utilized naturalistically by leaving the background to fall to shadow, with the exception of a few subtle details to keep the surrounding area from being too flat. Texture is preserved even as the distant wall and floor are kept both dark and desaturated, creating an organic vignette behind and offset from the foreground figures. I’m a huge fan of “intrinsic vignettes,” (for lack of a better term),  where a natural pool of shadow or saturation can be used to guide the viewer’s eye, rather then an overlaid oval of black. Any time I can accomplish this by reinforcing and extending a forward-thinking cinematographer’s contrast scheme, I do, because it’s a much more organic way of shaping the visuals.

Similarly, saturation is also used to focus there viewer’s eye. Flesh tone is rendered with the most saturation on the faces and hands of the revelers who are central to the scene. Brilliant splashes of red and gold define the main players of this drama, while background players are rendered with more muted greens, ochres, and grays; even the skin tones of the background players are more muted, doubtless justified by the rendering of smoke lending a haze to the room.

Naturally, you’re only going to get this kind of look through cooperation with the cinematographer and art department (wardrobe and set dressing). This isn’t the kind of look that you as a colorist can simply create without some fundamentals first built into the image (insert joke here about an indie film’s white T-shirt wearing protagonist standing in front of a beige wall).

Still, given a careful shadow ratio with thought given to pools of light and shadow, and given the introduction of selective regions of color into the scene via creative costume and set choices, you can be provided with the opportunity to shape the image creatively using only careful control of contrast and saturation, both in your Primary grade and in targeted Secondary adjustments designed to push specific elements forward or backward in the scene. I also love using Hue and Saturation curves to sculpt saturation in specific ways. While one could easily play some games with selective sharpening or blurring of parts of the image to emulate the painters deliberate ability to over- or under-render the detail of particular individuals, no other tricks should really be needed.


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 DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.

About My Web Site

Alas, my web site was hacked while I was away in Florida for the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival screening of “The Place Where You Live.” In fact, my whole family of web sites were hacked, and a week passed wherein I could do nothing. Happily, I’ve fixed the issue and taken steps to secure the help I’ll need to prevent this from happening again.

From the very beginning of this blog, I’ve resisted placing ads for anything other then the fruits of my own activities (my books, training videos, and soon my films), and the perennial Amazon ad for books I have on my shelf. I figure if you’re here, you’re probably interested in what I’m doing and what I’ve created, but you’re not particularly interested in ads for colleges, cars, or whatever other random adverts might pop up. Despite the increased cost of running this site in a world requiring hardening from hacking, I’m determined to continue to offer this site as a free resource. It’s fun, and I can continue to justify my occasional and eclectic posting habits.

If you like the content and feel motivated to support my efforts with filthy lucre, consider picking up a copy of one of my books or training videos (through Ripple Training). You’ll support my extra-curricular activities, and learn something to boot! And if you’ve already done so, then thank you! I very much appreciate 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.
Editing in DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.

Finally, I’ve Made an Award Winning Film

WildRoseAchievementEditing  WildRoseAchievementProdDesign  WildRoseAchievementVFX

I’ve been having an enormous amount of fun flying out to some of the film festivals we’ve gotten into, and meeting other truly independent filmmakers who are tilting at the windmills of this crazy industry of ours. While I’m generally just happy to have the opportunity to screen my work in front of actual human beings, I’m thrilled to announce that “The Place Where You Live” won distinctive achievement awards for Editing, Visual Effects, and Production Design at Des Moines Iowa’s Wild Rose International Film Festival.

It was my second festival in two weeks, and while audience response continues to be really positive, this kind of additional recognition is icing on the cake, and a nice bit of validation for all the folks who’ve worked so hard to make this impossibly ambitious project come to life. This is especially true as the Wild Rose International had an impressively strong lineup of films to show, including a pleasingly high number from other Minnesota filmmakers (shout-out to the Twin Cities!).

VFX

Huge congratulations to everyone who pitched in with me on the VFX, most of whom were tragically left off of the certificate (for reasons solely of length). However, I can amend that here by giving a huge shout out to Brian MulliganAaron VasquezJoel OsisChristopher BenitahB.J. WestBrian Olson, Patrick Burke, and Marc-André Ferguson for his organizational talents putting the original Smoke-based VFX crew together. I couldn’t have done this without this incredibly talented team of artists, and if I were you I’d hire all of them.

Production Design

I’m also excited that Kaylynn Raschke’s contribution as Production Designer has been recognized. An industry veteran stylist with over two decades of experience in commercial styling for print and broadcast, set dressing, and wardrobe, she went above and beyond with limited resources to design and assemble a fantastic pair of environments for the movie, each of which had a lot going on. Production design is all too often neglected in smaller productions, and I’m proud to say that’s not a problem we had.

Editing

Lastly, I’m very pleased to be recognized for the editing of this piece. While I’ve not had my shingle out professionally as an editor for clients since the late nineties, I’ve continued practicing the craft through cutting my own work, that of my wife Kaylynn (a filmmaker in her own right), and in doing the occasional bit of surgery on projects requiring finishing in addition to grading. It’s nice to see that I’ve still got it.

More festival screenings are coming up; go on over to whereyoulivethemovie.com for the latest listings and updates!


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 DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.

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.

SkinOverdone

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

SkinGraded

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.

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The original VFX shot

CUEyesLightTouchup

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.
Editing in DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.

New Ripple Training Grading in Resolve 11

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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.
Editing in DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.

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.

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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 DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.

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.
Editing in DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.

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 www.whereyoulivethemovie.com (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.
Editing in DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.

The Public Beta of DaVinci Resolve 11

ResolveBeta11Icon

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: http://www.blackmagicdesign.com/support/family/10.

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.

Delivery

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.
Editing in DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.

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.
Editing in DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.

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.
Editing in DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.

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.
Editing in DaVinci Resolve 11: 6 hrs of tutorials on editing in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Grading in DaVinci Resolve 11: 13 hrs of tutorials on grading in Resolve 11 from Ripple Training.
Creative Looks in DaVinci Resolve: 90 mins of creative grading tips and techniques from Ripple Training.