Answering the Essential Color Correction Question: Am I Doing This Right?

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A website dedicated to video and film professionals.

This is a quick post shouting-out a new article on Their fearless leader Jeremiah Karpowicz interviewed me about learning color correction. He was intrigued by the new Color Correction Home Study and wanted to dig deeper.

We did a Skype call, which he had transcribed and then edited to turn into an article. Jeremiah did a fantastic job taking my often disjointed thoughts and turning them into understandable Zen-like mastery! 🙂

But seriously, his questions ranged from, “Can anyone color correct?” to “What’s your best advice for someone struggling with color correction?” He even managed to get me to comment on the Look of one of the most lucrative film franchises in history graded by one of the most successful colorists in the business, ever. Uncharacteristically presumptuous of me, for sure.

Rather than pull excerpts here, I encourage you to head over to PVC’s website and check it out. There’s a lot of broad color correction Q&A. It’s not one giant fluff piece – I promise!

Read: Answering the Essential Color Correction Question: Am I Doing This Right? on PVC’s website


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Announcing: Colorist Flight School LIVE! 2013

Introducing Our New 3-Day Workshops

Colorist-Flight-School-Wings-800pxI am very pleased to announce that Tao of Color is now offering live training workshops in seven cities around the United States in the Summer / Fall of 2013.

About the Workshop
This idea of offering live workshops—which are an extension of my online training–has been on my agenda for a long time but i was missing one vital component… a short film to base the training around. Why a short film?

Workshopping a Color Grading Session
I needed a short film so I could workshop / mimic a color grading job. From launching the software through final delivery it allows me to teach the software interface on a single cohesive project–rather than a random collection of clips. And all during the process we can talk craft and client relations. It also allows us to do one of the most difficult things there is… grading to someone else’s vision. It allows for a marriage of theory + craft + software. and Colorist Flight School LIVE!
Anyone who has followed the Tao of Color knows that we’ve developed a very close relationship with the horror film anthology site, I grade their extremely popular short films and they license back to me those films in any training that I develop here on the Tao… plus they get a percentage of each transaction, which helps fund their next short film… Win, win and win.

And upon grading the 8th short film in their series, Death Scenes, this past winter – I knew I had finally found the film I needed for my Live workshops. What makes Death Scenes so good for this 3-day workshop?

Patrick teaching at his very first workshop in  Georgia

Patrick teaching at his very first workshop in Georgia

Elements of a great ‘training’ film
Death Scenes is most easily categorized as a supernatural thriller that has all the components I needed to base a workshop around:

  • It’s just long enough: At under 5 minutes, it’s meaty enough to sustain three days of instruction and hands-on training (it took me about 12 hours to grade that film the first time around, including revisions) without being ovewhelming.
  • It’s fun: The antagonist in the film has a GREAT look and the twist surprise at the end was extremely well executed with top-notch monster prosthetics.
  • It cleans up nicely: The film was shot ‘flat-style’ on a Sony F-3. You can really see the results of your work while having many shot-matching challenges associated with an aggressive shooting schedule. Plus, since it was shot directly to ProRes422HQ, the footage is high-quality but not pristine—reflecting the reality that most of us have to deal with on a daily basis.
  • It can be made PG: The blood in this film is largely incidental to the story. I was able to edit out all the objectionable material without losing the story (scroll down to watch the cut-down of the film we’ll be grading in the workshop… and yes, I provide the uncut version of the film if you want to practice with that version at home).
  • Creating Looks is part of the director’s vision: The director needs us to come up with three different Looks for this film – one for the main storyline and two other distinct looks for two different flashbacks from two unique perspectives.
  • Students can take the film home: As with my online training, students are licensed to take this film home with them, continue working on it and integrate their grades into demo reels or use in private client demos. This requirement is really REALLY important to me. Whenever I take live training I’m always annoyed that I can’t take the footage home with me to work with and continue practicing… especially since it’s so hard to find good challenging coherent material to practice upon. All the training at the Tao features this unique benefit and this workshop is no exception.

A 3-Day Workshop That Spans Weeks!

Having a great film isn’t enough… I wanted to create a workshop with ‘legs’. One that starts several weeks before the workshop – and continues long after the workshop ends. I don’t just want to present a ‘3 Days and Out’ event.

To achieve that, here’s what you’ll experience at the Colorist Flight School LIVE! workshop:

  • Two weeks before the Workshop: You’ll gain access to a special sub-site here on the Tao of Color and 14 days before the workshop begins you get access to my one-hour Webinar, “Why Color Grading Is So Hard (and what you can do about it)”. This presentation ensure that the day we start the workshop, everyone in the room has the same fundamental foundation about color grading, room setup, the color grading process and how to read scopes. Even very experienced pros find this presentation filled with interesting facts and I consider it a foundational video for EVERYTHING I do here at the Tao. If you buy ANY of my training here at the Tao you get a similar video… and the Live Workshop is no different.
  • Students brought their own gear to the Atlanta BYOL workshop

    Students brought their own gear to the Atlanta BYOL workshop

    One week before the Workshop: I release my audio recording of my first conversation with the Director and Editor of Death Scenes as we discuss their technical and creative goals and challenges. This 45 minute ‘podcast’ sets the foundation for all the creative work we do at the Workshop.

  • During the 3-Day workshop: The moment the workshop begins, everyone has watched and listened to all the introductory material – so we can start working almost immediately. When you walk in the room, you’re given a USB Tao of Color branded hard drive that’s yours to keep. It contains everything you need during the workshop: XMLs, EDLs, camera-original footage and more. It total there’s just under 90 gigs of material. When the workshop ends you keep everything on that hard drive and export your Resolve database from the previous 3 days worth of work you did so you can continue working on it at home.
  • After the Workshop: Just after the workshop ends, you’ll be given access to the current online version of Colorist Flight School, where you can grade a second, entirely different short film, Dead Man’s Lake. All the video lessons and camera original footage is already on the USB hard drive you received at the workshop – so you can get started grading this second project immediately. You’re given all 6 hours of my DaVinci Resolve fundamentals video training series, so you can revisit core concepts from the workshop. And if that isn’t enough, you get 2 months free access to – the brand new color grading website launch at NAB 2013 with its continuously growing library of quick color grading insights.

What you’ll be learning . . .

While designing the curriculum for the workshop, here’s what I set out as my goals for each student to take-away from this 3-day workshop:

  • Learn to use DaVinci Resolve in context of an actual real-world job
  • Work from importing through final render
  • Learn how to evaluate a shot, use that evaluation to create a plan of attack and execute the plan of attack… all while keeping in mind the creative intent of the Director
  • Solve real-world problems while learning to grade for shot continuity, context and emotion
  • Systematically explore DaVinci Resolve, digging deeper into it’s toolset while learning each step of The Tao Colorist 3-Step Technique
  • Learn advanced keyframing and tracking techniques
  • Work with RAW and LOG camera formats and adapt The Tao Colorist 3-Step Technique for these specific workflows
  • Extensive Q & A opportunities, working through color grading questions you have – at the exact moment you have them.
  • Receive special bonuses that will continue your education for several more months (see the section above)

At the end of this blog post is the full syllabus – which WILL get revised on a class-by-class basis to meet each class’ unique needs and interests.

Who is this Workshop for?

Quite simply: Current or aspiring video professionals. Whether you’ve never touched DaVinci Resolve before or you’re an experienced Resolve colorist – you’ll be challenged, never left behind, never bored. The workshop is appropriate for anyone looking to expand their skill set and make color correction either a primary or secondary offering to their clients.

The only pre-requisite: You need a basic knowledge of timelines and other post-production terminology. It would also be helpful if you’ve tried to apply a 3-way color corrector at some point in your career and have (some) experience working is a non-linear editing package (you needn’t be proficient). Other than that, you should be good to go.

On each of the city-specific Eventbrite sign-up pages I have several of quotes from the attendees of my very first workshop in Atlanta. Here are just two that really summed up my greatest hopes for this Workshop:

“I had never used DaVinci Resolve before and I was little hesitant about [the workshop] because I didn’t feel that my color grading skill were quite up to par as they should be. Patrick did an AWESOME job explaining the use of the software and didn’t make me feel any less about being a beginner with the use of the program. It was a lot to digest in 3 days but I feel more confident moving forward and I’m looking forward to my growth of skill level in using the program and color grading. I would highly recommend to anyone to to take this course if they are able. TAO OF COLOR ROCKS!” – Greg Dinkins / Macon, Ga.

Instructor feedback is a big component of this workshop

Instructor feedback is a big component of this workshop

Quick note: Greg emailed me a few days after taking the workshop… he had trouble getting Resolve to read the camera original P2 footage on a client project (it turns out: Resolve doesn’t read the native P2 folder structure). By the time I had gotten back to him he had already moved on to the ‘flat file’ workflow and cut up a self-contained export and was grading in Resolve.

I can’t tell you how elated I felt, knowing that seven days prior he hadn’t even opened DaVinci Resolve but now could adapt his workflow as needed!

“Well, I have been using Resolve for about a year and a half. I thought [the Workshop] was going to be too basic for me. And that it won’t be worth the money, because it was going to go through stuff I already knew . . . I was completely wrong. It has gone though so many of the finer points and so many things I was doing one way there are better way to do things.  And answered a lot of my basic questions. And have gone into finer details of things I thought I was doing right, but found out there I wasn’t doing it the most appropriate way.” – Rob Leaderman / Atlanta, Ga.

How cool is that? Feedback from two professionals at different points of the learning curve with color correction and DaVinci Resolve. Yet neither felt they were lost, left behind or bored.

7 Cities in 4 Months

When deciding where to host these Workshops, the easy choice would have been to host them in New York City and L.A. But I decided to try an experiment and hold them in smaller markets around the country. I want to see if cities like Austin, Atlanta, Orlando, Boston and others could support a premium 3-day workshop… where student travel expenses could be minimized – instead of just keeping to the big bi-coastal markets.

We’ll see what happens – but thanks to the sponsors of this 7-city tour, it doesn’t matter if only 1 person signs up for a city… if you sign up, I’ll be teaching. It’s that simple.

My minimum enrollment is: One

Here are the 8 cities of this Tour (in order of dates). And other than the Austin event, they’re all being hosted by Future Media Concepts:

What cities and dates is this workshop being offered?

Click on a city to be taken directly to the sign-up page, or use the calendar on the right

  • Atlanta, GA: May 30 – June 1 (completed)

The Sponsors That Make This Workshop Happen

If it weren’t for these following sponsors, I couldn’t roll out this training the way I am. Thanks to their financial support, I can guarantee every single workshop will be held, even if only one person signs up! Who knows, if you sign up and end up with one-on-one training… you could easily be the most well-trained colorist in your market! And if 10 of you show up… you’ll have the basis for a local color grading User Group!


Gold Sponsor

FSI is a direct-to-end user manufacturer of high-quality, feature-rich, price-competitive LCD critical viewing reference panels for professional video applications.

They will be shipping one of their 10bit reference LCDs to each workshop so all attendees can optionially spend some time grading to a 10-bit reference monitor.

FSI is also providing a 10% discount to all workshop attendees that can be applied to ANY of their gear (a potential $550 savings).


Supporting Sponsors

Yes, the co-creators of the original Kona card, the creators of the Decklink series of output boards (plus a bevy of other conversion and monitoring gear) and the company that bought DaVinci and released the amazingly free version of DaVinci Resolve are on-board as Supporting Sponsors of the 2013 Tour of Colorist Flight School LIVE!

BlackMagic is also providing an UltraStudio Mini for this Workshop to demonstrate how we can get from a Thunderbolt-enabled computer out to the FSI 10-bit LCD display.

Thanks to Blackmagic, at the end of every workshop we will be raffling off:

  • The full version of DaVinci Resolve ($999 value)

If the winner already has the full version of Resolve they can optionally choose one of these boxes that allow for monitoring out of any Thunderbolt laptop, iMac or tower:

  • UltraStudio Express
  • UltraStudio Mini

Event Host


Another instrumental partner is this series of 7 workshops is Future Media Concepts. It's as much an experiment for them as this is for me. And they made it much easier for me to coordinate this multi-city tour. Thanks to their agreement to open up their facilities across the USA to this workshop... I can focus on creating a great workshop, knowing I'll have quality learning labs and projectors.

Final Thoughts

In a few days I'll post pictures and thoughts about my very first time presenting Colorist Flight School LIVE! in Georgia. We had a great time and Walter Biscardi and his staff at Biscardi Creative were amazing hosts.

In the meantime, feel free to head over to Eventbrite to reserve your spot in your city of choice! I've set a limit of 10 students per workshop, so if you want to attend don't dawdle... go ahead and sign up.

As promised, here's...

The 3-Day Agenda

Note: The curricula below comprise activities typically covered in a class at this skill level. The instructor may, at his/her discretion, adjust the lesson plan to meet the needs of the class.

Day 1

  • Introductory remarks & review of materials provided to students in the two weeks prior to start of the workshop
  • Overview of the course material provided on the hard drive
  • Introduce each other
  • Prepping DaVinci Resolve for a new project (includes setting up databases and core system / project preferences)
  • Tour of DaVinci Resolve
  • How to find and load footage
  • Scene Cut Detection
  • Importing a timeline via XML / EDL / AAF
  • Checking imported timelines against a reference movie
  • Essentials of: Color Balancing, neutralizing color casts, setting contrast and saturation, using the Waveform / RGB Parade / Vectorscope monitors
  • “The Grayscale Game - Contrast"
  • Doing primary adjustments using: Color wheels, Curves, Log tools
  • Exercise: Execute the Primary Grades for a section of the short film
  • Exercise: Intro to Shot Matching
  • Using the Gallery & Still Store

 Day 2

  • XML Recap
  • “The Grayscale Game - Color"
  • The value of ‘pre-rendering’
  • Instructor review of Primary Grades from end of Day 1
  • Serial Nodes In Depth
  • Qualifications
  • Add Outside Node
  • The Three Step Color Grading Process... applied to nodes.
  • What is shot matching and how do you do it?
  • Exercise: Match shots across the previously graded section of the short film
  • Instructor review
  • Power windows
  • Inside / Outside Nodes
  • Basic Tracking techniques
  • Exercise: Add vignettes and face masks
  • Keyframing
  • Pulling HSL keys
  • The ‘Hue vs.’ curves
  • Exercise: Start creating Looks
  • How understanding the ‘Singularity Effect’ will help you in creating convincing Looks
  • Continuing with Looks
  • Tracking and 'Interactive Mode'

Day 3

  • XML Recap
  • Tracking Recap
  • 'The Grayscale Game - Color & Contrast'
  • Create accounts to access the Colorist Flight School ‘Dead Man’s Lake’ training
  • Continuing with Looks
  • Parallel and Layer Mixer Nodes: What's the difference?
  • Composite Modes
  • Create 2nd Look: Student Choice
  • Exercise: Controlling your image using ‘image segmentation’
  • Creating ‘Approval Renders’ for client review
  • Creating final renders for ‘flat file’ and ‘roundtrip’ workflows
  • Working with RAW camera formats (RED, BlackMagic Cinema Camera)
  • Introduction to ‘Dead Man’s Lake’ and working with ‘flat’, Log-encoded footage... with and without LUTs
  • Export your DaVinci Resolve Colorist Flight School project files - so you can take the work home with you and continue your studies.
  • Class Photo


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Interview: Ben Franklin & Anthony Melton – Bloody Cuts

Part 1: “Practicing Your Craft”

The ‘Tao of Color’ podcast lurches back to life this week!

Join me as I talk with the two raving lunatics behind the Horror Anthology website, BloodyCuts! Yes, we all make it out of the podcast alive – but not after discussing what drives these up-and-coming filmmakers.

At the start of this podcast I also drop an announcement about a joint venture between Tao of Color and BloodyCuts – to bring you some cutting edge training. If you have the stomach for it, scroll down to listen to the podcast!

Read More…

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DaVinci Resolve 8.1.1 Lite – NOT!

The $995 Resolve Tax Is Gone

Around here on the Tao, it goes without saying that BlackMagic DaVinci Resolve ‘dot’ updates are usually much bigger than they sound. Today DaVinci Resolve has been incrementally updated from 8.1 to 8.1.1. For most companies, this is the kind of update you might consider skipping.

And at first blush I thought the same about Resolve 8.1.1. Three new features are released but none seem critical. One is significant price drop. The second is something you might have seen coming. The third new feature? It’s a biggie but not ground-breaking.

Or is it? I’m about to argue that for a large part of the post-production industry – from hobbyists to indie filmmakers to those delivering for Broadcast – the third new feature is very VERY significant.

In fact, as a friend Tweeted to me today:

BlackMagic isn’t content with disrupting the Color Grading industry with a $999 ‘Hollywood Quality’ color grading package. They are now intent on disrupting themselves.

But first, the (first) significant price drop…

The $500 ‘Avid Tax’ Is Gone

Starting with DaVinci Resolve 8.1.1, DNxHD is now included with every install of DaVinci Resolve and DaVinci Resolve Lite.

Yesterday – if you wanted Resolve to play DNxHD files or render out to DNxHD – you had to buy a $500 add-on that enabled this feature. If you talked to the BlackMagic team about this ‘Avid tax’, they said they were passing on the cost of the licensing – but only to those people who wanted DNxHD rather than imposing that $500 ‘tax’ on all the other people who didn’t need it.

Here's the Avid DNxHD product listing from B&H Photo's website

No longer. DNxHD is now a part of every install of DaVinci Resolve – paid and free.

Normally a $500 price drop would be huge news amongst those of us who value integration with Avid products but here’s that innocuous little feature that has big-time implications:

Resolve Lite: Two Nodes, and BEYOND

DaVinci Resolve Lite has added by subtracting – the two color correction node limit has been lifted. DaVinci Resolve Lite now supports unlimited nodes.

If you’re not familiar with Resolve, they’ve just lifted a major restriction. Previously, the  two nodes limitation prevented Lite users from adding three powerful ‘specialty’ nodes. One of the things these Specialty Nodes share in common: They require a minimum of 3 nodes in the node tree.

For example, here’s a node tree from one of the new ‘Looks’ that ship with Resolve 8.1.1 (if you’re keeping track, pre-built Looks is the third new feature):

'Technicolor' Power Grade: This 5-Node Grade would have been impossible with DaVinci Resolve Lite 8.1

Do you see that Node labelled ‘Parallel’?

In Resolve Lite 8.1 this specialty node (and two others like it) were off-limits. And the above 5-node color grading tree would have been impossible.

Resolve Lite 8.1.1 now not only makes possible this node tree – it now ships with Resolve and Resolve Lite as a pre-built Look.

This is really big news.

For existing Resolve user let me repeat: Not only is there no restriction on the number of nodes that Lite users can use, all the Specialty Nodes are enabled – resulting in a color-grading software package that is virtually identical to the paid version of the software.

Lite No More

Lest I put too fine a point on it:

For a large number of post-production professional there’s almost no reason to rush out and buy the fully paid version of DaVinci Resolve.

BlackMagic has disrupted itself.

Here’s my case why the free version of DaVinci Resolve should not be called ‘Lite’.

What Are DaVinci Resolve Lite’s Remaining Limitations?

  • Render to SD – and HD- Only – Resolve Lite limits the frame size of your renders to 1080p or smaller. You can grade 2K and 4K material. You just can’t have either a project size at or render out to 2K or 4K. Nor is image processing hobbled in any way, so feel free to do a Premium De-Bayer for your RED HD deliverable. But if you want Cinema sized renders – this limitation means you need to buy the full version.
  • Single GPU Card – Lite is still limited to using a single GPU card. If you’re going to buy an expansion chassis to run 2 or 3 instances of a graphics card (for more Real-Time functionality) – you need to buy the full version.
  • Single Red Rocket Card – Same limitation as above. For RED stereoscopic projects where you’d want two Red Rocket cards – you need to buy the full version.
  • No Stereo 3D features – If you need to grade a stereo project – you need to buy the full version
  • No Noise Reduction – Resolve Lite won’t enable this CUDA-only feature – even if you have a CUDA card.
  • No Multi-Resolve Features – Lite doesn’t support grading from a remote location or sharing a database on a server between multiple Resolves.

Lite? Says Who?

Looking at that list of limitations it strikes me that Resolve Lite isn’t Lite at all.

In fact – there isn’t a single restriction on Resolve Lite that would have kept me from working on a single job over the past two years. Let’s take another look, with commentary:

  • SD- and HD- Only– SD jobs have pretty much disappeared for me. It’s 100% HD… even for jobs that shoot at 2K or 4K! Right off the bat that tells you something about me – I don’t do Hollywood features. For the rest of you who are in my boat, HDCamSR at 1080p is about as ‘big’ a frame size we need… even if the client shot RED at 4K – which, as I said, Resolve Lite fully supports as a source.
    Here’s the kicker: If you DO need  2K / 4K deliverables you can grade at 1080p on DaVinci Resolve Lite, take that project to your local post house and have them render out the 4K deliverables – since DaVinci Resolve Lite projects and DaVinci Resolve Paid projects are fully interchangeable.
  • Single GPU Card – Multiple GPUs are essential for 2K and larger frame sizes. Especially if you need real-time playout at those frame sizes. But 1080p is well within the processing power of a single GPU. And if you’re working with RED material, grading with Proxies to overcome GPU deficiencies and maintain the frame rate is a well-worn workflow.
  • Single RED Rocket Card – See above. Even among RED users, I’d bet only a small percentage are running two Rockets.
  • Noise Reduction – At first blush you’d think this would be a necessary feature that you’d be willing to upgrade to the paid version. Except… most HD jobs have a much bigger problem than excessive noise – they need to eliminate macroblocking artifacts from compressed codecs. Noise Reduction doesn’t solve that problem at all (in fact, it often exaggerates macro-blocking). It turns out that those mostly likely to benefit from Resolve’s Noise Reduction are those who are working at 2k frames sizes with multiple GPUs running dual RED Rockets for Stereo workflows!

Do I need to take this any further?

DaVinci Resolve Lite Free

Are you’re starting to feel a tingle running up your leg? 😉 Do you see what I’m saying?

There is nothing Lite about DaVinci Resolve Lite 8.1.1.

It has the full color grading power of the paid version and it’s limitations are remarkably targeted and consistent as being important to a very specific subset of post-production professionals.

In fact (get ready for my completely self-serving plug) – if you were to download DaVinci Resolve Lite tonight and then sign up for the Tao of Color MasterClass training… there isn’t a single thing I’m doing in the training with paid version of DaVinci Resolve that you won’t be able to do with the DaVinci Resolve Free! And I’ve already recorded 15 hours of training on the Paid version having no idea this Free version was just around the corner.

One More Thing…

Apple Color’ists: No Excuses

I know a lot of my Apple Color brethren have been holding off on making the move to DaVinci Resolve. Now is the time to explore and Resolve Lite is the perfect vehicle. It’ll cost you nothing. And unless you need to render out beyond 1080p – you can use Resolve Free for paid gigs. No watermarks. No limitations. Just pick up a Decklink card and away you go… (conspiracy theorists: this just might explain why BlackMagic has released such a powerful tool at no cost)

Aspiring Colorists: No Excuses

Here it is. A nearly feature parity version of DaVinci Resolve that’s costs NOTHING to get started for HD projects. What are you waiting for? Start grading!


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