Digital grading and manipulating the image

Just a quick blog update today. We are currently working on the edit for a new music video. It was filmed in an old army tent and had actors and soldiers in costume as the band played around them.

Part of the song needed a dark and desaturated look to give a more intense feeling and fit in with the pace. Below you can see two stills one which was shot on the day with a P2 High definition camera in its raw format, and next to it you can see the image once it has been graded.

The other part to the song is going to have an aged 8mm look to it, the reason for this is the  warm nostalgic feeling that 8mm creates.

Q. So, why is digital grading important?

A. Because its better to be a needle in a haystack, than a haystack.


What a difference the day makes

We recently filmed a music video for the amazing up and coming  duo Miss600. We were fortunate to have access to a rooftop location that overlooked Nottingham City centre and lucky that it didn’t rain, and as it was late afternoon the light was beautiful and not too harsh, but it was hard to get definition between exposing for the lead singer Hannah’s face and exposing for the sky. So we decided to add the clouds in post production. Here is a little tutorial on how to do this effectively.

1. First we did an offline edit and so new the exact shots that we were going to use for the roof scenes.

2. We then brought the shots into after effects

3. Next we looked through our stock library of moving sky and cloud images until we found the right one that suited the scene.

4. In after effects we placed the sky in the correct place and applied a multiply mode, so that it only affects the light areas.

5. We then used the masking tool to outline around Hannah and David on any areas where the sky was too obvious.

6. We then created numerous adjustment layers that were applied to either both the sky and the video footage or just the video footage that allowed us to grade the image so that it not only matched the sky but had a more film look to it.

Even though this was shot on true HD, even the smallest amount of post production digital grading and manipulation of the image can make a huge difference.

You can also use mapping to align the sky to a point in the video which will mean that it will move with any camera movement, but that is for a different day!

Digital Grading, how to make video look like film

How do you make video look like film?

We have completed post production on our new feature documentary Finding Fatima.

This project was made over 8 months and  filmed in both the UK and Portugal. Because this is more of a doc drama we decided that it was important that it has a high end film look, this allowed us to distinguish it from other documentaries by making it visually unique and as the initial route to market is through DVD sales it needed to be a product that would stand up to other studio productions released around the same time.

This is how we did it:

Each shot is story boarded allowing us to work out character placement, lighting and view the scene as an entire sequence.

A lot of the re-enactment scenes were filmed using a green screen. This allows us to have complete control over the weather and can dramatically reduce the budget. It allows the film maker to put the subject in any environment that you want and with some good keying software and the ability to digitally generate backgrounds can look incredibly effective. If you are looking to film with green there are a couple of things which you should be aware of

1. lighting the character – make sure that you have a good idea of what the scene will be like that you are putting the character into. That way when you are lighting the character you know which direction the main source of light will be coming from and allow you to match the lighting in production, instead of having to go digitally change it in post.

2. Lighting the green screen – Obvious but, make sure the green screen is evenly lit, especially if there is going to be a lot of movement.

3. Cameras – HD cameras are better than SD cameras for green screen, obviously depending on the make.  One thing to remember is to expose for the subject not a balance between the green screen and the subject.

Once we had completed the production stage it was a matter of putting the film together for the offline edit, when grading a film its important to initially create the offline edit so that you don’t waste time and effort grading images that will end up on the cutting room floor, or nowadays in the desktop trash.

The on-line edit is where you look to grade the image. Digital grading is the post production process of manipulating the image to give it a more unique / film look. By utilizing post production software you are able to change lighting, colour, tone even parts of the image so that you are essentially, as the directors of the film say, ‘painting with pixels.’