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Digital Filmmaking Part 2 - Color Correction

Making Your Video Look Like Film By Paulo de Andrade
Nothing Real Shake is an awesome high-end compositor with lots of color-related functions. Highlighted is the Color Match tool.
In the next few installments of our Digital Filmmaking series we will discuss several techniques to make your video footage look like it was shot on film. They can be very useful if you are shooting a feature on digital video and want give it the same look as a film shot on celluloid, if you are shooting a music video and need it to meet the required industry standards, if you need to match video footage to film footage or even if all you want is to give your video projects a much higher perceived production value.

It wasnt too long ago that only high-end digital post-production facilities had the capability to make video look like film. I first used such conversion process on a four-minute music video that I produced for a Seattle artist and had to ship the master to another state to get it done. After some negotiation I was able to drive the price down to $750, which was a real bargain compared to the cost of actually shooting the whole thing on film. I shipped the master next-day delivery to the facility and 4 days later had in my hands a processed master that looked great. Even an experienced cinematographer I showed the video to was fooled into thinking it had been shot on film. One of the reasons for the excellent results was that I was already familiar with shooting video utilizing film production techniques. This was probably why the owner of the facility called to say that it was some of the best looking footage he had ever received for that type of processing.

Specialized high-end facilities offer a great service and often use experienced colorists, who know very well what film should look like, to color correct each shot. They are also able to process the footage in real time once all the programming is done. However, there are a few disadvantages to using such facilities including a certain lack of control from the part of the producer (unless he/she is able to be physically there during the process) and the time it takes to get the master to and from the facility. Fortunately, these days we can get the same results by using inexpensive personal computers and workstations plus readily available software.

Video Look Versus Film Look

Apple's Final Cut Pro comes with several color correction tools.
The preference for a film look over a video look seems to be a cultural one. In many countries, including Japan, a very well produced and crispy looking video is considered better then film for projects that will be ultimately shown on television or video. The reason is simple: modern television cameras are capable of producing great looking images, far cleaner looking on television that telecined film. Video doesnt have the graininess of film plus it plays back at 60 fields per second instead of 24 frames per second, resulting in smoother motion. Films superior contrast ratio and color purity the formats biggest advantages - are also leveled down when transferred to video and can be matched by good television cameras. Therefore, cultures that appreciate the ultimate in image quality tend to appreciate great looking video. Maybe because they have higher respect for the electronic acquisition format, they tend to apply more demanding production techniques to video production, similar to those used in film production.

In other parts of the world, including America, people tend to prefer the look of film. There are many factors that influence this taste and I believe that perceived production value is the main one, since we tend to associate film with higher budgets and video with lower standards. We are also a society that loves cinema. Weve grown up so used to the dreamlike look of film, with its organic grains and slower-than-life 24 frames per second speed, that basically anything produced in the format tends to assume greater than life proportions and grab our attention more effectively. This is one of the many reasons why a number of television series and commercials are shot on film instead of video.

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Related Keywords:digital filmmaking, After Effects, Shake, color correction, color correcting, color timing, colorist, compositing, film, video, cinelook, shake, final cut pro, editing


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