[Tig] Color Grading in NLEs

Steve Hullfish steve.hullfish
Thu May 8 15:25:49 BST 2003

Hi Craig -

I do color grading on a Symphony.

I've got to disagree about the value of Curves. It is true that traditional colorists do not have these tools, but that
doesn't mean that they have no value. Curves - especially on the master tonal range - are a very powerful way to affect
the tonality of the picture with tremendous control. You can affect the gamma knee and the gamma shoulder and the gain and
set-up, but Curves provides about 4 times that amount of control, depending on the number of points you can set on the
curve. Granted, many of the low end tools, I'm not sure about FCP4, only give you four points on the curve, so you
actually would have about the same control with that set-up. But with more points on the curve you can really anchor
specific many specific tonal ranges where you want them and adjust others as needed. If you don't know what you're doing,
you can cause some pretty severe banding (or worse), but at least you have the control if you need it.

For color casts, I would agree that using Curves is much more difficult than using Hue Offset wheels (like the traditional
RGB balls). But you can combine the specific powers of the two tools, layering "corrections" with each.

I don't use histograms much myself, but why would you dismiss having MORE information about your image? Histograms are
traditionally the tools of the computer photo retoucher. These are people that are your colleagues from the print side of
imaging. They have to do very complex color grading that is every bit the equal of what a film/video colorist has to do -
minus all that pesky movement. I know that they rely on Histograms and Curves to do what they do.

Colorists have had a pretty stable palette of tools and means of image analysis for the last decade or so, but that
doesn't mean that they're the only tools or means to analyze an image that are useful.

Also, you mention color correcting on DS. I agree that you have a problem there. Avid Symphony has solutions for the
problems you discussed of how to save corrections and the next version of DS (Nitris) has taken almost all of the Symphony
color correction engine into its code. I don't know if you can save corrections in Nitris. You certainly can in Symphony.

I do not benefit in any way from my comments about Symphony or DS or Nitris. I am not an employee of Avid or paid for
marketing efforts on their behalf. I don't think anyone owns Curves or Histograms, so I'm safe there.

Steve Hullfish
NLE Editor and Colorist
Big Idea Productions

Craig Leffel wrote:

BTW, you can tell the folks at FCP to throw away the curve base portion of

> their color corrector. Why all the yokels out there building these things
> think a curve based part of the corrector is vital is beyond me. I realize
> many graphic artists use this kind of system everyday. Up until now they
> haven't had any better tools. "Color correcting" by moving points on a curve
> and waiting to see what happens is like drinking beer out of a baby's
> bottle -- it's the wrong tool for the job. Curve based color correction is
> for specific tasks -- not for making images. While your at it, throw out
> Histograms too. They're just as worthless.
> Hope it all helps Kevin --
> Yours in Knobtwisting,
> Craig Leffel
> Senior Colorist
> Optimus
> Chicago
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