The aim of this project was to undertake a deep investigation into the process of colour grading in a professional high-definition video post-production setting.
I had some experience working with a Colourist in a professional setting during my time in Telegael and the process and its specific technical studio compared to the other video editors intrigued me.
What I discovered from my research was that this process was a world more complicated, controlled and calibrated than I ever guessed. It is a process with a long history of pushing film and video technology to its very limits, requiring technical and expensive colour grading suites ensuring perfect colour accuracy which is difficult when battling with our eye's amazing ability to change how it is seeing things.
What I saw from this research was that there was a huge amount of information that the amateur filmmaker does not know about colour grading. There are a huge amount of variables to control and workflows that they must learn.
With the rapidly increasing standard of video quality required in amateur filmmaking communities thanks to the explosion of the internet in the last decade, this process has never been more important to the amateur filmmaker, never been as available as it currently is and we don't know enough about it to use it properly.
Therefore my project idea was simple, learn everything I can about this process, use it to make a project, to investigate professional standard video formats and use all this to adapt this difficult, technical process to an amateur setting.
You can find more details below
What is Colour Grading? Well if you're like me when I was in third year of college you think that it is the polished blue look that action movies have to make The Rock's muscles really pop... and that's not wrong but its definitely the most cliche example of the process that you could give.
What I have discovered from this long academic investigation into this video process is that it is a highly technical, advanced, precise and expensive profession. One with a long history of pushing the limits of film and then digital video technology. It's this history of expensive controlled environments and modern calibrated standards for professional Colour Grading Suites that makes me concerned that amateur filmmakers are at a disadvantage of either being ignorant of this process or that the appropriate measures for the process to be done correctly are unattainable.
It was from these realisations in my early research, that I decided to undertake this project. In it I would conduct an extensive amount of research into the topic of colour grading, it's history, it's current state, software availability, creative capabilities and the growing expectations of colour graded content in online amateur settings.
There has been a massive expanse of the internet over the last decade and with it a gigantic growing community of filmmakers, documentary makers, video content makers and video entertainment in general. This huge growth of amateur online video entertainment has led to a great demand for high quality video, relying heavily on advanced post-production work. This means quicker and smarter editing, higher resolution cameras, almost professional standard lighting setups and recently a heavier focus on colour grading and creative filtering of moving images.
So, therefore, we have A. A video post-production process that is incredibly technical, powerful and misunderstood in amateur settings B. Industry-standard colour grading software available for free through BlackMagic Design's DaVinci Resolve and C. Huge demand for high visual fidelity video content in amateur communities.
My aim is to use all my academic research, interviews I conducted with professional colourists and my experience from working with camera equipment capable of shooting 4K RAW video to make a practical video showcasing the subject of colour grading and to write an academic paper on the subject. I aim to show what colour grading is, how it is used and how filmmakers and editors within low budget constraints can best adapt the concepts and equipment requirements of professional standard colour grading to maximise the quality of videos they can output.
Part of this involves me creating my own innovative concepts to improve the appropriate use of colour grading in an amateur setting. This will include concepts on User-Interface, physical computer interface devices, data managing strategies and working environment layouts to offer solutions to challenges present to amateur colourists working in a difficult and expensive field.
The project explores perceptual psychology, colour psychology, design concepts, filmmaking techniques, post-production workflows, professional post-production environments, film history, developments in camera technology, digital video formatting, high dynamic range reproduction on screen and the advantages or disadvantages of greater focus on post-production work. All this research and super fun academic paper writing aid me in the practical element of this project which I mentioned earlier. The practical video is titled
'The Sixth C'
The aim of this practical is to let me have some fun with my research and use it to create something that showcases the differences in video file formats. As in the difference in visual fidelity and workload within post-production. The two file formats for this experiment/demonstration is RAW and H.264.
The idea of making a dance music video has appealed to me for a long time as I love video editing, creating sets, managing audio, creative direction of aesthetics or music and cinematography. Also with the unfortunate situation of completing a final year project on filmmaking during a global pandemic I can not have many actors or camera operators... or sound operators... or well any help at all really. So yeah.... not the best way to be.
What help I could get is that my sister (who was isolated and covid safe :) ) is a dancer so one weekend when she was visiting home I worked with her to record a dance video that focused on colourful elements, dynamic movements, transitions and use of high dynamic range filming.
The video we ended up recording was very fun to do and gave me great practice planning out transitions, movement and keeping continuity in the design of a video.
Around this demonstration video I will be recording my workflows in post-production for creating this music video. I will be presented after a side by side comparison of the two versions of the music video. It will be a discussion video recounting my experiences in post-production, my advise on working with RAW files in colour grading software and proposing solutions to challenges in recording and working with RAW video files that seem too difficult to overcome as an amateur with limited a limited budget.
Also while doing this I just get to create something cool and fun. Which is a nice opportunity even in the difficult times we are in.
For the making of this video, I have borrowed some camera equipment from the CSIS department in UL along with purchasing a range of equipment myself which I felt would greatly benefit my future work in this field. My main equipment is as such:
Camera - Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (UL)
Canon M50 (Personal)
Tripod - Manfrotto 545GB (UL)
Monitor - BenQ PD2700U (Personal)
Microphone - Sennheiser MKH 416 (UL)
Audio Interface - Zoom H6 Handy Recorder (UL)
Motivation - Provided by West Cork Coffee
While I am very happy to produce this video while I research this topic of amazing potential. I had loftier ambitions at the start of my final year I will admit...
I had dreamed of producing a full documentary on the subject of colour grading but recording this while locked down due to Covid-19, with no actors, camera operators or access to facilities or the ability to store tens of hours of RAW footage... well it just wasn't feasible.
So after a long time of entertaining that idea until the eventual stress breakdown, I then came up with this better idea of a short demonstration video showcasing a great example of the difference in grading ability between different video file formats and how to manage those file formats outside of the professional setting. I am very proud of how this project came out especially given the incredibly tough times I had to produce it in. It has greatly improved my understanding of these concepts and hugely improved my video post-production skills.