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Grading & Stock Choice

Published : 5th April 2004

I'm a graduating student just before my shoot. The film is a road-movie, we shoot it in Canada, in and around Toronto.

We would like to get a desaturated mostly tobacco-coffee coloured look, something like in Oh, Brother. Shooting on S16 we have digital grading, arriving on DVD, MiniDV, DigiBeta.

I have two questions to ask, if anyone has ideas or experience please share with me :

1. The stock : I wanted to get some grain, but it's just too bright outside to use an 800T/640D, even with ND's on. Do you know any stock - like Kodak 250D? - which is slower but grainy? Should I just take the 800, and just rate it under (e.g. shoot as if it was 400T?).

2. Colouring : Is it better to get a saturated look as colors may be more distinguishable from each other (so easier to handle in selective grading) or get a more neutral look? Also should I go on the side of the colour wheel which I'd like to get on the final (e.g. warm it up with filters, like 85B), or again shoot everything as it is, and grading will be able to get the effect I want?

Thanks very much,

Andras Rac

How much grain do you want?

Vision 800T in Super-16 would be pretty grainy, although if this is for TV viewing only, it might be just want you want.

How much grain is enough or too much is a personal call.

You could also consider shooting on a slower stock, like Vision 250D, but composing for and only transferring a smaller area of the negative to get more grain for a Super-8 look (or shoot Super-8.)

As for whether to create most of the warm desaturated look in-camera or in color-correction later, it depends. In general, the closer you can get the look in camera, on the negative, the less digital artefacts you might get trying to push the image heavily around in post. Also, brown (chocolate, sepia, tobacco) is a harder color tone to simulate digitally and it's just easier if the footage already has that look. On the other hand, if you are doing things like using the DaVinci to selectively alter each color, like to pull the blue chroma out of the sky but leave other colors normal, you might want to go for a more neutral, normally saturated image because a very pastel image is hard to do that with. So it just depends. I tend to feel that you should get halfway there in the photography and then finish the look in post, but like I said, if you need to tweak individual colors, you might want them to have more separation, which means that the image can't be too pastel.

If you want a little grain, but not too much, and a pastel look, you might consider Fuji F-400T or Kodak Expression 500T.

David Mullen
Cinematographer / L.A.


>As for whether to create most of the warm desaturated look in-camera or >in color-correction later, it depends.

I'd suggest a solution midway between David's two...

Shoot the negative 'normal'. Choose your colour 'look' in telecine. No digital artefacts as the colour choice is made BEFORE digital colour-space compression. But you'll always have your neutral negative to fall back on should you (or the producers?) decide to go another way...

Clive Woodward
Video Techie Who Likes Choices,
Perth, Western Australia.

David Mullen wrote :

>If you want a little grain, but not too much, and a pastel look, you might >consider Fuji F-400T or Kodak Expression 500T.

You might also consider the Fuji-500D Reala stock. It can get rather grainy in S-16 depending on how you shoot and transfer it. I shot a core of the 500D under available fluorescent. It also has a similar pastel look but it was a bit grainier than I expected.

Tom McDonnell
New Orleans, La

Hi Andreas,

Just to touch on a couple of points made by David Mullen...

If you're finishing on TK, adding grain is not too hard. One thing you can do is work with the colorist to achieve that, by turning off the noise reducer, closing down the PHYSICAL iris on the telecine and bringing up the electronic gain. This may introduce electronic noise rather than film grain, depending on how far you want to go.

>only transferring a smaller area of the negative to get more grain for a >Super-8 look (or shoot Super-8.)

The only problem with this is that the look on MOST telecines turns out to be a little soft (believe me, I've tried!). If you know you're transferring with the Spirit, you'll probably be okay, depending on how far you zoom in.

My experiences with trying to create warm looks with the telecine ALONE have not been too great. If you have to do it this way, make sure you pump a little more light into the negative to allow you more latitude in the transfer.

The rule of thumb I use is to add the necessary exposure to whatever filter I cannot put it (for whatever reason). Am I making sense? For example, if I'm NOT using an 85 filter, I will overexpose by 2/3rds of a stop to allow the colorist the latitude with the added info on the neg to bring back the look.

But yes, at least try to get close to the look with warming filters, I find that the tobacco 3 can work really well for the type of look you're describing, AND it eats up a lot of light, so using a higher speed stock may not be too much of a problem.

I've tried side by side tests with a colorist in which we would shoot with and without a warming filter, to see how close of a "warm look" one can get through digital grading alone.

The 'artificial' look is exactly that : there is a feeling of un-realness to the look, most apparent in the skin tone. And the rest of the tones don't fall where they should.


Duraid Munajim