Film School: Colour Grading Master Class

'Sony A7SIII Footage Color Graded by Dolby Colorist in HDR!' | Armando Ferreira 'Sony A7SIII Footage Color Graded by Dolby Colorist in HDR!' | Armando Ferreira

“Emotion, context, place”: using colour to help craft story.

Colour Correction comes before Colour Grading. This entry is about grading – head here to learn about correction.

Commercial videographer and product reviewier Armando Ferreira visits Dolby Vision, essentially to review the colour capabilities of the Sony A7SIII camera, and inadvertently receives a master class from colorist Shane Ruggieri.

Here’s the full 34 minute lesson, followed by our notes:

“My job really is to take the director’s vision”

“The first thing that I do is talk to the director,” talk to the person in charge of the image, and saying, ‘How do you to feel? How should this feel to me?’ Because we’re conveying those feelings of emotion, context, place, and you need a starting point. I can’t just go in there and start pushing things around.” (2:49)

“You’re not really looking at scopes”

The two discuss the importance of screen colour calibration, both from 5:27 and in the Q&A toward the end of the video. While Shane is “always peeking at the scopes”, he notes that “sometimes you don’t want to retain all the details” – again, his main reference is the director’s stated feeling. (5:45)

First: Sky Replacement

Shane has nodes in DaVinci Resolve dedicated to recolouring the sky in outdoor scenes, on request. (6:41)

Second: Skin Tones

Shane motion tracks the face, to which he applies a power window to isolate adjustments. (7:06)

Third: Eye Work

Shane observes that a viewer first and most crucially reads the eyes of the humans on screen, as “eyes tell intention.” While he mentions the availability of plug-ins and AI tracking systems for eye work, the human factor does what they cannot: “a lot of the contact work I do is context.” (9:49)

What’s really important about colour grading is that it’s a team effort… it’s not just me deciding how things should look.

Shane Ruggieri

Relighting

Shane remains mindful that each shot is “just a moment in time”, preceded and followed by other shots, scenes, story – and so, he believes that wherever in each frame the eye is drawn to should contribute to the larger story. (12:11)

The lighting in a certain shot or scene may feel right on set, but later may not feel like it fits in the edit. At the colour correction stage (which should happen before the colour grading stage, and which we talk about here), relighting can help to add depth and focus where desired. (12:53)

Colour Profiles: In-Depth

The second half of the video is a Q&A, which we won’t get into here – but if you’re interested in the science of colour profiles, it kicks off with an in-depth discussion of HDR, Rec709, Dolby Vision, when a measurement in “nits” may not mean much, and why Gamma isn’t really a thing anymore (from 15:49)

“A LUT is a destructive thing”

“You can think of it like a tool… A LUT doesn’t do all things” – a sentiment echoed cinematographer Jaron Presant in his chat with Indy Mogul about colour grading – and we made notes on that too: