The Summer Blockbuster Colour Grading Tutorial

The Summer Blockbuster Colour Grading Tutorial

01 The Summer Blockbuster Colour Grading Tutorial from Juan Melara on Vimeo.

Introduction

I’ve received a lot of requests to share the techniques I use to achieve the various grades on this site and on Vimeo. But by far the biggest request has been to show how I create the cool/warm look. Otherwise known as the summer blockbuster look, the teal and orange look etc. The techniques I show you also form the foundation for most of the grades on this site. I hope to create a series of these tutorials (hence the 01 numbering) so stay tuned for more upcoming tutorials. I’ve already got a few ideas but If you have any suggestions, send me an email or contact me on twitter.

In this tutorial I assume you have some basic Resolve knowledge and you’re able to setup up projects, import footage, apply LUTs and create nodes. I also assume you have a basic grasp of colour correction and colour correction best practices. If you’re new to Resolve or colour correction/grading in general, I recommend you check out some of the resources at the bottom of this post.

Special thanks

Before I go any further I have to thank Toby Linden for kindly providing the footage of the gentleman with a gun. Toby is a talented cinematographer, check out more of his work at his website – dreamland-films.de and follow him on twitter – @TobiLinden.

Why Resolve?

Short answer: It’s really good, it’s free and it’s very easy to use.

The only excuses you should have for not using Resolve is if your system doesn’t have the specs to run it or you’re already using something better. In both cases you’ll still be able to get something out of the tutorial as the basic techniques should be applicable to whatever colour grading software you are using.

Why use film print emulation LUTs?

People ask me why I use film LUTs and if they are somehow cheating by using them. I use LUTs because I think they’re an important component in achieving this look. Film LUTs have been used by post production studios on films for aslong as they’ve been conducting DI colour grades. There’s a good chance that the films people continually try to match the look of, have been graded with a film LUT which has then been baked in, thus becoming a large part of the finished look.

Give the LUTs a try, see if you like their aesthetic. It should still be possible to achieve the looks from the tutorial without them, but it’ll be a little more difficult and I find the results generally aren’t as good.

So is it cheating, shouldn’t you be creating the look from scratch by hand? Well you are creating the look from scratch and by hand! The LUT is really only setting some rules for what colours are and aren’t possible, it’s not grading the image for you. When I grade for a client they only care about the end result. They don’t care how I get there or that I’m really printing out each frame in B&W and then colouring them in using crayons. As long as they get the look they want on time and on budget it doesn’t matter to them. The only people you impress by doing something from scratch and by hand are other colourists.

The tutorial

I tend to power through the tutorial, so you might need to re-watch certain parts. But I prefer to watch an information packed 5 minute tutorial 6 times, than a 30 minute tutorial that only has 5 minutes of worthwhile information.

I’m not sure, but I might be making it look easier than it is. Because of this I recommend trying the looks out on the same footage I use in the tutorial before trying it out on your own footage. This will allow you to get a feel for when you are heading in the right direction.

Ingredients

So if you want to follow along their are a few things you will need:

  1. Davinci Resolve. Download the free Lite version from Blackmagic Design.
  2. The footage I use. All the files in their original R3D format can be downloaded from here. If your system isn’t up to the task of handling 5k footage, let me know and I’ll look at creating 1080p/720p versions…
  3. The film print emulation LUTs. Download them here and read this post for instructions on how to install and use them. If you are grading your own footage not in log format, download the video2log Input LUT from here.

The theory behind the 2 node subtractive colour setup

Analysing the blockbuster look its clear that it’s more complex than adding a cool hue to anything that isn’t skin tone or using the push/pull technique: cooling down the shadows, warming up the highlights and hope that your skintones look natural.

In the tutorial I analyse the look of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and show you it’s not one single cool hue being added to the image, but actually several hues that appear at specific places on the luminosity ramp.

The subtractive colour model states that adding two complementary colours together cancels them both out and returns them to neutral. Using this knowledge, we place two log nodes in series which gives us 6 range adjustable control points on the luminosity ramp. We can then use those 6 control points to add hues exactly where we want them and cancel out hues we don’t want by adding the complementary colours. A powerful setup that is easy to tweak and adjust.

Questions, problems, feedback, complaints?

For any of the above leave a comment on this post, email me or get in touch via twitter – @JuanDMelara. If I get enough of the same question I’ll update this post with an FAQ.

Training resources

New to Davinci Resolve or colour grading? Take a look at the following high quality resources: