Practicals: Color Grading in Video

Color in Preproduction and Production
Zack Gross

Color grading in video production is often overlooked, but critical to the end product. While it’s impossible to know what every camera, codec, LUT, color profile, data rate, and bit depth will do for your images, having a general knowledge of different workflows and options is useful so you can properly plan your projects to be as effective as possible. With the advancements in digital cameras and editing software, there are now multiple options and workflows for handling color throughout your film or video project.

Workflow from Beginning to End

Choosing your color workflow needs to begin in the preproduction stage as much as possible. Knowing your projects delivery requirements and timeline should affect your choices when capturing and editing your footage. For instance, when Creative Liquid is producing a corporate video from start to finish, we often a lot time in our post production schedule for color grading. With that in mind, when I go to film, I’ll normally shoot in a very flat color profile, at a high data rate, to preserve as much information as possible in the footage. Having all this information gives you more options for manipulating the images in editing and color grading. For Creative Liquid shoots, I’ll shoot 4K footage on our Sony F5 in the XAVC codec, in the SLog3-Cine profile. This means the footage is high resolution, in a codec that isn’t as compressed and preserves lots of information, and in a color profile that is very flat to preserve detail.

Tight Turnarounds

However, there often times when shooting flat or at high data rates is unnecessary and impractical. This is normally the case when you have tight turnarounds. When Creative Liquid produces live events, we have absolutely no time for editing or color grading because all of that needs to happen in the moment. In these situations, we’ll change the color profiles on our cameras to a much more saturated look, such as a REC 709 profile. This makes it so the camera is handling the color live, instead of an editor or colorist in post.