When we start working on Color Correction then one of the difficult task to manage is Skin Tones. They take time to reflect useful results and one need to have experience to deal with them. There is no doubt to say that skin tones are one of the most essential element of footage but still many professionals fail to adjust them accurately.
The article below will help you to go through the mistakes that people often make during color grading skin tones, useful tips for color correction using skin tones and various steps to match skin tones with Power Window and Qualifiers.
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1. Sometimes editors adjust their entire grade somewhere around skin tones and they neglect all other important details. In simple words, they stay focused on skin tones while making adjustments for white balances, contrast etc.
2. Many editors try to adjust final look of footage without fixing skintones. People spend lots of time for adding a creative look to their footage and later they realise that skin tones are still to be balanced and then they have to re-built everything by spending lots of time.
If you want to complete your grading within small time duration and it demands focus upon mirror correction as well as tweaking of skintones then both these curves become more useful. This technique is quite simple to implement; simply access your color picker tool and click on skin. The skin tone indicator will appear on Hue Vs Saturation and Hue Vs Hue curves; here you can make easy adjustments.
One more interesting technique supported by DVR is use of Qualifier to isolate skin from all clips. It allows users to work with freedom and skin tones can be adjusted without affecting other major parts of image. Vector Scope can help you to check whether your adjusted skin tones fall in desired range or not. It is possible to use vector scope and qualifier together in synchronism to make fast adjustments for all skin areas.
Simply pick the skin and then turn on highlighter on your screen to check noise or other artefacts developed by qualifier. If you find any unwanted element then access Blur radius to make footage softer or you can adjust HSL. In case if everything is fine at qualification stage then you can further process your skin tones.
Same as other color grade processes, it is necessary to start editing with matching and balancing of shots. They must be closely related using nodes as they can easily fix the technical issues. It is important to ensure that white balance stays consistent with respect to whole sequence and the starting point.
Here are few easy to follow steps for skintone isolation and grading process:
Step 1: Access your qualifier tab:
First of all you need to open qualifier tab on DVR platform and then access eyedropper tool for selection of skin tones. Even if you have already balanced all the shots from loaded sequence then also you will be able to visualise few differences. There are so many characteristics that play role to affect consistency of shot skin tones; it can be due to lighting variations or many other variables.
Use Shift+H button to get back to your regular footage that do not show skin tone differences.
Note that every footage consists of few elements that have equal values of luminance/hue for all skin tones that you want to grade; here you have to apply more efforts for isolation.
Step 2: Fine tune settings of Qualifier:
This step is quite simple to execute. Users simply need to fine tune their qualifier settings for better isolation of skin tones even while managing all other color elements of frame. Your selection process here depends upon your footage details; there are chances that you have to spend time for adjusting almost all parameters or few of them. Most of the time users work with softness, low/high points and color key.
Although, you already have fine tuned all your settings but still there are few areas on footage that demand skin tone adjustments. Some of the best examples for such situation is: let you are working on a footage where bushes on background are having characteristic similar to that of face of the actor; here you need to make more efforts for fine tuning.
Now it is a big issue for editors as they don’t want to see skin tone adjustments affecting other elements of footage. In such case, power window can provide you best solution. Most of you might have already worked on power window to develop vignette effect in footage but this effect is useful only for masking of isolated sections of footage.
Step 4: Start to grade isolated skin tone and match them
This is going to be most interesting task for every editor. After implementing all three steps as discussed above, your skin tones must be isolated accurately. So it is time to grade them and start creating matches for sequence of shots. Some of the most essential adjustments that you need to make at this step are for saturation and midtones. To gain best results, prefer to push your midtones to cooler or warmer side for fixing glaring color issues whereas saturation must be correspondingly increased or decreased to assure perfect skin blending with rest of the footage elements.
Sometimes you may also have to make some efforts to adjust shadows and highlights to highlight face of the actor whereas many professionals also spend time on applying two separate control keys for skin tones as one will work for midtones/Shadows whereas another will work for highlights.
Once you are done with the editing task then move ahead to match shots in sequence. Never forget to create a baseline shot to match all others so that consistency can be maintained.
Let’s check the video below to see how people working with skin tones in DaVinci Resolve:
Liza Brown is a writer and a lover of all things video.
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