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8 Tips to Apply Cinematic Color Grading to Your Video

Ollie Mattison
Ollie Mattison
Originally published Mar 25, 22, updated Dec 05, 23
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After a successful video shoot, video editing tends to wrap up the video production process. However, a video cannot be enlivened by using simple video editing tools, i.e., cut, crop, and trim, but rather tools such as cinematic color grading. Usually, directors want their video to evoke their intended ambiance and appear more realistic – This can only be achieved through cinematic color grading.

Color grading is the alteration and enhancement of color in a video, motion picture, or still image. Color grading is an essential tool for videographers since it enables them to enhance the mood or tone. Stick to this article and learn about the eight tips to apply cinematic color grading to your video.

Don't Make These Mistakes!

Even though to err is human, there are some mistakes that colorists and video editors need to avoid at all costs. It is not only because they will make them look amateurish but also undermines the message and impact of the video.

Some people assume color grading is as simple as adding filters to their Instagram photos which they are absolutely wrong. Color grading is a long and frustrating process, and it only requires "persons with a thick skin."

Some mistakes are not only committed by amateurs alone but also professional colorists who are in a rush to complete their projects on due time. Usually, these mistakes degrade the quality output. Some of the mistakes that one needs not make include:

1. Using a Poorly Calibrated Monitor

Almost every videographer and colorist's goal is to design footages that distinctively display their primary colors and decipher the intended message. And this can only be achieved using a properly calibrated monitor.

Before working on a project, you ought to crosscheck your monitor calibration. Most people assume that the calibration is accurate since they possess a new, out-of-the-box monitor. It is utterly wrong since retailer shops usually adjust the monitor settings to overblown saturation and contrast to attract customers.

Furthermore, if you opt to edit your videos without adjusting your monitor calibration, you will have a poor footage.

2. Poor Prepping of the Video Footage

One major mistake that videographers often make is not prepping their video correctly. A poorly prepped footage is one that has a bad color space conversion. Usually, the outcome result of poorly prepped footage is an imbalanced image.

Prepping footage is not as easy as an apple pie. Besides, most videographers tend to follow a shortcut by starting messing with the gains and individual nodes, forgetting that a shortcut is often a wrong cut.

The best way of prepping a video is to start by making separate nodes and labeling them differently.

3. Imbalancing the Shadow

Have you ever seen video footage with partially opaque shadows? And when you look keenly, you see tinted greens and reds. Usually, this is a result of an imbalanced shadow.

This mistake is not only carried out by beginner videographers but also professionals who are always in a hurry to complete a project. When you look at your scope, you see the shadows are lifted or down in other scenarios – This is also a result of shadow imbalance.

4. Overusing LUTs

A mistake that beginner editors often make is overusing LUTs. Footages with overly used LUTs often appear to be dull. A thing that videographers need to observe when using LUTs is consistency.

When using LUTs, you need to ensure that your project has similar saturation, colors, and contrast throughout your video project. Moreover, it would be best to choose your LUTs based on the film color palette and your story.

5. Having Limited break

Having enough break enables one's eyes to recalibrate. As a colorist, your eyes are often considered the main asset. Sitting for long periods in your workstation and staring for long hours at your monitor may cause one to add more saturation and contrast, thus making the video dull. Therefore the best remedy is to take a break from your monitor.

Besides, coming from a break enables one to have another different perspective about the color grading of the project.

8 Tips to Apply Cinematic Color Grading to Your Video

When it comes to creating cinematic looks in video footage, the camera type is usually non-essential. What matters is that you capture quality videos with the right angles then leave the rest to color grading.

For a video clip to look more cinematic, a couple of elements are put together. Here, we will look at those elements and create stunning videos.

1. Use Lumetri Color to adjust brightness, contrast, and saturation

The Lumeri color is an essential color grading functionality in most premiere software, including Wondershare Filmora, Adobe After Effects, and Davinci Resolve 17. With this functionality tool, you can carry out a wide range of customizable settings such as hue, saturation, contrasts, brightness, and tone.

The lumetri panel contains a histogram, vectorscope, parade scope, and waveform monitor. In your lumetri panel, you can measure the brightness and tonal values using a histogram, the light intensity with a waveform monitor, saturation and hue using vectorscope, and color channel using parade scope.

Adjusting the brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, and tone to moderate levels will give your video clip that cinematic look.

apply cinemtatic color grading

2. Use Cosmo functionality to adjust skin tones

Due to the light effect, shots taken during the day will have inconsistent color matches, especially skin tone. In the post-production process, one needs to make uniformity in skin tone and the clip. To rectify this, you need to involve a professional color grading functionality, Cosmo.

With cosmo, you can adjust the skin color, squeeze the skin, and soften the skin. Generally, Cosmo makes people in video clips look their best.

apply cinemtatic color grading to your video

3. Use Highlights and Shadows adjustment

A clip will look more cinematic when the shadows and highlights are brought out as separate entities. The shadows become more vivid when adjusted to either teal, purple or blue. You can go a mile and adjust the highlights to become crystal clear by making the footage become yellow, red, or orange.

When carrying out color grading, you need to know the various video demands, such as the horror clips demand more of the dark shadow.

apply cinemtatic color grading to video

4. Use Vectorscope to get the accurate adjustment

Naked eyes cannot effectively see all the errors in a video project, which is the essence of having a vectorscope. A vectorscope provides all the quantitative information about a video image – This lessens work for video editors.

Vectorscope provides extensive details, such as how intense a given color is – This will help you make necessary adjustments to your footage.

apply cinemtatic color grading to video - use vectorscope

5. Use the black and white functionality to change the opacity

Even though you can change your footage to black and white using the hue and saturation functionality, the black and white tool gives you more control.

This functionality feature can make your footage blend with the soft light part. Besides, it is best to first lower the contrast of your image or video to black and white to be able to highlight the unclear parts.

apply cinemtatic color grading to video - change opacity

6. Use levels to unveil the whites, blacks, and mids of an image

Levels is a functionality feature that displays the blacks, whites, and mids of footage. With this functionality, you can make the highlight parts lighter and the shadows appear darker, which is essential in making cinematic videos.

In the levels histogram, the left slider defines the darkest part, the right defines the brightest part, and the top defines distributions.

In software such as Adobe After Effects, you can set this functionality to automatic or customize it based on your preference.

apply cinemtatic color grading to video - use levels

7. Use Vibrance to control other levels of saturation

The saturation of video footage or a clip can be regulated using vibrance functionality. With vibrance, you can alter the saturation levels of your clip while simultaneously minimizing clippings for the colors to approach complete saturation.

When you want to use this functionality in After Effects, you drag and drop it right on top of your footage – The exact part you want to apply it.

apply cinemtatic color grading to video - use vibrance

8. Use a Vignette to fade edges

To increase the point of focus, you need to fade your edges. In color grading, you can only fade your edges with a vignette.

This functionality allows you to center images or certain video parts and make the edges unclear. Your emphasis will be more on the central region.

apply cinemtatic color grading to video - use a vignette

Bottom line

● Color grading is not a piece of cake. Besides, you should not use it as an excuse for making simple mistakes such as the ones highlighted above. You need to pay close attention when color grading your films, and you will have your video project mapping out its intended meaning.

● Moreover, you need not be a pro to carry out cinematic color grading. You need to follow the above eight tips altogether to apply color grading to your video. You will create stunning video files that leave your viewers' eyes gorged out.

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