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What is color grading?
To answer the “what is color grading” question, we would talk about this in two simple descriptions. Color grading can be seen as the stylized color scheme of the video being worked on. Color grading is what transforms footage into a specific story of one’s choosing.
Color grading is basically what shows the editor’s style, tells a story, and elicits emotions from the unsuspecting audience.
These attributes are part of the intrigue of color grading:
Color grading allows an editor to be as expressive as possible since they are only limited by their imagination. It allows the editor to make unnatural changes to the footage in such a way that is appealing to the story being told.
In addition, the editor can manipulate colors to create a distinct look and feel. This aspect of color grading is what allows the editor to apply an unrealistic filter on a video clip and still be lauded for being a genius.
The point is creativity has no bounds with color grading. Still, like all things, it must be done considerately so as not to spoil the whole tone of the footage by making the clip ridiculous instead of being aesthetically pleasing.
Even though before a footage becomes a complete work, it will probably go through the color grading process, it isn’t necessary for it to happen. Color grading is only one part of the whole, with the other being color correction; when a video has been properly color corrected, grading can be held off as long as the editor is satisfied with what they see.
Like other aspects of color grading, this is also subject to the editor’s whim. When the correct hues and tones have been achieved, and the hidden message of the footage is already being passed across, the editor can choose to forgo color grading.
Imagine watching a post-apocalyptic movie where the whole world has been swallowed by ice; that slightly blue tint that conveys that feeling of cold is brought about by color grading. Being able to decipher what story a movie is trying to tell at a moment’s notice.
Color grading puts a certain look and feel into scenarios that would have ordinarily been thought of as mundane, and it evokes emotions from the viewer without them even realizing it. A hot desert, a cold night, the martian sky, or a clear sky for that matter; we can decode all of these and more without being told, all thanks to color grading.
When talking of video editing, the best way to go isn’t really set in stone. It’s just to point out that there is no right or wrong way to color grade. Bearing in mind that we are all at the mercy of the editor, what we may perceive as wrong could be right; the only problem is that we just haven’t gotten the message yet.
Color grading is unique and peculiar to everyone since we all have different stories to tell. Still, it is also the duty of the editor to be able to deliver any and all intended messages concisely and without ambiguity.
What is color correction?
The next question in our guide is “What is color correction?” Color correction is the stage video editing goes through, ensuring that color hues and tones are as similar to the human view as possible. The main aim of color correcting is to cover up the discrepancies that may have slipped through during video shoots. It is the process of making a video clip look as natural as possible.
The first thing to do when it comes to the coloring aspect of video editing is color correction. Color correction is all about making colors look as they would if the naked eye was viewing them, blacks are black, and whites are white, not beige or gray as it might have come out on the footage.
Color correction makes use of some editing tools to make a clip look as natural as possible by adjusting the individual parameters of a footage; it is also where we encounter terms like saturation, exposure, white balance, lift, gamma, gain, offset, and the likes but we’re not here to delve into the technical details(1).
Just like color grading, color correction has its uses which include;
Color correction allows for footage and scenes to match; a great example of this is music videos where it looks as if everything was shot at once; it is through color correction that this is made possible.
Due to the time delay in video shoots, atmospheric conditions change, and this comes out obvious on video clips, but with the help of color correction, it is perfectly unnoticeable to the human eye.
One of the places where color correction comes into play the most is in the making of a music video. Want to learn how to come up with a masterpiece music video? Check here for a full breakdown on how to edit music videos.
As mentioned earlier, this is the first step in color editing; it is a step that cannot be skipped. Without color correction, the colorist has no job to do; going to grading without correcting color first is also a waste of time as well. So color correction is a very important and compelling part of video editing, except maybe the editor wants to do a bad job purposefully.
- Natural flow
This is the most important and also the most basic use of color correction. The essence of shooting a video is to capture the attention of the viewer and make them feel as if they are a part of the footage being watched, like a participant at times. And to also pique the viewer’s interest so that fiction and fantasy would seem real to them.
All of these aims would be for naught if the viewer’s attention is torn between the discrepancies they’re seeing and the message being passed across(2), or they start noticing mistakes instead of just enjoying the footage.
Color correction makes the viewer feel as if they are watching the scene or footage unfold with their own eyes, and it brings a natural edge to the harsh hues that the camera might have caused. Color correction ensures that colors are exactly the way they should be instead of being too muted or too harsh. When done right, the difference is barely perceptible by the average human, if at all.
Color correction helps you solve a problem, changing how your image looks to make it more natural. Still, since all editors are different and unique, color correction will probably not be needed if an editor is okay with the way a video clip looks.
Both color grading and color correction should come at the end of all edits; soundtracks, sound effects, CGI and so on. This is to make the work less bulky as the editor won’t have to redo the whole color workflow anytime something new is added to the footage.
Color grading vs. color correction: Comparison
Having checked out our definitions on what is color grading and what is color correction, we can now proceed to compare and contrast both processes. We’ve been able to objectively go through these two and understand how each of them work individually; now we’ll kick it up a notch and explore their differences, similarities, and how well they work together.
Before we dive further into the color grading vs. color correction, it is important to note that these two coloring tools work hand in hand rather than against each other, even with their differences. Color correction can indeed function without color grading, but color grading only makes the footage look more exquisite as it draws the viewer in more.
Well-corrected footage also makes it easier for grading to be carried out as it will enhance muted areas and make everything look as it’s supposed to.
First, we’ll have a look at some of the major ways where the two are different:
Even though both editing tools are very important in creating the perfect video clip, color correction ranks higher on the scale than color grading. Color correction is the first step in the color editing flow, and without it, grading cannot be done.
The whole essence of color correction is to make a footage look as real and natural as possible, and this is in direct contrast to the main use of color grading, the manipulation of colors to make things look unreal.
There are other ways in which color grading and color correction are different, but we can’t talk about all of them now. The next step in comparison is looking for ways in which they are similar to each other;
Both tools of color editing are only there to make the editor have a better grasp on the quality of footage they produce. Color correction balances out the unreal parts of a clip while color grading infuses emotions, looks, and moods to tell a story.
Both color tools preach uniformity, and they cover up the mistakes that the camera or the videographer may have caused. Color correction keeps the hues and tones of the colors in sync while color grading pushes out that look which describes the footage as a whole.
You can color grade without color-correcting; the only clause is that your footage won’t come out as good as you were probably hoping for. To get the optimal result, go through color correction first and then color grading later.
The two tools work together depending on the preference of the editor, and color correction can stand on its own. Still, color grading should be employed if the intended mood or setting hasn’t been achieved after color correction.
To wrap it all up, we’ve gone through the pros and cons of both color grading and color correction, and we can safely conclude that they work best together and are not apart. Color correction first and then followed by color grading to set the mood, look and feel of the intended clip.
Now that we’ve cleared all that needs to be said on color grading and color correction, it’s over to you. Which of the processes do you take the most importantly when editing your video projects? Also, which is more important and which do you find easier? Let’s get talking in the comments.
- Jeven Dovey. (2019, Dec 17). Color correction beginners guide. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-E8pEufzleY
- 522 productions blog. (2021, July 23). Why Color Correction is Important to a Run and Gun Style of Documentary Filmmaking. Retrieved from https://www.522productions.com/why-color-correction-is-important-to-a-run-and-gun-style-of-documentary-filmmaking/