EP012: Color Grading Myth Busting

Episode 12
Duration 38:58

Addressing Some Common Myths

In this day and age of lots of social media platforms, it’s easy for lots of ‘myths’ to get started or worse or outright lies to spread.  It’s not our job as your humble podcast hosts to stop color-grading misinformation from spreading but recently, after checking out some online groups we felt compelled to do a little myth-busting!

In this installment of The Offset Podcast, we’re diving into some common color grading myths that we’ve heard over the years and on those aforementioned social media platforms. This is by no means a comprehensive collection of myths, but rather a few select ones that we hear often.

We’ll start by taking a look at the ‘skin tone line’ on a vectorscope and why its use is not as cut and dry as you think it might be. We’ll then jump into why ‘more’ grading is usually not the best approach to your grades and the related issue of why teal & orange looks engineered in post can sometimes be a tell to ‘over grading’.  We’ll explore why lots of LUTs are nothing more than snake oil and why the one-size-fits-all-all LUT doesn’t exist.

We’ll also discuss why separate P3 grades for film festivals can be an overcomplication for most projects, why you don’t have to normalize a log image first before keying, and where you place noise reduction depends on the shot & your needs.

If you have some additional items that are worthy of myth-busting please let us know!

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If you like The Offset Podcast we’d love it if you could do us a big favor. It’d help a lot if you could like and rate the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you listen/watch the show.  Thank you!

-Robbie & Joey


The Offset Podcast is sponsored by Flanders Scientific -leaders in color-accurate display solutions for professional video. Whether you are a colorist, editor, DIT, or broadcast engineer Flanders Scientific has a professional display solution to meet your needs. Learn more at FlandersScientific.com 

Video
Transcript

01:00:00:07 - 01:00:16:19
Robbie
Hey there, and welcome back to another installment of The Offset Podcast. Today we're taking a look at some common myths that are pervasive in color grading. Stay tuned.

01:00:16:20 - 01:00:35:08
Joey
This podcast is sponsored by Flanders Scientific leaders in color accurate display solutions for professional video. Whether you're a colorist, an editor, a DIT, or a broadcast engineer, Flanders Scientific has a professional display solution to meet your needs. Learn more at Flanders scientific.com.

01:00:35:10 - 01:00:38:03
Robbie
Welcome back everybody. I am Robbie Carman.

01:00:38:05 - 01:00:39:10
Joey
And I'm Joey D’Anna

01:00:39:12 - 01:00:57:09
Robbie
And Joey. Today we are going to be talking well a little bit about mix things in the color grading industry that for whatever reason, are pervasive out there. People believe them. They believe that they're, true in various shapes or fashion. Now, to be clear, we're only going to cover a half a dozen or so of these myths.

01:00:57:09 - 01:01:13:23
Robbie
There's a lot more that exists out there. so if you are watching this, on YouTube or listening to this on Spotify or Apple Music or something like that, you know, let us know if you have comments available to you. Let us know if there's some other myths, that, we didn't cover because, hey, who knows?

01:01:13:23 - 01:01:16:21
Robbie
We can have a MythBusters part two episode somewhere down the line.

01:01:16:23 - 01:01:35:02
Joey
Yeah, and we're going to be pretty lighthearted about some of these things. But, you know, we like to think we're we're pretty technically knowledgeable, but we might get 1 or 2 tiny technical details wrong. If we do, let us know in the comments. We'll, we'll we'll talk about it. But I think we can be I think we can bust the myths today.

01:01:35:04 - 01:01:47:18
Robbie
Totally. All right. So the first one I want to talk about is something that I think you put on our list here today to talk about, because just this week, you know, browsing the old, Facebook groups, I think it was Facebook might have been like, let's game a game or something like that.

01:01:47:18 - 01:01:49:16
Joey
Yeah. Most of these come from Facebook, by the way.

01:01:49:16 - 01:02:06:14
Robbie
Yeah. You wonder why, somebody had posted something about, the quote unquote using air quotes here, the skin tone, line, the minus I quadrature line, there's different names for the skin indicator or whatever you want to call it. and.

01:02:06:14 - 01:02:10:18
Joey
Well, there's only one name for it, and you already said it. The in-phase quadrature line.

01:02:10:21 - 01:02:41:17
Robbie
Right? Right. But I'm just saying this colloquially known as the skin tone line or the skin tone marker or something like that. And just to cover our bases before we go into why this is kind of a mythical thing. that minus I quadrature line or the, the skin tone line or indicator has, become somewhat ingrained, I think in a lot of new colorists or even some experienced colorist, that skin has to and I'm using again, air quotes here has to be on that line.

01:02:41:17 - 01:03:01:01
Robbie
Right. and you know, there's lots of people who write articles about this. Hey, you know, regardless of skin tone, your skin is, you know, they're supposed to be on this line. it doesn't matter if you're olive complexion or fair complexion or red or orange or whatever, right. that you should be somewhere on and as far as we're concerned, that's a little bit of a misnomer, right?

01:03:01:01 - 01:03:21:10
Robbie
First of all, first of all, it's impossible to equate one thin area of a vector scope to all of humankind's various shades and flavors of skin tone. Right? So the idea that somebody says this has to be on this line, I think it's the first mistake. Do you agree?

01:03:21:12 - 01:03:44:09
Joey
Yeah. And let's go back in time a little bit. The reason why there's a line on your vector scope for this, we talked about in-phase and quadrature is these are modulation aspects of an NTSC color signal. That's why they are perpendicular on the Vectorscope. And they are used for evaluating test signals and signal flow on NTSC analog broadcast.

01:03:44:11 - 01:03:51:13
Joey
The idea of skin tone being related to that line has never once actually existed.

01:03:51:17 - 01:03:52:04
Robbie
But it just.

01:03:52:04 - 01:03:55:23
Joey
Happens there for purely technical reasons, and it is completely coincidental.

01:03:56:01 - 01:03:56:16
Robbie
Totally, totally.

01:03:56:16 - 01:04:25:00
Joey
Cuts most human skin tones under normal lighting kind of hit within like 20 to 30% of either direction of that line. And yeah, you know, what we've seen in the articles a lot is no matter how light or dark skin is, right, it does tend to be in the same region. But that doesn't take into account scene lighting, which can drastically affect what the actual skin tone in your image is for.

01:04:25:02 - 01:04:27:14
Joey
You know, important creative reasons.

01:04:27:16 - 01:04:43:12
Robbie
Yeah, I think there's two things that you just said there that are really, really important about this. Number one, it's the way that I consider the skin tone line or that I minus I quadrature line is as, as, as as a milestone. It's a mile marker in my set of scopes to kind of look at, but not be beholden to.

01:04:43:12 - 01:04:59:09
Robbie
I like to think of skin, when properly done, is somewhere around this line. But people have various I mean, look at go out in the real world, walk around, you know, go somewhere with a lot of people. You're going to see people with slightly rowdier tones, people with slightly all over to, you know, moral tones, that kind of stuff.

01:04:59:09 - 01:04:59:18
Robbie
Look at a.

01:04:59:18 - 01:05:02:10
Joey
Room lit like mine versus a room lit like yours.

01:05:02:12 - 01:05:18:11
Robbie
Right? Exactly. Like, I mean, you have that pink light and that's the next thing we'll get to people. There's variants. Right. So I've been saying something that has to be on this line or else. And I think a lot of new colorist, they struggle with this because they do that right. They go, okay, I read somewhere, somebody told me that I my skin tone has to be on the skin.

01:05:18:11 - 01:05:35:08
Robbie
So they, they do all sorts of things they like. They crop into the picture. Right. And they're like they're keying, they're using secondary curves, they're doing whatever, and they're moving the skin tone around. And it always kind of looks weird when people like, you know, when they get like on this narrow super range. But this is where skin has to be.

01:05:35:08 - 01:05:35:16
Robbie
You know?

01:05:35:16 - 01:05:57:00
Joey
Yeah. And it's important to mention one thing. There have been some vectorscope softwares that do have what they call a skin tone line that is not directly lined up with this test pattern line that we're talking about, and they're kind of like positioned where whoever wrote that software feels it should be. But it's the same idea is like, you know, that maybe that's a guidepost.

01:05:57:06 - 01:06:06:00
Joey
But for me, I turn that off on all my vector scopes. I do not even let that line be on there because I'm not evaluating an NTSC signal. It's completely irrelevant to me.

01:06:06:02 - 01:06:24:03
Robbie
Well, so that I agree. And the second thing you said that I think is worth, describing. And I actually in that Facebook post that, we both saw, I actually responded and gave this anecdote because I think it's an important one. I remember years ago I was grading a film. It was actually the whole film was actually shot in Las Vegas.

01:06:24:05 - 01:06:47:06
Robbie
and there was a scene in the show, where these actors were walking across this bridge between, the New York, New York hotel and the MGM Hotel in Vegas. If you've ever been to Vegas, hotel is is green. It's neon green. It's this huge emerald light. I mean, the whole thing glows. And these actors were, you know, not too far from the MGM building themselves.

01:06:47:11 - 01:07:11:14
Robbie
And therefore, that green light of the building was, you know, casting this, you know, super, you know, pretty saturated, severe green cast on the actors. And the filmmaker could not get it. Like it was just like they look green. And I'm like, yeah. And it came right? Yeah. Walked around right there on the, the table, looked at the scopes, looked at the skin to see, like, look, see if it's all the way down here.

01:07:11:14 - 01:07:16:07
Robbie
It's green. I'm like, I didn't understand what they were really getting on about at first.

01:07:16:09 - 01:07:18:08
Joey
But it just shows the skin tone line. It's not a real thing.

01:07:18:13 - 01:07:44:06
Robbie
But it dawned on me that somewhere, somehow, some way, they had been convinced that proper skin again is right around this. Totally ignoring the fact of what the master illuminate is in the scene. Right? So in this case, there, you know, yards or feet from this gigantic green building casting a gigantic green light. And the skin is weird, man, because it absorbs, but it also reflects a little bit too.

01:07:44:06 - 01:07:45:06
Robbie
Right? So like, yeah, if it.

01:07:45:06 - 01:07:47:01
Joey
Didn't reflect, we would all be invisible.

01:07:47:07 - 01:07:48:21
Robbie
Right. So and here's.

01:07:48:21 - 01:08:07:05
Joey
The interesting thing. Right. And this is where a skin tone can get really, really delicate. Because even in the same lighting condition, not everybody has to have the same skin tone. Oh, different types of skin, different people at different times of the day under different stress levels. Their their skin will reflect light differently.

01:08:07:05 - 01:08:07:23
Robbie
And so many.

01:08:08:00 - 01:08:29:08
Joey
Functions have so much detail in how they reflect light. Some people will be affected by that ambient lighting more than others, and you just got to really think, you know, one. Does this look natural? Right? Two, does this go with the look in the story that we're telling and three, is everybody exposed where we need them to be brightness wise?

01:08:29:12 - 01:08:43:22
Joey
Other than that, I don't think there should be any rules for what right is for skin tone, because otherwise we get into this too sometimes where you're like, I'm gonna I'm gonna fix all these, I'm gonna power window, all these people, and you kind of like, try to power window everybody to be the same skin tone in a scene.

01:08:44:03 - 01:08:53:11
Joey
And then you realize it looks completely whack a doodle, and you kind of got to back off on it. You know, sometimes we have this instinct to fix where we don't have to fix.

01:08:53:11 - 01:09:11:02
Robbie
And that's exactly that's exactly what happened with this filmmaker, right? Like I couldn't I didn't understand really what they were getting at first. I'm like, what do you mean? It looks like perfectly natural to me. And he was going on about how the skin was green and I was like, listen, you know, you're ignoring the fact that you have this gigantic light source and you see this a lot, too, with like an indoor scene, right?

01:09:11:02 - 01:09:31:11
Robbie
Somebody sitting next to a tungsten, say, table light. Right? That's casting like, a nice warm orange glow. And their skin is super yellow. Super orange supersaturated. Well guess what? Do yourself a favor tonight. Go into a room in your house, turn on a light, sit next to it, and have somebody take a picture of you. That is going to be what you see.

01:09:31:11 - 01:09:48:14
Robbie
So I think a lot of times newer colors, you know, are so dogmatic about this skin tone line that they actually end up making the pictures worse because they're trying to do corrections that just are not natural, not in line with whatever is, you know, the master illuminate or the overall lighting in the scene is.

01:09:48:16 - 01:10:18:02
Joey
Yeah. And honestly, that I think kind of takes us right to one of the things you would put on our little list here, which is that more grading doesn't always mean better grading. You know, like I said, sometimes we tend to over fix because that bypass button to show you quote before and after is right there and so easy to toggle that you kind of really want to see a big difference.

01:10:18:02 - 01:10:23:18
Joey
Right. You want to you want to feel like I did this and sometimes we push things too far.

01:10:23:20 - 01:10:40:19
Robbie
Yeah, I think this is, you know, the, of the many things that I've learned over the past decades from our, our dear friend Walter Villopoto, one of the things, one of the phrases that I hear him say over and over again to groups of people that he talks to, and he said it to you and I, his respect the photography.

01:10:40:22 - 01:11:12:19
Robbie
Right. and, you know, Walter, of course, is working with the best directors and cinematographers and gaffers and stuff in the world. So, you know what? His push and pull might be a little different than our push and pull, but the overarching idea of, yeah, you know, this is what you got. And I think where this kind of more grating thing comes in is that, honestly, a lot of a lot of us, especially those who are newer to the industry, are often dealing with shooting situations that honestly are a mess, right, that, you know, and we, you know, we joke sometimes about shows that we work on.

01:11:12:19 - 01:11:33:09
Robbie
We're like, I guess the DP just wanted to use every color temperature available to them, you know, in every single sight. So I get it on some level that a lot of entry level grading and even, you know, even some, some mid-level stuff is truly about fixing problems. And sometimes you have to be a little more surgical. But I remember this story.

01:11:33:09 - 01:11:56:06
Robbie
I think I told it to you, actually, after it happened, where I had a client in the room one time, and they were just that type of client that was they were stressed, they were intense. They were really, you know, OCD, you know, pixel peeping on everything. And I remember that they walked around the room, back to my desk and looked at it and they're like, wow, now it makes sense.

01:11:56:06 - 01:12:05:10
Robbie
And I was like, what makes sense? They're like, you don't have enough notes. And I'm like, what? I don't have enough nodes, you know, because they had work for.

01:12:05:10 - 01:12:07:00
Joey
So we charge by the nodes, right?

01:12:07:00 - 01:12:36:13
Robbie
They work with somebody previously that, you know, had 4000 nodes. And so I think that adage of, you know, more grading, more nodes, whatever is a dangerous one, because the more that you start messing with very isolated specific parts of the image, you have to cut, you have a couple problems. One, there's no, you know, any correction you do is sort of, sort of in a sense, sort of damaging to the image because you're changing the original pixels, right on some shape or level.

01:12:36:17 - 01:12:56:04
Robbie
And this is particularly true as we get into targeted corrections. Secondary is, you know, with with keys and curves, you can actually add things like noise and banding and, you know, all sorts of problems. The other reason I think that more is not necessarily better is because especially on those users who try to do everything with not more nodes, but just do more in a node.

01:12:56:06 - 01:13:01:14
Robbie
Right? It gets very hard to kind of backtrack and figure out what's doing what in any given day.

01:13:01:14 - 01:13:21:20
Joey
I was actually going to say the opposite. I try to put a lot of stuff in one node because I use my nodes for really organizational purposes. I see people back to the whole Facebook topic of. I see people post these node structures where seemingly random things are broken out into their own node for no reason. Sure. And yes, it looks impressive.

01:13:21:20 - 01:13:33:17
Joey
They made a whole bunch of nodes and labeled them very clearly. But like I look at it and there's no logic to it, I feel like you just tried too hard to make something with a lot of.

01:13:33:19 - 01:13:37:06
Robbie
I guess I understand what you're saying. I guess what I'm trying to communicate is, and if you've.

01:13:37:06 - 01:13:39:06
Joey
Seen my node tree, that might sound hypocritical.

01:13:39:09 - 01:14:06:07
Robbie
Right? I guess what I'm trying to say is a lot of I see those similar node trees where it's like you did think one thing in node number one and you think you're doing something different in node number two, but what you're really doing is canceling out what you didn't know what something would be. Right. And it just so it's a fine line between being organized and kind of being able to turn various aspects on and off, versus canceling yourself out and not being able to figure out what's doing what.

01:14:06:09 - 01:14:25:17
Robbie
Yeah, I generally subscribe to the attitude of less is more when it comes to grading. And and honestly, I think, you know, the season, I can tell a little bit. And we always joke that like, hey, it doesn't really matter what tool you use or what software you use or whatever. Like there's no scorecard when it comes to looking at the images, right?

01:14:25:17 - 01:14:34:01
Robbie
If it's good, it's good. But at the same time, I think you the I trained, I can tell by looking at something of like, oh man, that's really engineered, right?

01:14:34:01 - 01:14:37:09
Joey
Like that's not it was built badly. You know what I really like?

01:14:37:13 - 01:14:53:15
Robbie
You know, where you have like, you know, whatever a different light on every single segment of the screen where, you know, people's skin is like unnaturally smooth, like there's a whole lot of tells about that kind of stuff. And I generally I generally find it's because people just want to try to do more than they probably should.

01:14:53:17 - 01:15:15:19
Joey
Yeah. All right, let's keep it moving. Because you mentioned something when we were talking about lighting and skin tone. Tungsten light on human skin. Yeah, right. And that one is, I think, very relevant to what I want to talk about next, which is the teal and orange look, the mythical teal and orange look. And I'm not going to say it's a myth, because obviously if you've watched any movie, anything.

01:15:15:19 - 01:15:17:08
Robbie
In the past 30 years, right, or.

01:15:17:13 - 01:15:19:05
Joey
Anything in the past hundred years.

01:15:19:05 - 01:15:20:01
Robbie
Yeah, yeah.

01:15:20:03 - 01:15:43:12
Joey
Since we've had color, you feel it. And yes, there have been extreme examples. There have been less extreme examples. But and this, this delves into more my theory of the history of it personally. But I think the reason why we have teal and orange as a common look is not because it's somehow innately pleasing to the eye, although I kind of think it is.

01:15:43:13 - 01:16:07:10
Joey
Yeah, it comes back to tones, tungsten, lighting and film and the transition between film and digital. Right. Think about this. And this is why I tell people so often that lighting is so important because in the days of tungsten balanced motion picture film, right, you would use tungsten lights and tungsten balanced film to get good balanced exposure of your subjects that you were lighting.

01:16:07:12 - 01:16:34:16
Joey
A natural function of that is everything. You didn't light up, especially if you were outside naturally tended towards blue. So we had an innate foreground background, teal and orange separation built into the imaging pipeline of motion picture film using tungsten light from like the 1930s onward. Sure. And then when we transition to digital, we don't have this right there.

01:16:34:19 - 01:16:55:10
Joey
You can light, you obviously light to the white balance, but it's not nearly as extreme as the difference between tungsten light and everything else for tungsten balanced film. So we've started like chasing that teal and orange look by like I'm going to tint the shadows teal and the foreground yellow. But that's not really the same right.

01:16:55:16 - 01:17:17:08
Robbie
Yeah. I mean I think I think that's a good that's that's a good insight. I will say that there is a little bit of color science action to this philosophy, right? That the idea of complementary colors, if you look at, you know, a standard, you know, color wheel, right? And you look across at the idea of complementary colors is going, you know, right to the opposite angle, the other side of the color wheel, right?

01:17:17:08 - 01:17:30:13
Robbie
So if you look at, you know, where yellow orange kind of, you know, skin tone stuff is and draw a straight line to the opposite side of the color wheel, you know, you're getting into that cyan blue kind of kind of area. Right.

01:17:30:13 - 01:17:37:03
Joey
So if you project that color imagery on a different kind of meter. Yeah. It's not complementary. Right. You know it.

01:17:37:04 - 01:18:07:16
Robbie
Is I understand made up. Yeah I understand but I'm just saying like that is you know, it's something it does doesn't necessarily have to be orange until you could have, you know, purple and green or whatever it may be, just kind of drawing sides of that. And I think that, you know, to a lot of people, the orange and teal look, you know, in its modern form, owes a lot of homage to, you know, Stefan Sonnenfeld at Company three, you know, in the early 2000s, you know, he was I think obviously he's a top notch colorist.

01:18:07:16 - 01:18:27:09
Robbie
But also, you know, a lot of color scientists work with them. I think they, exploited that complementary nature, a lot as an overall look and feel into the very kind of, you know, first deer originated films, you know, and I'm thinking Transformers and, you know, battleship and, you know, and things of that nature that he worked on.

01:18:27:11 - 01:18:48:01
Robbie
And I think because those movies were successful, because they had a bold look, I think that, you know, we live obviously in a kind of a copycat, you know, kind of kind of world when it comes to the looks and styles. And I think that one also, because of the esthetically pleasing aspects of it, of skin versus a counterpoint to the skin, I think it became a thing.

01:18:48:03 - 01:19:10:10
Robbie
And we've seen, you know, you see all the time you see this pushed to 11 sometimes it's like, you know, but you see subtle versions of it. And I will also say that, you know, the, the complementary aspect, teal to orange or purple to green or yellow to blue, whatever it may be. It's not something that's in my opinion, it's not something that's best done in the post process.

01:19:10:10 - 01:19:27:11
Joey
Right. And that's yes, that's the point of this as a myth, right? The myth is that they made the teal and orange look in color grading. The teal and orange look was made optically with tungsten balanced film, and then later on with complex on site lighting. And that's where I think people.

01:19:27:13 - 01:19:29:18
Robbie
Set design too, right? I mean, people like that design.

01:19:29:20 - 01:19:32:00
Joey
Yeah. And wardrobe.

01:19:32:03 - 01:19:32:21
Robbie
Yeah, exactly.

01:19:33:02 - 01:19:41:21
Joey
There's no. So the myth of teal and orange is that it is a look that you make in the grade. Like anything else, it is a look that is made on the production as a whole.

01:19:41:23 - 01:20:10:16
Robbie
And when I when I see it engineered, that's clearly engineered and post, I see a lot of obvious problems with it, mostly being with, the, the non orange or yellow side, the blue side that, as you said, kind of creeps in everything else. And you watch something and you have this really crazy a lot of times when this is engineered, really shifting blacks in a show, right, where, you know, some of them are cyan, some of them are blue, some of them are green.

01:20:10:16 - 01:20:27:08
Robbie
And it really, I think when it's when it's done well, it's invisible. And you kind of just you adapt to it and get used to it after the first few shots, when it's not done well, it's really kind of like it's off putting. It kind of throws you like, why is it I can't quite place it? Why is this feel different?

01:20:27:10 - 01:20:31:09
Robbie
And oftentimes it's because that black point is just kind of going everywhere, you know.

01:20:31:11 - 01:20:40:11
Joey
Yeah. And that brings us to one of your, on our little list of myths here, the mythical magic LUT.

01:20:40:13 - 01:21:00:14
Robbie
Yeah. I mean, listen, then if there is one place in our industry that is more snake oily and I mean, and not to then to denigrate these people, the people that have come out with, you know, what packs or whatever, like, hey, get yours, right? Like if you can get some dollars from it and make some sales, like I get it right.

01:21:00:16 - 01:21:23:14
Robbie
My point about but when I what I call the magic bullet or the mythical lot is that it's partly snake oil salesmanship. Hey, get the Hollywood look at the, whatever, Joker, teal and orange, whatever, that kind of stuff. But it's also partly a misunderstanding of the color science and how these things work. Now, to back it up for a second, you know, you take a look at big films.

01:21:23:16 - 01:21:44:23
Robbie
Joker is a popular example, right? you know, there are a there's color scientists that work at some of these large facilities that do hammer tests with DPS at the start of the project or whatever. And yes, it is true that they may they may develop specific looks that are very stylized, that match the esthetic needs of that particular film, right?

01:21:45:01 - 01:21:49:00
Joey
And match the input of the camera of that specific.

01:21:49:00 - 01:22:07:00
Robbie
Correct. What I am objecting to as the mythical magic bullet thing is that you can just go on line by something, and all of a sudden it's, you have the Hollywood film, right? The thing I always say to people is that lookup tables are lots are dumb. They're hard coded math. Right.

01:22:07:02 - 01:22:13:16
Joey
They say, and I would even say they're not even technically math so much. I understand, like.

01:22:13:16 - 01:22:14:12
Robbie
Yeah, I understand your point.

01:22:14:12 - 01:22:33:07
Joey
Math is giving them too much credit. It is. And this came up on everywhere else Facebook. Right. Somebody actually talk to me about this. They said why is it called a lookup table. That's silly. That's just they tried to make that sound more engineering. No no no no no no. It's a table of RGB triplets that represent input colors.

01:22:33:09 - 01:22:40:12
Joey
And then a hard coded new output color. The only math is interpolating for where there isn't a specific value listed.

01:22:40:14 - 01:22:57:08
Robbie
So the simplest way to understand this, and this is not obviously how a 3D lookup table really works in the sense, but to dumb it down. Let's say you have a red pixel as an input pixel right? You have math in this table that says, okay, let me take this red pixel and make it green, right, or blue or whatever.

01:22:57:13 - 01:23:00:13
Joey
And that literally looks it up in the table. Yep.

01:23:00:13 - 01:23:19:14
Robbie
That's all it does. Right. So that works well and good when the lookup table is more or less designed for the general idea of the input. But there's a couple problems here. Number one, a lot of the like a lot of lookup tables are designed with specific cameras, color spaces, or other technical details kind of in mind.

01:23:19:14 - 01:23:35:06
Robbie
Right? I mentioned earlier there's color scientists doing camera tests with cameras so they know, okay, this is going into an Alexa, this is kind of the shooting we're going to do. This is the ISO. We're going to do. This is where we're trying to hit exposure. So a lot of times those Luts are built kind of under generic way of thinking about it in sort of lab conditions.

01:23:35:06 - 01:23:56:21
Robbie
Right. They know exactly what the inputs going to be, the saturation, etc.. Right. When you have an input that does not match what that lookup table is expecting, the lookup table still doing its thing, right. It's still applying this this transform. But you know, if you have an input that's ten stops overexposed and way too saturated and you hit that lot, bad things happen.

01:23:56:21 - 01:24:17:09
Robbie
And I see this, you know, teaching people all the time that they don't know because I think this kind of falls also into two categories showing one, the initial transform from log to something normalized, which a lot of people look for. And then obviously the stylistic part and sometimes they get kind of coalesced together. But I see people like, you know, they start a project, okay, got to grade this and they go on like, not that what not that.

01:24:17:09 - 01:24:31:15
Robbie
Let you know. They go on line, they buy some Luts. Okay. That one doesn't work. That one doesn't work. And next thing you know, it's 2:00 in the morning and they've graded three shots in their 1200 shot timeline because they're looking for this magic bullet to to apply it right. And just doesn't exist now.

01:24:31:15 - 01:24:59:07
Joey
And it's an important thing to remember. Also when you're using any kind of LUT is yes, they're expecting in most cases a particular set of input parameters, whether that's lighting, whatever design input, color space, input transfer function, whatever. But sometimes they have display transforms baked into them along with a look transform. Sometimes they don't, you know. So it's it's also what is that LUT outputting.

01:24:59:09 - 01:25:12:16
Joey
So you really got to think critically if, how and when and why you're using particular Luts in your pipeline. And I think a lot of people like you said, they look for that mythical, magical one and it just doesn't exist.

01:25:12:18 - 01:25:34:02
Robbie
Yeah. And then they, as you said, apply it without any understanding of it. You know, we see a lot of, you know, these days where people are getting more and more familiar with color management pipelines, you know, ACS or CRM, you know, t cam workflows or whatever, trying to use, you know, their tried and true lookup tables and those kind of workflows to also presents problems for the reasons that you just mentioned right now.

01:25:34:04 - 01:25:42:23
Robbie
Oh, well, hey, guess what? We're not working in a, you know, a citizen space anymore. Like we're now in whatever this whole, you know, the variables can combine a different thing.

01:25:42:23 - 01:25:46:19
Joey
You could be using a print LUT that has a baked in Rexona and AI and display transform.

01:25:46:19 - 01:25:47:06
Robbie
Exactly.

01:25:47:06 - 01:25:58:04
Joey
You can't you can't, bake a cake. You know, you can't get the constituent ingredients back after you've thrown away all the data that isn't in the input side of that LUT.

01:25:58:06 - 01:26:08:20
Robbie
And there's we know and there's tools out there, lattice comes to mind from the guys at Video Village that a lot to allow you to extract, tweak, massage some things from a from a lookup table.

01:26:08:21 - 01:26:20:18
Joey
But like but if you try to do what I just said yes reverse a display transform and lattice, it will come up with a big warning that says this is probably not going to go how you want it to go, and it's not going to look good.

01:26:20:20 - 01:26:45:19
Robbie
Yeah. And I know and I just think that, you know, I'm not trying to poopoo the idea of the use of what's I'm not absolutely not. I'm not trying to poopoo the, the, the, the hard work that goes into colorist camera teams, color scientists creating those for, for various pipelines. What I am trying to propose is just this idea of you can just go on the internet by something and it's going to fix your problems, right?

01:26:45:21 - 01:27:12:07
Robbie
You end up, you end up fighting it way, way, way, way more, than you probably need to, or probably should. And that's because it's just dumb math or dumb table, as you said. Okay. All right, Joe, I got another one for you. This one comes up, frequently as well. you know, these days, people doing feature shorts, you know, docs or whatever, they're going to go, to festivals, film festivals, narrative places, that kind of stuff.

01:27:12:07 - 01:27:33:13
Robbie
Right? And because it's a theater, it's that's going to mean that it's projected, sometimes, sometimes that projection is no more than a laptop connected to, you know, home theater projector. But a lot of times it's a, it's a legit theatrical setup with a, you know, server, Dhcp server and, you know, proper DLP or whatever projector.

01:27:33:15 - 01:27:58:21
Robbie
I see a lot of people over complicating their grading workflows because they look at big houses, that go, oh, well, we did a P3 pass, we did A709 pass. We did. And there they get down this road where they're led to believe that, especially in the case of something that originated or was initially, you know, SDR, rec 7 or 9, they're convinced that there is more to get.

01:27:58:23 - 01:28:23:06
Robbie
If we did a bespoke P3 grade, from the start, now that has a couple problems. I'm sure you're aware of all of them, but let me just start with the most obvious one, right. People try to get into P3 workflows for theatrical release without a big component of that whole phrase. That is the theater, right? Yes. That the theater itself, a theater environment.

01:28:23:08 - 01:28:48:01
Robbie
Right? You can have all the color science and all that stuff correct on your direct. You monitor the theater, no matter what you do, is going to provide a significantly different perceptual experience than grading on a direct view. Monitor both the black box environment, the diffusion of light coming out of the projector, how, the contrast ratio of the projector is versus direct view between black and white, all that kind of stuff.

01:28:48:01 - 01:28:59:00
Robbie
So like problem number one is unless you're actually grading in the theater, like, no matter if you, you know, no matter what, if you get all color science, right, you're still going to have perceptual differences if you go down that path.

01:28:59:06 - 01:29:22:18
Joey
Yeah. Right. Yeah. And I think, you know, the next thing is hand in hand with that is calibration, right. If you have spent almost all of your time working in SDR, Rec 7 or 9, and you have a very good calibrated reference monitor for that, right? You may not have a good calibration available for P3 for your monitor, or you might not use it often enough to really configure it properly.

01:29:22:18 - 01:29:58:07
Joey
So you might be putting yourself into a corner where you're going to make mistakes. Simple mistakes with monitoring a calibration that you wouldn't make in Rec 7 or 9. My my thought on this is if you started in Rec 7 or 9 and you're happy with your grade and rec 709 use a technical transform to containerize that in P3, because for 99% of things, you're not going into P3 gamut for most stuff, unless you looked at your grade and thought, man, I wish I could have gotten that a little bit more saturated, then there's no real reason to explore going to P3.

01:29:58:07 - 01:30:01:02
Joey
If you've already got a locked 709.

01:30:01:04 - 01:30:22:23
Robbie
Yeah, I mean, I think that this idea that there's more to gain in P3 is a little bit of a misnomer, because, I mean, I look oftentimes I look at I take a peek at my vector scope or whatever. Right. And what is you know, what I would consider a colorful grade, right? I'm like, cool. I'm nowhere even near the boundaries of a rec seven nine and my color grade.

01:30:23:04 - 01:30:39:11
Robbie
So, you know, when I think about that, I'm like, why am I going to complicate this? I'm also because, you know, it's cool if like, hey, 99% of the eyeballs are going to be in a theatrical environment. Yeah, good on that path. But most of the people that we talked to about this are like, well, I got to do something for a film festival, but I also have to put it on the streaming platform.

01:30:39:12 - 01:30:57:14
Robbie
I got to put it on Vimeo. I'm gonna put it on YouTube. Right. And so the the big complication has to do with how, you know, people trying to manually manage a different white point that's involved in these two. Because remember, Dci-p3 has a different white point than 7 or 9. You know, D65, right? You mean you're going to have a different point.

01:30:57:16 - 01:31:24:11
Robbie
And manually managing that is a nightmare. So I, I agree that, hey, you got to do something for theatrical. Don't complicate your life. Make it P3, or go to a P3 only grade. You know, do what everybody and not everybody. But a lot of people do. Just master and 7 or 9. Hey, when it's time to come do that, Pete, that that, that DCP do a technical transform into p3 into X, y, Z, or x, y, z and then do P3, you know, and that will make your life much, much, much simpler.

01:31:24:13 - 01:32:09:01
Joey
No. So last thing we've got on the list, and this is one that I just just keeps coming up no matter what. And I feel pretty strongly about this one is that people think you have to normalize or convert an image to Rec 709 to get good keys or qualifiers, right? People hit the little eyedropper on a log image because, you know, we were seeing referred everything in our grades almost always is in some kind of log format, whether that's camera log, whether that's ACS, whether that's DaVinci intermediate, whatever we work in log for 99% of the individual node work that we do on any given grade, which means if we need to do a

01:32:09:01 - 01:32:42:05
Joey
qualifier, pulling it into rec 7 or 9 temporarily to make a mat is a huge, huge hassle. So is the juice worth the squeeze? And I say absolutely not for one specific reason. everything in resolve a 32 bit floating point. You have almost infinite precision of the decimal point of these these pixel values. When you convert from whatever log to rec 7 or 9 or sRGB or whatever, you are not adding any more information to the signal.

01:32:42:06 - 01:33:04:12
Joey
By nature, you can't be adding any more information to the signal. You're just applying a curve and spreading the values out. So where does this come from? Everybody. Everybody just clicks a little. Eyedropper and says, hey, my qualifier looks completely bad in log. Well, here's the secret that I don't think a lot of people know. The eyedropper tool is designed for Rexona nine images.

01:33:04:14 - 01:33:28:04
Joey
It's samples based on that. If you are willing to dial the qualifiers in manually using the floating point values available on the panel or in the UI, you can get every bit of as good or better of a isolation or qualifier on the original source footage, or some kind of log color managed. Then you can, if it's been converted to display transform, that is put complete snake oil when they set it.

01:33:28:04 - 01:33:36:22
Joey
When somebody says make another pipeline in your grade with color space, transform is just to pull the key and bring that in somewhere else.

01:33:37:00 - 01:33:56:22
Robbie
yeah, it's 100%. Everything you said is, is there's that on. I think it's just that that it's the, the laziness factor or the ease of use factor with the eyedropper that, hey, if you click on something, shouldn't it be, you know, there were and honestly, there's a lot of those tools like, you know, it it should be possible for a lot of those eye droppers to kind of be color space.

01:33:56:22 - 01:33:57:19
Robbie
So where it'd.

01:33:57:19 - 01:33:58:08
Joey
Be nice.

01:33:58:12 - 01:34:22:14
Robbie
It would be nice here. But right now a lot of them are, you know, based on legacy, you know, legacy, color science, math. but you can still get perfectly great results. And honestly, you know, we've talked a lot about this internally in our own workflows about kind of like camera space or log base nodes that we would have in log to do various things, like, you know, any paint kind of work that we need to do, key work, that kind of stuff.

01:34:22:16 - 01:34:31:04
Robbie
and, you know, once you kind of get used to kind of how to move those dials a little bit to get the correct selections and log, it's not any different than doing it in rec seven.

01:34:31:04 - 01:34:40:14
Joey
And I would I would speculate that in most cases it's actually better because you're doing like we talked about earlier. Simpler can be better. You're doing less things to the image.

01:34:40:16 - 01:34:47:07
Robbie
Because you're going through it. If you do it through transform, there is some errors to that and how the pixels are rounded off to get into that transform.

01:34:47:11 - 01:34:54:10
Joey
And when you expand out that dynamic range to go to, to go to a different display, guess what? You could also be expanding out noise.

01:34:54:12 - 01:35:21:08
Robbie
Yeah. Now you said one more thing. I actually have one last thing that just came to mind because I'm just I'm actually, as we're recording this, looking at something on Facebook that there's, you know, we're, let's see here 53 comments deep on, about this. And that is where do I place noise reduction? Right. and I don't want to say this is necessarily a myth, but this is a, something that I think confuses a lot of users about the best place.

01:35:21:08 - 01:35:27:17
Robbie
And I'll just say, I'm going to just save my ass here and then just say it depends, right? Yes.

01:35:27:19 - 01:35:31:17
Joey
this is what I say all the time. How much is a boat?

01:35:31:19 - 01:35:52:09
Robbie
Right. Exactly right. So let's give a case in point for why we want to potentially noise reduce something at the end of the, the end of the channel or the, the string of, of nodes. And that is because the logic there goes, well, I'm pushing and pulling on the image. Right. We are stretching, contrast or doing whatever.

01:35:52:11 - 01:36:18:17
Robbie
Therefore I am, exacerbating or making more noticeable noise that might exist in the image in general or two. I'm actually creating some sort of noise with a key or a bad, you know, curve or something like that. Right? I my line of first defense is always is generally speaking to key at a certain key. I'm sorry to noise reduce at the end of the chain.

01:36:18:18 - 01:36:37:23
Robbie
for those reasons which I find to be pretty to pretty valid, especially a lot of the stuff that we get is, you know, so, so shot. So therefore there is going to be a lot of push and pull exposure changes, etc. when I when I have to work on something or stretch something hard, that's my first indicator to pop it up of the tree.

01:36:37:23 - 01:36:51:04
Joey
Especially if you've got two shots next to each other where one you had to push really far. Yep, another one you didn't have to push very far. You might want that noise reduction at the end of the chain because you want to even out the noise level on both of those very desperate shots.

01:36:51:04 - 01:37:11:09
Robbie
Yep. Now for the opposite side of when would I pop it at the top? And if you look at my node tree, I actually have a noise reduction node at the top, and I have a noise reduction node at the end as I just described. Why would I want to do it at the top? Well, a lot of times when I know that I have something that's well exposed, well shot, etc., but maybe they were just in between ISO on the camera, right?

01:37:11:10 - 01:37:27:21
Robbie
We're not shooting at the native ISO of the camera. Or maybe it's a night scene or something like that before I feed that into the rest of my transforms and the rest of my pipeline, it would be great to eliminate that noise. Right? So it's not influencing other things like, hey, maybe I have to do some green screen.

01:37:27:21 - 01:37:45:22
Robbie
Keane on this particular shot. Right? It's better to clean it up before I make that selection with the gear rather than after. Or maybe sometimes it's both right, like there's no right or wrong with this. And I see a lot of people getting a up on soapbox, like it has to be before it has to be after. And my attitude about it is it depends, right?

01:37:45:23 - 01:38:09:05
Robbie
Yeah. Well, it just depends. Right. Okay, cool. All right. Well, a couple things here. I think these are some good, you know, myths or some things that are propagating themselves out there, to consider, as things, you know, you know, people sometimes get wrong if you guys have some more of these type things, please comment. If you have comments available to wherever you're watching or listening, remember, you can always check us out on YouTube.

01:38:09:05 - 01:38:29:07
Robbie
If you like us on YouTube, you can like and subscribe. We're also available on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Google, all the major platforms. you can always go to DC color slash podcast, where we have, individual episodes there. or, you know, check us out on Instagram as well, on Facebook, everywhere you can think of to find us.

01:38:29:07 - 01:38:46:19
Robbie
We are there. As always, big thanks to our editor, Stella, who, makes us sound, somewhat intelligent and also big thanks to our, our, our sponsor, Flanders. Scientific as always. for the support. So for The Offset Podcast, I'm Robbie Carman.

01:38:46:20 - 01:38:48:08
Joey
And I'm Joey D’Anna.. Thanks for watching!


Robbie Carman
Robbie Carman

Robbie is the managing colorist and CEO of DC Color. A guitar aficionado who’s never met a piece of gear he didn’t like.

Joey D'Anna
Joey D'Anna

Joey is lead colorist and CTO of DC Color. When he’s not in the color suite you’ll usually find him with a wrench in hand working on one of his classic cars or bikes


Stella Yrigoyen - Editor
Stella Yrigoyen

Stella Yrigoyen is an Austin, TX-based video editor specializing in documentary filmmaking. With a B.S. in Radio-Television-Film from UT Austin and over 7 years of editing experience, Stella possesses an in-depth understanding of the post-production pipeline. In the past year, she worked on Austin PBS series like 'Taco Mafia' and 'Chasing the Tide,' served as a Production Assistant on 'Austin City Limits,' and contributed to various post-production roles on other creatively and technically demanding projects.


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