Colour correction and grading with Red footage

Many people mistake the difference between grading and correction. Correction is when one adjusts the footage to how it looked like through your eyes on the day of shooting and grading is where one adjusts the colours to the desired film look and style. It is generally better practice to colour correct all of your shots first to match. I believe that the best grading is the one that you do not notice; it is the one that gives the feel of the film that pulls the audience in. The test graders on ShootingPeople were so bad I knew I needed to this into my own hands and handle this like a pro.

I had a few possible options for grading and these included: Adobe Speedgrade, Magic Bullet Looks/Colorista and RedcineX Pro. Whilst the first two tools are very powerful on their own I found that the only program that comes to giving Red footage justice is RedcineX Pro. This goes back to the idea that red cameras record compressed Bayer data. This so-called compressed raw data allows white balance, gamma, sharpening, RGB, FLUX control, ISO to be adjusted in post-production. The sheer power of this program and format surprised me, so I decided to put it to the test and colour correct the footage first, and then grade it.

WorkflowDiscovering the perfect Red workflow (diagram created by me)

It was surprisingly easy to use (thanks to the advice of the DoP), all that one needed to do to colour correct is adjust the Reds, Greens, and Blues as well as the FLUT Control option. Once all the footage was corrected it could be graded. For grading, other options could be adjusted, for example Kelvin, Tint, Brightness and the Lift/Gamma/Gain setting. The beauty of this program is that the workflow was hassle free. You adjust the look of the image in RedcineX and it is instantly saved to a .RMD file next to the .R3D footage file (non-destructive workflow). Then back on Premiere, one updates the shot to match the just-saved look. Downside is that you have to update each edit to match the new look, however I came across a small utility called ‘Reset RED RMD’ thanks to Fallen Empire Digital, which batch reloads all the RMD files in Premiere saving you a lot of time.

ReloadRMBUpdating Premiere with the updated grading ‘look’ that was created on RedcineX Pro. Can be done individually or a batch reload (using the tool below) for all the shots in a project

Another really cool feature of RedcineX is the various colour sciences you have available to choose, for example you have REDgamma1-3 for gamma space and REDcolor1-3 for the colour space; REDgamma2 and REDcolor2 were used for the first scene to make it as flat as possible and then colours adjusted and for the rest REDgamma3 and REDcolor3 was used for that glossy, deep/rich colour look then adjusted to look beautifully vile. The founder of RED, Jim Jannard, said this about it:

“At 1st blush, you may just see subtle differences in REDcolor3 but it is a complete remapping of the color space and REDgamma3 makes a much better image on your monitor.. REDcolor3 is probably the bigger update but REDgamma3 is a welcome improvement.”

At first Premiere did not read these colour spaces I had to manually update it to support them, which was a tricky task but I was hit by a significant difference when I did. 5D footage was graded using the Magic Bullet Looks, a plugin I used from the first year. I passed on from using its presets and now have the ability to create my own; it’s fairly powerful but does not come close to RedcineX.

Enough with the technicalities. For the look of the film I wanted a something to match the likes of Se7en, Fight Club, Irreversible, Harry Brown, Company of Men (also our main film influences). I wanted a depressing, gritty, disturbing and dark feel to it. An almost dystopian atmosphere. The councillor scene is dark and dull, the outsides have a green cast to them for the stylistic purpose of making it look vile, cold and dangerous, and the club is all red to demonstrate the themes of madness, insanity, sex and those of a red-light district. The toilet is incredibly green again to show sickness and depravity and the rest is just dark and dull. It’s a cruel and hostile environment with no mercy for the weak.

The film is not meant to be pretty to look at. It is meant to be disgusting and horrible yet maintaining a level of art. The world the characters live in is not pretty. It’s harsh and depraved.

1 Stage 1 – the footage as the red scarlet captured it

2 Stage 2 – the colour corrected footage – how our eyes saw it on the day

3Stage 3 – colour graded footage

I honestly enjoyed grading; the software was so powerful it gave me great pleasure and experience working in it. One can really see the difference in colours from the rough cut (no colour adjustments whatsoever) to the final graded cut. It’s phenomenal, really. Makes me think I have potential to be a good colourist after all and that I should never have doubted myself! But it’s a massive learning curve and that’s what I’m here for, to learn.

A draft grade of the film:

password: eonsgrade

Premiere’s powerful title system allowed me to create the rolling credits with ease. It was incredibly user-friendly; I was able to create some fantastic looking credits and titles from the first time of using the tool, meaning I can be even more efficient next time.


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