Tag Archives: color grading

Behind the Title: ArsenalFX Color’s Rory Gordon

NAME: Rory Gordon. Legally, it’s Aurora Gordon, but everybody calls me Rory. My business cards say Aurora though. How could I be a colorist named Aurora and not take advantage of that name?

COMPANY: Santa Monica’s ArsenalFX Color

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
ArsenalFX Color is a high-end boutique post facility, offering full-service finishing services — from dailies to online to color to opticals. We have a very artist-centered approach to the work. Everyone in the company puts the needs of each individual show above all else, and we are all treated as autonomous and important parts of the puzzle. This serves both the show and us as a group by empowering all of us to own our contributions, which in turn allows us to provide the best work we can offer.

Because Arsenal is a relatively small team, we really are able to talk to each other and make certain we understand what unique needs might arise on a case by case basis. Our fearless leaders Larry Field, O.T. Hight and Josh Baca began the company with that collaborative and considerate atmosphere, and I am very proud to be a small part of it. I think our clients can feel how that emphasis on craft allows us to push our work to the very best it can be.

AS A COLORIST, WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
It may be most surprising that I like to get involved and start communication with producers, DPs and directors before a show has even begun shooting. I also think continuing education is tremendously important — not only with post production workflow and tech but also with production tools. I spend as much time as I can learning not only the data capture, color science capabilities and limitations of different cameras, but also the ergonomics and set practicalities as well. Set lighting is another area I like to keep researching and learning about — I am especially interested in LED and energy efficient lighting. I like to have an idea why a crew might need to use a specific camera or tool so I can understand the intent behind on-set decisions.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?
I work on Autodesk Lustre at Arsenal. The entire facility runs on Autodesk software, so it is nice to have that interoperability. Previously, I have used DaVinci Resolve and FilmLight Baselight for final color.

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS? IF SO, CAN YOU DESCRIBE?
I have been asked to participate in camera tests, which I quite enjoy. First, it’s nice to get out of my dark office. Second, I love being involved in making decisions that are going to affect how everyone’s work is captured. I like to communicate with production early and often.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I love working with great creatives — being the woman behind the curtain and working with cinematographers and producers. My job is help make the show into the best version it can be, and that doesn’t happen without great creative direction. I also love finding solutions for tricky shots that turn out to be invisible. To me, the greatest compliment in the world is a shot I worked really hard on, and no one notices because it’s so seamless.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
The commute, especially if I can’t find the right playlist.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I would be an optical engineer. I love optics and physics; I have studied vision and perception at RIT and I study it now whenever the opportunity presents itself.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I have been hooked on imaging from a very early age. I built a dark room in my basement at the age of 10, and wasted a lot of photographic paper and developer. I failed early and often and that instilled a pretty unbreakable work ethic in me. I love the idea that every set of eyes has a different proportion and distribution of red, green and blue cones… which means we all see a little differently and have slightly different spectral responses.

I love the challenge of finding a representation of each scene that allows the overall feeling to translate to not only the different eyeballs that will watch the show, but also all the different viewing conditions under which people will view. Short answer: I knew early because I’m a vision nerd who likes both science and art.

The Tick

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Underground for WGN, The Tick for Amazon, Counterpart for Starz.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I love all my children equally.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? ART? PHOTOGRAPHY?
At the suggestion of master colorist Randy Starnes, I try to pursue artistic interests that are outside of TV and color. I find that when I take the time to do this it really does expand my thinking and help me stay fresh and creative.

Currently, I’m taking an analytic figure drawing class with my husband and a bunch of professional illustrators, so that’s been extremely humbling. I also love abstract painting and I have a series called “ColorTime,” where I paint color scripts to study the color in movies and TV shows, and then I re-paint the color scripts in a radial pattern on clock surfaces. I love any excuse to make a hobby out of a pun. You can see some photos at www.auroragordon.com/colortime.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Corrective lenses
Antiseptics
Ergonomic office chairs

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I love Humans of New York, and for delightful brain numbing cuteness I enjoy We Rate Dogs. I follow several painters and cartoonists too on Instagram — I love seeing works in progress. I also like the LinkedIn group Innovations in Light, where I lurk quietly and soak up other people’s knowledge about lighting. (Follow Rory on Instagram: @auroragordon)

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
Slowly scream into a paper bag. Just kidding — I love to cook, and I do handstands in my bay when no one is looking. My husband and I love to go to museums, and we also enjoy a good aimless walk.

Behind the Title: ArsenalFX colorist Greg Werner

NAME: Greg Werner

COMPANY: ArsenalFX Color

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
ArsenalFX Color is a high-end post facility focusing on the television industry. Our 9,000-square-foot facility hosts Lustre color, Flame, Smoke (Flame Assist) and Avid conform, as well as Colorfront dailies toolsets. Arsenal features a file-based architecture and concurrent HD through 4K workflows (including HDR).

AS A COLORIST, WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I don’t think most people are aware of the job title of colorist in general. I think people are aware of cinematographers and editors and their part in creating the look and feel of a show, but don’t realize what can be done on the post side. The systems we work with have an arsenal of tools that allow us to modify and isolate virtually any part of the picture in order to give the client exactly what they’re looking for.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?
Autodesk Lustre

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
Lustre has the power to do things other than just color for artistic intent, such as adding grain or noise to a shot, sharpening or softening a portion of the picture or creating a bleach bypass effect.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
My favorite part of the job is viewing a completed show knowing that I had a part in helping maintain the intended look and feel of the show.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
My least favorite part of the job may be that color correction can be tedious at times when working on shows that are very cutty with variable lighting conditions. But, it is that challenge that is also the most rewarding when viewing the completed work and seeing how everything comes together cohesively.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
I would probably be an editor or VFX artist.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I chose this profession because I always wanted a hands-on technical-oriented type of career. Studying communication and media in college, I was exposed to and very interested in the video production and post environment.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
Turn: Washington’s Spies, Outsiders, Marvel’s Agents of Shield, Bones, Prison Break (2017) and HBO’s Barry.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I am probably the most proud of being able to work on the new event series Prison Break (2017) because it was given some stylized looks that were fun to work on.

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? 
I find inspiration in the world around me. Whether it be zip lining over tropical waterfalls in Hawaii, surfing in the azure waters of Fiji or simply viewing a spectacular sunset (like the one I saw the other night driving home from work). These experiences can shape the way we see things.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Television, of course, my iPhone and my MacBook Pro.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
After the long hours of sitting in a dark room fixated on a monitor the best de-stress for me is to grab my surfboard and paddle out for a few waves and watch the sunset.

Industry vets open NYC post boutique Twelve

Colorist Lez Rudge and veteran production and post executives Marcelo Gandola, Axel Ericson and Ed Rilli have joined forces to launch New York City-based Twelve, a high-end post boutique for the advertising, film and television industries. Twelve has already been working on campaigns for Jagermeister, Comcast, Maybelline and the NY Rangers.

Twelve’s 4,500-square-foot space in Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood features three Blackmagic Resolve color rooms, two Autodesk Flame suites and a 4K DI theater with a 7.1 Dolby surround sound system and 25-person seating capacity. Here, clients also have access to a suite of film and production services — editorial, mastering, finishing and audio mixing — as part of a strategic alliance with Ericson and his team at Digital Arts. Ericson, who brings 25 years of experience in film and television, also serves as managing partner of Twelve.

From Twelve’s recent Avion tequila campaign.

Managing director Rilli will handle client relations, strategy, budgets and deadlines, among other deliverables for the business. He was previously head of production at Nice Shoes for 17 years. His long list of agency clients includes Hill Holiday, Publicis, Grey and Saatchi & Saatchi and projects for Dunkin Donuts, NFL, Maybelline and Ford.

Gandola was most recently chief operations officer at Harbor Picture Company. Other positions include EVP at Hogarth, SVP of creative services at Deluxe, VP of operations at Company 3 and principal of Burst @ Creative Bubble, a digital audio and sound design company.

On the creative side, Rudge was formerly a colorist and partner at Nice Shoes. Since 2015, Rudge has also been focusing on his directorial career. His most recent campaign for the NY Rangers and Madison Square Garden — a concept-to-completion project via Twelve — garnered more than 300,000 Facebook hits on its first day.

While Twelve is currently working on short-form content, such as commercials and marketing campaigns, the company is making a concerted effort to extend its reach into film and television. Meanwhile, the partners also have a significant roster expansion in the works.

“After all of these years on both the vendor and client side, we’ve learned how best to get things done,” concludes Gandola. “In a way, technology has become secondary, and artistry is where we keep the emphasis. That’s the essence of what we want to provide clients, and that’s ultimately what pushed us to open our own place.”

Main Image (L-R): Ed Rilli, Axel Ericson, Lez Rudge & Marcelo Gandola

Behind the Title: Carbon’s head of color grading, Maria Carretero

NAME: Maria Carretero

COMPANY: Carbon (@carbonvfx)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Carbon, which has locations in New York, Chicago and LA, is a boutique design and visual effects company that focuses on art, ideas, and talent. I am based in Chicago.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Head of color grading

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
I work with clients to find color palettes and looks that best tell their story.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
I’m still surprised with how much creativity is involved in the grading process. I especially love coming to solutions through mixing art and technique.

WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU WORK ON?
Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve

ARE YOU SOMETIMES ASKED TO DO MORE THAN JUST COLOR ON PROJECTS?
Sometimes I’m involved in projects from very early on, which usually entails creating tone and color palettes to be used during filming. I’ve also contributed reference images that help the creative team settle on an overall look or color, and have been present at camera tests to check light and exposure. I love being able to use my artistic background in painting and the fine arts to give projects their maximum creative potential.

Jeep “Two Words”

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
There are moments when I’m grading a piece and I have a strange connection with it as if I’m seeing it clearly for the first time. It’s like I suddenly know it’s going to be a wonderful grade. Moments like that are magical.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Sunset, when all the lights in the city start turning on.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Painting.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?
Color grading chose me. Before I had officially started grading, I spent a lot of my time focusing on my painting, and while grading was something I could technically excel at, my art was the priority at the time. Then digital grading started gaining momentum in Spain and I gradually realized that color grading opportunities were more and more important to me. I feel extremely lucky. I’m self-taught and relied on my incredible network of supporters to give me chances to go further and further.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
I worked on the last five Jeep commercials with a talented group of people from DDB Chicago and the great director Tobias Granström. Some other projects included a huge campaign for Panama Tourism out of VML, the hilarious Liquid Plumbr spot from FBC Chicago and the newest Machine Gun Kelly music video, directed by Steven Caple Jr., which has more than four million views on YouTube.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I’m proud of a lot of my recent work, but Recalculating for Jeep was an incredibly challenging and fulfilling project. We did a lot of research around the idea of sunsets, focusing on the sophistication of light and keeping it as natural feeling as possible.

Jeep “Recalculating”

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION? ART? PHOTOGRAPHY?
Art, life, reading and my previous experiences.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My cell, my Dolby monitor and Spotify.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I have Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, Movidiam and Instagram, where I recently started @carretero.color to feature my color work.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
I always listen to music when I work. Music is great support — it can make you happy in a second! I listen to a lot of different bands, but Band of Horses, Tame Impala, Neil Young, Flaming Lips, Eels, Devendra, The Kills and Spanish music, like Niña Vintage, are some of my favorites!

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I never let stress control me. Sometimes the challenges of the job are huge, but that’s our work and our industry — we know how to get it done. Challenges are wonderful because they point directly at our creativity. Being uncomfortable sometimes is a good thing. It makes you break down your limitations. Working with a great group of people helps a lot, too, so you can always have fun, even on the hardest days.

The long, strange trip of Amir Bar-Lev’s new Dead doc

Deadheads take note — Long Strange Trip, director Amir Bar-Lev’s four-hour documentary on rock’s original jam band, the Grateful Dead, is now available for viewing. While the film had a theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles on May 26, the doc was made available on Amazon Video as a six-episode series.

L-R: Jack Lewars and Keith Jenson.

Encompassing the band’s rise and decades-long career, the film, executive produced by Martin Scorsese, was itself 14 years in the making. That included three months of final post at Technicolor PostWorks New York, where colorist Jack Lewars and online editor Keith Jenson worked with Bar-Lev to finalize the film’s form and look.

The documentary features scores of interviews conducted by Bar-Lev with band members and their associates, as well as a mountain of concert footage and other archival media. All that made editorial conforming complex as Jenson (using Autodesk Flame) had to keep the diverse source material organized and make it fit properly into a single timeline. “We had conversions that were made from old analog tapes, archival band footage, DPX scans from film and everything in between,” he recalls. “There was a lot of cool stuff, which was great, but it required attention to detail to ensure it came out nice and smooth.”

The process was further complicated as creative editorial was ongoing throughout post. New material was arriving constantly. “We do a lot of documentary work here, so that’s something we’re used to,” Jenson says. “We have workflows and failsafes in place for all formats and know how to translate them for the Lustre platform Jack uses. Other than the sheer amount, nothing took us by surprise.”

Lewars faced a similar challenge during grading as he was tasked with bringing consistency to material produced over a long period of time by varying means. The overall visual style, he says, recalls the band’s origins in the psychedelic culture of the 1960s. “It’s a Grateful Dead movie, so there are a lot of references to their experiments with drugs,” he explains. “Some sections have a trippy feel where the visuals go in and out of different formats. It almost gives the viewer the sense of being on acid.”

The color palette, too, has a psychedelic feel, reflecting the free-spirited essence of the band and its co-founder. “Jerry Garcia’s life, his intention and his outlook, was to have fun,” Lewars observes. “And that’s the look we embraced. It’s very saturated, very colorful and very bright. We tried to make the movie as fun as possible.”

The narrative is frequently punctuated by animated sequences where still photographs, archival media and other elements are blended together in kaleidoscopic patterns. Finalizing those sequences required a few extra steps. “For the animation sequences, we had to cut in the plates and get them to Jack to grade,” explains Jenson. “We’d then send the color-corrected plates to the VFX and animation department for treatment. They’d come back as completed elements that we’d cut into the conform.”

The documentary climaxes with the death of Garcia and its aftermath. The guitarist suffered a heart attack in 1995 after years of struggling with diabetes and drug addiction. As those events unfold, the story undergoes a mood change that is mirrored in shifts in the color treatment. “There is a four-minute animated sequence in the last reel where Jerry has just passed and they are recapping the film,” Lewars says. “Images are overlaid on top of images. We colored those plates in hyper saturation, pushing it almost to the breaking point.

“It’s a very emotional moment,” he adds. “The earlier animated sequences introduced characters and were funny. But it’s tied together at the end in a way that’s sad. It’s a whiplash effect.”

Despite the length of the project and the complexity of its parts, it came together with few bumps. “Supervising producer Stuart Macphee and his team were amazing,” says Jenson. “They were very well organized, incredibly so. With so many formats and conversions coming from various sources, it could have snowballed quickly, but with this team it was a breeze.”

Lewars concurs. Long Strange Trip is an unusual documentary both in its narrative style and its looks, and that’s what makes it fascinating for Deadheads and non-fans alike. “It’s not a typical history doc,” Lewars notes. “A lot of documentaries go with a cold, bleach by-pass look and gritty feel. This was the opposite. We were bumping the saturation in parts where it felt unnatural, but, in the end, it was completely the right thing to do. It’s like candy.”

You can binge it now on Amazon Video.

MTI Film updates Cortex for V.4, includes Dolby Vision HDR metadata editing

MTI Film is updating its family of Cortex applications and tools, highlighted by Cortex V.4. In addition to legacy features such as a dailies toolset, IMF and AS-02 packaging and up-res algorithms, Cortex V.4 adds DCP packaging (with integrated ACES color support), an extended edit tool and officially certified Dolby Vision metadata editing capabilities.

“We allow users to manipulate Dolby Vision HDR metadata in the same way that they edit segments of video,” says Randy Reck, MTI Film’s director of development. “In the edit tool, they can graphically trim, cut and paste, add metadata to video, analyze new segments that need metadata and adjust parameters within the Dolby Vision metadata on a shot-by-shot basis.”

With the integration of the Dolby Vision ecosystem, Cortex V.4 provides a method for simultaneously QC-ing HDR and SDR versions of a shot with Dolby Vision metadata. For delivery, the inclusion of the Dolby Vision “IMF-like” output format allows for the rendering and delivery of edited Dolby Vision metadata alongside HDR media in one convenient package.

Cortex V.4’s Edit Tool has been updated to include industry-standard trimming and repositioning of edited segments within the timeline through a drag-and-drop function. The entire look of the Edit Tool (available in the Dailies and Enterprise editions of Cortex) has also been updated to accommodate a new dual-monitor layout, making it easier for users to scrub through media in the source monitor while keeping the composition in context in the record monitor.

MTI Film is also offering a new subscription-based DIT+ edition of Cortex. “It doesn’t make sense for productions to purchase a full software package if their schedule includes a hiatus when it won’t be used,” explains Reck.

DIT+ contains all aspects of the free DIT version of Cortex with the added ability to render HD ProRes, DNx and H.264 files for delivery. A DIT+ subscription starts at $95 per month, and MTI Film is offering a special NAB price of $595 for the first year.

FilmLight shows new versions of color tools at NAB

FilmLight was at NAB demo-ing Version 5.0 of its color tools. The upgraded toolkit maintains a consistent user experience across the Baselight color grading and finishing system, Baselight Editions, Daylight and FilmLight’s new on-set application, Prelight.

“We are delivering 5.0 everywhere, bringing a new level of color control and creative possibilities from the very start of a production right to the final deliverables,” says Wolfgang Lempp, CEO of FilmLight. “And, importantly, color and artistic intent are accompanying all deliverables precisely and with minimum effort, be it for HDR and SDR or even 360 VR grading.”

Version 5.0 introduces Base Grade, which mimics the way the eye sees color to yield a more natural feel. Version 5.0 also includes some new VFX features, such as paint, perspective tracking, warping, depth keying and relighting.

FilmLight’s new Prelight On-Set, a Mac OS app for preview and grading, brings color control and the FilmLight BLG (Baselight Linked Grade) metadata system to shoots.

With Version 5.0, Baselight Editions, the plug-ins for Avid and Nuke 5.0, now include Base Grade functionality as well as color tools, such as midtone contrast and filters for denoise and deflicker. In addition, Baselight for Nuke includes boosted functionality in the Version 5.0 BLG that enables the tool to act as a multi-input node in Nuke. In this manner, BLG files can refer to multiple input images and OpenEXR channels.

Review: Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite: Looks 4 and Colorist IV

By Brady Betzel

Color grading is an art unto itself. A dedicated colorist can make your footage look so good, your response upon seeing it will likely be, “I had no idea it could look like this.”

Unfortunately, as an editor you don’t have the opportunity to spend 10 hours a day honing the craft of color correction. You don’t sit in front of high-end color correction panels while surrounded by thousands of dollars worth of equipment whose reason for being is taking everyday footage and pulling peoples’ minds inside out.

Even with Blackmagic’s free version of DaVinci Resolve out in the wild, color correction is a skill that takes a lot of time to hone. Don’t fool yourself, one, two or three years doesn’t really even scratch the surface of the dedication you need to dive into the dark art of color correction, and most color correction artists are more than willing to tell you that. Hopefully, that doesn’t discourage you on your journey to becoming a color master, because it is an awesome career in my opinion. I mean how many people get to play with what are essentially digital crayons all day and get paid to do it?

For those who don’t have hundreds of hours to learn the magic of apps like Resolve, Pablo Rio and Baselight, or even color correction inside of an NLE like Avid Symphony or Adobe Premiere for that matter — you still have the ability to create stunning footage with plug-ins like Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Suite.

The Magic Bullet Suite is a set of color correction and video finishing plug-ins that work in multiple multimedia apps like Adobe’s Premiere and After Effects, and some even work inside of Final Cut Pro X, Motion, Resolve and Avid Media Composer/Symphony.

If you’ve been around editing for a while, you’ve probably heard of Magic Bullet Looks; it’s one of the most common color correction plug-ins that people use to quickly and easily color correct and grade their footage. The full contents in Magic Bullet Suite 13 include Magic Bullet Looks, Magic Bullet Colorista IV, Magic Bullet Film, Magic Bullet Cosmo II, Magic Bullet Denoiser III, Magic Bullet Mojo II and Magic Bullet Denoiser. While all of these Magic Bullet plug-ins can be purchased separately, they are available as a suite for $899 as well as at an academic price of $449. There is also an upgrade price of $299 if you are a previous version user.

Magic Bullet Suite 13 has been overhauled, with one of the biggest additions being OpenGL and OpenCL support, allowing incredible speed gains. In this review, I am going to provide a plug-in-by-plug-in review, so you can see if $899 is an investment you should make. Up first is the heavy hitter of the suite: Magic Bullet Looks.

Magic Bullet Looks
At $399, Magic Bullet Looks 4 is just one piece of the Magic Bullet Suite 13 set, but it’s probably the most well known. Looks is a color correction plug-in that works with most major nonlinear editing apps, including Premiere Pro CC, After Effects CC, Final Cut Pro X 10.2.3 and up, Apple Motion 5.2.3 and up, Magix Vegas Pro 14, Avid Media Composer 8.5-8.7, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 12.5, Edius 8.2 and Hit Film Pro 2017.

Essentially, Magic Bullet Looks 4 is a color correction plug-in that you would typically start with a preset correction or grade that Looks has built in. Think of it like a set of over 200 color grading LUTs (Look-Up Tables) that can be finessed, changed and layered — from there you can add vignetting, video noise or even one of my favorites: chromatic aberration.

There are a few new updates in Looks 4 that make this version the one to purchase. Version 3 had GPU acceleration, but Version 4 includes OpenCL- and OpenGL-compatibility for better realtime playback with color graded footage; the Renoiser Tool which can help to add video noise or film grain back into denoised footage; and my favorite technical feature that I hope other apps include — the ability to resize the color scopes and even zoom into the Hue/Saturation scope.

While using Magic Bullet Looks, I discovered just how easy Red Giant made it to add a “look” to footage, add some grain and a vignette and then export. While the Lumetri Color tools in Premiere Pro CC were a great addition, they left some things to be desired, and in my opinion, Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks picks up where Premiere’s Lumetri Color tools left off. To apply Magic Bullet Looks 4, you can find it in the Effects drop-down under Video Effects > Magic Bullet > Looks, scrub over to the Effect Controls window and click on “Edit Look.” From there you will be launched into the Magic Bullet Looks plugin GUI. Before you get started it might be handy to open up the Magic Bullet Looks user guide, especially the keyboard shortcuts.

To try out Magic Bullet Looks, I had some Sony a6300 footage lying around waiting to be color corrected. Once inside of the Magic Bullet Looks’ GUI I saw another new feature called the Source tool, which quickly allows you to specify if you are working with Log, flat or video footage — basically, a quick LUT to get you to a starting point — nothing ground breaking, but definitely handy. From there you can open the “Looks” slideout and choose from the hundreds of preset looks. I immediately found “Color Play” and chose “Skydance,” a trippy, ultra-saturated preset with a couple of color gradients, a preset color grade using Colorista (which I will cover later in this space) and some curve adjustments.

If you want to check the values against a scope you can click on the “Scopes” slideout. If you are on a small monitor you may have to close the “Looks” slideout to see the scopes. From here you can check out your footage on a scalable RGB Parade, Slice Graph (displays color values from one line in your image), zoomable Hue/Saturation, Hue/Lightness, Memory Colors (really interesting and deserves a read), and Skin Tone Overlay, which adds lines over your image where it believes the true skin tone colors are coming through.

To apply and begin customizing a look, you can add a preset by double clicking it. It will then apply itself to your clip or adjustment layer. At the same time, it will layout any specific tools used into what Red Giant calls the “Tool Chain,” or the row of tools along the bottom of the GUI. This Tool Chain is important because it is the order of operations. If you put a tool on the right side of the Tool Chain it will impact the preceding tools on the left. For example, if you double click the Print Bleach Bypass tool (which is also awesome and gives a shiny silvery-like polish) it will place the effect naturally at the end of the Tool Chain. This impacts all previous effects, basically creating an end to the order of operations. If you want to get tricky, Magic Bullet Looks allows you to disrupt the order of operations in the Tool Chain by Alt+dragging the tool to a different spot in the Tool Chain. This can be a great method for building a unique look, essentially disrupting the normal order of operations to get a new perspective (on a Mac it is Option+drag).

Once I completed my quick look build, I clicked the check mark on the bottom of the window and was back in Premiere Pro CC 2017 playing my Sony a6300 footage in realtime with the Magic Bullet Look applied at 100 percent strength with no slowdowns. To be clear, I am not running a super-fast machine. In fact, it’s essentially a powerful tablet with an Intel i7 3.10Ghz processor, 8GB of RAM and an Intel Iris GPU, so playing down this look in realtime is pretty amazing.

For a test I trimmed my clip down to one minute in length and added Magic Bullet Look’s Color Play preset “Skydance” — which I mentioned earlier adds chromatic aberration inside of the plugin. I then exported it as a 1080p H.264 QuickTime at around 10 to12 Mb/s, which is basically a highly compressed QuickTime for YouTube, Instagram or Twitter. It took about four minutes and eighteen seconds with the look applied, and one minute without the look applied. So it took quite a bit longer to export with the look, but that can expected with a heavy color grading process. Obviously, with a fast system with a GPU like an Nvidia GTX 1080, you will be chewing through this type of export.

In the end, Magic Bullet Looks 4 is a great paint-by-numbers way of color correcting and grading, but with the ability to highly modify what is being used to create that look. I really love it. As someone who color corrects most of his footage the “old” way with wheels and such, it’s a breath of fresh air to jump into a plug-in that will give you a pretty great output with the same ability to dial in your look that a colorist may be used to but in half the time.

One thing you will notice as I review the rest of the plug-ins in the rest of the Magic Bullet Suite 13 is that the plugins Colorista, Renoiser, and Mojo II are also included with Magic Bullet Looks 4 but only when used inside of the plug-in. When you purchase the entire Magic Bullet Suite 13 you get those as standalone plugins, a feature that I actually like a lot better than working inside of the Looks plug-in. It’s something to consider if you can’t shell out the full $899.

Colorista IV
Colorista IV is a color correction and grading plug-in that is similar in function to Adobe’s Lumetri color tools, but surpasses it. It is compatible with Premiere Pro CC, After Effects CC, Final Cut Pro X 10.2.3 and up, and Motion 5.2.3 and up. Inside of Premiere, Colorista IV offers a much more intuitive workflow for color correction and color grading than Lumetri. But I really think Colorista shines in apps like After Effects where you don’t have as robust color correction options.

Colorista IV consists of a three-way color corrector with the standard Shadows, Midtones and Highlight adjustments, new Temperature and Tint controls to help adjust white balance issues, an exposure compensation, Highlight Recovery, Pop, Hue-Saturation-Lightness wheels and many more adjustments. Right off the bat you can now specify whether your footage is video (basically Rec.709) or Log. When you specify Log, Colorista will actually work a little differently and a little better for your footage than if you tried to use the video color mode. While that is not an uncommon feature/workflow in color correction apps, it is an important update to the Colorista toolset.

Another update is the Guided Color correction, which walks you through color balancing an image in seven steps. I have to say it’s not too bad. After about five different guided color balances using the Guided Color Correction I came to the same conclusion: it looks a little too contrasty but it’s not a bad starting point. Think of it like a guided auto correct. It even shows before and afters of your image while making adjustments in the Guided section. In fact, if you are learning to color correct this is a great way to simply understand a basic initial step when correcting.

After you run through the guided correction, you can fine-tune anything you did in that process, including using Colorista’s Key Mode. The Key Mode of Colorista is a simplified version of secondary keying in color correcting apps. If you want to isolate a skin tone or a specific color that is possibly too saturated, you can enable the Key Mode, select the color you want to adjust by using the color selectors or even using the HSL Cube, and adjust your selection From here Colorista gives you a few options: “Apply” the key, “Cutout” the key, or “Show Key” which will turn the image into a black and white matte for some more advanced adjustments that reach beyond the scope of this review but can be fun and extremely helpful.. You can also select the “Show Skin Overlay” checkbox that will overlay a checkerboard-like pattern on the parts of your image when they have “proper” skin tone colors; it’s pretty useful when doing beauty work and keys in Colorista.

The last two categories in Colorista IV are the Structure & Lighting and Tone Curve & LUT. Structure allows for quick adjustments to the shadows, highlights, pop (basically sharpness) and adding a vignette. The Tone Curve is a multipoint curve, much like curves in every other color correcting app, and at the bottom is where you can load your own LUT or choose a specific technical LUT, such as Sony’s Slog 2 or 3.

Summing Up
In the end, Magic Bullet Looks and Colorist IV are plug-ins that can be super simple or very meticulous depending on your mood or skill level. While almost everything in these plug-ins can be achieved without a plug-in, Colorista IV and Looks gives a simple and straightforward interface for accomplishing great color balance, a correction and grade.

One of my favorite features inside the updated Colorista IV is the new panel, which can be opened by clicking on the menu bar: Window > Extensions > Magic Bullet Colorista IV. You can keep this panel open and instantly begin color correcting a clip without having to drag the effect onto every clip you want to correct; it will automatically apply it to whichever layer is selected. If you are interested in color correction and want to ease into the complexity, Magic Bullet Looks 4 and Colorist IV are a great way to learn.

In the next Magic Bullet review I will be covering the rest of the plugins that comprise the Suite 13 plug-in set, including Magic Bullet Denoiser III which has been revamped and rivals Neat Video (an industry standard noise reduction plug-in), Cosmo II, Renoiser and Film. To buy all of these together check this out, where you can occasionally find everything at a discount.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Review: Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel

By Brady Betzel

If you’ve never used a color correction panel like the Tangent Element, Tangent Ripple, Avid Artist Color, or been fortunate enough to touch the super high-end FilmLight Blackboard 2, Blackmagic Advanced Panel or the Nucoda Precision Control Panel, then you don’t know what you are missing.

If you can, reach out to someone at a post house and sit at a real color correction console; it might change your career path. I’ve talked about it before, but the first time I sat in a “real” (a.k.a. expensive) color correction/editing bay I knew that I was on the right career path.

Color correction can be done without using color correction panels, but think of it like typing with one hand (maybe even one finger) — sure it can be done, but you are definitely missing out on the creative benefit of fluidity and efficiency.

In terms of affordable external color correction panels, Tangent makes the Ripple, Wave and Element panel sets that range from $350 to over $3,300, but work with pretty much every color correction app I can think of (even Avid if you use the Baselight plug-in). Avid offers the Artist Color panel, which also works with many apps, including Avid Media Composer, and costs about $1,300. Beyond those two, you have the super high-end panels that I mentioned earlier; they range from $12,000 to $29,999.

Blackmagic recently added two new offerings to their pool of color correction panel hardware: the DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel and DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel. The Micro is similar in size and functionality to the Avid Artist panel, and the Mini is similar to the center part of most high-end color correction panels.

One important caveat to keep in mind is that you can only use these panels with Blackmagic’s Resolve, and Resolve must be updated to at least version 12.5.5 to function. They connect to your computer via USB 3 Type C or Ethernet.

I received the Resolve Mini Panel to try out for a couple of weeks, and immediately loved it. If you’ve been lucky enough to use a high-end color correction panel like Blackmagic’s Advanced Panel, then you will understand just how great it feels to control Resolve with hardware. In my opinion, using hardware panels eliminates almost 90 percent of the stumbling when using color correction software as opposed to using a keyboard and mouse. The Resolve Mini Panel is as close as you are going to get to professional-level color correction hardware panel without spending $30,000.

Digging In
Out of the box, the panel feels hefty but not too heavy. It’s solid enough to sit on a desk and not have to worry about it walking around while you are using it. Of course, because I am basically a kid, I had to press all the buttons and turn all the dials before I plugged it in. They feel great… the best-feeling wheels and trackballs on a $3,000 panel I’ve used. The knobs and buttons feel fine. I’m not hating on them, but I think I like the way the Tangent buttons depress better. Either way, that is definitely subjective. The metal rings and hefty trackballs are definitely on the level of the high-end color correction panels you can see in pro color bays.

Without regurgitating Blackmagic’s press release in full, I want to go over what I think really shines on this panel. I love the two five-inch LCD panels just above the main rings and trackballs. Below the LCDs and above the row of 12 knobs are eight more knobs that interact with the LCDs. Above the LCDs are eight soft buttons and a bunch of buttons that help you navigate around the node tree and jump into different modes, like qualifiers and tracking.

Something I really loved when working with the Mini Panel was adding points on a curve and adjusting those individual points. This is one of the best features of the Mini Panel, in my opinion. Little shortcuts like adding a node + circle window in one key press are great features. Directly above the trackballs and rings are RGB, All and Level buttons that can reset their respective parameters for each of the Lift Gamma and Gain changes you’ve made. Above those are buttons like Log, Offset and Viewer — a quick way to jump into Log mode, Offset mode and full-screen Viewer mode.

When reading about the user buttons and FX buttons in the Resolve manual it states that they will be enabled in future releases, which gets me excited about what else could be coming down the pike. NAB maybe?

Of course, there can be improvements. I mean, it is a Version 1 product, but everything considered Blackmagic really hit it out of the park. To see what some pros think needs to be changed and/or altered troll over to the holy grail of color correction forums: Lift Gamma Gain. You’ll even notice some Blackmagic folks sniffing around answering questions and hinting at what is coming in some updates. In addition, Blackmagic has their own forum where an interesting post popped up titled DaVinci Mini Panel Suggestion Box. This is another great post to hang around.

Wishlist/Suggestions
When using the panels, when I would exit Resolve the LCDs didn’t dim or go into screen-saver mode like some other panels I’ve used. Furthermore, there isn’t a dimmer for the brightness of the LCD screens and backlit buttons. In the future, I would love the ability to dim or completely shut off the panels when I am in other apps or presenting to a client and don’t want the panel glowing. The backlit keys aren’t terribly bright though, so it’s not a huge deal.

While in the forums, I did notice posts about the panel’s inability to do the NLE-style of transport control: double tapping fast forward to go faster. Furthermore, a wheel might be a nice transport addition for scrubbing. In the node shortcut buttons, I couldn’t find an easy way to delete a node or add an outside node directly from the panel. On other panels, I love moving shapes/windows around using the trackballs but, unfortunately, you can only move/adjust the windows around with knobs, which isn’t terrible but is definitely less natural than using the trackballs. Lastly, I kind of miss the ability to set and load memories from a panel, with the Mini Panel we don’t have that option….yet. Maybe it will come in an update since there are buttons with numbers on them, but who knows.

Mini and Micro Panel
Technically, the Mini Panel is the Micro Panel but with the addition of the top LCDs and buttons. It also has the ability to connect the panel not just by USB-C but also via Ethernet. If connecting via Ethernet, there has been some talk of power over Ethernet (PoE) compatibility, which powers your panel without the need for a power cable. Some folks have had less success with standard PoE, but have had success using PoE+ appliances — something to keep in mind.

Both the Micro and Mini Panels have the standard three trackballs and rings, 12 control knobs and 18 keys hard coded for specific tasks and transport controls. In addition, the Mini Panel has two 5-inch screens, eight additional soft buttons, eight additional soft knobs and 30 additional hard-coded buttons that focus on node navigation and general mode navigation.

Both the Micro and Mini Panels are powered via USB-C, but the Mini Panel also adds PoE connection as mentioned earlier, as well as a 4-pin XLR DC power connection. Something to note: I thought that when I received the Mini Panel I might have been missing a power cable from the box because I had a test unit, but upon more forum reading I found that you do not get a power cable with the Mini Panel. While Blackmagic does ship a USB 3.0 to USB-C adapter cable with the Mini and Micro Panels, they do not ship a power cable, which is unfortunate and an odd oversight, but since the panels are affordable I guess it’s not that big of a deal. Plus, if you are a post nerd like me, you probably have a few 5-15 to C13 power cables lying around the house.

I can’t shake the feeling that Blackmagic is going to be adding some additional external panels to piece together something like the Advanced Panel set-up (much like how the Tangent Element panel set can be purchased). Things like an external memory bank or an X-Keys type set-up seem not too far off for Blackmagic. I would even love to be able to turn the LCD screens into scopes if possible, and even hook up an Ultrascope via the panel so I don’t have to purchase additional hardware. Either way, the Mini Panel gets me real excited about the path Blackmagic is carving for their Resolve users.

Summing Up
In the end, if you are a professional colorist looking for a semi-portable panel and haven’t committed to the Tangent Element ecosphere yet, the Resolve Mini Panel is for you … and your credit card. The Mini Panel is as close to a high-end color correction panel that I have seen, and has a wallet-friendly retail price of $2,995. It is very solid and doesn’t feel like a substitute for a full-sized panel — it can hold its own.

One thing I was worried about when I began writing this review was questioning whether or not tying myself down to one piece of software was a good idea. When you invest in the Mini Panel, you are wholeheartedly dedicating yourself to DaVinci Resolve, and I think that is a safe bet.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Creating the color of Hacksaw Ridge

Australian colorist Trish Cahill first got involved in the DI on Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge when cinematographer Simon Duggan enquired about her interest and availability for the film. She didn’t have to consider the idea long before saying yes.

Hacksaw Ridge, which earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor, Film Editing (won), Sound Editing and Sound Mixing (won), is about a real-life World War II conscientious observer, Desmond Doss, who refused to pick up a gun but instead used his bravery to save lives on the battlefield.

Trish Cahill

Let’s find out more about Cahill’s work and workflow on Hacksaw Ridge

What was the collaboration like between you and director Mel Gibson and cinematographer Simon Duggan?
I first met Mel and the editor John Gilbert when I visited them in the cutting room halfway through the edit. We looked through the various scenes and — in particular, the different battle sequences — and discussed the different tone that was needed for each.

Simon had already talked through the Kodachrome idea with a gradual and subtle desaturation as the film progressed and it was very helpful to be spinning through the actual images and listening to Mel and John talk through their thoughts. We then chose a collection of shots that were representative of the different looks and turning points in the film to use in a look development session.

Simon was overseas at the time, but we had a few phone conversations and he sent though some reference stills prior to the session. The look development session not only gave us our look template for the film but it also gave us a better idea of how smoke continuity was shaping up and what could be done in the grade to help.

During the DI, Mel, John and producer Bill Mechanic came in see my work every couple of days for a few hours to review spools down. Once the film was in good shape, Simon flew in with a nice fresh eye to help tighten it further.

What was the workflow for this project?
Being a war film, there are quite a few bullet hits, blood splatter, smoke elements and various other VFX to be completed across a large number of shots. One of the main concerns was the consistency of smoke levels, so it was important that the VFX team had a balanced set of shots put into sequence reflecting how they would appear in the film.

While the edit was still evolving, the film was conformed and assistant colorist Justin Tran started a balance grade of the war sequences on FilmLight Baselight at Definition Films. This provided VFX supervisor Chris Godfrey and the rest of the team with a better idea of how each shot should be treated in relation to the shots around them and if additional treatment was required for shots not ear-marked for VFX. The balance grading work was carried across to the DI grade in the form of BLGs and were applied to the final edit with the use of Baselight’s multi-paste, so I had full control and nothing was baked in.

Was there a particular inspiration or reference that you used for the look of this film?
Simon sent through a collection of vintage photograph references from the era to get me started. There were shots of old ox blood red barns, mechanics and machinery, train yards and soldiers in uniform — a visual board of everyday pictures of real scenes from the 1930s and 1940s, which was an excellent starting point to spring from. Key words were desaturated, Kodachrome and, the phrase “twist the primaries a touch” was used a bit!

The film starts when our hero, Desmond Doss, is a boy in the 1930s. These scenes have a slight chocolaty sepia tone, which lessens when Doss becomes a young man and enters the military training camp. Colors become more desaturated again when he arrives in Okinawa and then climbs the ridge. We wanted the ridge to be a world unto itself — the desolate battlefield. Each battle from there occurs at different times of day in different environmental conditions, so each has been given its own color variation.

What were the main challenges in grading such a film?
Hacksaw Ridge is a war film. A big percentage of screen time is action-packed and fast-paced with a high-cut ratio. So there are many more shots to grade, there are varied cameras to balance between and fluctuating smoke levels to figure out. It’s more challenging to keep consistency in this type of film than the average drama.

The initial attack on top of the ridge happens just after an aerial bombing raid, and it was important to the story for the grade to help the smoke enhance a sense of vulnerability and danger. We needed to keep visibility as low as possible, but at the same time we wanted it still to be interesting and foreboding. It needed analysis at an individual shot level: what can be done on this particular image to keep it interesting and tonal but still have the audience feel a sense of “I can’t see anything.”

Then on a global level — after making each shot as tonal and interesting as possible — do we still have the murkiness we need to sell the vulnerability and danger? If not, where is the balance to still provide enough visual interest and definition to keep the audience in the moment?

What part of the grading process do you spend most of your time on?
I would say I spend more time on the balancing and initial grade. I like to keep my look in a layer at the end of the stack that stays constant for every shot in the scene. If you have done a good job matching up, you have the opportunity of being able to continue to craft the look as well as add secondaries and global improvements with confidence that you’re not upsetting the apple cart. It gives you better flexibility to change your mind or keep improving as the film evolves and as your instincts sharpen on where the color mood needs to sit. I believe tightening the match and improving each shot on the primary level is time very well spent.

What was the film shot on, and did this bring any challenges or opportunities to you during the grade?
The majority of Hacksaw Ridge was shot with an Arri Alexa. Red Dragon and Blackmagic pocket cameras were also used in the battle sequences. Whenever possible I worked with the original camera raw. I worked in LogC and used Baselight’s generalized color space to normalize the Red and Blackmagic cameras to match this.

Matching the flames between Blackmagic and Alexa footage was a little tricky. The color hues and dynamic range captured by each camera are quite different, so I used the hue shift controls often to twist the reds and yellows of each closer together. Also, on some shots I had several highlight keys in place to create as much dynamic range as possible.

Could you say more about how you dealt with delivering for multiple formats?
The main deliverables required for Hacksaw Ridge were an XYZ and a Rec709 version. Baselight’s generalized color space was used to do the conversions from P3 to XYZ and Rec709. I then made minimal tweaks for the Rec709 version.

Was there a specific scene or sequence you found particularly enjoyable or challenging?
I enjoyed working with the opening scene of the film, enhancing the golden warmth as the boys are walking through the forest in Virginia. The scenes within the Doss house were also a favorite. The art direction and lighting had a beautiful warmth to it and I really enjoyed bringing out the chocolaty, 1930’s and 1940’s tones.

On the flip side of that I also loved working with the cooler crisper dawn tones that we achieved in the second battle sequence. I find when you minimize the color palette and let the contrast and light do the tonal work it can take you to a unique and emotionally amplified place.

One of the greater challenges of grading the film was eliminating any hint of green plant life throughout the Okinawa scenes. With lush, green plants happily existing in the background, we were in danger of losing the audience’s belief that this was a bleak place. Unfortunately, the WW II US military uniforms were the same shade of green found in many parts of the surrounding landscape of the location, making it impossible to get a clean key. There is one scene in particular where a convoy of military trucks rolls through a column of soldiers adding clouds of dust to an already challenging situation.