Post-Production : Color Grading Options by Matt Lofgren

Matt Lofgren

Color Grading Options

I had just commented on a post by Derek Nickell, so this is a bit of a repeat, but my editor and I (I am the writer/director/lots of other hats) are looking for a color grading solution and thought I could get some thoughts/comments here on the board. My question is this: Speedgrade or DaVinci? We have access to both and just purchased the Tangent Elements control surfaces (that will likely go on eBay after we complete the project!). We may not know what we're doing, but with those fancy control surfaces, at least we'll LOOK like we do! ;) And yes, we have a color calibrated monitor for the work (with a calibration puck), proper lighting in the editing room, etc, etc. We are editing in native R3D files (RED) and do not want to transcode any footage - and haven't needed to for that matter, other than to bring some composite work in to Mocha. We're editing in Premiere and using After Effects and many of the other CC suite products from Adobe (Photoshop and Audition primarily). It has gone very smoothly and want to make sure that it continues to be. Yes, I am well aware that either one of these packages will require a significant learning curve, but hey, this entire venture has been one giant learning curve and that's what it is all about anyhow for me personally - to learn and make myself a better filmmaker going forward. The project: We are finishing up a full-length feature film, "Alarmed" here in the SF Bay area. Very low budget ($100k) and to keep costs down, we are doing a LOT of things we normally would farm out. It is in audio post right now (yes, definitely farming this out - ProTools AND color grading would push this project out another couple years!!) and my editor and I are finishing up the VFX work (Mocha Pro and AE) and will be starting on the grading work next. We both have some experience in grading (he much more so than I), so we're not complete newbies. Nether one of us has used either Speedgrade or DaVinci before however (Apple Color and some color work in AE). We're both very much "layer-centric" guys, so the whole "node" route with DaVinci looks pretty awkward, whereas Speedgrade is definitely more our speed, so to speak, plus it's in the CC package, so we're leaning toward it, but again, can go either way right now without too much cost differential. Any suggestions before we make the leap into one or the other?? Thanks in advance! Matt Oh, and if you're curious, here's a couple of clips from the film. Alarmed is a psychological thriller shot here in the SF Bay area over the course of the last two years. The first is a teaser trailer: This second clip is just a snippet of a "tension" scene in the film:

Matt Lofgren

Okay, so I guess I just answered my own question. Speedgrade it is. Why? Just way more intuitive. We (my editor and I) hooked up the absolutely awesome Tangent Elements control surfaces this morning and ran both through their paces without really knowing what we were doing with either... We actually got somewhere with Speedgrade where we just floundered with DaVinci. I know, not real scientific, but there you go. We actually test graded a few scenes with Speedgrade and it was pretty amazing. Again, all R3D files for the footage and exported an EDL out of Premiere. Kind of dead simple. And the control surfaces are soooo nice. And they look/feel very professional, so while we may not know what the hell we are doing right now, we look good doing it. And that's like what, 50% of the game?! ;)

Kindari O'Connor

With your Adobe based workflow, Speedgrade is nice because you can move back and forth between Premiere and SG with your Premiere project file and see your color grades in Premiere without rendering intermediate footage (via the Lumetri effect).

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