We love to color correct, especially when the footage includes singer Hayley Williams and rock band Paramore. Performing live from the Monumentour in Chicago, Illinois on July 11, 2014, Paramore recorded a live video for their song “Last Hope.” With Director Michael Thelin‘s direction, Coat of Arms edited and color corrected the entire video. Color correction is that cherry on top…the finishing touch to a video. It’s an important step to delivering a stellar video and often one of the first elements that differentiate professional from amateur videos.
The color correction process doesn’t always begin in post. It often starts in pre-production when the director and cinematographer choose a visual style, and select lenses, filters, and camera settings. During production, there may be several phases of color correction as well. You may create a look or LUT file with your cinematographer or create a first color pass on set before sending it to a video editor. In fact, everyone from the production designer, set dresser, art department, wardrobe, gaffer and lighting team can play a big role in the final color of your film. Ultimately, great color is a team effort. On this project, Michael Thelin and his crew, including some of our favorite production collaborators (e.g. Megan Donnelly, Brian Wong, etc.), filmed Paramore’s entire concert. There may be plans for a full show edit in the future, but for now the focus was on Paramore’s single, “Last Hope.” Needless to say, the team did a fantastic job with production.
From a technical standpoint, the camera you choose affects the color correction process as well. For example, we described how we matched R3D footage with Canon 7D footage in a previous blog about a music video for O’Brother. For the O’Brother video, editor Jonathan Lacocque worked with colorist Robert J. Williams to find a color balance between the two camera formats.
For Paramore’s “Last Hope” video, Thelin chose to film on the Arri Alexa and with a few Nikon DSLRs. Because the turnaround for this video was limited to two days, Lacocque color graded on his own and Thelin sat-in on some of the edit and the coloring. This helped expedite the revision and approval process. Fortunately, the majority of the footage was recorded on the Alexa and captured in ProRes. The Alexa footage, which offers far more dynamic range and resolution than the DLSR footage, granted us a lot of latitude for color correcting. And while the show was lit beautifully, we pushed the color of the Alexa footage in moments where things got muddy. Regardless of its lower dynamic range and resolution, the DSLR footage held up well enough to color balancing.
The Paramore show naturally had a lot of beautiful vibrant colors. Everything from Hayley’s blue & green hair to the blue-, red-, and purple-hued lighting.
While our assistant editor Michael Heffler organized the footage and pulled selects, Lacocque created several looks for Thelin to choose from. We sent six options for range in style. Originally, we sent along styles from Speedgrade. But once a color style was selected, we used Magic Bullet Colorista & Looks to stay within Adobe Premiere. Setting up a film or video for color correction doesn’t have to be difficult, but it takes time to ensure everything is properly delivered. You’ll often send a reference file with embedded timecode, a clean consolidated (or media managed) project file, an EDL/XML, a high res video file (or individual clips) for grading, among other things. Due to time constraints, we skipped all of that on this project to get it done quickly. If you are looking for a tutorial on deliverables required by a colorist, check out this article by Robbie Carman.
Below are the six color variations sent to Thelin, along with a still from the raw footage (pre-color).
Thelin ultimately selected Option 5 with some revisions. He really wanted the show to pop. After using scopes to balance the highlights and blacks, as well as ensuring Hayley’s skin tone was right on, we pushed the saturation 10%. It was looking good but it was not finished. We added some fill to brighten some of Hayley’s features to further draw the viewer into her performance.
We then added a bit of blue and purple to certain parts of the image to ensure there was color balance from shot to shot. This was done using a color gradient overlay and the spot exposure tool within Magic Bullet Looks. And finally, we worked with Red Giant’s Cosmo, which is a professional tool that helps smooth skin tones.
During live concerts, the lights change from song to song. Below, you can see how the changes in lighting put our coloring skills to the test.
Using Red Giant’s Colorista, we manipulated the muddy brown, magenta, and red to be more blue and purple like the rest of the video. And we matched the guitarist’s skin tone and tweaked the fill and the highlights.
Along with color grading, Coat of Arms edited this Paramore video. Here’s an excerpt of Lacocque’s conversation with assistant, Michael Heffler about creating the project file and pulling selects:
“Attached is a project file (and image) to use for the basis of structure/organization. Obviously, the camera angle names are temp. Feel free to adjust as needed when you are pulling everything together.
For pulling selects: We create a ‘SYNC’ sequence that will have no edits/selects at all. This acts as a great backup should we want to revisit a specific moment in the show.
A ‘SELECTS’ sequence is a pancake sequence that will include our bladed selects, which we then collapse to create our ‘EDIT’ sequences.
Both the ‘SYNC’ and ‘SELECTS’ sequences will end up in the “Archive” folder once completed. At that point we’ll work off the ‘EDIT_01’ sequence, which is the ‘SELECTS’ Sequence duplicated, but collapsed and used for editing.”
Editing and coloring another Paramore video was an honor! The last time we worked on a show for them was during their RIOT! tour. We enjoyed editing, color correcting, and creating FX for their successful 2007 DVD. You can watch that full concert on Hulu now, or it’s still available at the Paramore online store.