Essential Techniques for Colour Grading Reality Shows in Davinci Resolve
1-hour reality tv show – 13 scenes, 13 contestants interviews, over a thousand shots, using an array of cameras, in multiple locations, day and night. It’s as challenging as it gets!
I’m here to help you with these essential base techniques to help you on your path to grading a reality series.
Look at the total amount of time you have to grade your show and work backwards.
If it’s 3 days, then aim to finish half by the end of the first day, and the rest by the end of the second day.
Always leave the morning of the last day for a final pass. Fresh eyes always help you spot whatever mistakes you’ve made and you’ll have time to quickly fix it before your client comes in to review.
Organise Your Nodes
Start with balancing the shots and add LUTs if you need to. Leave the look node for last, that way it’s easy to just copy and paste it on all the other shots. These are just 3 suggested categories, I’m sure there will be more nodes than this.. But the main idea is to keep them organised so you know where everything is.
Right, so the first step is colour balance.
In an ideal world, all the shots we get would be white-balanced perfectly and the settings of all the cameras synced to ensure consistency. But trust me.. that never happens. So to speed up your colour grading, balancing will be your first priority.
These will help you get the cameras close to where they should be if they shoot in a LOG setting, which is very common these days.
You can’t just slap the LUT on the node and hope for the best as the lighting conditions are always different, so you still have to adjust the balance after that.
In this clip, I’m going to show you how to quickly match shots from two different cameras. This will hopefully help you with ideas of how to get a seamless transition from one angle to the next without colour distractions.
Interviews are often the backbone of a tv show and they are returned to visually, on a regular basis. It pays to spend a bit of time on them and then grab a still ‘cos you’re going to be returning to them regularly.
The basic technique for grading interviews is to first get the person’s skin tone right. Resolve’s skin tone indicator is a good reference, but you have to adjust by eye also.
All skin tones have different base colours – Asians have more yellow undertones, Caucasians have more pink undertones, and there are so many variations.
In this clip, I’m going to show you how to quickly grade an interview shot as well as how to separate the Interviewee from the background.
Skin Smoothening and Shine Removal
So, once you get the skin tones right, the next thing is making their skin look as good as possible. You may be asked to remove moles or pimples, or sometimes if the skin is too oily, you’ll need to reduce the shine to make them look as good as you can.
In this video, I’ll show you my tricks to achieve beauty.
We want to speed up your colour grading but we don’t want you to compromise on quality, so spend the time to get the consistency of colour matching and exposure sorted. Get the interviews looking sweet and you’re almost there. Now it’s time to add some flair.
Simple looks are the way to go. You don’t have time to do too much, so the easiest way I find, is to create a look on a shot, then create a compound node which essentially nests everything into one node, and then grab a still so that you can easily apply it on all the shots that you need to.
Be creative, just remember not to make it too complicated.
In this blog, I’ll show you 4 different looks you could try and a demo on how to do a compound node.
Consistency across episodes
Consistency across the episodes is extremely important. So before you start your grade for the next episode, always make sure you have all the grade references from the previous episodes.
At editlounge 3-4 days to colour grade a tv show is the norm. It can be done with practice. To be fair we have a bit extra on the first episode of a series to set the standard which gets carried across all the episodes.
So hopefully with these base techniques you’ll be able to speed up your colour grading and achieve a well colour balanced show.
With a bit of luck, trust your instincts and you’ll get through it just fine.
If not, wine always helps 😉
There are plenty of super helpful resources that can help in your journey as a colourist. Our colourist, Cindrey reviews a great selection of colour grading resources here.
All footage from Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 6. You can watch our grades for the season here. If you see any grades you like I’d be happy to show you how we did them! Or if you just want more DaVinci Resolve tips, just leave me a message below
Once you have the basics down pat. Here are some tips n tricks to speed up your grading even more