I had a chance to briefly email with colorist Matt Fezz and ask him some questions that a beginner at color grading may be asking.
What are the top mistakes beginner colourists make?
I can only really speak for myself about when I got started, but I think constantly seeking a big difference between the ungraded and graded shot can be a mistake. It is reassuring and can impress people in the room but the audience is not going to see the comparison. Sometimes a little can go a long way. I think this causes a lot of pieces to be over-styled or over-graded and can be distracting.
What is the one thing you know now, that you wished you knew when starting?
Probably how important it is to try and keep details in the highlights and shadows. Even when going for a high contrast look, I think it is a good idea wherever possible to smooth off the highlights into full white and keep some details in the blacks wherever you can (unless the shot calls for flat blacks or super blown out highlights).
Another thing, which I am still learning is how scenes with different looks (like in a short film) cut together. A scene can match really well shot to shot, but when intercut later on or whatever, the looks can really clash. It can sometimes be an edit issue, but a few times this clashing of looks has become more pronounced after a grade. A lot of refining and viewing a piece as a whole is required, sometimes dulling a shots saturation a touch, or knocking it down half a stop can help it intercut with other scenes – even if it doesn’t match how it was seen before in the piece. These work arounds should not be neccasary if a piece is graded holistically, working with the art direction and cinematography.
Who/What has influenced you and your grading style?
Probably could not pin it on a specific thing, just general pop culture I guess. A lot of movies, music videos, photo books I see something I really dig and then attempt to give it a go.
The person who influenced me the most is probably Glenn Stewart. Many moons ago we worked on a project together called “The I Heart Revolution” just as I was getting into professional grading. He taught me a lot. A lot of it was unconventional as it was coming from a more design/photography based background (that whole film was graded in after effects using the built in tools) which was cool. Those tricks and methodologies have really helped me out in my work as grading in resolve has become a lot more open and flexible.
What resources were most helpful for you over the years?
A book called ‘the Art and Technique of Digital Color Correction’ by Steve Hullfish was really useful. It had a lot of insights from working colourists which was great, as I had only had a bit of experience inside full colour grading suites at post production facilities and the time spent with those colourists was so valuable. The book covers everything you really need (minus the hands on experience) in the current paradigm of colour grading.
For technical help, the good old creative cow has been useful whenever some issues have arisen.