Monster Guide: HDR10 in Resolve Studio 17 (Part VI)

Part I: Project settings

Part II: Color correction

Part III: HDR Palette, project render settings

Part IV: HDR to SDR Conversion LUT for YouTube

Part V: RAW

Part VI: The Grade

Part VII: Addendum

Part VIII: The State of HDR Film Emulation LUTs & Plugins

Part IX: Why HDR Production Monitors Matter

Stuff we’re doing differently now from in the past:

  • During shooting, avoiding yellow in the false color of the Ninja V entirely except for specular highlights (aside from the infrequent occasions when we want to purposely blow out highlights)
  • In post, being meticulous about adjusting white balance prior to color correction, even if it’s just a few degrees
  • Religiously applying a curve to each and every project (occasionally lifting the shadow end to avoid crushing the blacks)
  • Focusing more on adding color contrast and controlling tonal contrast
  • Labeling all the nodes
  • Split-toning by un-ganging the custom curve and pushing cyan into the shadows and reds into the highlights
  • Using color temperature creatively to enhance the look
  • Applying masking tools photographically rather than technically (for example, rather than stupidly slapping on a vignette or power window to draw attention to the subject or their face, using the tools in Resolve to augment the lighting that’s already there)
  • Avoiding masks as much as possible and adjusting skin tones using Hue vs. Hue rather than a qualifier in the HSL curves

Following these precepts, the extent of our adjustments has actually decreased, with the result that we’re less likely to push the image to the breaking point; lower contrast means not having to rely so much on power windows all over the place; split-toning and nudging yellows and reds toward orange and green toward teal adds color contrast and applying grain and blur minimizes the objectionable video look. Split toning is a characteristic of traditional photochemical print stock responsible for much of its charm and one of the traits that makes celluloid so attractive to filmmakers. We’d also like to dispense once and for all with the horror associated with the word clipping among authorities: when motivated, i.e. justified, and it’s a conscious, creative decision, clipping of highlights can be exceedingly powerful.

As a rule of thumb, the more contrasty the image, the less saturation you’ll need in the image overall. Another general principal is that highly saturated colors should not be too bright.

While the extended color volume of HDR results in perceptibly more vibrant colors able to retain saturation and brightness without compromise, it pays to be cautious with saturation. Glowing skin and radioactive foliage are indications that saturation is cranked up too high. To keep an eye on saturation, use the vectorscope. In order to see the highlight and shadow excursions, enable the “extents” option of your scopes. Extents create an outline highlighting all graph excursions to show you the true level of all overshoots and undershoots in the video signal. Click on the images below to enlarge.

It may seem trivial, but split toning is the single most important ingredient toward creating a look; and the image will be perceived as more colorful and less video-ish than dialing in more saturation. The look can be further refined by nudging yellow a bit toward orange, green toward teal-green and red toward orange in Hue vs. Hue; adjusting the saturation of each color in the Hue vs. Sat curves; and reducing saturation in the upper midtones and highlights in the Sat vs. Sat curves.

When mastering in PQ (ST 2084), much of the signal range is devoted to shadow detail. Noise in darker image regions is visually masked by highlights in the image. You can witness this for yourself by covering the highlights with one hand while looking at the shadow areas of your video displayed on the monitor. YouTube’s processing removes some noise to achieve streaming bitrates. In order to exercise more control over the final image, you’ll want to denoise your video prior to rendering it for upload. Many YouTube tutorials improperly recommend enlarging the image 999%, indiscriminately blasting luma and chroma noise with heavy amounts of noise reduction, followed by tossing in hideous amounts of sharpening, destroying true detail and making the picture look like cheap camcorder footage. We suggest instead using noise reduction sparingly, sharpening not at all, then examining the uploaded video at a normal viewing distance from a 55″ or larger television. 

To check noise reduction in DaVinci Resolve Studio, use the highlighter in A/B mode. It may take a few moments to kick in, depending on your machine. If you start to see lots of outlines of the subject, actual detail in the image is being affected, and noise reduction should be reduced. To zoom in, press the Control + Option keys and swipe right, to zoom out, swipe left. Click on the images below to enlarge.

Readers might also be interested in investigating some of the film print emulation plugins that are becoming more widely available.

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