Stuff We’re Doing Differently

In the grading section of our Monster guide, we list a bunch of things we’re doing differently from before, to which can be added (in no particular order):

  • No longer using the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Video
  • Using the simplest tools for the job
  • Using video levels rather than full levels for external monitoring with DaVinci Resolve
  • Setting HEVC Main 10 to slower (higher quality) rather than faster (standard quality) in Apple Compressor
  • Really taking it easy with ETTR
  • Going easy on noise reduction in post

We might have already mentioned some of this before, but good stuff never ages! No longer using the X-Rite ColorChecker (except for white balancing the shot before recording) because printed color charts are only accurate for HD colorimetry and are absolutely useless for HDR; using the simplest tools like the color board in Final Cut Pro or the Offset wheel in DaVinci Resolve often turns out to be the fastest, most effective solution and can avert artifacts that more targeted adjustments (like Hue vs. Hue with the eyedropper tool) can introduce; although the vast majority of online HDR tutorials (including those by Blackmagic and Dolby Vision certified trainers) insist on full data levels, video levels turns out to be the correct choice most of the time and it also just happens to match the output of other NLEs like Final Cut Pro in our pipeline; we haven’t done any comparisons yet (expect them soon!), but HEVC Main 10 slower (higher quality) is looking better to our eyes and is much less taxing on our M1 Max MacBook Pro, which struggles when using the faster setting; and 1 to 1-1/2 stops ETTR is plenty – going much further than that only increases the likelihood of blowing out skin tones; we’ve seen how excessive noise reduction can introduce artifacts and smooth out detail and at ISO 640, there’s really no need to add more than the least amount of noise reduction in Final Cut Pro or at most, 2 each for luma and chroma for the spatial and temporal noise reduction settings in DaVinci Resolve.

Some YouTubers seem to have an aversion to the false color guide of the Ninja V – which we can only attribute to ignorance – since there is no faster, easier, more consistent way to adjust exposure. The colors of the guide can also be seen from several feet away, whereas you’ve really got to squint to read the waveform monitor from the same distance. Tutorials by reputable YouTubers ask you to line up the color chips of the ColorChecker with the targets in the vectorscope then have you make a secondary correction for skin tones, which even for Rec.709 grading makes no sense at all. Balance the shot with skin tones as your primary focus for narrative work, then there’s no need to pull a secondary: if the shot has been exposed or white balanced for something other than the talent, there’s a problem right there. Most tutorials also insist on applying an S-curve – but for ETTR shots, you just want to grab the curve somewhere in the middle and gently pull downward to get to a neutral point for further grading.

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