You Can’t Polish a Turd….

…But You Can Roll it in Glitter

 

Sorry, I heard that expression recently and just had to use it.

The point is: Sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

None of the videos shown here were turds really, but I did have some ‘issues’ to do with lighting. So this is really about color correcting and other image handling tools one can use.

As a note, the whole subject of ‘grading’ is popular today, particularly amongst an apparent group of ‘newbies’ who think it’s the next one-button solution to creating a ‘filmic look’. Nothing wrong with hoping for that, but it’s too often evident that they neglected to invest any time into basics such as ‘how to make a movie’. In short, I’m finding those forums a bit annoying. So to be clear, this isn’t really grading. It’s color correction with a couple extra tricks.

So let’s get practical, at least on the corporate video front. It’s simple: You make the guy or girl (or whatever other genders they have these days) look good. THAT’S ALL.

I’ll be covering two different videos I did recently.

On this first one I was having to solve a problem (I thought) of having forgotten my main LED interview lighting kit. Fortunately I had one back-up floor soft box with me and was forced to come up with something with the one light I had along with what was available in terms of room lighting. It was an interview with a Duchess on a tight schedule, so “oops, I forgot my lights…” as an excuse was out-of-the-question.

Needless to say, this was very naughty of me.  It’s just one of those things that can happen so you have no choice but to carry on as if nothing has happened at all and make it all come off anyway.

For comparison, here’s a still from an interview with the Duchess last year in the same location when I didn’t forget where my lighting kit was:

Standard key, backlight and fill and good subject to background contrast ratio. Controlled lighting.

 

Here’s what I managed more recently when  I only had one light to work with:

Camera Original

 

Here’s how I polished the turd:

FCPX Color Tools, Colour Finale Pro, CoreMelt’s Vignette Shape Mask

 

Not as punchy as the first correctly lit sample, but better than the camera original.

First I color corrected it using the FCPX color tools and ColorFinale Pro (to bring up her blue blouse). This was before FCPX 10.4 which can do the same thing.

Then I used a ‘make-up’ program to soften her face (which I typically use on females of her age). Subtle, but nothing she or anyone else would notice. (Someone’s going to ask: I used PixelFilmStudios ‘Skin’ plugin. I don’t buy from them anymore, but I had it and it works well. –Buy from Motion VFX instead)

Finally I used one of my favourite tools, a vignette shape mask from CoreMelt which allows you to completely control the size, shape and density of a vignette. I use it often, even when I have lit the scene to the best of my ability. It allows me to create further contrast from subject to background when I am not able to achieve it satisfactorily on site myself. You can get it here FREE in CoreMelt’s ‘Slice X’ package. Go ahead and get it. You’ll love it. (There’s even a Photoshop style ‘Object Remover’ for video and a few other clever tools). But I guarantee you’ll find yourself using the vignette shape mask often.

Screen Shot: CoreMelt’s Vignette Shape Mask

While that interview was done for several videos, here’s one of them that’s public now:

And here’s the next one:

P.S. (It turns out the LED flexlites were with me the whole time, tucked into an  outer pocket of my camera case for a little shoot I had done recently. (they take up very little room)

Lesson learned: if you’re going to modify your kit bags for a particular shoot, PUT THINGS BACK to where they usually are directly thereafter)

Turd Number Two

Ok, this one was less my fault.

I was at our house in France where we are good friends with our American neighbours Vinx and Jennifer. Vinx is a musician who has performed with many famous musicians from Isaac Hayes to Sting and is currently doing his own thing touring around the world. He’s a vocalist and percussionist. (Vinx.com)

Anyway, they got married there in Chalabre last year, part of which was a big concert to thank the town. It was called ‘Night of Serenades’ and featured 20 different acts, professional and amateur, all performing serenades to someone in the audience who was seated in a special chair in the front row and presented with a large bouquet of roses before their serenade. It was so popular that the town asked that it be done again next year (and every year thereafter).

If you’d like to see the short wedding video I did featuring Vinx’s serenade to Jennifer (which took place in the covered market in front of our house), you can watch it here.

So…this years’ Night of Serenades will be over 3 days preceded by a few more days of music related workshops. The venue has expanded to 3 stages across the town and includes serenaders performing from balconies around the town’s main ring road and lots more. It’s a big deal.

So they asked me to do a video to pitch to potential local sponsors.

All I had with me was a Sony RX10ii (a down-version of something like the Sony A7, but a gorgeous camera that happens to have the same sensor as my X70–which is why I bought it). I had no lighting or audio equipment.

Of course we’re sitting in front of a mix board, but Vinx was busy with a deadline and setting up a mic and audio feed was going to be a bit of a problem. Since this was a small distribution video for some local vineyards and other businesses in the seeking of sponsorship, we decided to do the best we could with a little omnidirectional mic Vinx uses on his GoPro cameras.

Original. Overhead fluorescent lighting.

 

Knowing that I would be using the vignette mask, I moved Jennifer forward so it would look ok with the background being a bit darker.

Similar to the last sample, I used a combination of FCPX’s shape mask and colour tools to correct colour and contrast followed by the vignette shape mask to create some depth to the background while spot lighting the main subject.

Colour Corrected with Vignette shape mask

 

That, I’m afraid, is an example of ‘run and gun’ Emergency Room procedure. Or, in the U.K., A&E (Accident and Emergency).

P.P.S.  Because I sort of stole the image, those are Unicorn Turds pictured at the top of the page. If you want to buy some, you can get them here: http://tetragrammatron.com/unicornturds.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

FCPX Grading Tools

 

FCPX and grading

The other take-away from BVE London was an eye-opener for me. The world of color grading.

There’s a London-based outfit called SOHO Editors which is the largest pool of freelance editors throughout the UK and Europe. They also teach classes in London and Manchester in all the disciplines (editing in the major NLEs, Motion, After Effects, Divinci Resolve, etc.).

They had live presentations all day and I watched a few of them relating to FCPX and Divinci Resolve.

It was clear that these guys were top-notch. Teaching is a part-time job. These were industry professionals.

The first thing I noticed was that FCPX was their weapon of choice. Without getting into all of the reasons why, a point was made that was rather telling. FCPX is faster. Period. The speaker said that alone is the major reason why major networks and production companies are moving over. It’s economics. And that is the reason to no longer ignore FCPX. But what I didn’t know (and this was a bunch of geek stuff), FCPX is set up for the future to such a degree that many of the other major NLEs will be forced to majorly upgrade anyway. Changes are coming. FCPX is already there. And this, from a guy who ran the team of editors for the World Cup on FCPX: it is hands-down the best multi-cam editing software out there, bar none.

But I digress.

The hands-down best grading tool out there is Divinci Resolve by Black Magic. That was also made clear.

And the same guys who use FCPX for editing, use Divinci Resolve for Color grading (which works pretty seamlessly with FCPX).

I had NO IDEA all the things that can be done in grading. I was stunned. I mean I was gobsmacked, a quivering mass of jelly on the floor.

Talk about ‘pure frickin’ magic’.

Color and looks aside, you can practically re-light a damn set with Divinci Resolve.

Plus they pointed out that the FREE version of Divinci Resolve has everything the paid version has bar one thing: The De-noise tools. Everything else is there in the free version. And it’s really free. Not a trial. You can download it today right here.

What they were demonstrating was light years beyond anything I’d need to do in corporate videos–or weddings or anything else of that nature. But it was clear to me that I could make anything I produce look way better, no matter how well it was shot to begin with.

I was intrigued.

There’s one problem.  You’re not just going to download it and ‘figure it out’. It will take some basic training. And that, with the SOHO group–who I would implicitly trust to get me up and running in either their one or two day course–is a few hundred dollars for a day or about $1500 for the more intensive two day course. They’ve got a 3 day course in the works.

I spent time time discussing my exact needs and trying to determine if I needed the one or two day course. I was pretty determined to work out a schedule whereby I could go down to London and do it at the earliest opportunity.

Then serendipity struck on Linkedin.

There’s a colorist in the U.S. who has just released a product called ‘Color Finale’. (It runs on FCPX Yosemite only)

There’s no mention, but I’d bet anything he’s a Divinci Resolve user and I think what he’s done is produced a program that has the most crucial tools found in Divinci Resolve. If so, I should be clear: Divinci Resolve is the bees knees and has everything you would ever want as a colorist. But clearly, not all of us need all those tools. Just as clearly, we could all use some of the basic magic available that goes beyond the scope of what we can do in our NLE of choice. And I think that’s what he’s done.

The really good news is that if you buy it by 3 March, you can get it for $79. After that it will be $99.

Furthermore, one of the things that Divinci Resolve has that is mind-blowing is ‘masking and tracking’. In Resolve it’s absolutely magical how easy it works. (say you change the color of a shirt in the background and someone passes in front of it–well, masking and tracking is how you deal with that and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do it easily in Resolve). Anyway, that feature will be coming to Color Finale in a ‘pro version’. However, if you buy it now, you are grandfathered in and you will get the future upgrades with no further charges.

So far he’s got a couple of good tutorials on his site with, undoubtedly more to come.

So…a few hundred dollars plus travel and expenses to London for a day…or $79 for a program that does everything I need to make anything I produce look better?

I’m sold.

Here’s the link: Color Finale

 

%d bloggers like this: