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Colour scheme when shooting vs in post (1 reply)

Vic Shaw
4 weeks ago
Vic Shaw 4 weeks ago

To what extent is the colour of a scene or film dictated by the set and lighting design, compared to the work done in post? Must the colour be absolutely defined before/whilst shooting, or is there much room for changes by the colourist afterwards?

4 weeks ago
dmullenasc 4 weeks ago

Depends on what you mean by the color of a scene.  If it's an overall shift towards warmth or coolness, that can be done either in camera or in post, sometimes it's just a question of which way is more convenient.  "Amelie", for example, was shot with heavy warming filters outdoors but added the overall warmth for interiors with lighting and in post, partly because of the light loss when using heavier warming filters.  And if it's just a subtle shift towards warmth or coolness, it doesn't look much different if you do it in camera or in color-correction later, it's mostly a matter of how much noise you might pick up in certain color channels if you push them too far.

But when you are talking about mixed color temperature lighting in a scene or the colors of objects in the scene, that is much, much harder to create well in post and is usually done with lighting and production design. For example, if you wanted orange sunset light to be coming through one set of windows and cold soft skylight coming in the opposite set of windows.  Or warm campfire light mixed with cool moonlight.  Or someone walking around in a red dress in a room with green walls.  

Certainly it's possible to make changes in post with enough windowing and chroma keys and masking, but it's time-consuming (which means it adds to the cost of post) and often it doesn't look as good compared to doing it correctly in front of the camera in the first place.

Once you intentionally use mixed color temperatures in a scene, you can in post shift the image overall in one direction or the other, along the warm-cold axis or the green-magenta axis, that's not uncommon to adjust that.  Many times someone has picked a certain shade of orange gel for a sunset lighting effect, for example, and decided in post that the shade of orange needed a little more yellow or red in it.  Or maybe you shot a moonlight scene with uncorrected HMI's outside on a camera set for 3200K and then decided in post to correct it to a less heavily blue-ish cast or add a hint of green to the blue plus pull down the saturation. But the general goal is to get it close to correct at the time of shooting.


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