Day for Dusk Grade Advice (2 replies and 3 comments)
I'm grading my short film and before I create a DCP and head to the theater to test, I'm hoping for some advice from those with more experience in such a grade, and what will translate well. I have two PDFs on Google Drive linked below, the first explains my intent, how the footage was shot, and on what, and the process I went through to get from the original to the graded footage. The second PDF contains additional graded frames from the movie to represent different lighting throughout. The entire short film (8 mins) has the same grade/look.
I've also included a short length of footage, both the original out of camera, and the graded version for visual comparison. They can be found below.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
To me it feels graded down; too much detail in the darks and the overall tonality of the grade looks "fake" or better said: "unusual". The slight purple hue could be realstic if it's in the winter, otherwise I would go for a more blue hue.
The tonality problem has to do with how the footage was exposed. I'm not really experienced but IMO you should underexpose the footage on set. The scene referred values have to be extremely low.
Of course, a lot of your shadow detail will be gone, but this is what happens when you shoot underexposed scenes with film or a natural looking look on a digital camera..
This is why I believe it looks a bit strange; the tonality of the image is a bit too different from what our eyes see.
My guess is that the strenght of the luma power curve is too weak which results in a pretty flat contrast. I would suggest you to grade it back to a natural look and then take everything 2-3 stops down.
As you can you can see, the skin of your actress is a bit whiter than the surrounding things so you'll probably have enough seperation to see her running.
If you get it back to a natural contrast/tonality, then I think her skin will "pop" even more.
Alternatively you can also track her figure, very roughly, secondary grade select her skin values, isolate them and raise their exposure if you need them to stand out more although I doubt it will be a problem.
In cinema (and in life as well) you don't have to see everything to get an "idea" of your surroundings. Sounds does a lot as well.
So let a large portion of those darks go completely black is what I would suggest.. and get your overall contrast back to a natural looking tonality and then take it all down 2-3 stops.
I don't know, however, of a tool on how to achieve a reduction of 2-3 stops by manipulating your "overexposed" footage.
I know that certain raw decoders have an exposure correction tool but I don't know how to properly do it in a grading application.
Maybe it could be done by adjusting the luma curve in the correct manner.
apart from the grade:
I really like the jump cut (or is it a jump crop?) in the profile tracking shot; I didn't notice it the first time but it seems to help build the intensity of the action.
Not really digging the POV shot though.. kinda fights with the profile shot IMO.
The profile shot is very objective, the POV extremely subjective.. the gap between the two is a bit large. I think you can have the profile tracking shot playing for up to about 20 - 30 seconds, starting from a very wide frame, gradually magnifying and ending in a medium shot maybe, occasionally using that jump cut/crop technique to build the intensity.
Not that I think it won't "work" as it is but I personally consider it a bit like a spelling or grammar mistake ^^
Oh jeez sometimes I'm talking way too much out of my ass. My apologies ^^
Wouter, thank you for the comments and suggestions and apologize for not responding sooner, but have been on international travel. I too feel that it needs to be darker, and have gone back and forth a bit with it in the grade. The reason I've kept it somewhat lighter is that the entire film is in the same setting/lighting (it was shot in the late August afternoon in Alaska after the sun was behind the mountains, so sky light only), so I felt 8 minutes of just moving shadows (your typical D4N shot) would be unacceptable to the audience - and uninteresting. And, there is a crucial scene where she falls, and what happens next in that scene needs to be seen by the audience. That detail will be lost if I lower the overall levels by 2-3 stops. That's why I've kept it more 'dusky' than 'night'. I've also remedied the magenta tint that you're seeing here.
Also, although you only see one POV shot, they are interspersed throughout this film, and I've intentionally designed the soundtrack to emphasis being 'in her head' during those shots. They are meant to be jarring. There are also several POV shot, which I graded quite different (see last image in the PDF), of her attacker.
I really don't have the experience actually shooting D4N scenes, but when I did these shots, I knew that my DSLR, with its compressed footage, would be rendered next to useless if I underexposed the shots and needed to recover any details in the shadows. So I shot it flat (a DSLR version of LOG) and recovered the contrast in the Grade. As a result, there is very little noise in the blacks as shot, and when I bring them down it's pretty clean (for a DSLR at 1080p) and doesn't block up. At 4:2:0 I'm pretty limited in what I can do in post on color.
I've been studying D4N scenes from movies and many of them, like you suggest, seem to be backlit, with a lot of silhouettes. Unfortunately, that wouldn't work with my scenes as envisioned. Also, I find a lot of night scenes (like in Harry Potter for example) have really dark woods scenes, which are back lit fairly substantially, usually from multiple directions, and usually low, which I find quite unrealistic (but a necessary evil on big scenes). The lights aren't motivated by the scene. In all my shots, I have only one light - the sky - to make use of, and since there is only really one location and time, I can't afford to have discontinuities in lighting from shot to shot. That was also a limitation that had me balancing a dark shot of the running scene (which I would prefer) to a necessarily lighter shot of her fall and what follows, which the audience must see and experience.
At least that is what I THINK I must do, but I may be missing something.
As to your suggestion on the running shot mix (increasingly closing in), unfortunately, the picture is locked, and I really only have these full/long shots of her running in profile. That was hard enough to get as it was running sideways with a Glidecam without breaking my neck! I don't believe I could have kept the frame with a longer lens, and I really can't zoom much in post with 1080p. I had to use the POV shots in the edit to give me a way to cut the various full shots together (without jump cuts). This is my first real film, and I've learned quite a lot to think about for next time!
Good to hear that the POV shot has an actual purpose!
I can sympathize with technical restrictions and it seems that you have done your absolute best effort with this sequence and probably the entire picture as well.
If you want I'll be glad to take another look!