Bold Content What is Colour Grading?

Ever noticed that a video has a certain colour palette, appears saturated, or is particularly moody? Have you ever wondered why that is, or how it ends up looking the way it does? We talk to our editor Lindsey about colour grading and why it’s an essential finishing touch to any video.


Can you briefly explain what colour grading is and why it’s necessary?

Colour grading is adjusting an image, altering the colours and exposure to achieve a desired look. It’s also an important process for matching shots, especially when shooting in multiple locations under different lighting conditions. Colour grading helps to keep the footage consistent, with the same basic hues and shades throughout the video to keep the all the shots in the same visual world.

What is a colour palette?

Many films use a colour palette to enhance the audience’s visceral response. Colours can complement each other to create visually appealing images, can be discordant to pull focus and attention, use analogue colours (fall next to each other on the colour wheel) to emphasise harmony, or use three primary colours above all else – often used in superhero movies.

A fantastic example of a complementary colour palette is Amelie, which uses a spectrum of greens and reds throughout the film, where as Children of Men used an analogue colour palette to keep the film in a yellow spectrum. (Image sources: Studio Binder).

amelie colour wheel red and green
colour palette of yellows in children of men film
red, blue and yellow colour palette used in superman
Is there a difference between colour correction and colour grading?

Correction is to make the footage look ‘normal’, as the human eye sees it. Grading is when you change or enhance the aesthetics with stylistic choices. An example of this is the teal and orange look that was very popular in Hollywood a few years ago in movies such as Mad Max (2015).

How can colour grading change a video?

Grading can change the mood and tone of a video. Humans are hard wired to associate certain colours with certain emotions, so by altering colour we can trigger different responses. Through colour grading, we can also control where the viewers eye is drawn to in the image. Editors will work within the brief to grade the video in a way that evokes the right atmosphere for the tone of the video.

For example in Nightcrawler the red tones highlighted with yellow add tension to the overall film.

On a film like Colt Partnership Hub, how did you go about colour grading?

Movies have the luxury of huge budgets and will most likely bring in a specialist colourist to enhance the film in the final stages of post-production. On smaller scale video, editors often carry out their own colour grading in specialist programmes.

For the Colt Partnership Hub video, the tone needed to be quite gritty as he is battling his physical limits and the weather. So cooler, darker tones where used for the internal training scenes and moody skies for the external.
man pushing himself on an exercise bike
the back of a man cycling on an empty road
Do you have any advice for a client who’s got a video in post-production?

It is always best to think about the final colour of a video in the very early stage of pre-production as things like lighting, costume, set design, cameras, lenses etc can all play a role in how the final video will look. If you have an idea of what tone you want your video to be, its worth sharing this with your video production company early on, so they can can ensure the right lighting conditions are met to achieve the look your want in your final video. At Bold Content, we often ask clients to provide example videos as references, so we can get a sense of the style and tone that our client is looking for.

If your video is already in post production, think about how you would like the final video to look within the boundaries of the footage you have. For example, do you like high saturation or low saturation? High contrast? Or a flatter looking image? Do you want warmer or colder tones? Or maybe the footage you have is from more than one camera, or was shot in varied lighting conditions and the footage needs matching and/or balancing.

As an editor, can you briefly explain your process – from receiving the raw footage to delivering the final product?

I edit in Premiere Pro and grade in DaVinci Resolve so when the video is picture locked I will export it out of Premiere and then conformed it inside of DaVinci Resolve. There are various ways of doing this such as XML, EDL and bake & blade. Then it is ready for the grading process.

At Bold Content we are lucky to have an agile production team with a broad set of skills, who understand the ins and outs of video making. So for us, no challenge is out of reach. We thrive off client briefs that help us push boundaries and achieve excellence, whilst meeting all marketing goals and requirements. If you have an idea for a video and want to spend some time exploring tone and colour, give us a call as we would love to help.

We’re great listeners, so why not have a chat?