When it comes to color grading, I suck balls. My EXCUSE: My generation of cinematographers was not expected to be able to operate a DaVinci Resolve system.
I started shooting on s16mm and 35mm and the Sony Cine-Alta. At that time a DaVinci 2K system with hardware was over $250,000. So very few people got hands on time with the system. As I progressed as a DP, I was invited to supervise quite a few color grading sessions at Company 3, Technicolor, and Kodak. However, there was no expectation for a DP to understand the entire technical workflow of a professional colorist.
But times have changed! Black Magic Davinci Resolve is now free (for HD exports) and Adobe Premiere ships with Lumetri, which is basically Lightroom for video. On top of that, high resolution footage (4k, 6k, 8k) from Red cameras can be edited on modest professional computer systems. The production pipeline has evolved and now modern cinematographers need to understand the technical color grading workflows.
The production pipeline has evolved and now modern cinematographers need to understand the technical color grading workflows.
I’ve personally found it very difficult to wrap my head around the new color workflows. There are so many companies selling LUTs that I can’t tell what is legit and what is snake oil. Luckily I have some very smart friends like Allister Chapman, Tim Kang, Rob Bessette, Graeham Nattress, Michał Matwij and the Cinematography Database community.
As I learn this new world I’ll be sharing my results on YouTube and all of our channels. I might get it wrong for a while and I’m admittedly a terrible colorist. But hopefully this journey will be helpful for someone other than me.
DaVinci Resolve Color Managed Workflow + ACES
It took about 5 people to explain to me why this was the “best” workflow and then how to actually execute it. In this tutorial I’ll show you how to set up a Color Managed workflow in DaVinci Resolve and how to color grade in the ACES Color Space and export to Rec 709. We’ll be using Sony A7S MKI footage shot to an Atomos Shogun Recorder @ 4K ProRes 4:2:2 8bit. But this workflow should work for almost every camera.
Step 1: Change “Color Space” to “DaVinci ACES”
Open File -> Project Settings and select the “Master Project Settings” on the left tab.
Change the “Color Science” to “DaVinci ACES”
Step 2: Change the ACES Output Transform to Rec.709
Using the tabs on the left of the window pane, navigate to the “Color Management” tab. Change the “ACES Output Transform” to Rec.709. This is assuming you want to export to a Rec709 display, not a projector or HDR monitor. Most people are going to be exporting to Rec.709.
Step 3: Change Data Levels to “Full”
Find your SLOG2 footage in the Media Panel and right click it and select “Clip Attributes…” and a window will open.
In the “Video” tab of the “Clip Attributes” window, under the “Data Levels” section, select “Full.” Apparently Resolve automatically tries to normalize your SLOG2 footage but we want to work directly with the raw data. Something like that.
Step 4: Change ACES Input Transform to SLOG2
Right click the SLOG2 clip and navigate to “ACES Input Transform.” This will only be available if you are in the ACES color space. Select Sony Slog2. You’ll notice that the footage is much brighter and essentially transformed from Slog2 to Rec709.
Step 5: Color Grade Like Normal and Export Like Normal
The ACES color space requires a large amount of RAM and GPU power. You system should have 32GB of RAM or more and power GPU like an Nvidia Titan or 1080. I was grading on an Apple Macbook Pro with an Nvidia GT750M, and it was pretty slow grading 1080p ProRes footage in ACES.
Next Steps to Not Sucking at Color Grading
I’m going to continue to use this Resolve Color Managed ACES workflow and I’ve heard from others that it’s currently the best way to work. The only issue is that my computer can’t handle it very well.
I’ll be testing a workflow in Adobe Premiere + Lumetri + LUTs that apparently works in a similar fashion.
At the same time I’m going to try to get better at color grading and understanding the latest and greatest in color grading workflows. On the list is: Film Convert, Lutify.me, and several other LUTS and plugins.
In 2017, I will likely attempt to build a custom PC with an Nvidia Titan/1080 with a lot of RAM so I can actually work with 1080/4K footage in ACES.
Check out our much more detailed breakdown of this shooting and color grading workflow on our YouTube channel