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June 27, 2011 / nicotvandenberg

Digital Cinema: Shooting for Post Color Grading

Achieving the look intended during production in post, often will roll the eyes of a seasoned Director of photography. The very thought of tampering with their image will make their butt cheeks tighten and teeth grind. Even a DP in the digital world is extremely cautious and protective of whomever is handling the media. Rightfully so, when the screen goes to black and the credits roll, he or she must stand behind their name as the director of photography of the film.

The fact of the matter in today’s digital cinema climate, the cinematographer and DP work together in order to achieve a look and style that will provided them enough latitude and dynamic range for post production color. Adding a murky line to where the DP job begins and ends.

I currently fall in the middle of the seesaw, having the utmost respect for the DP who can take his or her vision and directly translate that onto film or memory card. Which is a skill that is certainly not learned overnight. On the other side of the spectrum is the current trending workflow of shooting for post color. A craft that too takes a tremendous amount of skill, knowing exactly how your media will react when in reaches the editing suite.

On the latest film I DP’d, Catch the Clock, I too was the colorist. Which was my first experience at grading a project of its magnitude. The film edited in Final Cut, I knew I wanted to step outside of FCP and grade in a more robust platform. Falling in love with the power of After Effects I decided I decided that this would the be the platform for color grading. However I had to find a way to take the editor FCP sequence and somehow translate that into an AE composition. I used a plugin for FCP called “Magic Duck” which allowed me to export an XML from FCP. From there I took the exported XML and imported that file into the program “FCPtoAE” which converted the XML into an After Effects script. Once I launched AE all I had to do was the run the script file, and opened up was a composition with all the edits in one composition synced in time.

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