From a good looking image to a stylised look. It’s not easy!

workshops-275 From a good looking image to a stylised look. It's not easy!

I’ve been running a lot of workshops recently looking at creating LUT’s and scene files for the FS7, F5 and F55. One interesting observation is that when creating a stylised look, almost always the way the footage looks before you grade can have a very big impact on who far you are prepared to push your grade to create a stylised look.

What do I mean by this? Well if you start off in your grading suite looking at some nicely exposed footage with accurate color and a realistic representation of the original scene, when you start to push and pull the colors in the image the pictures start to look a little “wrong” and this might restrict how far you are prepared to push things as it goes against human nature to make things look wrong.

If on the other hand you were to bring all your footage in to the grading suite with a highly stylised look straight from the camera, because it’s already unlike the real world, you are probably going to be more inclined to further stylise the look as you have never seen the material accurately represent the real world so don’t notice that it doesn’t look “right”.

An interesting test to try is to bring in some footage into the grade and apply a very stylised look via a LUT and then grade the footage. Try to avoid viewing the footage with a vanilla true to life LUT if you can.

Then bring in the same or similar footage with a vanilla true to life LUT and see how far you are prepared to push the material before you star getting concerned that it no longer looks right. You will probably find that you will push the stylised footage further than the normal looking material.

As another example if you take almost any recent blockbuster movie and start to analyse the look of the images you will find that most use a very narrow palette of orange skin tones along with blue/green and teal. Imagine what you would think if your TV news was graded this way, I’m sure most people would think that the camera was broken. If a movie was to intercut the stylised “look” images with nicely exposed, naturally colored images I think the stylised images would be the ones that most people would find objectionable as they just wouldn’t look right. But when you watch a movie and everything has the same coherent stylised look it works and it can look really great.

In my workshops when I introduce some of my film style LUT’s for the first time (after looking at normal images), sometimes people really don’t like them as they look wrong. The colors are off, it’s all a bit blue, it’s too contrasty, are all common comments. But if you show someone a video that uses the same stylised look throughout the film then most people like the look. So when assessing a look or style try to look at it in the right context and try to look at it without seeing a “normal” picture. I find it helps to go and make a coffee between viewing the normal footage and then viewing the same material with a stylised look.

Another thing that happens is the longer you view a stylised look the more “normal” it becomes as your brain adapts to the new look.

In fact while typing this I have the TV on. In the commercial break that’s just been on most of the ads used a natural color palette. Then one ad came on that used a film style palette (orange/teal). The film style palette looked really, really odd in the middle of the normal looking ads. But on it’s own that ad does have a very film like quality too it. It’s just that when surrounded by normal looking footage it really stands out and as a result looks wrong.

I have some more LUT’s to share in the coming days, so check back soon for some film like LUT’s for the FS7/F5/F55 and A7s.

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