Guide to color grading video footage

You shot your video – incredible! Then, you edited the footage together – awesome! Finally, you want to add a color grade, the metaphorical cherry, on top of your video.

Without a color grade, your video will look drab and uninspiring, and most importantly, your incredible vision won’t come to life. In The Eastern Blok video production company we want to help you, so, let’s take you through what color grading is, what software to use, and how to color grade video step by step.


What Is Color Grading a Video?

Color grading a video happens during post-production and is the manipulation of the colors within the footage. You use editing software to complete the color grade (more on that later).

The main reasons for color grading a video are to change the mood and style and evoke certain emotions from the audience.

For example, a cool and dark color grade over a lonely scene will help portray a sad and sombre mood. As a result, your audience will be drawn in and feel what your character is feeling.


What Are the Differences Between Photo and Video Color Grading?

If you’re color grading a photo, your job is easy. Okay, maybe not easy, but it’s a much simpler job than color grading video.

A photograph is a single image, whereas a video is a series of shots strung together. So that means if you color grade one shot, you must match that color grade for the next shot, and so on.

Add inconsistent lighting and various cameras, and you’re left with a pretty tricky job matching multiple shots within a scene. Not to mention that if your color grade doesn’t match in every image, that’s it; you’ve lost your audience. From then on, they’ll focus on the terrible color grading job instead of your epic and emotional story. AKA: you failed!

So, to avoid doing a lousy job with your color grade, you’ll want to use the best tool possible. Luckily, there are some amazing programs out there you can use, so let’s take a look.


What Are the Main Softwares for Video Color Grading?

You only want the cream of the crop when it comes to color grading software, so here are the top 3.

Final Cut Pro

Are you an Apple fanatic? Look no further than Final Cut Pro. This software has everything you need to color grade your video footage. From balancing colors and white balance, and making all of your clips match.

Final Cut Pro also has the feature to color-match shots with just a few clicks. That makes your life easier!


final cut


Adobe Premiere Pro

You can access Adobe Premiere Pro with an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Windows users swear by this editing software and often have an unhealthy rivalry with Final Cut Pro. But if Adobe is your software of choice, you can color grade beautifully using it.

Some of the main and pretty cool features include:

● Automated color match (great for multi-camera footage)
● Color grade your footage using a still from another movie
● LUTs

Finally, you can import your Premier Pro footage into other Adobe software, such as After Effects. This is ideal if you need to do more of a nitty-gritty edit.


adobe premier color grading video


DaVinci Resolve

DaVinci Resolve stands out from the other programs on this list for two main reasons.

1. It began as a color grading software.
2. There’s an entirely free version (and it’s pretty damn great).

Because DaVinci began as a color grading software, as you can imagine, the color grading tools are impressive. In fact, they’re top-notch; plus, it’s now a fully-fledged editing program. So, you can edit and color grade all in one space, like in Final Cut and Premiere Pro.

As for the free version (who doesn’t love free stuff?), it’s more than enough for most people. That means if you’re on a tight budget, DaVinci Resolve has got your back.


davinci resolve color grade video


How to Color Grade a Video Step by Step

Now you know what color grading is and which software to use, we’re guessing you want to know how to color grade video. Well, let us tell you.

Remember Your Film’s Genre and Mood

First and foremost, you don’t want to forget the genre and mood of your film. For example, horror movies are generally dark and creepy, whereas romcoms are much brighter and happier with colors that pop.

No one wants to see your protagonist at the happiest moment of their life with a dark and dingy color grade. So match your color grade to your genre and mood, please and thank you.

Turn to the Color Wheel

Now you have your genre in mind, it’s time to start the color grade. Find a wide shot of your scene and color grade that first. Doing this allows you to apply the color grade to the rest of the scene with (hopefully) minimal adjustments.

So, with your wide shot, turn to the color wheel to adjust the colors in your footage. These color wheels are a circular spectrum of all the colors, and you can drag the centre of the wheel to different colors. Dragging the centre will tint your footage with that color, and the further you move from the centre, the stronger the tint will be.
Your software should also have a shadows, mid-tones, and highlights color wheel. Use this wheel to increase brightness in certain areas or, in contrast, make certain elements darker.

Use LUTs (carefully)

LUTs can be useful, for example, if you want to take footage shot in the day and make it look as though you shot it at night. But it’s also easy to get carried away with using these presets.

So, don’t get overly excited with your fancy color grading software, wanting to use everything you can. Instead, you’re better off making minor color adjustments to create your desired look.

Vectorscopes are your friend, so use them!

What is a vectorscope, I hear you ask? This tool gives precise information on a clip’s hue, saturation, and exposure. In short, it helps you ensure the colors are as you intend.

A vectorscope is particularly useful for checking skin tone. After all, I assume you’re going for a more natural skin tone rather than a smurf-like tint.

Now, you know the basics of how to color grade video. So, follow our step-by-step guide above and practice, practice, practice! You’ll be a color grading master in no time!