Still Grading with Resolve 11

Nearly 2 months since the last post about the grade and I’m still at it, only a couple of hours a day but it’s an interesting way to work.

My use of groups has caused a few problems between the various “final” versions of the cut but I’m learning how to deal with this.

There’s a great facility in Resolve 11 that lets you assign a collection of shots to a “group”, within that group you have the ability to apply a pre-clip grade to all the shots in the group, this can be a full multi-node job if you like, then you can grade each clip separately as you would in a conventional grade, then you have a post-clip grade that applies an overall post clip grade to the group and finally a timeline group that puts a grade across the entire timeline.

I’ve been using this a lot, using pre-clip to get the exposure into a “normal” and neutral colour balance position.

Then I use the clip to match each shot in fine detail.

Then the post-clip is used to add an overall look to that group.

If you think scene rather than group it makes a lot more sense.

Over all of this I can then make entire timeline tweaks, I’ve used this for a slight de-saturation of the entire film and also for a tiny detail increase in the mid -levels. The great this about using this overall change is that I can easily tweak it in and out and currently I’ve got the de-saturation off.

I love the ability to change scenes as a whole whilst retaining all the matching, which often includes layers of window correcting specific things like faces.

Some scenes shot in mixed light have benefited hugely from using a selective filter to reduce certain green tones in the pre-clip.

It’s a learning experience about which layer to use for what but I’m getting there.

The only fly in the ointment is that Colortrace only uses the clip by clip grade so if you want to work between various edits you need to save the pre and post stills which contain their grades manually. With only 20 or so groups in this film it’s not too hard but I could see it being a problem on some jobs. C’mon BMD! make it an optional feature of Colortrace.

Another week of tweaking at home, the 4K Dell monitor I have now has calibrated 100% with Lightspace and I’m really happy about it with one exception, Windows/Resolve don’t handle the scaling of menus very well. In most menus in resolve you need a magnifying glass to be able to read the menu’s, I’m constantly sliding my specs to the end of my nose and leaning in closer to try and read the options. I’m lucky that I know the menus well enough to know that the second one down is add a dynamic link as there is almost no chance of me reading it!!

We finish the film at UWE in a full Resolve suite the week of the 18th.

It’s been an interesting experience, grading while they edit, the multiple versions have caused some issues but that’s partly because of the speed of my system and partly due to the use of very new facilities in the software.

I was really pissed off a couple of days ago when a guy in a post house involved in the job queried why it would take 20 hours to render a full 3K 16bit DPX version when “my Pablo will do it in 30 minutes”  yeah well mate how long at your rate card could we have spent grading this? maybe a couple of days rather than a couple of months. Oh and how much did your entire system cost? Mine was about 6 grand.

The need for speed is hugely over stated when it comes to grading.


The Taking – The Grade…

Well, I’ve started the grade, first at home and later at UWE.
An initial problem, that I was aware of as we shot, is that we used in camera looks and they don’t translate to Resolve or any “real” grading system.
Both RED and ARRI have used their own format of “look” files in the past rather than using an industry standard one, ARRI have fortunately learned and their latest camera accepts industry standard LUT’s.
The problem that non-standard looks cause is that everyone has got used to the look both on set and in the offline, now we have to try and get something like that in the final grade but it’s not easy.
Sure we can debayer into Resolve using the look stored in the metadata but this is a destructive process and if we do that any detail that is in the RAW file in the highlights or shadows is lost.
Well as the whole point of doing a grade is to refine the image we can’t go that route!
Graeme at RED kindly sent me a LUT that can be loaded into Resolve that will created RED Gamma 3, this is great as I always have the underlying log image to pull data back from but I now have to try and re-create the contrast and saturation alterations that we added to the looks.
This is much harder than it should be, I’m guessing that pivot points are at different places for RED and Resolve contrast and that 50% saturation means different things to them both…
This has led me to start a grade from scratch and take a different route, of course this causes problems because everyone has got used to the look and now doesn’t want to see a change.
Oh the joys or RAW and log!

The Taking, the missing days!

Hmm, I haven’t posted about e night shoots by e cemetery and the river.
The cemetery sequence involved a speeding police car and Vicky running and hiding but the way I wanted to shoot it meant that we had to overlap camera moves and run at frightening speed so that we could get 5 setups in about the same number of minutes.
Waiting until the light was just right, the last few minutes of magic hour combined with a 2.5kw HMI and a LitePanels battery unit, Magic Hour app on my iPhone was amazingly accurate. 9:37 predicted as optimum and we shot from 9:35 to 9:50.
Managed to grab a great shot of Vicky in silhouette against the last glimmer of light in the sky after that, then hanging around while we did night driving sequences.
The night before had Julian in waders operating camera in thigh waders deep in the river.
Another night where I became more and more convinced that people imprint on the glow from a monitor and follow it around like ducklings will imprint on anything nearby when they’re hatched and follow it around endlessly.
No reason to look at the monitor, almost nothing visible on the monitor, really only two people who need to see it, director and DP, but we can’t get near it for the swarms of ducklings, none of whom need to see it, why do costume and the painters and thatchers need to see an almost black silhouette? Of course they need to if there’s something to be seen but in the dark, backlit and underexposed there is nothing they can see, there’s nothing for the swarm of human moths to see but I have to fight my way to the monitor when I want to use it and when we want to quickly turn around instead of just turning the monitor off and being able to shoot we have to herd the swarm out of shot.
When I say everything is in shot I mean EVERYTHING! What don’t you understand about that?

The Taking one day to go Day 18

We’re 3 days in to the final fight sequence, 2 days of fighting around a location and now 2 days in a studio.
Slow, very slow. Staging everything for stunts and breakaways, it’ll look great in the end but it’s so slow…
Still problems with the Epics and temperature, they overheat all the time, it drives me crazy, we have to keep ramping the fans up to full between takes and delaying takes so we can get the temperature down. I love the pictures but this is a pain that will keep putting me off Epics. It’s Yorkshire for GODS SAKE!
We have a new AD now and her Italian accent combined with our 2AC’s French/African accent is entertaining but a little incomprehensible at times!!
I had a bit of a shit fit at the end of a long day a day ago, a full on golly out of the pram FFS moment “I’ve told you all f’ing day that we can’t ever see through that f’ing door and now we have a shot that sees through it, no f’ing way!” It was longer than that and included a few more F’s, I had borrowed a 2AD’s radio to make sure it got across 🙂
The strain of long days and limited kit breaking through.
A problem at the moment because of the pace of the shoot, lack of that is, is that less experienced crew wander off because there’s nothing for them to do and of course when there is they’re not there. It’s hard to keep up the focus when things slow down.

Day 13 & 14 The Taking

Well, a couple of interesting days, after 40 years in the film business I thought that I’d run across most of the major things that could have a effect on your day, I was wrong.

For the first time ever we had the situation of Matt my gaffer checking out the power supply on a location to make sure that it could handle the 2 * 2.5Kw HMI’s I wanted to use AND the power for coffee making (I’m often reduced to one light so that we can have coffee) and him coming back and saying that as long as the IR & UV lights for the hydroponics in the, err, cultivation facility in the basement were turned off we were OK.

Of course it then got much more interesting, as the art department moved the TV in the location we found a bag of “icing sugar” behind it, this led to jokes about being careful about what we move or open, and as a joke the lid was removed from a pressure cooker, ah, we put the 5 bags of herbal looking material back in and put the lid back on.

Two late nights underexposing so much that I was getting very nervous, just checked this morning and thank goodness for Neat NR! a life saver.

It’s the problem with low budget film making, huge ambitions but very little in the way of facilities, “right, we start behind the car on the ground, then we drag her 100yds through the trees to the river and dunk her in it” Hmm, with one 2.5HMI and a 1*1 LitePanel on batteries.#That’ll be 1.4 and Neat NR and my fingers crossed. It was, of course, 3 hours after sunset. I’ll need to pull exposure during the grade but I’m pretty sure we got away with that and the next nights wide shot of the moors an hour after sunset.

Great tracking shot today, cross 2 shot tracking over a bar in each shot. Technocrane or TwinTrack from Solid Grip? Hmm, one cost more than the entire budget of the film per day and the other has become our goto piece of kit.




Oh and I’ve been playing, sorry, taking very serious artistic pictures, with the Leica M I have on loan at the moment.


Director Dom over my shoulder in this shot.

Day 11 The Taking

Today one of the camera operators committed the cardinal sin, the totally unforgivable, he shouted out to the other operator during a take that he was entering his frame by not sticking to his agreed position.

Unfortunately “get the fuck out of my shot” screamed across the set does tend to break the actors concentration just a little.

I have fired the operator concerned and he will stick to being a DP for the rest of the shoot.

Apart from the appalling behaviour mentioned above everything went pretty well as we finished about an hour ahead of schedule and doing so managed to catch up with the 55 minutes we were overrunning.

Of course our AD isn’t going to let us get away with those 5 minutes and has them mentally stored as time he can claw back.

We’re having problems getting the edit sorted at the moment, We’ve been generating DNxHD36 MXF files as we always do but apparently the Avid suite can’t load them. Well, we can load them into Premier, I don’t have Avid nor am I about to try and learn how to use it at the moment. Actually we’ve tried the MXF files on a variety of machines and software and they work fine. I think that the problem is that we’re generating 3 MXF files for every shot, one video with audio embedded and 2 separate audio MXF’s, I think if they just throw the audio away they’ll stop having problems.

They’ve asked for re-renders in a mov wrapper which we can do but if we do I lose all control of what the pictures look like as QT changes the contrast at random.

It would have been nice to have sorted this before we were half way through the shoot, but using bog standard MXF files seemed like a safe bet!!

RED Data on The Taking

This is the first time I’ve shot a compressed format for quite a while and the reduced amount of data is quite remarkable.

We’re shooting at 4K WS and RC 5:1 and it looks like we’ll only shoot about 4TB of rushes with the DNxHD versions getting to maybe 350GB.

Sheer bloody luxury!

It’s a pity that RED dropped 4.5K WS when they moved from One to Epic as that size almost exactly matched S35 and I wasn’t having to keep recalculating lens sizes, is it a 32 or a 35 or a 40??

As I get more and more tired this takes up too much of the rapidly diminishing brain power.

I chose 4K rather than 5K because we’re delivering a 2K DCP master and it kinda makes sense to use a size that reduces simply.

Day 10 into Day 11

I’m tired, very very tired, we are starting a run of nights now and I’m shattered before we start.

Combine that with losing Martin our second most experienced AC and I see more tiredness in my future, I don’t need Mystic Meg to make that prediction!

I did get delivery of a Leica M yesterday so that put a smile on my face and managed to distract me from my job…

Our universal trainee Jake is doing a great job of going from 3rd AD to 2nd Boom to data monkey, an Energiser Bunny, he just keeps on going and going with a smile all the time. AND he brings me lots of black coffee.

Just looked at his screen grabs and a slight addition to the previous paragraph, he’s discovered the grading controls in RCX and is wading in with wild abandon. Just a small tip, if the image is desaturated and cold it may be the way the DP intended. Small level corrections are fine, major re-grades will get you beaten around the head with the soggy stump of the arm I ripped of when I caught you at the trackpad and saturation.

The difference in both out operators and 2AC’s from day one is incredible, one still needs to grow Rhino Skin but…

The camera crew theme song courtesy of Tom Petty:-

“Rhino Skin”

You need rhino skin
If you’re gonna begin
To walk
Through this world
You need elephant balls
If you don’t want to crawl
On your hands
Through this worldYou need eagles wings
To get over things
That make no sense
In this world

You need rhino skin
If you’re gonna pretend
You’re not hurt by this world

If you listen long enough
You can hear my skin grow tough
Love is painful to the touch
Must be made of stronger stuff

You need rhino skin
To get to the end
Of the maze through this world

You need rhino skin
Or you’re gonna give in
To the needles and pins
The arrows of sin
The evils of men
You need rhino skin

So if I pass a gentle comment on your performance, I think gentle correction but you may hear WTF did you do that for?

Just think of Rhino Skin.

I’ll be playing the Christian Bale recording on set today just so all the camera crew know what being shouted at is really like 🙂

I’m getting great assistance from RED with translating the looks I’ve generated in RCX into ones that I can use in Resolve. Thanks guys, I like the pictures it’s just the ergonomics.


Day 8 The Taking

I’m really feeling the effects of grading my own transcodes every night.

Luckily I’ve now got a very promising trainee data manager/DIT and that’s taking a lot of the pressure off.

A day chasing sun, or rather overcast as I had decided that clouds were more likely than clear skies. It was a day of pure 50/50.

Tedious as ever.

The material in the church last night where I took a serious chance with light has worked out well, it needs some help from Neat NR but it is all usable.

What happened was by the time we got to the location the light was going and I didn’t have enough light to do a serious lighting job so I looked at the interior and turned all the house lights off. It looked pretty cool with just the ambient light through the windows and a bit of candle light.

It read T1.3 at a stop and a half push, before Neat NR I’d never have tried it as it would have been a blizzard of noise, this time it worked, a tiny bit of LitePanels 1*1 at full tungsten and dimmed to the point where it would just stay on and the end result after a bit of tweaking in resolve looks gorgeous.

I have to sleep now, back to the market location tomorrow which should be fast as we marked all the final lamp positions last Wednesday. Wednesday being the only day we can get access.

Just a final word, I have no complaints about any of the crew today, they did a great job, the difference a week makes is just incredible so thanks guys, and guyess who joined us today.

Actually, I can’t post a blog that doesn’t complain about anyone so Al, our AD, it’s your turn! why? I’ll find a reason…


So, after a cold night slipping in mud up on the moors how was the first week?

Well, apart from the previous comments about crew, and please hold that bloody frame once we’ve agreed on it because there are people using it to do THEIR jobs and if you keep messing with it then the art dept doesn’t know what’s in shot, the electrical dept wastes time dealing with cables and flares that aren’t in shot and I get really pissed off.

Oh and keep your mouths shut, just do the bloody job, nobody cares about your theories or how you did a similar shot on your last 7D movie whilst we’re in the swamp up to our waists.

It also distracts the actors so show them some respect and let them do their jobs in peace.

On the equipment front, well, a lot of people think that I hate RED, I don’t that’s just a story put around by people who like to have an enemy to blame for their errors. Anyway, the Epic, as I said, it has over heated twice. Now guys, this is Yorkshire, it’s not exactly hot here…

I actually like the pictures out of the camera but the ergonomics are a beast. Unfortunately RED seems more concerned about what producers and directors think a camera should be than what cinematographers need. There aren’t as many boxes hanging off it as we’ve had in the past but there are still too many. That’s boxes to make it do what it should do in the first place.

The SolidGrip slider that we’re using is amazing, we’re getting tracks in minutes that would take an hour on a dolly and track check it out we have 4 lengths of the track and it’s just gorgeous.

The other life saver is the LitePanels 1*1 that is fully dimmable and colour correctable and runs most of the day on one camera battery it’s just so nice to have no cables.

I may be having a go at my crew but they are actually doing a great job under difficult circumstances, but I know that they can do a lot better.

Precision, symmetry, the only answers I want to hear are yes or no and if no WTF not!

Whether you get your next job or not, regardless of who its with, depends on how well you do this one.

Think about it…