Color Grading Software for Professional Videographers

Color Grading Software for Professional Videographers

For as long as people have been taking photographs, beginning with Joseph Niepce’s first photo in 1826, there has always been some attempt to modify imagery to make it the most appealing possible. In 1861, James Clerk Maxwell created the first color photograph using filters in red, green, and blue—designating the beginning of color photography and establishing the RGB light spectrum as the key principles behind color photography.

To this day, modern color theory for filmmakers is designed on RGB color theory and it is the foundation for all coloring that is done today.

Nowadays, our cameras aren’t photographing or filming individual layers of RGB—of course, they create these all simultaneously—but how we handle color theory is dictated by what we do with the RGB color spectrum.

All modern color grading software is designed off of RGB theory. Designated as an ITU Recommendation, Rec.709 color space is designed to embody the standards required for HDTV, which gives 100% coverage to the sRGB spectrum, which is what most TVs and displays use today. In this way, most filmmakers record their films in Rec. 709 to capture the most amout of usable color and to create true-to-life films.

Wile Rec. 2020 was created in 2012, there are currently no consumer-grade displays capable of showcasing the entire Rec. 2020 color spectrum, which is why Rec. 709 is still the standard used by most filmmakers.

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Color Grading Software for Professional Videographers

Most filmmakers today, apart from deciding on which color space and profiles they want to film in, need to decide on a software that can meet their needs for color grading. All major software is compatible with Rec. 709 color space, but each software utilizes different tools and skillsets for accomplishing coloring tasks. Most color theory will be similar in theory, but the practice and amount of flexibility allowed will vary from program to program.

Here is a brief overview of the varying modern color grading software available to professional and consumer filmmakers.

Tools for Modern Color Grading

  • Lumetri Color - Adobe Premiere Pro

    On August 22, 2017, Adobe discontinued SpeedGrade instead of keeping its entire color grading platform inside of Adobe Premiere Pro, specifically inside of its Lumetri Color system. First introduced in 2014, Lumetri quickly became the go-to color system within Adobe Premiere, which led to the discontinuation of SpeedGrade in 2017.

    Now, all color grading for Adobe Premiere takes place within Lumetri Color. The Color Workspace, which includes the Lumetri Color and Lumetri Scopes, allows users to use tools such as curves, color wheels, and sliders.

    Lumetri Scopes allows you to view certain scopes that help you create accurate color inside your clips. Included in Lumetri Scopes is the RGB Parade for color and luminance adjustments.

    One added aspect to this is that 3rd party companies can now create products and tools to be utilized within Lumetri Color as plugins and toolkits, such as Cinema Grade.

  • Final Cut Pro

    Originally introduced in 2011, Final Cut Pro has been Apple’s solution to editing and color grading for nearly the past decade.

    Final Cut Pro has been a long champion for wedding videographers due to its ability for Multicam editing, enhanced motion graphics, and 4K capabilities.
    Similar to Lumetri Color in Adobe Premiere, in Final Cut Pro, a user can access Color Wheels as a primary go-to to color correct for highlights, midtones, and shadows of a particular clip. Additionally, Final Cut also has it’s own video scopes, such as histograms and an RGB Parade.

    You can also use the color curves tools to manually impact the Red, Green, and Blue color hues individually which has a greater impact on the clip’s color components.

    These tools are often the flagship color grading tools used in Final Cut Pro and have become a staple for filmmakers because of their simplicity and ease of use, especially in comparison to other color grading tools.

    Note: In November 2020, in tandem with the release of macOS 11.0 Big Sur, the X was dropped from the name to be “Final Cut Pro”.

  • DaVinci Resolve

    Released in 2019, DaVinci Resolve 16, created by Blackmagic Design, is heralded as the premier color grading tool available to general consumers. In addition to 4K editing, Resolve includes 6K and 8K capabilities, including visual effects, color correction, and editing.

    Because of the amount of capabilities and complexities within DaVinci Resolve, it isn’t often utilized by prosumer filmmakers, such as wedding filmmakers and independent DPs. Instead, it is more often used by production studios and professional colorists to achieve complex results that are more isolated than Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Lumetri Color is capable of delivering consistently.

  • Cinema Grade

    Cinema Grade, unlike Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X, and DaVinci Resolve, is a plugin instead of a standalone editing platform.

    Cinema Grade is intended to be used within Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere Pro, and DaVinci Resolve as an auxiliary color grading platform that is built to help extend particular looks in a more concise and simplified manner.

    While still giving you control of the color, white balance, and saturation, Cinema Grade functions as a platform to help simplify color grading by bringing the most urgent and accessible functions to the forefront and to separate coloring a film from the editing of a film, allowing them to function in their isolated functions.

    Cinema Grade has native LUTs (Look Up Tables) inside of it’s a platform that keeps color grading simple and native to its particular software.