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Cinematography 101: Introduction to colour grading in Premiere Pro

Do you wonder how footage in films and on youtube looks so damn cinematic? I mean, shooting beautiful footage is one thing, but how it looks can completely change the impact it delivers.

If you notice, every content creator or film for that matter has its sort of vibe to the footage. Its own set of colours, style and look. This is called colour grading.

Every good video editing software has colour grading options baked in. In this article, we’ll introduce you to colour grading and how you can use it to make your footage look incredibly cinematic.

What is colour grading and why you should use it?

Imagine colour grading to be just like the way you edit an image to look better. Except that you’re doing that to a video. You can control the exposure, white balance, whites, blacks, shadows, highlights, tint saturation and so on. You can have complete control of the way your footage looks and how cinematic it appears.

Controlling these parameters can completely change the way your footage looks. You can deliver way more impact with your clips simply by tweaking a couple of sliders around.

You can also use colour grading to correct your footage once it’s been shot. While its always a good idea to shoot properly exposed footage straight off the camera, just in case you messed that up there’s a good chance you might be able to bring that footage back to life.

Also read: Adobe Photoshop vs Lightroom: Which one should you use when?

How to colour grade your footage?

Step one of colour grading your footage is to shoot it in what most filmmakers call a flat profile.

Simulating the clog profile by creating a user-defined profile in the camera

A flat profile, more commonly referred to as Clog format. The footage shot in quite an unsaturated way with the contrast on the low end. This allows for more significant impact during colour grading. Colours pop up nice, and you get great control over your whites and shadows.

In case your camera doesn’t support Clog format by default, you can always go ahead and make your custom profiles with saturation and contrast dialled down to near zero. This will give you similar looking footage to a Clog, and the results in post-production would be the same as well.

Note that flat or Clog footage might look horrible when coming out from the camera but it is shot with colour grading in mind. If you grade it accurately, you’ll be amazed by just how good it will end up looking.

Step two of grading comes in the post-production software. We’re taking Adobe Premiere Pro as a reference here, but the process should hold for pretty much all editors.

Once you import your footage into Premiere, you can head over to the Effects tab and then click on Lumetri Colour. This will bring present you with a whole panel consisting of all the parameters you can manipulate to make sure your footage looks the way you want it to.

Note the Lumetri colour options on the right side

Apart from all the necessary options that you have, there are also numerous advanced options concerning colour correction. You can also choose a particular colour to manage using colour wheels. This is helpful when you’re working with a specific part of your footage like skin tone and so on.

From this point onwards, its all trial and error. We suggest import sample footage and playing around with the sliders and settings until you get the hang of it. You can also download LUTs (Look Up Tables) provided by your favourite content creators to make your footage look like theirs. Consider them filters for your video.

Once you’re satisfied with a look that you’d like to carry on to other clips, you can create your LUTs and save yourself a lot of time in the editing room while colour grading footage.

Also read: Cinematography 101: How to record cinematic footage from your DSLR?

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