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Balancing a Scene Using Adobe SpeedGrade CC

  • Date: May 15, 2013.


  1. Comparing clips using multiple playheads
  2. Using the Shot Matcher with playheads

Article Description

Ideally, each clip within a scene of a movie should look like it was shot at the same time and in the same place. This excerpt shows you how to compare clips using multiple playheads and use the Shot Matcher with playheads.

Note: This excerpt does not include the lesson files. The lesson files are available with purchase of the book.

As mentioned previously, the process of balancing a scene is one of the colorist’s fundamental tasks. Ideally, each clip within a scene of a movie should look like it was shot at the same time and in the same place. If the cinematographer was careful, there may not be much to do. However, any discrepancy in color or contrast between two clips that have been edited next to one another should be minimized, so the scene plays without any one clip being noticeable in a distracting way.

Generally speaking, the process of balancing a scene is as follows.

  1. Play through the scene, choose a clip that is representative of how the scene should look, and grade it. You did this in the first exercise in this lesson when you adjusted the wide shot of the wizard.
  2. Copy that grade to as many clips that match it as possible to save yourself some work. Clips shot from the same angle with the same lighting ought to be an easy copy.
  3. Compare the main clip you graded to the other angles in the scene, such as reverse angles and close-ups, and adjust the other clips to match the first one you graded, either by using the Shot Matcher control or by manually adjusting the controls in the Look panel.
  4. You can compare clips by jumping between adjacent clips, by using Snapshots to compare a saved image with any other clip, or by using the two- or three-up Continuity Checker with multiple playheads.

  5. Each time you create a new matching grade between a new angle and the first one you graded, copy the new grade to as many matching clips as you can.
  6. When you’ve worked your way through each set of angles, play through the entire scene, and make small tweaks, where necessary, to make the clips match a bit better.

The balancing process is iterative, and unless you’re an amazingly talented and experienced colorist, you’ll never get everything right on the first pass. Usually, you’ll make one or two tweaks during each subsequent playing of the scene. As you work, keep in mind that the goal is to create a convincing match. You don’t have to match every object in the frame, which could be time prohibitive. You just need to match the overall look and feel of each clip.

In the following lessons, you’ll learn how to compare two clips using the SpeedGrade playheads interface and how to quickly copy grades from clip to clip directly on the Timeline without having to save a grade to the Look browser first.

Comparing clips using multiple playheads

When you’re comparing two clips to make them match using the controls in the Look browser, it’s easiest to press Command-right arrow and Command-left arrow (Ctrl-right arrow and Ctrl-left arrow) to jump the playhead forward and backward among two adjacent clips.

This works well most of the time, but if you want to see a side-by-side or split-screen comparison of two clips or if you need to compare clips that aren’t right next to each other on the Timeline, you can use multiple playheads to set up the comparison view.

  1. Move the playhead to the middle of clip 16 (the third clip from the end).
  2. Press Command-right arrow (Ctrl-right arrow). Then press Command-left arrow (Ctrl-left arrow) to jump the playhead between the first frames of this clip and the next one on the Timeline (the wide shot).
  3. Flipping between two full-screen images can make it easier to spot overall differences. However, there’s another way to work.

  4. Move the playhead back to the middle of clip 16, turn off the All Timeline zoom control, and hold down Option (Alt) while scrolling to zoom the Timeline to a point where you can see the three clips immediately surrounding the playhead.
  5. Being zoomed into the Timeline will make it easier to position multiple playheads where you need them.

  6. Do one of the following:
    • Click the 2-Up button, and then drag the second playhead that appears onto the next clip on the right. This is the speedy solution.
    • Command-drag (Ctrl-drag) the Move Playhead handle to the right of the playhead to pull a second playhead out, moving it to clip 17, the next clip to the right (the wide shot). Depending on your monitor resolution, you may need to side-scroll to do this.
    • Either method you use, both images will appear side by side by default within the available width of the Media tab.

  7. Click the Split-screen button underneath the Zoom level pop-up menu.
  8. The Monitor image changes from a side-by-side to a split-screen view.

  9. Click the Split-screen button again to change the split from a vertical to a horizontal split.
  10. It’s easy to change the split-screen orientation using the Monitor controls, but you can also change the orientation of full-frame comparison.

  11. Click the Side-by-side button once to return to a side-by-side comparison view, and then click it again to change the orientation of comparison to a vertical arrangement. Click again to return to side-by-side view.
  12. It’s easy to see that the close-up has higher contrast and is more saturated than the wide shot. But perhaps the saved grade might make the wide shot match the close-up better, thus saving you some work. To apply it, you need to change which playhead is selected.

2. Using the Shot Matcher with playheads | Next Section

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