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What is colour grading and why is it important?

When we move into the post production aspect of filmmaking, a hot topic is always the grade. But what is it? Well, a grade polishes the look of the final film. It can be a light natural grade or a heavy dramatic grade and everything in between. The grade helps produce an atmosphere and evoke emotion to enhance the story. In corporate video, the grade is often naturalistic and bright which suits the tone of most corporate videos.  

Colour correction vrs colour grading

You may hear the term colour correction when talking about grading and this is often confused with grading but they are in fact very different. Colour correction is the technical process of ‘fixing’ the colour balance, other issues such as exposure and making the footage appear as naturalistic as possible. Grading on the other hand is less technical and more creative. Grading uses colour to add atmosphere and emotion to a scene often in unnatural ways.

Why does ungraded footage look washed out?

When filming tv commercials or corporate video, most footage is captured in something called ‘log’. This produces a flat image that will often look washed out and desaturated. The purpose of this method is to retain as much light and colour information as possible. The more information that is preserved, the more flexibility you have in the grade to create a ‘look’. If you shoot high contrast it will be difficult to remove later, however, you can always add more in the grade. 

So why is colour grading so important?

As humans, we are programmed to see meaning in colour. Red means danger or anger, blue is cold, orange is warm etc. All of these emotions can be utilised in the grade to help tell the story. But grading is also important because if the grade is right you may not notice it. If it is wrong it is one of the first things you notice. And for that reason alone, the grade is one of the most important aspects of film production. A grade should never distract, only enhance. 

What grade should I use for my TV commercial?

The grade used on your TV commercial is entirely dependent on your preference, but remember, the grade should be cohesive to your product, your message and your brand. It seems an unusual choice to mix a heavy dark grade with a furniture advert. Not only will it feel a little over dramatic but it will most likely alter the colours of the products. Unless this is your intention we would advise against it. You want to give your audience a true likeness of your product so they are not disappointed once they see the product in person. That’s why most commercials have a bright and colourful grade with a medium contrast. This creates a warm and inviting atmosphere without distorting the colour of your products. But again, you need to consider your brand and your products. If you are selling arcade machines, a dark grade with pops of colour may be more appropriate. 

So to sum up, a grade is a very subjective element of filmmaking. But when making a commercial the main aim of a grade should be all about making your ad as appealing as possible. So take the advice of the colourist and make sure to consider your brand and product before choosing a grade style.

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