After shooting with different cameras and now color grading different cinema cameras, I realized that a big budget look is achievable even with cheap cameras.
The example below is filmed with a Fuji X-T3. Right now, it’s around $1000 but after grading it, no one can tell whether it was filmed in a $1000 camera or a $60,000 cinema camera.
Try to shoot in the highest dynamic range possible.
In this example, I used a Fujifilm X-T3, and luckily I can shoot with F-log which is a very flat picture profile that preserves more information than other picture profiles.
If your camera doesn’t have a flat picture profile, try to lower the contrast and saturation to avoid loss of information, as much as possible.
Shoot 10-bit if it’s possible
Fuji X-T3 can shoot in 10-bit 4:2:0 so I used it. Shooting in 8-bit makes color grading limited and you won’t have the freedom to make the changes you need to.
If your camera is 8-bit, it’s okay. Nail the exposure and white balance in the camera so you’ll just need a few corrections needed before grading.
Avoid clippings in the highlights and in the shadows
In other words, avoid overexposed and underexposed shots. If your camera has a histogram, it’ll be easier to tell.
You can use an external monitor with scopes if your camera doesn’t have a histogram.
Clipped highlights or shadows don’t have any information in them making the shot look amateur unless the scene really asked for it. If it’s an alien invasion and the spaceship opened its door and all you can see is white because it’s so bright, then it’s okay.
Don’t skip color correction
I know it’s exciting to create those looks for your films, but skipping color correction, especially in intermediate-level cameras, produces a very amateur output.
Proper color correction gives your images a good depth by giving them color separation. This will also benefit you a lot in the further color grading process. You’ll have an easier time qualifying things and adjusting certain parts of the image.
You’re also going to save more time shot matching if you’re going to correct everything first.
Clean your images
If you’re using a cheap light, or natural light, most of the time your images will have gunks, unwanted colors, and artifacts.
It’s best to clean these minute things that may not be that visible because when these tiny gunks are present, it affects the entire image subtly. Your audience won’t have the best experience watching your films, as a result.
Trained eyes of colorists can detect tiny gunks in the shadows of the walls, color overcasts in certain parts of your image, etc. I highly recommend hiring a colorist since color grading is a whole different field, itself.
Guide the audience’s eyes.
There are several techniques that cinematographers and colorists do to make sure the viewers are looking where they’re supposed to.
Cinematographers use lighting and blocking while colorists use power windows, color contrasts, etc.
This helps your viewers have an easier time watching your films by making them focus on the story and not search for where they should look.
Create a look that looks great and sells the story.
Our brains are trained to see colors and feel something. Several factors cause this and one of them is movies, themselves. After watching several films since we were born, even without hearing the dialogue, we already feel something in a particular scene because of the colors, contrast, and brightness in it.
Forcing a certain look like a sci-fi film look, which is mostly cyan or green, on a romantic film may not be a very ideal look. But, I still believe that there’s no right and wrong in art as long as your goal is met by the means.
You can create a big-budget look with any camera with the right settings and color grading. If you’re a filmmaker or a video production company owner, I highly suggest investing in a colorist. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a colorist. Here at Beyond The Sight, we offer remote color grading services for a very friendly price since we don’t have the extravagant expenses that usual color grading agencies have. You can also go to Fiverr and find affordable colorists but make sure to test them first because not all of them will give satisfying results.