Colour grading is something that has always, to a certain degree, confused me. I see its benefit, especially now where cameras are designed to capture the flattest image possible, and it can be really useful in terms of making a shot more dynamic, more interesting and clearer. But in using it I'll be the first to admit that I've never been that great.
I often have an idea of what my films should look like before I go in. Not just because I storyboard and all that, but the actual look. The feel. The colour. And grading, at least trying to capture that through grading, has always been... well, it's been a ball ache.
But recently something clicked for me. I'm not sure why. Maybe I've just spent long enough researching and watching and doing, maybe it's something else entirely. Whatever the reason, suddenly I understood, or I felt I understood, how to use it. Suddenly grading made sense. And then I sat down and started doing a grade on The Body.
For those of you who don't know, The Body is a short film I've been trying to make for nearly 15 years (seriously, I started writing it around the time I was 15, and the idea just never went away), and now, here I am with the footage and I'm ready to go with it.
So, I started grading it and, as you can imagine, I have a really clear idea of what it should look like, and... it looks like it! I did it. It's got that look. Sometimes I worry that the look I seek isn't in keeping with what people expect from films, but The Body looks, dare I say, good?
And it got me thinking. What was it that clicked? I'm not doing anything differently, really. At least, I don't feel like I am. So what was it?
I think I know. My realisation was that the thing that clicked wasn't my abilities or my technique or anything so... solid. What clicked was my mindset. A grade isn't about trying to make your film look as much like a "film" as possible, and there isn't a right or a wrong way to achieve it. A grade is about making your film look like you want it to, not what anyone else is saying.
It doesn't matter if you think the look you want isn't the look people traditionally try to capture or whatever. Just go for it. Make it look how you want, it's your movie after all.