Color Grading Films In Davinci Resolve

For part three of my Davinci Resolve guide, we are going to be diving deep into my process for color grading films in Davinci Resolve.

I always save the color grade till towards the end, making sure I have the story and edit locked in before I begin.

This allows me to have a strong idea on the story I am telling, and what colour grades can help enhance that story.

I always tackle my films color grade on a scene by scene basis, beginning with color correction.

Noise Reduction

If you have Resolve Studio, it has a powerful noise reduction plugin. If noise reduction is needed, this is something you should add before you start your colour corrections. I currently don’t have Resolve Studio, so this is a step I currently miss out.

Colour Correction

Saturation

Jumping in to resolve, I’ll select the first clip and start balancing out the colours.

In my first node, I’ll boost up the saturation until the colours look correct.

Exposure

I’ll then create a second Node where I will balance out the shots exposure. I do this using the color pickers, selecting my dark point and light point.

Doing this will also white balance your clip.

I then do some adjustments to the color wheels, making sure my blacks are just above 0 IRE and my whites are just above 896 IRE.

I’ll then balance my midtones, making sure the exposure on my subject is correct.

I also take this time to make any subtle changes to the white balance, dealing it in further.

As you add more nodes, you’ll want to make sure you name each node, as this will make it easier to navigate.

Contrast

My next step is to add some contrast into the image. I do this using the curves.

Personally, I like my shots to be quite contrasty, and I dial this in using an S-Curve. Depending on your shot, depends on how much you’ll want to dial in the S-Curve, with some shots naturally having more contrast than others.

Always refer back to your scopes and your shot, making sure you get this dialled in to your preferences.

Finally, I will bring up my black point slightly, as I like the aesthetic of faded blacks. Don’t push this too far however, as you footage can start to look washed out.

Window

Now that I have the clip balanced, I will add a window over the subject.

Drag out a circle window over your subject, and increase its softness to around 30. This will feather out the adjustments, helping it to blend in.

I then very subtly increase the exposure of my shadows and midtones, helping to draw the viewer in to the subject. I’ll also slightly increase the sharpening on this node. Do not push this too far as it can start to destroy the image.

Tweaks

Finally, I go through and make tweaks to each node, dialing everything in.

I’ll then create a node I call ‘Balance’. In here I’ll make sure all of the colours match from shot to shot. So my greens will have a similar luminosity, saturation and hue. You can edit this in the HSL settings on the curves panel.

You’ll then want to repeat this for each shot in your scene. Making sure they are all balanced with each other.

Color Grade

Group Clips

Now we can start editing the look of our shots.

I like to share the Look across all of the clips in the scene, and you can do this in a few different ways.

The first is using shared nodes, you can find my tutorial on this here. I’ll also link to it in the description.

The other way I do this is by creating groups. You can create a group by selecting the clips in your scene, right click and click on ‘create new group’. Name this specifically for that scene.

To add a grade to these clips, come up to this menu and select ‘Group -Post-Clip’. You can now add nodes and start dealing in the look.

Look

In the first Node, I’ll add the look I am going for. You can either add a LUT, to speed this process up if you are on a tight deadline, or you can manually create the look.

For example, if you are going for a Teal and Orange look, using the color wheels you can add some Teal into your shadows, and some Orange into your highlights, increasing the intensity until you are happy.

Make sure this grade looks good on all of the clips in your scene, and make adjustments where necessary.

Vignette

Next I add a vignette. Vignettes are a great way to pull your viewers eyes into the clip.

To add one, create a window and invert it. You’ll then want to pull this out so that it covers the entire window, feathering it in like so.

On the offset wheel, pull this down until you are happy with the strength of your vignette.

Final Touches

Finally I create another node where I can add some subtle tweaks. Sometimes it’s as simple as slightly increasing or decreasing the exposure on the midtones, or sometimes adding a bit more fade.

Now that I have color corrected and graded the scene, I’ll move onto the next scene, repeating this process until my film is graded.

With some projects, I’ll add in some film grain, which can be added on a node if you have Resolve Studio. As I don’t have Resolve studio, I add an overlay in the editor. You can find my tutorial on this here. I’ll also link to it in the description.

Also, with some clips you may want to stabilise the footage. You can find that video here and down in the description.

I always watch through the film multiple times, making notes on changes, and going back in to make those adjustments. It is a constant process of tweaking until you are happy with the film.