White Wall Grades

There have been many projects in the past where as a cinematographer one has to guide a portion of the post production. One of the major considerations is of course, the color grading process. It’s been my experience a lot of editors do not have experience doing anything beyond the basics of white balance and perhaps some contrast control. I was recently inspired by work Tom Poole did on Bad Education and it reminded me of this project I worked on years ago when I was still learning the outcome of not providing a color notes for post production.

The director gave a reference to another film whose office had a bluish gray tint. In Hollywood productions, it’s easier to swing this way because there’s budget for production design to paint the walls and bias it towards one color for better separation. On low budget indie films, this likely won’t be the case the majority of the time. So the color grade can come into play here.

The interesting thing about Bad Education is that I could see the office walls were white with a little bit of color mixed in. This let me go back and see that I could implement this on a past project.

Here’s the rough cut from the editor. It was originally shot on RED and converted to Rec.709:

Luminance Balance:

Then a white balance to get back to a neutral position in the color space:

From here it’s clear the skin tones are super pale. Therefore I pulled a qualifier for the skin and brought it to the skin tone indicator and boosted the color in the lows and mids.

From here another luminance balance:

Then using a reference frame I grabbed from Bad Education, I matched as closely as possible the tone in the walls. This will give the white walls some separation with the actors:

From here I passed the skin qualifier in a Layer Mixer node and brought the skin luminance down to match the reference point.

Adding 35mm grain finishes the look:


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