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- On-set color grading for biginners -



On-set grading

It’s been a while to pop up a word of “on-set grading” and to be well-known; however, the definition was ambiguous at the first. But now, people may think both a color grading and a color collection are the pair.

“Color grading; the process of making the images beautiful “maulti-layeredly” (although the definition of the beauty depends on each creator).”


“Color collection; the process of unifying a white balance, color and luminance level “single-layeredly”.

This process has been performed at a big room with a gigantic control panel, but once making it “on-set” it literally means you do a color grading “on set.”
(Perhaps, you may do it as almost the same as you usually do it at a studio; neverthe- less, because of some problems such as time limitation and an environment you look at the images, you shouldn’ t think the process on set is exactly the same as the studio. Therefore, please think it’s just support to make operation efficiency at post production seriously fast).
A person who does on-set grading is called a Digital Image Technician (DIT). (Sometimes an on-set grader is a different person from a DIT, but mostly the same person does both positions). As a general- ist, the DIT’s job is to manage the data, decide a look, and contact with a lab.

History of a DIT

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“Into the Deep” | Output film of Sony internal seminar | Sony Professional

In the first place, where did a position of the DIT come from? The first reason is that the DIT was evolved from a Video Engineer (VE). When a motion picture changed from a film to a video, we needed the VE, who fixed and properly applied a look and a video signal to the standards of television broadcasting. Decades later, a wave of a digital cinema has risen from 2000. And, in recent years, shoot- ing with Raw and Log is getting general.
In that circumstance, checking out waviness of only 0 to 110 IRE in display was not enough, and differences occurred between production and post production. The qual- ity of the images couldn’t be guaranteed anymore. Plus, since the recording media changed from a tape to a memory, security of the data became to be essential and tons of works increased.
The VE must widely cover lots of things, and had to get involved with a core process to represent the images; so that, extensive knowledge was required and got at a DIT as a generalist in the end.
Secondly, unlike those who came from the VE, there is the DIT who happened to become from the generalist such as a color- ist or an editor. Now, he/she is also demanded to be on set, so the one is gradu- ally established as the DIT.

What expects the DIT for near future

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On-set grading has to provide a look that a director wants. This operation and data managing are tough, and these works take you a day. That is why, the DIT’s job is mostly data managing, and in terms of color grading, it’s actually color collection.
However, what expects to the DIT for near future is to communicate with a director/DP, and to offer the second idea actively.

By requests of a director/DP, a look has to be decided.
In the process;
a look that the direcor/DP wants exactly.
a look that you added somethig more.
a look that you subtracted something on purpose.

Through these propositions, actively but not aggressively (that’s important!), the DIT objectively broadens a possibility of the movie itself. Of course, the DIT has to connect with a lab and to manage the looks that he/she checks on set until the ultimate ones.
Furthermore, the DIT has to set a pipeline among post production teams; for instance, when giving the data to a VFX team, the DIT has to decide whether the images are already pre-graded before, or he/she asks the VFX team to unify the looks by giving a LUT.

Latest situation of on-set grading


In the commercial industry, a period of production from shooting to the completion gets shorter year by year.
Hence, the DIT has to respond the request for the speed with Log shooting to guarantee the quality.
For this situation, on-set grading has two ways.

To decide the images on set (no post processing)
A director, a DP and a DIT decide almost all images on set, and only a bit adjustment is needed for post production. The DIT subtracts unneeded color components actively, and unifies the entire contrast. It must be an enjoyable set since the DIT can offer his/her ideas.

To decide the images in post processing (not deciding on set)
This set is the most usual. A DIT just adjusts a curve of color without doing too much. With being neutral, the DIT still makes a point that stands out.

In both ways, many DITs tend to make shallow images as a safe bet. However, my advice is to fill the negative boldly and how much you brighten the spot after. That’s the tip to finish up the ultimate images well.

Next time, I’ll talk about the actual tools.