Color Correction vs. Color Grading

person working on tablet with color grade chart beside them
Don't know the difference between color correction and color grading in post-production? No, they're not the same. Our colorist drops some knowledge here.

Alex Van Hurkman describes color correction and grading as,

“[color correction is] a process that is more technical in nature, of making adjustments to correct clear qualitative problems in an image, bringing it to a fairly neutral state, whereas grading refers to a more intensive process of developing an appropriate overall style for the image, relative to the narrative and artistic needs of a program.”  

Now If you haven’t heard of Alex and you are interested in learning more about color grading or correction, he literally wrote the book, so do yourself a favor and go check him out. If you are just looking to learn enough to decide if you need someone to grade your project or color correct it that’s what I’ll be talking a little bit about.

picture of man on street without any color treatment
Before any color treatment

As Alex said color correction is adjusting to correct problems with the footage. This could mean the footage was slightly over/under exposed, has a color cast, or white balance issue. This can also apply to matching footage from different cameras. Color correction is where I always start my workflow, the first step is making the image look the way it was intended to look. Many times I stop at color correction for corporate video, interviews, or documentary pieces.

man on street with color correction
same photo with color correction

My next step is to begin color grading if the project dictates it. Color grading is much more artistic and is what helps people feel something more than the footage would elicit on its own. Even in corporate video there have been instances when the client wanted a specific look and feel, so while the interviews may be clean the b-roll footage needed to be dynamic and emotionally stirring.

man on street with color grading
same photo after being color graded

In a time where we can do all of our color correction and grading digitally, projects will sometimes contain a mixture of graded and color corrected footage. This is where much of the confusion begins. In a single project you have footage that needs color correction and other footage that needs to be graded, most people end up describing all of the footage as being graded. I would argue that most people use the terms interchangeably because most colorists perform both tasks.

Either way if you trust your colorist, you will always get the best results as with any form of art. So if you need help with color correction or color grading give us a call or check out our services page and we can figure out how to make your project look great. If you’re still not sure what a colorist is check out my previous blogs or leave me a question in the comments.

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Why Color Grading Doesn’t Take Five Minutes

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