Evening Gold & Hero Red: Protune Grading

Burg Thann, Nuremberg county. (BY/D)
This time in my series «one video lies more than a thousand words» I'm showing how to carefully emphasize an evening mood in Protune footage. This gives, for instance, castle Burg Thann more atmosphere.

Without further manual grading, Protune footage may appear rather very neutral and even appear to be slightly cold. But adding some nice touch to your footage is really easy. Just take Kdenlive, no need for any professionals' tools or similar marketing balderdash...

Oh, where's Kai, by the way? His pow-where? tools were all the latest fad, no real Photoshop Professional-wannabe could go without it! Luckily, we just need bording basic effects for effective color grading, such as the tools that Kdenlive comes with.

Of course, you cannot add atmosphere to footage that completely lacks any atmosphere. No tool can do. So in order to add evening athmosphere you need to shoot in evening light conditions with proper light. Only this way you get the correct play between shadow and light, you cannot add this later. So take care when and how you shoot your footage. Only then you can work on grading.

This time, my real-world example comes from video shots I took on site of castle Burg Thann, located in the beautiful Nuremberg county. It took me a second trip to the site to finally get suitable footage. On my first trip, the light wasn't good as it was slightly overcast and cloudy. But on my second visit, light was much better. And I already had gained some insight and experience about which shots do work and which ones don't. In the end, I ditched all the footage shot the first time on site, keeping only footage from my second visit. But the footage shot the first time was valuable in that I learned quite a lot from the mistakes I did.

Raw Footage

Our starting point: Protune on, WB raw,
1080p, 50fps, narrow FOV.
To the right, you see the raw footage I shot on site on my second visit of Burg Thann. As usual, it appears dull and boring, as we yet need to grade the footage. This time I shot in 1080p at 50 frames per second and in narrow POV. This was also a lesson learnt from my first visit: 2.7K didn't really worked out as I expected, but narrow POV did quite lovely.

When you watch the final video of Burg Thann, you will probably agree with me that for this situation the narrow POV works much better than the one-size-fits-it-all wide oder ultra-wide POVs the GoPro Hero's are well known for. Even after defishing 2.7K footage (which works quite good, by the way), it still cannot catch up with the atmosphere of the narrow POV footage.

As usual, cam white balancing was off (raw). Shooting in Protune with wb on is like ice diving without any diving suit: it's possible, but it doesn't really makes sense. Except for getting higher ranks on the nominee list of the Darwin Arwards.

First, The Short Programme

With our basic set of Protune effects applied.
As usual, we start by adding the basic set of Protune-related video effects: RGB tonal curve decompression, saturation, and sharpening. The result of this is not bad, as you can see to the right. For saturation, we use a value of 200, as we've seen before.

However, for sharpening we need slightly different parameter settings: as we are dealing now with 1080p footage, we need to sharpen less compared with 2.7K footage. An amount of 500 and size of 10 will produce better image impression without overdoing the sharpening effect. With this parameters no visible artefacts can be seen.

Freestyle: Evening Gold...

Evening Gold, made from basic effect tools.
If you look more closely at the scenery, you will very well notice the specific evening lighting conditions, shadows, et cetera. Yet, the overall impression of the Protune footage is still somewhat cold and artifical. We need to do some further color grading ... but very carefully, as we won't like to end up with the color syrup that CSI:Miami is.

We need to reduce the blue in the scenes slightly; this will result in the image colors moving slightly towards yellow. As usual, the Bézier curve effect will serve us really well: this time, we apply it only to the blue channel, please see also the screen shot to the right.

There is one important detail to pay attention to: for this scenery we need to lower the top right end point of the curve slightly. This setting basically mimics the evening lighting conditions distorting the colors on a small scale. Remember that our brain is extraordinarily good at its own white balancing, so don't overdo the effect as otherwise your scene will really look yellowish.

Depending on the particular scene you are grading you may need to bring the top right endpoint of the curve very close to its upper end. In this case you may need to bent the curve slightly more. As usual, there is not single set of values that fit all scenes. Instead, the end justifies the means. When grading, carefully check the sky or clouds, and also storefronts: don't make them look yellowish.

...and Hero Red

Hero Red, fresh from the tool box.
Don't be afraid, this isn't about color-grading the Monty Python way. However, GoPro seems to play some dirty little tricks in their image processing inside the Heros when Protune is off. In particular, they seem to be very fond of red shades. And when you look at the scenery of Burg Thann, you should notice the many red roofs being everywhere. So grading shades of red is surely a good idea to do.

Curve detail.
Again, we need the Bézier curve effect yet another time. But this time, we apply it to the Hue channel only. In order to not overdo the effect, very carefully bent the curve only at its beginning, please see also the small, but detailed screenshot. Make sure, the curve is slightly bent downwards, but only a its beginning. You need to add a curve point by clicking on the curve in order to avoid bending the complete curve.

The result: Evening Gold and Hero Red.
The fine final outcome of our curve bending is this: shades of red will be made even more red. Shades of orange will also be moved slightly towards shades of red. Yet, we avoid a red tint, as we are not working on the red channel, but the Hue channel instead.

You can see the final outcome of our fiddling with the Hue channel to the right. You may not immediately notice the difference ... which is on purpose. Remember that grading often is only about the nuance, not necessarily the apparant. If I managed to achieve this goal, then fine!

Of course, there's also the complete video of castle Burg Thann, so enjoy watching the outcome of the grading I showed you in this blog article. As always, maybe you can do it better? I would be glad to hear!