Color correction and grading are often the most challenging tasks in my video editing workflow, and serious training resources are not very common. The Mastering Color course intends to fill this gap.
Usually, I’m not very interested in classes, as I can find many good tutorials on YouTube, and I also consider myself to be a decent video editor, but color correction and grading are my weak points. The topic is very technical and unforgiving, and most YouTubers creating online tutorials have dubious credentials when it comes to grading. Therefore, I decided to check who the author of this course was. I must admit that I never heard about Ollie Kenchington before, but his resume and work experience are impressive: Apple Certified Master Trainer, Adobe Certified Instructor, Blackmagic Certified Trainer, lead tutor and founder of Korro Academy, and a Blackmagic Design Training Partner offering certification in DaVinci Resolve 14. Said otherwise, Ollie Kenchington is not a random Vlogger colorist; he is a professional with solid experience.
The first thing I noticed after playing the initial video was the perfect image quality, tonality, and polished production of the course. Obviously, Mr. Kenchington applied all his techniques to this course, and the result is pleasing. The content is divided in eight modules lasting for 7.5 hours and can be watched on Vimeo or downloaded directly from the Mzed website. I decided to download all the modules, and the transfer speed was reasonably fast. Note that each course is available in 4K UHD resolution, and the entire tutorial takes 62 GB of space. The videos are organized in a logical and/or chronological sequence. In terms of software, Mr. Kenchington used DaVinci Resolve exclusively, but the principles taught in the course can be applied to all editing software, such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple Final Cut Pro. Moreover, the regular version of DaVinci Resolve is free and can be downloaded from the editor’s website. The more advanced Studio version comes at $299. Here is a summary of each module:
Grading Suite Setup
The first module shows why setting up an environment where your eyes and monitors can be trusted is of vital importance, as well as seeing how professional suites are configured. Then, it gives practical tips on how to create a home suite on a budget and how to calibrate your own monitors. This 51-minute introduction chapter is excellent and free to watch.
Here, Ollie breaks down the differences between contrast, tonality, dynamic range, and luminance perception. He also explains the fundamentals of reading histograms and waveform monitors to help avoid clipping highlights and crushing shadows when using lift, gamma, and gain controls. To help illustrate these topics, Ollie uses a broadcast commercial for a sofa company, where contrast is used to make the product stand out against its surroundings. There is some great information in this module. For instance, it explains the direct relation between color and contrast and why it’s sometime advised to desaturate the video entirely before adjusting contrast. Finally, the author explains some of the advantages of using DaVinci Resolve over other software.
This lesson tackles the basic concepts of the additive color model and how we can use this knowledge to counteract color casts in our images. Along the way, it shows how to use the parade, vectorscope, RGB overlay waveform monitor, and RGB picker.
In any production, the colors should have a certain consistency across the timeline. Visually, there is nothing worse than having various color casts and irregularity between video clips. No matter how good the story is, it distracts the audience and destroys the look of a film. Making sure that the color identity of each sequence flows naturally into the next is an essential task. But this step can be challenging when several cameras are used during filming, because each camera has a different color response. In this lesson, Ollie takes on the challenge of matching Canon and Sony cameras on a multicam shoot, using an X-Rite Color Checker Video chart. He then breaks down his workflow for creating visual harmony across a sequence of shots in a short film ("The Storm," created by Vimeo Staff Pick-winning director Sam Buchanan), while discussing stills, image wipes, and split screens along the way. Lasting 1.5 hours, this chapter is the longest of the course and the most interesting to me. I particularly enjoyed the color-matching technique between 8-bit footage from Canon and Sony cameras.
The three previous chapters (Contrast, Color Balancing, and Continuity) were the core modules of the course, as they addressed the fundamentals of color correction and grading. Another important aspect is skin tones. What are memory colors? Is there such a thing as the perfect skin tone? How do we make faces look realistic yet cinematic at the same time? How do you manage reflection spots on bald people? Ollie explains all this and illustrates his course with sample from well-known movies and TV series. The auto face tracking feature is also introduced.
Color correction and color grading are two different things, but they are often misinterpreted. Color correction is a technical process that consists of managing the contrast, tones, and colors from a “scientific” standpoint by ensuring a certain balance and continuity. Once you are done with color correction, you can add a creative touch: that’s color grading. This module starts with a discussion about the differences between technical and creative LUTs. Ollie talks about the importance of owning your own images and gives tips on how to develop your own looks using curves and qualifiers, the differences between monochrome and desaturated looks, and how to use split screens and versions in DaVinci Resolve to audition looks quickly.
In a digital era, some directors still enjoy the retro look of film and keep shooting major productions with film cameras (e.g. "Mission Impossible Fallout," "The Walking Dead"). But using a dedicated film camera is not always practical, which is why you can emulate the film look in post-production (a crime for film lovers). There are many ways to emulate film, but one of the most prominent plugins is FilmConvert (Philip Bloom followers know all about it). In this module, Ollie tackles the two distinct areas of the look of film: texture and color. What can you do with stock effects? What can be achieved with dedicated tools, like FilmConvert? Ollie uses the latest music video from acclaimed celluloid DP Jamie Harding to show how he matches footage from the Arri Alexa and Arri SR2. He also gives a demonstration of how he addresses film halation (halos), using simple techniques in DaVinci Resolve.
HDR and Raw
The final chapter takes a look at the future of film production and delivery: HDR. Ollie teams up with Philip Bloom and shoot ProRes RAW and Canon Raw Light during golden hour, while discussing the dos and donʼts of recording for HDR delivery. Ollie then heads back to the grading suite to show what his work looks like on a 1,000-nit HDR monitor and how to set up, grade, and deliver HDR video. Finally, this course talks about raw workflow and how working in raw can benefit your clients, even if you are only delivering in HD SDR.
What I Liked
- The credentials of the author: Ollie Kenchington is a professional colorist and knows this topic inside-out unlike many “YouTuber colorists.”
- The course is professionally made, graded ,and edited. It’s visually as good as watching a high-end documentary.
- Right balance between theory and practical knowledge
- Good value for the content: $199 for 7.5 hours of class
What Could Be Improved
- The main issue with this class is the target audience. The course is too advanced for complete beginners, but irrelevant for established professionals. Teaching how to grade footage from high-end commercial videos recorded in controlled environments with perfect lighting conditions and $6,000-plus cameras like the Arri, Sony FS7, and Canon C200 cameras might not be relevant for many intermediate colorists who would be interested in this course. I believe that most people willing to spend $199 on a color course are the one using Panasonic GH5, Fujifilm X-T3 in 10 bits, Sony a7R II in SLOG, and the Blackmagic Pocket Camera at best. Most of the course uses raw footage, except for the color matching part that uses 8-bit clips coming from a Sony FS7 and Canon C200 camera. While I understand the point of demonstrating color correction techniques on raw footage, most users struggle to grade 8-bit footage on a daily basis. I wish that Ollie could spend more time on this and explain how to “nail the exposure” in camera, because that’s a key part when shooting 8-bit video. On the other hand, 10-bit is becoming more and more mainstream nowadays (GH5, X-T3, Mavic 2 Pro) and grading super-flat 4K footage recorded in 8-bit log at 60 mbps is nonsense.
- Some parts of the tutorial are a bit long and contain unnecessary fillers like interviews. They are not bad, but I would have preferred to focus on the core subjects and see more case studies and real-life experience (e.g. how to grade this challenging footage, more details about contrast). Sometime, it feels like the tutorial is more about general knowledge and overview instead of detailed demonstration. For instance, the one-hour module about HDR and raw could easily be condensed to 30 minutes. The first 20 minutes of this video are mainly casual talk with Philip Bloom and only contain three minutes of expedited technical description of what HDR is. Ollie spends a lot of time to explain the basis of HDR and goes too fast on the core subject (NITS, PQ, hardware).
- I hoped to see the Philip Bloom's cats in the course, but no such luck.
Conclusion: A Solid Course for Intermediate Colorists
Overall, I really enjoyed this course. I learned many things that I’ll implement in my workflow. The author has deep knowledge of color correction and grading, solid experience, and is able to teach the subject at the right pace without being boring. However, this course is clearly not made for complete beginners. If you never heard about scopes, IRE, and log curves, you’ll be overwhelmed by the content. On the other hand, if you are somehow familiar with these terms and want to improve your color workflow, this “Mastering Color” class is spot on, because you will understand how real professionals work, how they handle footage from start to finish, in which order, and why. Sure, some parts were a bit long for my taste, while other were expedited in a few minutes, but that probably comes from my personal background. You can’t please everybody, and Ollie Kenchington does a great job at explaining his workflow. Finally, this course is not a step-by-step tutorial of how to use DaVinci Resolve or Premiere Pro. It assumes you are already familiar with a NLE, and it only covers the color techniques which can be applied with any NLE such as Premiere Pro or Final Cut.