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Colour Grading: Is it always necessary?

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Colour Grading: Is it always necessary?

Colour grading is definitely not a new phenomenon in filmmaking but recently there has been a trend in the process where it no longer becomes a useful tool to use in the edit to assist the film as an acceptance to the rule but rather it has now become the rule completely dominating the decisions on the film set. I will try to go into the positives of grading your film as much as possible whilst at the same time warning caution for the overuse of grading.

The ever hated phrase of "Don't worry we can fix it in post" is well known by filmmakers and many would say they don't go by that approach when creating films however I don't think those that say that are being entirely honest. With the exception of green screen keying Ive seen the gradual take over of the production process by the edit suite and in particular the limited use of visionary Cinematographers and DOPs to visually tell a story. Ive noticed fantastic shots being completely wasted by a lack of care on the day of the shoot and having that 'the colour grade will sort all that out' mentality and I can see a lot of expert DOPs getting frustrated with what the final product turns out like.

A great comparison of this change in attitudes is the huge difference between the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy. I won't go far in depth about which trilogy I prefer (trust me I could go on for hours about that) but of all the criticisms and comparisons people make between the two I never hear anyone talk about the grading of each trilogy. Bearing in mind both had the same team of people working on it, the same director, the same DOP and yet both look so fundamentally different you would swear it was all made in a sound stage in L.A. Surely this couldn't have been made in New Zealand as well? Obviously the LOTR had grading within its trilogy as well no question but it was used sparingly and sensibly, despite it being set in a fictional world thanks to the landscape of New Zealand it brought a sense of realism and familiarity to the viewer which made it all the more easier for us to accept it. The Hobbit goes in a completely different path altogether and although the high frame rate doesn't help its case it does suffer from almost every scene looking different. I understand this is Middle Earth but it also has to be consistent. Bearing in mind this isn't our first entry into the world of Tolkien so there shouldn't really be a huge contrast between Hobbiton in LOTR and the one portrayed in the Hobbit. The two images below really show the difference. Just something to point out is that the image in the Hobbit is supposed to be in the morning and yet looks a lot like the evening. Hobbiton is supposed to represent the English countryside in Tolkiens works and yet I can say as someone who grew up in the English countryside that I have never experienced colours so bright and artificial that I have to wear a pair of sunglasses as Im walking down the road. It just looks like someone took the original shot from LOTR and coated all the hills with paint and inserted a mini Martin Freeman running towards the camera. The bottom line is it doesn't look real and unfortunately that plagues the entire trilogy.

This is Hobbiton

This not so much

Im not going to lie I am also guilty of the overuse of colour grading within my films, if you watch any of my films you'll see something just doesn't look right. I never had any intention to do insane grading on my films until I graded that one shot and now I feel I have to grade every single bit of footage. My original vision for a film almost always never ends up being what it was meant to be while the grading process gets under way. Films that require low to no grading at all end up falling victim to losing its genre with just a single click of the mouse. I have to try to resist and train myself not to grade as much as I currently do because the end result always turns out artificial and fake.

Most young filmmakers starting out assume that the more graded it is the more professional the film looks which couldn't be further from the truth. Grading is a tool, a miraculous tool that can completely alter a film to get that look you are after but if your not going to give your own film the honour of capturing its tone and look on the day of production then how can you hope to make it work in the edit? Whether to grade a scene or film is entirely dependant on what your film needs at the time. It might sound crazy but the decision to use a fade to black transition over a cross dissolve might be the most important decision you could make in the final edit of your particular film. Do you fade to black leaving a few seconds of suspense or do you want to quickly move on to the next scene? The choice is always yours and never feel like you have to use every skill in your arsenal. Figure out what your film needs and stick to it as best as you can, otherwise you'll just become another Hobbit. Just remember that LOTR used grading sparingly and won 11 Oscars, the Hobbit being the confusing artificial mess that it is garnered 0. Some food for thought.

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Final Cut Pro Audio: For Any Final Cut Pro User

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Final Cut Pro Audio: For Any Final Cut Pro User

Audio Tech Review

I am unfortunately not the best when it comes to audio synching, audio mixing or just flat out audio in general. It has always been that one part of the filmmaking process that has let me down. So it was an absolute breath of fresh air to discover a music creation platform that not only lets you download fantastic music tracks to use within your projects but also to have separate files of that tracks instruments to copy, splice together and customise that track however you like it.

I can tell you I was amazed at just how easy it was to use and how incredibly addicting it is to create numerous tracks seamlessly with endless possibilities. I have made a draft version of a track I recently created through it that you can listen to below. I have changed and added to it many times over the course of the last few days and to tell you the truth, I'm not finished yet. I had to force myself to stop changing and editing it even further because I wanted to get this review out before the weekend.

I strongly urge anyone who wants to feel like John Williams for a day visit Final Cut Pro Audio and have a listen at some of their various different creations and templates, all of which is customisable when you download! As you can tell from my audio file I have something of a strings and piano concerto bias but it doesn't just stop there. From guitar solos and electronic tempos to background ambience and even vocals, you will be hard pressed not to find a selection of music that doesn't fit the style or mood you are trying to capture in your film. Even tracks that I personally felt I would have no real use for I then started thinking of the many possibilities I could re create instead using the same instruments in different sections of the track.

Once you purchase a music category you will be given a few different tracks to use at the ready (this is good if your not feeling particularly creative and just want a good track right now to use) however it also comes bundled with all the instruments and also a long, medium and short version of each track for comparison. As its a relatively new website new tracks are being updated and added to the site regularly so its comforting to know that its not just a one time only deal. 

And speaking of a one time only deal, once you purchase the license to that particular stack of royalty free music tracks you get to keep hold of that license for a lifetime rather than having to go back and pay just to rent the license which I have seen some sites doing. So essentially once you've bought it you've bought it. No more hassle just download, plug in and edit.

So after singing its praises does the site have any flaws, well yes and although I personally think its just nitpicking I can see why some people would get turned away. As the name suggests this is predominantly a platform for Final Cut Pro users so unfortunately Adobe editors won't be able to benefit from this which Im sure they will try to rectify that in the future. Another nitpick would be the price. At £29.99 to some it may seem a stretch for just one bundle of tracks out of many but also bear in mind this is a lifetime license. Think how much you would otherwise spend on a temporary license that you keep coming back to.

To help with the cost I am offering a 33% discount to one of the many soundstacks to choose from. Be sure to preview them first and check out the website before making a purchase.

To receive your discount simply head on over to fcpaudio.com and type OLLY33 when you are asked to provide a valid discount code on checkout.

 

Now if you'll excuse me I have some music to create.

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Dr Who Number 13

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Dr Who Number 13

Dr Who Regeneration Complete

I would be lying if I called myself a Dr Who fan. In fact I don't think Ive really got into Dr Who properly since the David Tennant dynasty (which some would dispute was the best doctor) so imagine my shock when I hear the news that Jodie Whittaker is to become the new Doctor Who as the first female Dr in the franchise. At least, I was initially shocked at first like everyone else but then came the obvious and uncomfortable truth......I think I'm okay with it. Maybe its because I come from outside the Dr Who fandom and unchanged by it all. I mean I don't even know who the Dr's apprentice is currently which just shows my knowledge of the series. That being said I would like to think I know a thing or two about casting decisions and this one seems pretty spot on. I personally would feel more outrage from a non British actor portraying the Doctor. Maybe Im biased but I just feel Dr Who should always remain a British property.

On the subject of whether or not a woman can portray the Doctor I say lets give her a shot. I am in no way a fan of feminist pandering by any means but I feel this was going to be an inevitable change regardless of what the fans wanted. The fans originally didnt want David Tennant to go, and we all know what happened there. There are however two ways this can go. We can all hope she is just going to be the same old doctor but with a feminine voice, the same cunning, knowledge and strong attributes the Dr always had. Or we can go the pandering route and have the first episode where the doctor spray paints the tardis pink and "girl power" is her slogan from now on. But lets hope it doesn't come to that. I believe the fans deserve better. At the end of the day the success of Dr Who is and always has been all down to the quality of the writing. Far too often I see films attempt to write a strong character be it male or female and just have them pumping iron or throwing a few punches whilst completely missing the point. An odd comparison but Game of Thrones has some of the strongest female characters on screen and yet the only female characters on the show I can recall even pick up a sword is Aria and Brienne of Tarth and even those scenes are few and far between. Obviously the two shows are worlds apart but the point is still the same. Get the writing down in a believable and realistic way and the character will change along with it. No one would notice on the sex change if the writing was done with respect to the character and not just put in there as a political message. Because come on, aren't we all completely burnt out by politics right now. Who needs that getting in the way of some creative and enjoying content.

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