How do you colour grade in 5 minutes with an always satisfying result?

So, yes there is this filter and yes the technicalities are clear.

The thing is, I try out different colours and settings just to never be happy and revert back to the original colors.

Also, LUTs just don’t work well, such that my footage always looks worse(for instance a white sky becoming tinted just looks like a wrongly developed film, not like a cool video effect).

How do you make the “intuition” how to change it more planable, so I can say do those 5 steps, where each takes 1 minute and you are finished every time after 5 minutes with colour grading.

So again, this is not about where to find the filter and how to enable it, this is how to use it so the footage looks better after 5 minutes.

I don’t do a lot of color grading myself, so please take these as suggestions to try, rather than techniques that will definitely work:

LUTs - I have used LUTs in the past. If you have quite a few it can be a pain applying each one to your video to see which is best, so I wrote a LUT viewer, whereby you can export a typical frame of your video from Shotcut Ctrl + Shift + E and then apply all the LUTs to this frame concurrently. That way it is fairly obvious which ones do not work (and can be discarded). The viewer can be found on my “Resources” webpage: Resources for Shotcut.

Techniques: understanding what is available and how to apply them can be a bit daunting or confusing. It’s best to understand how professional tackle it and experiment with how they do it. Have a look at some videos on YouTubs or guides on the web - SudioBiinder has some useful guides including:

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The referenced “StudioBinder” just says “this is where the settings are, find your style”.

I rather have examples that I can follow.

They only randomly mention which color to use for what to then claim that “rules are meant to be broken” nonsense.

What I want is these are your options, pick one, follow it, and the result is as promised.

Like “What is the mood? If happy, choose this, if melancholic that.” etc.

Unfortunately, StudioBinder is speaking the truth. :grin:

Example: When a stately and elegant person shows happiness in public, they still maintain a decorum of composure and self-control, and they would want any video of them to be graded with proper saturation and a dramatic tone curve for a dignified final look. Meanwhile, when a pre-teen kid shows happiness, it’s often wild and out of control, which is better expressed with boosted midtones and either lowered or blown out saturation to drive in that home video or smartphone video “unfiltered reality” vibe. There is no one-size-fits-all color grading solution.

So the question becomes, which specific element are you asking about? Are you asking what image modifications need to be done to visually express a certain emotion through a grading choice? Or are you asking what kind of modifications can be done with the available tools and then you’ll make the grading decisions yourself from there?

Nobody is able to say “click this” and guarantee promised results. Emotions in both the actors and the viewers are too complex for one technique to always work. Even if it did, somebody would get bored after seeing the same technique for the tenth time.

and to follow on from what Austin has said, it also depends on the source image / video you are grading. I read only yesterday on Reddit of somebody wanting to replicate a “look” of another photographer. He explained that he will be taking his subject out to the beach to do the shoot in the midday sun. Well the look he wanted was an image from an overcast day, so he would never achieve the same look no matter how expert someone is at colour grading / photo editing.

Right now, I’m enjoying photography which contains moody crushed blacks that are shot in heavy rain at night. If I ever wanted to try and replicate then, out at night in the rain would be the requirement.

I found the StudioBinder article very informative. If you are just asking about which colours match which moods you can make generalisations like some colours and their associations that have been used in some Hollywood classics:

  • Red: Lust, action, danger (American beauty, Kill bill, 2001: A Space Odyssey)
  • Pink: Femininity, Romance, Innocence - often fake. (Mean Girls, Grease, Spring Breakers)
  • Orange: Historical, Adventure, Alien (The Martian, The Darjeeling Limited, Avengers: Infinity War.)
  • Yellow: Psychological, anxiety (The Shining, Birdman, Enemy.)
  • Green: Fantasy, Sci-fi (Lord of the Rings, Stardust, The Shape of Water)
  • Blue: Horror, detachment (The Ring, Fight Club, Alien)
  • Purple: Wild card. Used to be mainly eroticism or rarity. Now it pops up everywhere. (Blade Runner 2049, Chicago, Frozen)

However, these are generalisations and sometimes using colours opposed to their “mood” can create exactly the effect you are looking.


My apologies, I think I better understand what you were asking now.

Starting with LUTs not working well… LUTs are usually designed to be applied to “corrected” footage. If a video has a green cast from fluorescent lights, note that the LUT was not designed to compensate for that, and the final LUT result will be skewed towards green, which could look really bad. Color casts should first be removed by setting White Balance and proper exposure. Then attempt a LUT or a Color Grading filter. Secondly, LUTs are sometimes created at their “strongest” setting. Other editors like Premiere allow you to change the intensity of the LUT to dial down its effect if it is too strong, so the LUT designers err on the side of strong if needed. To simulate an intensity slider in Shotcut, follow the steps on the first couple of paragraphs on the LUT documentation page. Your LUTs may look a lot better at 50% strength.

As for the intuition you requested for a 5-minute grade, the really short answer would be to aim for first making the image correct (White Balance, Levels, Contrast, Saturation) and only then attempt to get creative or expressive (Color Grading, LUT, effects). Without this order, any creative effort could get unpredictably wonky because of problems rippling up from uncorrected footage.


The real question is: what does a perfect shot look like.

I noticed that I can only decide between two options. The one looks better than the other. But that is a absolute reference.
If I wanted to say “the mood of the movie is overall sad”, a single shot might look better not being bluish but that would contradict the whole movie mood.

So I first have to decide for a mood, then, instead of comparing two shots with and without lut/exposure/contrast: does the one or the other deliver the mood better.

Therefore cc should be done on a movie basis and not scene/clip basis.

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