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Colour Correction & Colour Grading. What is the Difference?

By lunamik / July 7, 2016

Colour has undoubtedly become one of the important elements of contemporary footage. It brings life and appeal to the image. Before the age of computers and advanced technology, a photochemical process called “colour timing” was used to edit the colours in a film reel. This was a hugely time-consuming process that was carried out in a photo laboratory. But thanks to major advancements in technology, colour corrections and other colour processes are all done digitally which is a massive time saver. There are even programs that can be used to edit and adjust the colours with just a click of the mouse. But don’t get me wrong, colour correction and grading can still take a lot of time and patience to get right, but with everything: a little practice will make the process a lot quicker.

There are two ways you can manipulate colours: colour correction; and colour grading. Most people mistake these two processes as being the same thing, or are sometimes, even interchanged. So Lunamik has decided to clear the air! Now, this may appear confusing at first but the process of performing colour correction and colour grading are relatively the same, but the manner in how they are used and when they are applied in the process are different.

Colour Correction


Colour correction is a one-time process that adjusts the colours in an image or footage by “correcting” it. The simple aim of colour correction is to make your image or footage appear as close as it did when you originally captured the media. The colours have to be corrected because the light that landed on your camera’s sensor won’t accurately portray the exact colours that were present in reality. This is due to a number of different factors including the type of light that was present at the time and also the internal settings and functions of your camera. There are different corrections/parameters that are adjusted to apply colour corrections namely: Exposure, White Balance, ISO Noise and Contrast. The use of colour correction techniques can correct prior shooting mistakes when you use a wrong camera setting for a footage. For example, when an image may come out too blue or too orange, you need to compensate the imbalance in colour by restoring the colours back to their original state. These adjustments can also be used to draw out the flat profiles of the images/footage. When carrying out a project, it is important to correct all the colour of all your footage – to render a sense of visual cohesion and consistency among the shots.

Colour Grading


On the other hand, colour grading involves a multi-layered process that alters the visual appeal of the entire film. Colour grading is always done after correcting the original images to add thematics and overall appeal to the film. Think of colour grading as adding the unique visual style to your video. The process of grading is like adding a mask of painting that alters the whole film’s colour. You may wonder what all the fuss about colour is, but different colour grades can significantly impact how the viewer feels when watching your video. Compare the process to painting your film with different emotions. There are various parameters that are found within the process of colour grading. These include shot matching, removing objects, shape masks and cinematic looks. These parameters are adjusted according to your liking to render various effects depending on your preference. Some commonly referenced looks include effects such as underwater shots, flashbacks, or sci-fi.

Colour grading is actually regarded as the high-end kind of colour correction. The goal is not just to standardise the colour but to actually add some effects that will make the overall appeal of the footage or clip more realistic or artistic. Since colour grading is not just automatically made, it usually requires meticulous work in order to be able to adjust the needed colours. It also takes more time than the one click auto-correction method you may usually do for your footage.

This tutorial from Cinecom.net illustrates the division between colour correction and colour grading perfectly.

Keep In Mind

Understanding the fundamentals of how to adjust colour can drastically increase the watchability of your video. Just remember, you can go crazy with certain colour grading styles, don’t hold back because you think it may look too unrealistic. The human eyes adjust to what’s on the screen within 45 seconds, so colour grading is more an issue of consistency between your other images. If you have a consistent grade between all your footage, your viewers will have no problem in accepting the wildest colour combinations as reality.


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