Tut: Colour “Grading” Video Using Photoshop

In February we took a look at using colour LUTs in Photoshop to apply grading to images and later that month at BVE one part of my Photoshop for Video demo showed how you can use Photoshop as a short-cut to rapidly “grade” footage in Premiere. As designers, we are increasingly expected to be able to dip into other areas—yes, even including video—in the course of our work, so this is a great technique for those who have neither the time nor inclination to dip into a product like SpeedGrade.

In this tutorial, we are going to take some footage in Premiere, then create and apply a “look” to it using Photoshop—in this case we’ll just do something simple like sepia toning—but you could create almost infinite variations. If you’re not currently a Creative Cloud subscriber, then you can access a 30-day trial here.

There’s a short piece of footage available for you to use here:http://adobe.ly/1DWrXxy or you could of course use any footage of your own.

Start in Premiere

Launch premiere and create a new project; my settings may differ from yours, especially in terms of CUDA acceleration—if you don’t have the CUDA installed that option won’t be available—but that won’t matter for this really, but just so you know my settings are:

  • Renderer: Mercury Playback Engine GPU Acceleration (CUDA)
  • Video: Timecode
  • Audio: Audio Samples
  • Capture: DVnewProject

You’ll be presented with a blank interface, like the one below. If yours is wildly different, then go to Window > Workspace > Editing and that should sort that out; if it doesn’t, reset the workspace by choosing Window > Workspace > Reset Current Workspace… and you’ll be good to go. In the bottom-left corner there will be a Project: Panel (outlined in red, below) and you’ll need to import some media first; choose File > Import… and import your video clip.

interface

 

The clip will appear in your project library (video people refer to these as Bins) and from there drag it to the timeline panel to the right:

media2timeline

The video will appear in the monitor panel above, and you’ll see a video and audio track in the timeline. If you’re using the clip I’ve provided, you may want to click on the audio track (A1) and delete it, so you don’t have to listen to a bracing Icelandic wind.

Premiere to Photoshop

At the bottom of the Program Monitor Panel—where you can see your video—you should see a small camera icon on the right:

exportFrame

Click on the icon (or use the shortcut SHIFT-E) to export the current frame; you’ll be presented with a dialog, and all you need to do here is choose the DPX format, choose a location and click OK.

exportFrameDialog

DPX

The DPX file format stands for Digital Picture Exchange and is a high-end still-image format for digital intermediate and special-effects work. You could pretty much export this frame in any way for this project, as it won’t be re-imported but it’s good to raise your awareness of it as a format—especially if you start to work more in video production—and it’s a 16-bit file so we’ll have a lot of information to work with.

Building Your “Look” in Photoshop

In Photoshop, open the DPX file, and then add a Levels adjustment layer, and bring the black slider up a bit to darken up the shadows and the sky:

step1

Return to the Adjustments Panel and this time add a Gradient Map adjustment (1, below). When the Properties Panel shows the gradients, click on the Gear Flyout (2) and select Photographic Toning (3) You can either choose to replace the current gradients you have in the panel—you can always reset them later from this flyout—or append them to the gradients you have already.

step2

 

From the new gradients, choose a gradient that you like; my example uses one of the sepia presets. You could use all manner of adjustments here, so do experiment with all sorts of things, but for now we’re done, and we can export our “look” back to Premiere.

Create a Colour Lookup Table (LUT)

Now go to File > Export > Color Lookup Tables…; in the resulting dialog enter a name for your “look” and optionally choose a value from the Grid Points field—the higher the setting, the larger the file but the more information—or choose a preset (my example uses a Medium setting); leave all the formats checked. Next choose a location for the files—it may be better to create a new folder for each LUT you create as a number of files are created at this stage—then save the LUTs.

step3

You can close the DPX file when you’re done—you don’t need to save it (although of course you could if you wanted to, as a PSD version).

Load the LUT in Premiere

Nested with the Project Panel, you should find an Effects Panel—if not it can be accessed from Window > Effects. In the search field at the top of the panel, type “Lumetri“; the seach panel should filter down the effects results and you should see the effect in the list:

step4

Drag the effect onto the clip in the Timeline Panel and then navigate to the folder where you saved your LUT in the resulting dialog. Choose the 3DL file and your footage will instantly take on the look that you cooked up in Photoshop—hit the spacebar to preview your work—and you’re ready to continue editing, export the media or hand over the project to someone else for further work.

step5

Wrapping Up

There are a few limitations with this shortcut, but as a quick technique it’s very accessible to designers and non-production people. This example was also very simple and you can create some stunning looks if you experiment with adjustments, blending modes and opacity of adjustment layers.

looks

Please feel free to share your thoughts and questions by commenting, either here or on my Facebook page.

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