The Importance of De-Noising for Grading 7D footage

Or, Let’s Follow JMalmsten As He’s Trying
His Best To Look Like A Colorist

As I mentioned earlier. I have been not just a tiny bit impressed with what the NEAT denoiser can do for video. And looking through some footage I had in the archives I decided to see what I could do to make the, in many ways horribly shot, footage look a bit nicer. And the choice finally fell upon a clip I had shot almost at midnight here in the jamtlandish forest while a team from SyFy where here to try to find our own little loch ness monster.

It’s in the land of the midnight sun, but still, I had only the f3.6-f6.5 zoom-lens and of course, the people where sitting in the shadow to not interfere with the filming that took place all around. So, since I have sworn to the allmighty noodily lord and his midgits that I would never use any shutter wider than 180 degrees I ended up shooting with very high ISO-gain on the 7D-sensor. And also, of course, the Technicolor CineStyle picture-style was brand-spanking-new so I was trying out that too.

All this meaning some great noise. 🙂

Anways… This is what I started out with. 

Might not look so bad. But then again. Cropping to scope does tend to make most videos more cinematic, regardless of content (sarcasm). But nontheless. There are some pretty big issues abound in the image  that even me with my simplistic monitor can spot.

First off. She’s blue… almost purple. And while there are a lot of Navi-fans out there I doubt they are enough to warrant me leaving her looking like an alien. So I had to focus on getting the skin-tones right. So after giving it the simple Neat-video with my noise-profile I had lying around and a slight sharpening on the Luminance I set to work.

The difference is slight. But if you pull it up to bigger view you will see that there’s some serious noise in the raw pic’s red jacket and in the image overall. And if I don’t pull out that noise right now it will only look worse when I’m pushing the colors around. As I will be doing rather severely.

So I drop in my trusty Colorista II and in the primary I simply ctrl-pick a part of the jackets white part as white-balance. That’s it. For starters I just want it neutralized. This was the “color-correction” bit of the process. Now let’s get “artistic”.

Since the skintones has actually started to look like skin with the simple adjustment I go in and do a simple warm-highlights and cool shadows-type of look in the master-section of Colorista.

Oddly enough. I rarely do this by actually touching the wheel for “shadows”. Because that tends to darken down the shadows far too much and tint the whole shot in the wrong way. Instead I go for the midtones. And I know this sounds crazy. Since this is where skintones is supposed to live. But if you look at the talent. Her skin is actually probably already some of the brightest parts of the image. Sometimes this reverse-tactic does backfire. But the result is still a standard push-pull to get it to look great. And while I’m at it I go into the curve-editor to bring in a custom contrast-curve.

A lot better. But still. Let’s do what I’ve been told women spend a lot of their time doing when they expect to be seen by a lot of people. I myself don’t think it’s always necessary. But hey. I’m practicing a little hollywood-style right now, so let’s go a bit shallow with what’s considered beautiful. Just for practice… ok.

So here’s where I found de-noising to really help out while grading. For comparison I took two screen-shots of using the same key sample-area on the same footage with and without the de-noising beforehand:

Now, while the un-de-noised version is useable if you do some blurring of the key it does feel rather wasteful and you are loosing a bit of definition of the edges in the process. So in my mind the denoised one is a clear winner. But then in this example I did end up blurring it allthewhile but I hope you see the potential here.

So back on topic here. Using a rather wide sample of the skin I got a nice key and went ahead to warm it up a bit further while also adding in a negative pop to even out her skin a bit and topping it off with a slight rasing in exposure. Since the key keeps the negative pop and warming where it should be without interfering with the details in the eyes and lips, I can be a bit agressive with those adjustments. -55 on the pop is probably a bit heavy-handed. But heh… it it’s already rendered… So what am I supposed to do? And it doesn’t seem to bother the guy in the back even.

(adding a negative doesn’t that result in zero?!)

Then, I felt rather done with her. But the red jacket in the background did feel a bit obtrusive. So on a second adjustment-layer I added another colorista and went into its secondary keyer. Sampled the red jacket. And just pulled down its saturation and brightness a bit.

And while I was just about to call it done I found myself looking at the lips. And I wondered. Could I maybe do digital lipstick? It sounded a bit off. But I’m not one to shy away from what’s supposed to be stupid. So I simply added another adjustment layer and another colorista. This time with a big power-mask (the first time I used the powermask-feature in this “project”) over the lip-area. A simple key and color-adjustment later and suddenly she had a not too tasteless adding of lip-pigmentation (anyone who’s actually knowledgeable about makeup probably disagrees with my wording and estethics. But at least I tried. 🙂 )

So in closing, don’t let me forget what the title was. Because now I’ve gone from this:

To this:

 Without it ending up looking like this:

The difference might be slight. And probably even neglibe on the web as youtube and such. But trust me, in motion. You will be glad to not see that noise dance around, distracting you eyes from what’s important in the scene (I spent two hours in Oldenburg looking at grain-structure btw. It was booooooring… and the film wasn’t great either).

Here’s to the next english-language blog entry!


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