Colour grading nighttime footage can be difficult. You’ve often got a lot of contrast to deal with, particularly when light sources appear in your shot and the camera often doesn’t see the muted nighttime colours (or the bright lights!) the same way we do with our eyes. While there are a lot of great in-depth tutorials out there for serious colour grading, sometimes you just need a “quick fix”.
The footage Stephen uses as his example is of a fairground with a big wheel and colourful lights all over the place shot on the Panasonic Lumix S5. He shot it in log mode, giving him the maximum dynamic range and colour the camera can capture while minimising the noise – something that night footage can be particularly prone to suffering. After having received a number of questions about how he did it, this video is the answer.
Stephen’s process begins with the basic correction tab in Lumetri Color. Initially, he applies the LogC2Rec709 profile which actually gets things quite close, but then he’s able to quickly adjust the contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks and white balance. This first part of the process is simple colour correction. This makes the footage look accurate, even if not quite the way you want it to end up. It gives you a starting point for your grade. And if this is all you need and you already know what look you want to apply on top of that, you can stop here.
Premiere Pro includes a bunch of creative looks you can use on your footage to emulate various looks, including a number of types of film processing methods, such as bleach bypass, as well as different formats of film stock. In this case, Stephen chooses Fuji Eterna 250D, and then further tweaks the settings to produce something he likes the look of.
Is it the “right” way to do it? Well, no. Is it as perfect as it could be? Also, no. And Stephen says as much in the video. But if you just need to insert a couple of night shots into your edit or you’re just putting together something quick for YouTube or social media and it only needs to look “close enough”, then this technique could save you a lot of time while still looking great!