How to colour grade your footage using… Wait, what? Microsoft Excel?
There are some rather mad people on the Internet. And they don’t get much madder than the folks at Syrp Lab. But building a DaVinci Resolve style system of colour grading in Microsoft Excel isn’t quite as crazy as it might first appear. You see, under the hood, DaVinci Resolve is essentially just running some maths when it changes the colour of your images. Maths is all Excel does, too.
The Excel work shown in the video essentially allows you to see what DaVinci Resolve, and similar grading apps are doing under the hood. The maths behind the madness of colour grading. It helps you to understand exactly what each tool in the grading palette – Lift, Gamma, Gain and just about every other control – is doing. Ultimately, it helps you to become better at colour grading.
Doing your colour grading in Microsoft Excel (or any other spreadsheet application) is incredibly inefficient compared to doing it in purpose-built tools and video editing applications like DaVinci Resolve, Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro. But understanding how it works at a fundamental level makes it easier for you to understand how to better colour grade beyond simply trusting your gut. It gives some insight into the colour-grading tools that let you perform tasks with intent rather than randomly sliding stuff around to see what happens.
This level of understanding is particularly useful if you need to match footage from multiple cameras with different (even slightly different) colours. But it will also help with things like masking and keying, in order to understand how the different settings affect which areas of the image are selected. It all boils down to maths.
It is an incredibly geeky look at colour grading. Geeky enough that many of us will likely never need to go this in-depth into how colour grading works under the hood. But for those of us who are absolutely fascinated by how all this stuff works, it’s six and a half minutes of geeking out that will help you become better at what you do!
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.