Altering the hue, saturation, and brightness of the colours in the footage, as well as increasing or decreasing shadows, can transform the visuals of a video from something that is dull or washed out to something that is intense or evocative. This relies on two distinct processes: colour correction and colour grading.

Colour correction and colour grading are terms you hear a lot in reference to the postproduction process, but they are not interchangeable terms. In this blog, we’ll go over the differences between these two processes that both contribute to the finished image you see on screen.

Colour correction

The first thing to note about colour correction is that it is a technical concern, rather than a creative one. Colour correction focuses on fixing any issues with the colour of the original visuals, because the type of camera used, the brightness of the set and colour of the lighting can all affect the look of the footage.

The aim of colour correction is to make the footage appear as naturalistic as possible by making the colours seem clean and real. Colour correction involves adjusting the exposure, contrast, white balance, and black levels to make the footage seem (perhaps ironically) unaltered.

The process of colour correction may also involve trying to match the visual aesthetic of footage shot from different cameras or from scenes shot in different locations, with different lighting, so that the video has visual consistency throughout. Even if colour grading will be applied later, the footage needs to have this visual unity first so that it looks the same once it has been graded.

Colour grading

Unlike colour correction, colour grading is more of a creative concern. The purpose of colour grading is not to enhance the realism of a piece but to add atmosphere and emotion.

The colours from colour grading might not be natural but they will suit the video and help to underscore a desired tone or emphasise a specific mood. Some directors will use colour correction to establish a visual style that is distinctly unnatural, such as in sci-fi films.

You will likely have seen films that have a cold blue tint when focusing on an isolated character, a sickly green tint in a horror film, or happy flashbacks that are overexposed or have a golden hue – these are all examples of colour grading, used to evoke a specific emotional response.

Colour correction vs colour grading isn’t a competition. Colour correction and colour grading aren’t the same, but they aren’t opposing concepts. It is a mix of both of these processes that results in the polished visuals that make their way into the final video. Colour correction sets the stage for colour grading to have the best effect, but colour correction alone may seem flat.

Both colour correction and colour grading can transform the visuals of a video, but the foundation for these changes needs to be laid out on the shoot through good lighting, production design and cinematography. If you need help with colour correction, colour grading or any other part of the postproduction process, please get in touch and see how we can help!