More than 100 years ago, when films first started appearing in color, they were colored by hand. Every frame was hand-painted and dyed. Every color meticulously selected and placed. While technology has advanced far beyond that now, the meticulous nature of great coloring hasn’t. It’s still a hands-on activity. We recently talked with Joel Edwards, founder of Evolve and self-proclaimed color enthusiast, about why color matters, what techniques he uses, and why he loves DaVinci Resolve so much.
“I think color is everything. And even with all the programs that are out there and easily available, it’s still undervalued. It is singlehandedly the biggest way you can differentiate your images.”
Color is where I’m most hands-on. I’m obsessed with color. I think color is everything. And even with all the programs that are out there and easily available, it’s still undervalued. It is singlehandedly the biggest way you can differentiate your images. I’m honestly just obsessed with it. Everybody and their mom wants to be a DP. But if you can be a great imagist — if you love images and you want to make good money — go get really good at color correction, because there are so few good colorists out there.
Yes. I remember when Resolve came out. I was like, “This is the future.” I was very excited. I went out of my way to learn it, spent a lot of time really diving in. It can be a very complicated program, especially for those who’ve been using SpeedGrade or other built-in tools. And a lot of times those tools are great. Magic Bullet Looks by Red Giant is one of my favorite quick-and-dirty programs. Just boom! In the timeline, click click click, a couple adjustments, it looks nice. But Resolve completely changes the game.
A lot of people will say Resolve is too confusing, too complicated. But I like to flip that around and say, “Driving a high-end car isn’t easy either.” To get great results requires great craftsmanship. And the fact is Resolve is not that complicated a piece of software. It just requires some knowledge about how to operate it. But once you have that, what you can produce with it is incredible.
Power window tracking is probably their signature feature. If anyone doesn’t know what that is, it’s like, “Go do it. Go get Resolve Light right now, just play around with that for 10 minutes, and you’ll understand what all the buzz is about.” Also I think the fact that it’s designed to do one thing and one thing only: deliver amazing color. I think that in itself is a great feature. Other things that stick out to me are its Open Effects. Now you have all these third-party filters, be it FilmConvert or Tiffen DFX. It’s really awesome to have all of that right there in Resolve.
It’s huge, man. It’s absolutely huge. You’re essentially not having to do the work of three, four nodes. You don’t have to do a lot of tinkering and windowing trying to get something specific. You can already do it because someone’s already built it for you. Time is money and that’s why Open Effect is in there. When that came out, it was like game over.
“If you love images and you want to make good money — go get really good at color correction, because there are so few good colorists out there.”
It all depends on the project. A lot of our commercial jobs are heavy on the VFX, so we’re consistently bouncing things to an After Effects workflow. It’s still primarily a lot of 1080. But just recently we were finishing a spot for National Geographic’s Wicked Tuna, and we decided to do everything in 4K. Essentially, before we go to color, the timeline is a bunch of ProRes clips. And the easiest next step we’ve found is to render a flat file and then cut it up with scene detection.
Yeah, we use the Tangent Wave.
Of course. The thing you have to remember about noise reduction is there are a lot of factors and ingredients you’re working with. From how you’ve rendered it to how you shot it to the lenses you used. It all affects where that noise is going to go. A lot of times we’ll do a face sharpen, but all of a sudden it’s just a little too gritty. Noise is moving around. So within that same window you can throw the NR on there.
We haven’t used stabilizing as much, but we’ve certainly played around with it. Anytime we’re stabilizing, it’s always going to be in After Effects. But it’s cool to have that feature. It’s essentially the same engine as their tracker, to my knowledge, which is fantastic.
I think your ends have to justify your means. DaVinci is a professional tool built for professionals, by professionals. It’s not something you tinker around with. You have to decide if it’s worth the investment. It’s not just money — it’s time. Do you have the time to really use this tool? Because, honestly, a lot of people would probably get better results with their Magic Bullets or SpeedGrades because they only need to do certain things. Just fixing the whites and doing the curves. Those tools are right there and they’re available. So you have to decide if it makes sense for you to make the time investment and workflow investment into Resolve. It takes more time to use Resolve, there’s no doubt about it. But if your ends do justify your means, then using Resolve is really a no-brainer.
Again, that’s one of the amazing things about Resolve. It’s built to perfect images. And a big part of that is being able to preview and do explorations. All those things are super important. No one just plays around with the sliders a little bit and calls it good. It’s a very back-and-forth, comparative process. Resolve knows that. You never look at the first take and call it good. You have to know what your options are. It’s a very reactive thing, and you need the tools to be able to react. Having the ability to preview and version becomes a very addictive way to work. You can do so much more, and you can do it pretty quickly.
“My advice would be to have reverence and respect for color theory, to understand just how powerful it is. It’s one of the most powerful elements in filmmaking.”
My advice would be to have reverence and respect for color theory, to understand just how powerful it is. It’s one of the most powerful elements in filmmaking. It’s a lot more than just balancing the whites and giving it a nice look. It’s painting. There are amazing shots that become so much better with the grade. And then there are terrible shots that turn into really great stuff once someone who knew what they were doing got in there and made it right.
There’s a huge demand for good colorists. If you’re the person who can look at a frame or a picture and appreciate what’s good and what’s bad, to know what you’re looking for, then this work might be right up your alley. You could make a good living at it.
The best work is usually some of the most subtle. It’s very fashionable right now to do low-contrast stuff, and we appreciate that. But what’s so awesome about color is you can do anything you want to serve your story. Do something that’s unique, that’s different. I think that’s why I love color so much: you can make your work so distinct.
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