The Craft of Color Grading

Taught by Craig Leffel

Course Number:
Software Version:
Original Run Date:
October 2011 
9 hours 32 minutes 
Building upon our successful Craft of Editing series, The Craft of Color Grading looks to explore the world of the colorist and the craft of grading from an application-agnostic approach as much as possible. The lead prof who has helped develop the course is Chicago-based Craig Leffel, who has over 20 years of experience grading the top commercials finished in the city. He'll be helped along the way with some of his friends who are some of the top colorists based in the United States.

The goal of GRD201 is to tap Leffel's and the other colorist's years of experience from both a creative standpoint as well as a practical standpoint. So we'll not only be covering how to make beautiful imagery, but also things such as how to deal with the often-conflicting viewpoints of dealing with divergent views from clients. They'll also be sharing some of their favorite grades they've seen from movies and other projects and critically breaking them down and speaking about why they feel it's top work.

Course members should be comfortable grading in their application of choice. This is not a course designed to teach the operation of software, but instead is about creating great looking imagery. The primary software used by the colorists will be Baselight, but is taught with the goal of showing techniques that can be used in any application.
The Craft of Color Grading
Watch our overview of the course

Class Listing

Class 1

Solid foundations. An intro to Craig Leffel's background and approach to the craft of grading. The importance of setting up a solid starting workflow which can then be built upon

Class 2

Continuing the Moving Day grade. Don't jump the gun and begin using advanced features. Get your base imagery correct and sequence balanced before diving into specifics.

Class 3

Finalizing the Moving Day grade. Craig examines windowing and other techniques -- and the reasons and his thoughts behind doing them.

Class 4

Old School Tech: We dive into learning about film stocks and film processing. Film might be hanging on for dear life, but clients and others use film references to explain their vision, so this background is critical to know. Optimus colorist Tyler Roth will grade some scenes from Moving Day, attempting to re-create Technicolor looks as well as processes such as bleach bypass and cross processing.

Class 5

Movie references. Clients use references to movies such as Minority Report, Saving Private Ryan, and City of God. Tyler Roth will take a single sequence and grade it a variety of ways, lending his interpretation to these common requests.

Class 6

Guest prof Stu Maschwitz examines storytelling and the craft of grading from the perspective of the indy filmmaker.

Class 7

The Politics of Grading: The reality of being paid to do work is that someone else will also be involved in the creative decision making process. And one of the most difficult things for artists new to the process is managing the various personalities, desires, and motivations of the client. Editor Liz Tate and Craig Leffel sit down to give their insights gleaned over years of working in pressure situations.

Class 8

Craig is back to work on a grade with less than perfect source footage, how to deal with issues of unknown formats and keeping an eye on consistency between shots.

Class 9

A continuation of working with less than perfect source and unknown formats, and Craig reviews the challenge submissions.

Class 10

In part A Craig shows his approach to grading the New Zealand footage and beauty work. In part B, Craig sits down and answers student questions from the term.