Chromanator Tutorials: Grading & Effects
Soft focus and elfglow
In another tutorial I explained how the ‘Add' composite mode can be used to composite light-based elements, such as explosions. There are many other uses for it, even when working with regular footage. In this tutorial I'll focus on a couple of interesting effects that can be achieved with the ‘Add' mode.
Many films often use a technique known as soft focus, whereby everything has a slightly glowing, magical appearance. It would commonly be used in romantic scenes or in film noir when the femme fatale was introduced. The forthcoming film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow also features highly stylised soft focus cinematography throughout.
Chromanator can be used to create this look in post-production. I'll be working with this particular shot:
First thing I need to do is place two identical copies of the same clip onto the timeline, one above the other. The higher clip needs to have its properties altered.
- Select Properties from the higher object's menu.
- Change the composite mode to ‘Add'.
The ‘Add' mode combines the pixel values, which will lead to the canvas preview becoming very bright.
I now need to apply some tools to the higher object. The two crucial tools are Brightness (located in the Grade toolset) and Box Blur RGBA (located in the Effects toolset).
- The amounts of Brightness and Blur are largely an aesthetic choice, but for this example I'll set the blur to 11.
This is already giving an interesting soft focus glow to the shot, but it is still far too bright.
- By turning the Brightness down to -81, the ‘Add' effect is lessened.
This results in a very stylised image, but one that makes for a far more dramatic and interesting shot when compared to the relatively flat original. Different effects can be achieved by altering the Brightness and Blur amounts, making the soft focus glow as subtle or extreme as necessary.
Above you can see the same shot at different stages.
1 - This is the original shot. Note the comparatively flat lighting, shadows, highlights and colours.
2 - With Brightness and Blur added to the mix using Add mode, as described above.
3 - Same as top-right, plus complete desaturation and Super Contrast with black point raised.
4 - Same as bottom-left, plus the Super Contrast white point lowered.
An offshoot of the soft focus technique described above, this takes the same basic concept and throws a garbage matte into the mix. If I take the exact same setup as described above but add a garbage matte to the ‘Add' clip, the results are very different.
In this instance I've drawn a garbage matte around the actor and inverted it, so that everything is excluded except the actor:
As you can see, the matte has been drawn very loosely, with a feather of 23 applied to blur the edge. The result is that the actor receives the soft focus, whilst the rest of the shot remains normal:
Again, the amount of Brightness and Blur can be adjusted to create different effects.
Perhaps not too useful for your average grittily realistic urban drama, but next time you make a big fantasy epic it might just come in handy.
Click here to download an example movie.