The Difference Between Color Correction & Color Grading

Kathleen Enterante / 8.9.2019

In the post-production process, color is done through color correction or color grading, but color correction and color grading are, in fact, different.

Color Correction

Color correction refers to the process where each clip of footage is altered to match a consistent standard of appearance. Basically, correcting problems of the underlying image by balancing out the colors, making the whites appear white, the blacks appear black, and making sure that everything is even. The goal is to match the video footage to a standard that would be an accurate portrayal of how the human eye would view it.

An example of this is when you’re shooting outside over the course of the day. During the day, the quality of the sun is going to change, and certain shots of your video will not match up. That’s why color correction is important, as it will make your video look like it was all shot at the same time.

Color correction is really just the first pass in a color workflow. It is the first thing a colorist needs to look at before moving forward to color grading.

Color correcting changes an image to portray how the human eye would see it.

Color Grading:

Color grading is taking what you have done in color correction a step further. Color grading enhances your story by manipulating colors to create a new tone or mood or to achieve a certain look to tell the story. According to Studiobinder.com, “Color can affect us emotionally, psychologically and even physically, often without us becoming aware.” Color grading can make a drastic change to footage.

Color Grade Examples:

Here are some great examples of professional color grades from Studio Binder: 

In the first example, from Black Hawk Down, the blue is much more saturated, and the brightness is turned down, with the highlights lowered as well. The effect is a great look for sci-fi footage.

Ungraded vs graded in Black Hawk Down.

In the next example, below, is a landscape shot which also comes from a Ridley Scott film, The Martian.

You’ll notice immediately how much darker the sand in the ungraded clip looks, and, obviously, the amount of saturation in the sky. It looks like, well, Mars.

Ungraded vs graded in The Martian.

The color correction process is to make the footage look exactly the way that the human eye sees things. While color grading is where you create the actual aesthetic of your video, the right color grading helps convey a visual tone or mood.

To sum it up, take a look at this 30-second video that quickly explains the differences between color correction and color grading.

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