The difference between color grading and color correction

Post-production is essential in the realization of any audiovisual piece, whether in photography or video, color correction and color grading are processes that cannot be missed. Although they seem very similar, both editing processes have their differences, which lie in their purposes.

Next, we will present the conceptualization and purpose of each one to then understand the differences between color grading and color correction. In this way it will be easier to understand how color is worked in post-production and how this can influence the viewer’s perception.


Color correction

The naturalness with which the human eye perceives audiovisual pieces is due to color correction. And it is through this process that each clip taken during filming is treated individually to make them coincide with each other. This to achieve a correct balance of black and white, adequate temperature, and therefore uniformity.

During the filming of any audiovisual piece, different problems are faced, especially about lighting. This causes some shots to be underexposed and others to be overexposed. As well as some with temperatures colder or warmer than others. That is why color correction exists, and it is to give the naturalness that the human eye expects of everything and achieve the perception that everything was recorded at the same time.

Color correction also enables errors that were made during shooting to be corrected, such as incorrect calibration of camera parameters or incorrect white balance setting.


Color grading

After achieving visual consistency and naturalness with color correction, the next process in the workflow is color grading. This editing stage has a creative purpose and goes hand in hand with achieving a specific perception in the audience, which is raised by the audiovisual director.

Through color grading, the color tones are altered to create specific environments and perceptions. This process is carried out by a colorist, who knows color theory in-depth and is capable of giving the story the intention set by the director.

Color grading and emotions

Psychology proposes in one of its fields of study that color can infer in the ways that the individual perceives certain situations. And it is thanks to this theory that cinema since 1922 uses color grading to create different emotions, which are complementary to the performance of the characters on stage.

Color grading can make a scene feel differently with altered color tones. This is how many of the scenes of suspense, terror, sadness, joy, among others, are achieved in post-production. In any case, it involves manipulating the properties of color (temperature and tonality), to achieve the desired effect at specific or continuous moments.

In this creative process, colors can be saturated or highlighted, depending on the purpose of the scene. With color grading the desired effect can be achieved in the audience and according to the big audiovisual production companies it is one of the most expensive and required jobs in the film industry.


Differences between color grading and correction

Knowing the purpose of each of these processes, their differences can be seen more clearly. Even though both contribute to the work of color, each one is different in its process, and below you will see why.

  • Color correction will always come first in the color workflow, so if it is not done there can be no color grading.

  • Another difference between color grading and correction is that color grading fulfills a creative and unlimited purpose of imagination and manipulation of colors, to create ambiances and sensations. Unlike color correction, which always seeks to achieve a preset naturalness.

  • Color correction pursues uniformity to get the feeling that everything was recorded at the same time, color grading works by scenes and each one of them could create different atmospheres.

  • An editor can perform color correction on a clip, but only colorists work on the color grading.

  • Between the differences between color grading and color correction, it is present that color grading works with software dedicated to this process. Color-correction can be accomplished with almost any video editing software.


Tools for color grading

As mentioned above, color grading requires specific software for this task. One of the most popular is the Da Vinci Resolve program, which allows you to work with a wide variety of styles based on files in RAW format. Other functions include precision primary and secondary corrections and optical quality reframing.

Color grading is also applied in digital photography and, like color correction, it is a fundamental process for the completion of any audiovisual piece. Without these processes the visual perception of the viewer is less and the purpose of the piece could be significantly affected.

The intention that can be given to any film depends largely on the colorist and the publisher. Both are fundamental to the budget of any film performance and cannot be removed from the post-production equation.