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Creative Grading Techniques for Film and Video: Blurred and Colored Vignettes

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Alexis Van Hurkman shows you how to use a shape to add a combination of color and/or blur to the outer border of an image.
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This next technique is another way of using shapes/Power Windows to make some wild iris effects. The basic idea is to use a shape to add a combination of color and/or blur to the outer border of an image. I first pulled this out for a dream-sequence opening in the feature Oral Fixation. Shortly thereafter I also saw the same idea used in 2008’s Wanted (Stephen J. Scott, Supervising Digital Colorist, EFILM) to indicate altered perception for a character’s point of view (POV) shot. This technique works best when you’re using a shape with an extremely soft edge. In the following example, a soft oval is used to limit a Gaussian blur and Gain color balance adjustment toward red to the outer edge of the image (Figure 4.1).

Figure 4.1

Figure 4.1 A blurred, colored vignette provides an easily altered sense of reality.

This idea can be combined with an aggressive grade inside of the shape or with the cross-processing simulation technique presented in Chapter 5 to create nonlinear alterations to image color.

In Figure 4.2, a seemingly innocuous establishing shot of a house is lent a faded, vintage air by virtue of two different curve operations messing with the color channels, one inside and one outside of the vignette.

Figure 4.2

Figure 4.2 Different cross- processing simulation effects applied to the inside and outside of a vignette. The blurring is already there, courtesy of the moving camera’s motion blur.

Never underestimate the effectiveness of a simple vignette.

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