A Quick Look at the SpeedGrade Look Panel

The Look panel is where all the fun happens in SpeedGrade. This is where you apply color corrections and design your look: the two parts of most color grading workflows.

Color correction, sometimes called the “technical grade,” is about making your shots look good and matched.

The creative part of grading is where you give your project its distinctive visual style. Here in SpeedGrade-Land we usually refer to this as “look design.”

To open the Look panel, make sure you have a clip selected on the Timeline (see Four Ways to Load Footage in SpeedGrade for more info). If a clip is not selected, the Look panel tab will remain inactive and you can’t open it.

The SpeedGrade Look panel

The SpeedGrade Look panel

When you first open the Look panel, you will notice that the color wheels and adjustment sliders appear dimmed. As soon as a tool is activated, it becomes undimmed. This allows you to see at a glance where you have made changes.

Every color tool has a square or triangular reset button so you can restore default values for that tool.

The first set of grading tools you see is for primary color corrections. It includes the standard three color wheels Offset, Gamma, and Gain, as well as sliders for Contrast, Saturation, Temperature, and Magenta.

For grading primaries, buttons at the top of the Look panel allow you to determine whether you want to apply adjustments to full tonal range of the image, or more narrowly to the shadows, midtones, or highlights. You can do any combination of these within the same grade.

People who like using curves should play around with the shadow, mids, and highlights adjustments: you can use them to create complex looks with very nuanced adjustments (and if you still miss your curves, please go ahead and submit a feature request: we love feedback!)

The Layer Stack
On the left-hand side of the Look panel you see the Layer Stack with one primary grading layer (waiting patiently for you to get started grading already!). At the bottom of the Layer Stack there are three buttons where you can add new layers to your grade.

Layers can be dragged up or down in the Layer Stack

Layers can be dragged up or down in the Layer Stack

The +P button is for adding additional primary layers (which apply to the whole image). The +S button is for adding secondary layers (which apply to specific color ranges defined by you). The + button is for adding a variety of effects, film-style filters, or LUTs. A grade, or “look” as we call it, could contain one layer with one adjustment, or dozens of layers with any number of adjustments.

When you add different kinds of layers, the color tools displayed in the main pane of the Look panel change. Just click on different layers to bring up the color tools (and your adjustments) for that layer.

Think of the layers as a complex series of filters, applied to your footage. You can use as many layers and stack (and restack) them as much as you like when you are creating your looks. It’s all non-destructive, which means that none of the changes are baked in until you render out the final result. You can play around to your heart’s content: nothing bad will happen!

Once you get the hang of using grading layers, you will see how powerful SpeedGrade CS6 really is.

Drag layers in the stack to reposition them. You can delete individual layers by selecting it and clicking the trashcan icon. Save looks you like by clicking the Save icon (although all your grading setting are saved automatically with the project, so you can go back into it to find individual looks).

The Look Browser
Below the color tools is the Look browser. A set of pre-designed looks is already there, which you can use and modify, and you can access your own saved looks there, too (to navigate to a new folder in the Look browser, click on the + sign to add a new tab and go find it!).

The Look browser is where you can access pre-designed .Look files or access .Look files you have created yourself.

The Look browser is where you can access pre-designed .Look files or access .Look files you have created yourself.

Virtual Trackball
Before I end this post, I just want to mention one cool feature: Virtual Trackball mode. Ideally we would all have awesome grading panels to do our color work, but if you don’t have one handy, this is a pretty decent substitute.

Right click on a color wheel to activate Virtual trackball mode. The whole wheel lights up to show it is turned on.

The Virtual Trackball allows for more precise adjustments using natural mouse or trackpad movements.

The Virtual Trackball allows for more precise adjustments using natural mouse or trackpad movements.

In Virtual Trackball mode, scrolling adjusts the outside dial. Mouse or trackpad movements adjust the cross hairs of the Virtual Trackball. Click to turn Virtual Trackball off for that color wheel

Remember: if you want to undo any adjustments,  just click on the triangular reset buttons below the color wheel.

Our next post will cover Color Correction Basics. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile:
Check out Colin Smith’s popular walk-through of SpeedGrade CS6.
Buy SpeedGrade right now! (Or download the free SpeedGrade CS6 30-day trial)
For help, or any technical questions, visit the SpeedGrade user forums.

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