Adding Atmosphere with Vignettes

Vignettes are a great tool for visual storytelling. They add a depth to shots and they help give digital content a more filmic feel – and Adobe SpeedGrade CS6 offers powerful tools for creating them.

Psychologically, vignettes allow you to focus the viewer’s attention on the subject and subtly mimic the human eye, where color perception drops off around the periphery of our field of vision.

You create vignettes for an individual shot, by adding a mask to a grading layer, within a clip, or by adding a separate grading track on the timeline, for example to go across multiple clips. Colorists sometimes combine vignettes, adding atmosphere and a greater sense of space to their shots. In this post we’re going to look at how to add a single vignette to a shot in SpeedGrade.

To add a simple vignette to a clip, select the clip on the Timeline.

Make the Mask
Add a new grading layer to the layer stack. With the new layer selected, click Add Grading Layer to the Outside of the Mask.

Add a mask as a grading layer in SpeedGrade CS6

Add a mask as a grading layer in SpeedGrade CS6

Creating the vignette mask involves moving back and forth between the Look panel and the Mask panel. Now that you have told SpeedGrade to use a mask, click the Mask panel tab to create it.

Click on the Vignette Mask preset button to add the mask to the clip.

In the Mask panel, click the Vignette Mask preset button to add the mask overlay on your image.

In the Mask panel, click the Vignette Mask preset button to place the mask overlay on your image.

Meet the Mask widget
In the center of the mask you will see the mask widget, a really cool tool that allows you to shape the mask and set the fall-off exactly the way you want to. Each part of the widget controls the corresponding part of the mask, so you can reposition, skew, rotate, resize, expand the fall-off for your mask. If you select one or more points on the mask, you can use the mask widget to adjust only those points.

See that green thing in the center? That's the mask widget.

See that green thing in the center? That’s the mask widget.

To shape my mask, I rotated the mask by dragging on the semicircular part of the widget to get a vertical orientation.

Then I expanded the size of the mask by dragging out from the inner square corner. Finally, I dragged the outer square corner to expand the fall-off. I dragged it outside the edge of the image to get a nice gradual fall-off.

Drag the outer square of the mask widget to extend the mask falloff

Drag the outer square of the mask widget to extend the falloff.

Once your mask is positioned where you want it, click on the Look panel tab to create the vignette.

Create the Vignette
Vignettes are created by subtly darkening the edges of the image. You can achieve this by dialing down the luminance on the Offset or the Gamma color wheels. Using Offset allows for a more obvious darkening of the edges. Using the Gamma allows you to maintain the colors more evenly across the image. For this shot, I used a combination of the two.

For a vignette, you will typically want to darken the edges of the frame by reducing the luminance, but you can use this technique to create a variety of different effects.

For a vignette, you will typically darken the edges of the frame, but you can use masks to create a variety of different effects.

As you dial down the luminance, notice how the edges darken and the vignette appears. For my shot I went pretty dark, in order to have the blank wall on the right recede, but many vignettes are much more subtle, such that the viewer may not even recognize that they are being used.

... and voila! Here is the shot with vignette applied. You can go back to the Mask panel to adjust the the mask overlay, if you want to fine-tune the shape or placement of the vignette.

… and voila! Here is the shot with vignette applied. You can go back to the Mask panel to adjust the the mask overlay, if you want to fine-tune the shape or placement of the vignette.

Mask vignettes are a simple way to greatly enhance the filmic look of your shots. Masks can also be used in other ways, for example to decrease saturation or to shift colors. Since SpeedGrade works non-destructively, it’s easy to experiment with different approaches to get your shots looking exactly the way you want them to. By the way: the footage used in this post (and the previous one) was created by Vincent Laforet. If you haven’t see it already, Vincent posted a little SpeedGrade tutorial of his own a few months back.

In the next post, we’ll add a look (including a vignette) on the Timeline so that it can be applied across multiple shots.

In the meantime:
Check out this introduction to SpeedGrade from fxphd. Lots more helpful SpeedGrade video links there, too.
Ready to try it out yourself? Buy SpeedGrade, or download the free SpeedGrade CS6 30-day trial.
Need help with technical questions? Visit our user forums.

 

 

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