This is how you avoid the “video” look in color grading

We always strive for more cinematic images. How to get there in the mail!

Whether you’re a seasoned colorist or a newbie to the craft, you’ve likely spent a lot of time trying to find a more cinematic look for your grades. This is a worthwhile endeavor, and we discussed some key strategies for doing this earlier this year.

But besides understanding what we are looking for, it is often necessary to realize what we do not want. And if the “cinematic” look is our goal, then its archenemy is the dreaded “video” look.

So let’s discuss the concepts and features that drive this look, and what we can do to improve them if they feed into our work.

Check out my latest video below, then dive into a little bit of detail.

Contrast vs. Contour

One of the main drivers of the “video” look is an over-simplification of contrast.

Often times, “video” levels are the result of over-emphasizing the darkest and lightest areas of the image and under-emphasizing the tonal journey in between. The better approach is to not only think about the total distance between these two extremes, but also to make sure that the image has tonal detail, separation, and “snap” along the way.

Whether you go for a low-con, a high-con look, or anywhere in between, you can avoid the “video” look by making sure you take the time to contour the right with tools like Resolve’s Custom to Create Create Curves.

Recognition: Cullen Kelly

Saturation vs. Separation

Another consistent factor with “video” y-degrees is an over-reliance on saturation.

When we reach for the saturation button, we often look for a greater separation and can achieve more depth, harmony and color by focusing on this factor.

An excellent strategy for increasing the separation is to use Resolve’s custom curves to add split toning, which shifts cooler colors into the shadows and warmer colors into the highlights. This often results in more organic and cinematic images compared to simply turning the saturation knob.


Now that we’ve looked at video looks and how they relate to more cinematic looks, we have an excellent foundation for exploring and discovering more nuanced aesthetics that defy description and make our color work truly unique. Happy hunting!

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