If you haven't already heard of them, MZed is an online filmmaking school that offers courses in a variety of subjects, including storytelling, production, editing, and sound. Their newest offering is Mastering Color, essentially a masterclass in color grading.
Course instructor Ollie Kenchington had previously made a shorter 1.5 hour course called Directing Color. The class explores visual language, color theory, and color grading concepts that enhance storytelling.
But this new course is a color grading class on an entirely new level.
Mastering Color is a 7.5 hour course that provides a complete guide to professional color for video producers. This is a masterclass on color grading that doesn't exist anywhere else online.
Do You Need a Color Grading Masterclass?
There's so much that goes into making a film or video that by the time we get to color correction and color grading, we're pretty much exhausted. So like many filmmakers out there, we do a quick basic grade, or we use a LUT, or lately, we use FilmConvert to provide both the correction and the film look.
For many projects, we call it good and move on. But there are scenarios where we're being paid to professionally grade a project for a commercial or corporate client, using sometimes less than stellar footage, and suddenly we're in the deep end, far from our comfort zone.
Like much of the world of freelance production, you are expected to "fake it until you make it." Learn as you go, watch how others are doing it, and then get better at it by trial and error.
But the problem with this approach in the world of color grading is where do you go to learn? Much of the Youtube tutorials out there are done by others who are simply farther along in the faking it until you're making it lifecycle. And you can't really go and sign up for a professional color grading class at your local community college.
That's why a color grading masterclass is so necessary, and yet there hasn't really been one until now. We need a professional colorist to help us learn color grading the right way, rather than showing us hacks or plug-ins or basic color wheels.
More than Color Grading Tutorials
In Mastering Color, Ollie goes all the way from the fundamentals to more specific instruction around color balancing and contrast, HDR and RAW workflows, skin tones and continuity, film emulation and creative looks, and more.
In the first module, which is free to watch without purchasing the course, Ollie goes through a grading suite configuration. He talks about how to setup a home suite, using hardware panels, and also how to tackle color grading with clients present.
Ollie Kenchington is a UK-based filmmaker and educator who produces commercials, short films, documentaries, and branded content. He's very easy to listen to and he knows what he's talking about, which makes him a good instructor for this kind of sophisticated topic.
Mastering Color Class Description
Here are the module descriptions in the Mastering Color course catalog:
Color Grading Setup - 51 minutes
In the first module, Ollie shows us why setting up an environment where your eyes and monitors can be trusted is of vital importance. As well as seeing how professional suites are configured, thanks to a rare interview with CHEAT lead colorist, Toby Tomkins, Ollie also gives practical tips on how to create a home suite on a budget and how to calibrate your own monitors. He finishes up with advice on working with clients in the room, and how to decode emotive keywords that clients might use to describe the look they are after.
Contrast - 1 hour 11 minutes
Here, Ollie breaks down the differences between contrast, tonality, dynamic range and luminance perception. He also teaches us the fundamentals of reading histograms and waveform monitors, to help avoid clipping and crushing when using lift, gamma, gain controls. To help illustrate these topics, Ollie uses a broadcast commercial for a sofa company, where contrast is used to make the product stand out against its surroundings.
Color Balancing - 54 minutes
In this lesson, Ollie discusses the basic concepts of the additive color model and how we can use this knowledge to counteract color casts in our images. Along the way, we learn how to use the Parade, Vectorscope, RGB Overlay Waveform Monitor and RGB picker. We also hear from acclaimed cinematographer Brett Danton, as he discusses how important accurate colors are to him and his clients.
Continuity - 1 hour 28 minutes
Continuity is the unsung hero in color grading, and an often overlooked part of the process. In this lesson, Ollie takes on the challenge of matching Canon and Sony cameras on a multicam shoot, using an X-Rite Color Checker Video chart. He then breaks down his workflow for creating visual harmony across a sequence of shots in a short film (The Storm, created by Vimeo Staff Pick winning director, Sam Buchanan), while discussing stills, image wipes and split screens along the way.
Skin Tones - 47 minutes
With the fundamentals of primary grading dealt with, Ollie now turns his attention to one of the most important parts of color grading - skin tones. What are memory colors? Is there such a thing as the perfect skin tone? How do we make faces look realistic, yet cinematic at the same time? All these questions are answered by Ollie in this module, with valuable contributions made along the way by Academy award winning make up artist, Peter Swords King.
Creative Looks - 34 minutes
Ollie starts here with a discussion about the differences between technical and creative LUTs. Ollie talks about the importance of owning your own images and gives tips on how to develop your own looks using curves and qualifiers, the differences between monochrome and desaturated looks and how to use split screens and versions in DaVinci Resolve to audition looks quickly.
Film Emulation - 35 minutes
In this module, Ollie tackles the two distinct areas of the look of film - texture and colour. What can you do with stock effects? What can be achieved with dedicated tools, like FilmConvert? Ollie uses the latest music video from acclaimed celluloid DP, Jamie Harding, to show how he matches footage from the Arri Alexa and Arri SR2. He also gives a demonstration of how he addresses film halation, using simple techniques in DaVinci Resolve.
HDR & Raw - 1 hour 5 minutes
In Ollie’s final module, he teams up with internationally renowned filmmaker, Philip Bloom, to look at the future of film production and delivery - HDR. Starting off in Philip’s hometown of Richmond, the pair shoot ProRes RAW and Canon Raw Light during golden hour, while discussing the dos and don’ts of recording for HDR delivery. Ollie then heads back to the grading suite to show Philip what his work looks like on a 1000 nit HDR monitor, and how to set up, grade and deliver HDR video. Ollie also talks about raw workflow and how working in raw can benefit your clients, even if you are only delivering in HD SDR.
MZed Pro Online Filmmaking Courses
The Mastering Color masterclass is available for purchase in its entirety for $199, or you can buy each module separately. Buying the course enables you to download and watch the course offline, or in your dark, color grading dungeon where the wifi signal is weak.
But MZed has a great deal where you can bundle their annual membership - which is priced $299 - along with the Mastering Color course, for $399. That means you’re instantly saving $100 on the course, and you’re getting 160 hours of other online filmmaking courses to watch as much as you’d like for 12 months.
The $399 bundle is also nice because you can split the payments into a 3-month EZ pay system. There’s more info on the memberships here.
Learn from Philip Bloom, Vincent Laforet, Shane Hurlbut
The MZed member library includes a cinematic masterclass from Philip Bloom, lighting workshops from Shane Hurlbut, the infamous Directing Motion training from Vincent Laforet, and our favorite so far, Visual Storytelling from SNL cinematographer Alex Buono.
We’ve just started to dive into these filmmaking courses and already we feel like we’ve learned so much practical and conceptual information that is goes beyond anything you’ll find on Youtube or filmmaking blogs.
MZed also has photography courses, including one from Jerry Ghionis. There’s also courses on sound production, flash photography, screenwriting, using LUTs, and a few detailed camera primers.
Most of these classes began as very expensive in-person workshops, which were then filmed and edited into online trainings that had to be purchased individually. But now that they’re part of the MZed library, you can access them all in one place.
The one bummer at the moment is apart from the Mastering Color course, there’s no way to download the MZed library courses for offline viewing. Right now you have to stream them from the website, which uses the Vimeo streaming engine. But the good news is, MZed tells us they’re working on a mobile app that will enable offline viewing sometime in 2019.