32bit grading & lighting processing

Part of color grading is re-lighting a scene. Unfortunately, Sony Vegas doesn’t have a 3D lighting system like After Effects has, but it’s still possible to hack together some basic re-lighting using Bump Map plugin’s “spotlight” template.

For some weird reason, stacking 3 Bump Map plugins in their own tracks (to emulate a 3-point lighting) is very sensitive to 8-bit processing, and they end up canceling each other out. However, it works lovely, and as it should, when using 32bit processing in Linear mode (mode is available only on Vegas Pro).

Here’s an example of how important grading, lighting, and 32bit processing is.

Original file:

Picture by Melissa Ann Barrett, licensed under the Creative Commons “Attribution/Share-Alike” 2.0 license.

The best I could do with Vegas Platinum’s 8-bit processing while trying to re-light the scene. Project file here (load the .vf file, using the picture here).

Grading and re-lighting with Vegas Pro’s 32-bit linear processing. The result is much more pleasing. Project file here (load the .veg file, using the picture here).

I hope that Vegas will eventually introduce proper lighting functionality, so this way the need for 32bit is minimized. Nevertheless, this article should show you the need for re-lighting while color-grading. Turn on/off the bump map plugins on the project file linked above to see how much re-lighting helps.


Jara wrote on September 20th, 2009 at 2:09 PM PST:

What you often oversee is strong halo around the edges. I see the same issue with your colour grading. Pay attention to that. Keep the tutorials coming.

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Eugenia wrote on September 20th, 2009 at 2:29 PM PST:

There is no way to get rid of the halo with the tools I am using without masking. And masking is not something that I am willing to use because Vegas’ masking sucks (it creates additional halo that can only be get rid of by feathering it out at the highest level, which pretty much negates the usage of the mask).

This is why I said on my previous blog post that After Effects does a better job in grading.

nzo wrote on September 20th, 2009 at 5:23 PM PST:

Thanks Eugenia.

For me, if Jara had not mentioned the halo, it would have just been part of a beautiful outcome of color grading – but I can understand how video producers put everything under the microscope 🙂

I like a saying that can be applied to many situations:

“The more powerful the microscope, the farther up your ar*e you get”

Thanks for all your tutorials Eugenia. They’re much appreciated!

Daren wrote on September 21st, 2009 at 1:50 PM PST:


These are great examples on different effects and I can definitely see a difference from 8 bit to 32 bit. And maybe that was the entire point of this exercise.

I don’t think this tutorial address the need for grading and lighting changes. For example. If this original image was being used in a television commerical for skin softener, fabric softener, or even soap, I believe you cannot improve upon the original. If I were going to have this photo sitting in my house, or If I were going to sell frames and I wanted to use this image to package with the frame, I wouldn’t change it.

I guess I’ve not yet been sold on the need to change color and grading. I’m sure there must be a need for it but I’ve not seen any compelling reasons yet on why to do it.

I really think that the photographer needs to have a purpose for the changing that they are doing. Like composing a shot in the first place, it all has to have a purpose.


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Eugenia wrote on September 21st, 2009 at 2:05 PM PST:

You are forgetting art. You think in terms of practicalities, and in terms of commercial passport photography. The kind of grading you see above is part of a more artistic interpretation instead. The kind of photoshoped images you see on FlickR that have thousands of views. And such a scene could also serve greatly at a dramatic scene in a movie. My graded version could easily be a scene of a Hollywood movie, while the ungraded one wouldn’t strike as much.

So no, I don’t grade for soap commercials, sorry. This is a filmmaking blog. 😉

Robert wrote on September 21st, 2009 at 2:39 PM PST:

I really appreciate your grading techiques, but honestly, i don’t think the original image needs any color correction at all. Do a test: show the three pictures to a person who knows nothing about computers and ask him which picture he/she likes best. I’m sure 99% will find more pleasing picture number 1. To me, the other ones seem overprocessed.

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Eugenia wrote on September 21st, 2009 at 3:17 PM PST:

I am afraid that both of you just don’t get it. And this irritates me because I put a lot of time here. This is a FILM-making blog, not a stock photography one.

I can tell you right now, that taking ONE frame out of any blockbuster film and showing it ungraded/graded, a lot of people will just go for the “natural” look, the ungraded one. But this is NOT what they really actually like on a film, even if they pick the ungraded frame as their favorite. When they watch the actual movie, they would prefer the graded one!

When you have a SUCCESSION of frames, and you have a STORY, then you NEED the color to elevate the EMOTIONS. Use your imagination!

What if that frame was grabbed from a scene where the hero visits a monastery orphanage in the 1900’s? Everything is dark, both because natural lighting is limited in a monastery of the time, and because you want to convey the feeling that the future is grim for a lot of the children in that orphanage. And then you see THAT child. The light only lights its face, and with just its innocent look, its eyes just scream “pick me, pick me”. The viewer immediately *connects* with that kid specifically.

If for that said scene above the original frame was used as is, then the drama would have been way lesser, and you wouldn’t connect with the kid at all, because the kid would be lighten the same way as any other kid in that supposed orphanage room. The film would feel very amateurish, and like a soap opera, at best.

So before you talk, THINK. Think like a filmmaker. Don’t think like a housewife who just bought a new photo-frame (and personally, I would use the graded version for a photo-frame too). Why do you think the MOST popular FlickR images are the ones that are heavily photoshoped too? Because that’s how art works best.

If exact photographic painting is “the right one”, then there would be no Picasso or Dali either.

Glenn wrote on September 22nd, 2009 at 2:18 AM PST:

Hi Eugenia, I found this post of yours whilst searching for more of your Canon SX200 tips and info, since mine arrived today. Brilliant camera by the way.. I’m surprised at how nice the the 3 test shots I’ve taken look.

Anyway, have you tried the Secondary Color Corrector in Vegas? That’s what I used in this video

to relight his face in the 2nd and 3rd ‘before and after’ photos. I also used it to change the colour of the sky in the first photo without affecting anything else. It’s not too difficult to use and you can get some really nice results. Basically you just use the colour picker to select an area you want to adjust, turn the matte on to view it in black and white, and tweak the settings until the area you need to adjust appears white. Then just make your adjustments.

Adding the chroma-blur plugin before the secondary color corrector may help smooth out the edges.

I’m a lot less concerned about making drastic adjustments in Vegas these days using Neat Video to clean up any of the additional noise. I even use Neat Video to remove the noise from untreated video which is still visible.

Dakkar wrote on September 22nd, 2009 at 8:10 PM PST:

Is it possible to have more info on relighting with Vegas and using the secondary color corrector?

Thanks! Love the blog.

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