Using a Chip Chart in Production
In many productions, a chip chart is placed next to the slate at the beginning of every
shot. This chart can be used during post-production to unambiguously correct each
shot so that the color balance of your images can be perfectly corrected. This then
gives the colorist a good neutral starting point for the color correction process.
Chip charts are especially useful during multicamera shoots with consumer-grade
camcorders. The white balance settings on such cameras often won’t precisely match,
even if manually adjusted. This can make cutting back and forth within a scene
problematic because you’ll be cutting from one color temperature to another. If,
however, you shoot a chip chart along with the slate at the beginning of each shot
for each camera, you can use this to color correct the footage from every camera
used in the shoot, so that all your shots match.
Example of a chip chart used for
color calibration. Chip charts can
be obtained at a professional
The goals of color correction at this stage depend on the length of the project.
Â Short projects, commercials, spots, and very short videos may get a detailed color
correction pass right away. The colorist will first calibrate the telecine’s own color
corrector to balance the whites, blacks, and color perfectly. Then the colorist, in
consultation with the cinematographer, director, or producer, will work shot by shot
to determine the look of each clip according to the needs of the project. As a result,
the editor will be working with footage that has already been corrected.
Â Long-form projects such as feature-length films and longer television programs
probably won’t get a detailed color correction pass right away. Instead, the footage
that is run through the telecine will be balanced to have the best blacks, whites, and
color possible, and left at that.
In both cases, the transferred tapes are then edited the same as any other project.
Once editing has been finished and the picture is locked, a list of selected shots called
a cut list or pull list is created that details exactly which shots were used during the edit.
(The shots used during the edit are matched with the original shots using edge code
numbers that are transferred along with the video.)
Using the cut list, the post-production supervisor has the option of pulling only the
film negative that was actually used. Because this is usually a minority of the footage
that was shot, the colorist now has the time to perform a more detailed color
correction pass only on the selected footage. This is accomplished during a second
Although this might seem redundant, performing color correction directly from the
film negative has distinct advantages. Because film has greater latitude from black to
white than video has, a colorist working straight off the telecine has greater control of
color and exposure than one working only with videotape.
After the second color correction pass, the color-corrected selects are reassembled to
match the original edit, and the project is mastered to tape.
shots in cut list
Color Correction and Video Quality Control
Tape-to-Tape Color Correction
With projects shot on videotape, the color correction process tends to be a little
simpler. There is not usually much attention paid to fine-tuning the video being
digitized for an offline edit. Once you begin your online edit on a nonlinear editor
(NLE), each tape is calibrated to match the color bars at the head of the tape whenever
you’re recapturing your footage at its highest quality for final output, to ensure that the
colors are correct. If you’re doing your online edit in a tape suite, the online editor takes
care of this step.
Once the edit has been locked and the final master tape created, the tape can be taken
to an online suite capable of tape-to-tape color correction. The master tape is run
through a color corrector, and the colorist uses the tape’s master timecode to set up
color correction settings for every shot of every scene. Once this setup is complete, the
entire tape is run through the color corrector and rerecorded to another tape.