Why Color Correction is Important to a Run and Gun Style of Documentary Filmmaking

In the world of corporate videos, there are a number of different styles of video that allow a client to tackle their specific subject. Each of those styles require different levels of supplemental work including motion graphics, sound design and color correction. For the purpose of this post, I want to emphasize the run and gun style of documentary filmmaking and discuss why color correction is important for creating a cohesive video.

The Challenges with Run and Gun Style Footage

When creating a documentary video, one draws from various media to articulate the point and craft the story. Many times when we are tasked with this type of video, we build the story with disparate images. For any given project, we can use still images, newspaper clippings, online articles, sound recordings, sit down interviews, and run and gun style coverage; basically any media that will help tell the story. Since documentaries typically involve a variety of media, with some footage being shot professionally, others being pulled from online streaming sites, or better yet, 30-year old vhs tapes; there is a real need to balance the exposure and color from each of the sources.

Why Color is Important to the Story

To us, story is the most important element of any video. In turn, the color of a shot can have a major impact in keeping the viewer’s attention and supporting the story. For instance, when a shot changes from a warm yellow feel to more of a cool blue feel in successive shots, it can be jarring enough to arrest the viewer’s attention away from the story (even though the end user may not be aware of his or her lapse in attention). This is where color correction really helps the quality of the final piece. Color correction helps by smoothing out the color from shot to shot and giving the video a more contiguous feel, allowing the viewer to focus on the story. If you’re unfamiliar with the art of color correction, please look at this video to understand a bit more about the art and science of color correction and color grading.

As mentioned above, one of the common elements you’ll see in documentaries is run and gun style footage. With a run and gun style, the action is recorded as it is happening and typically represents a truthful experience (showcasing events as they naturally occur, in real-time). However, what you gain in truth, you sacrifice in image control. Because images are not controlled with the camera, lighting, etc. an editor needs to spend time color correcting, balancing the color and tweaking exposure.

An Example

In order to reinforce some of our thoughts above, let’s focus on an example. Let’s say a shot follows a person from an outside location and moves to an inside location. In this case, the camera operator does not have the opportunity to readjust the exposure or white balance, because an intimate moment occurs during the location change (from outside to inside). In this instance, it is more important to get the moment rather than to have a well-balanced and perfectly exposed shot. With this type of run and gun style, color correction helps balance the color casts and increase the exposure, leading to a more consistent and even shot.

Summary

Ultimately, color correcting each shot in your documentary leads to a more cohesive final piece, especially when using media from a multitude of sources. Color correcting creates a video that feels more professional, because of increased contrast, or a specific look that helps sell the feeling of the video. Color correction can only help, so make sure you inquire about it for the next project.

Resources

Creating a video doesn't have to be complicated. Here are a few resources to help you along the way.

  • New to Video?

    A first timer's guide to
    producing video.

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  • How Much is
    a Video Worth?

    A complete guide to
    calculating the ROI of video.

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