Free Stock Assets


Hey all! We’re back from a too-long hiatus. To get back in to things here’s a Quick Hit for you. is a stock asset vendor that in addition to having paid assets offers free video, motion graphic, music, and sound effect assets. Most free assets require attribution, which can be included in end credits or in a text description published alongside your video (e.g. YouTube video description). Make sure you check the licensing and usage restrictions before using an asset in your production to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

QuickHits and a Cellphone Slide Converter

I introduce to you QuickHits; delicious little nuggets of knowledge goodness.

And with that…

Shazam!  Your first QuickHit!




BARKERGK posted a walk-through over on on how to make a slide converter for your cellphone, and for only $10 no less. With the availability of commercial slide converters very rapidly decreasing, this is a great way to convert those old slides you found in the attic while hiding Christmas presents.


Color Correction vs Color Grading

Color Correction vs Color Grading

Camera Corrected & GradedWorking with color is an important aspect of video production that many people grow into, at least cursorily. As part of being a novice in post-production terminology frequently gets misused or interchanged. While color correction and color grading use some of the same tools and processes they serve different purposes and are done in different parts of the workflow.

Color correction is used to alter footage across a project so that its appearance is consistent, creating an accurate portrayal as it would be viewed by the human eye, making sure whites look white and blacks look black. Typically this is compensating for inaccurate camera settings, leveling color temperature, or adjusting contrast, brightness, and saturation. The human eye will view white under varying lighting as white. However, with cameras you have to tell the sensor what white is. If done improperly your image will have a red, blue, or yellow cast. In addition, if you are shooting outside over the course of an entire day the color of the light will change as we move from sunrise to mid-day to dusk. Even passing clouds will change the color.

Color grading (color timing in reference to film) is altering the image for aesthetic or communicative purposes to enhance the story, create a visual tone, convey a mood, express emotion, or carry a theme. Typically the alterations in color grading are more extreme than with color correction. Rarely color grading can even be used to salvage problematic footage that color correction is incapable of fixing. Usually at the end of editing the editor will begin color grading, give the project to a dedicated colorist, or when quicker turnaround is required the footage will be sent off to be graded while editing is being done.Extreme dream sequence grading

Color is a powerful component and careful thought goes into crafting the look of a piece. Grading can be used subtly, to warm a scene by pushing the oranges and reds to give it the feel of late afternoon, or be used to make sweeping changes, creating striking visuals creating a surreal dream sequence.


Band of BrothersThere any many common grades that you may not have overtly noticed. A desaturated look is used to indicate something from a long time ago, such as in HBO’s Band of Brothers. Sepia tone is also used for the same purpose, but more sparingly.  O Brother Where Art ThouO Brother Where Art Thou employed a variant using desaturation while exaggerating the yellows and orange hues in a monochromatic color palette. Desaturation can also be used when dealing with a bleak and dreary world like the one in AMC’s The Walking Dead.The Walking Dead

Contrasting color grades can be used to differentiate locations, opposing forces or viewpoints, and acts within a picture. Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic used starkly contrasting color themes for Mexico’s corrupt underbelly and the United State’s political environment. TrafficThe Matrix movies are another iconic example of color being used to indicate changes in locale with heavy greens for the Matrix and more true to life colors for the real world.Matrix

Pitch Black uses color theme changes to show time lapse akin to Traffic’s use for locale. The warm, desaturated, blown-out highlights are used to stylize the ultra-bright daytime of multiple suns with dark, cold blues for the long, dangerous nights.Pitch Black

Faux nighttime can also be created in color grading when the footage was shot during the day. This is common practice since shooting in low light can be difficult and frequently imparts heavy grain in the image.Day For Night

Production Tip: White balance off a manila envelope for easy in-camera day-for-night.
Thanks Jason Johns, Media Services’ man-of-awesome!

Along the same lines, almost all night vision shots are created with color grading, such as in this shot form Zero Dark Thirty.1134604 - Zero Dark Thirty

Recently major Hollywood block busters have adopted a duo-tone color theme of warm midtones and cool shadows & highlights creating neutral backgrounds with almost-orange skin tones. This treatment can best be seen in the Transformers movies, which some argue is being overused.Transformers Treatment

Color grading can do more than just affect the image as a whole, though. With color grading you’re able to isolate colors for secondary color correction as well. For instance, a shot in the forest that’s drab straight from the camera can become a vibrant, lush landscape without affecting skin tones and other colors.Secondary Color Correction

Speedgrade Presets

Adobe Speedgrade’s presets

So, how is color grading done? Professionally color grading is done with dedicated software such as DaVinci Resolve, Red Giant Colorista II, or Adobe Speedgrade, but much less elaborate tools also exist in editing and compositing software like Premiere and After Effects for rudimentary control. Color grading softwares come with at least a handful of presets and add-on packages of nothing but presets, such as Magic Bullet Looks, are available for one click styling.

A sample of presets included with Looks

A sample of the presets included with Looks

However, if you inspire to do more than just slap a template look onto your video, an understanding of color theory is crucial for good color grading. A good overview of color theory is available at and Adobe has a fantastic color theme creation tool. While one of the best ways to get good at color grading is to do it everyday day-in-day-out on a variety of content, the next best thing is to study deconstruction videos from professionals. These videos walk you step by step through how they created the look through layering grades and manipulating ranges of thresholds and tolerances within the color channels.

A blog of color grade breakdowns from professional colorist Charles-Etienne Pascal.

A color grade breakdown article from


Checking out before and after examples is also a great way to see what’s possible.

Adam Myhill provides some before and after examples
of his color grades with some extra insight.

A great color analysis of the movie Black Hawk Down.

Post-production Goodies

Today we’re going to take a quick look at a handful of useful tools to enhance your post-production workflow and help take your videos to the next level.


Open Captions

The ability to easily create open captions, commonly referred to as ‘burned-in’, which are always visible is surprisingly absent from most editing software. While out-of-the-box tools exist for creating titles, using these tools is a long and laborious process for authoring captions. Thankfully plugins for After Effects, Premiere Pro, Motion, and Final Cut have been created to do just that. These plugins import SRT caption files, a common format supported by YouTube and many other web video platforms.

SUGARfx Subtitles $99

Provides full control over the font & layout and is widely compatible; After Effects CS5-CC, Premiere Pro CS6-CC, Motion 4-5, & Final Cut Pro 7-X.

pt_ImportSubtitles $25

While cheaper, pt_ImportSubtitles isn’t quite as widely compatible as SUGARfx. This plugins supports After Effects CS3-CS6.

Open Caption Plugins


Racking Focus and Camera Mapping in 2D

Creating motion in still images brings the image alive when being used in video, but you can only go so far with the Ken Burns zoom and pan technique. Rowbyte has created a pack of After Effects plugins that allow for creation of depth in 2D images and video. The two you’ll get the most use out of with still images are the Camera Mapper and Rack Focus.

Buena Depth Cue $99

Buena Depth Cue


Color Grading Presets

If you’re not yet fully into color grading, but would like to do more with your videos in After Effects, Film Riot has a pack of 15 presets available. These presets are click to apply simple and cover a large range of styles including a daylight white balance correction.

Film Riot’s Color Preset Pack & Tutorial $15

Triune Color Presets


Advanced Color Grading Presets

Before making the jump all the way to full-bore color grading with SpeedGrade, Resolve, Colorista or REDCINE-X, Red Giant has a nice middle ground with over 100 look presets and light-weight grading controls.

Magic Bullet Looks $199 Academic / $399 Full

Magic Bullet Looks


Noise Remover

If you have to deal with grainy footage whether it’s low-light footage shot at very high ISO or old analog recordings, Red Giant’s Magic Bulllet Denoiser II does an amazing job with the available presets and provides fine control for customizing the output.

Denoiser II $99

Denoiser II


Aspect Ratio Masks

Triune also has a pack of aspect ratio masks for giving normal 16:9 widescreen video a film look. The pack includes:

  • 1.85:1 (35mm)
  • 2.35:1 (CinemaScope)
  • 2.40:1 (Panavision)
  • 2.55:1 (CinemaScope 55)
  • 2.75:1 (Ultra Panavision 70)
  • 3.00:1 (MGM Camera 65)

Aspect Ratio Pack & Tutorial $3

Aspect Mask