Learn to Restore and Recover Color in DaVinci Resolve 17

DaVinci Resolve 07/10/2021 4 min read

You’ll hear every filmmaker talk about color, color science, color grading, exposure, etc., and how important they are. Unfortunately, a multitude of things can go wrong and you may need to restore the color in DaVinci Resolve. It could range from adding or changing colors to fixing white balance issues, as well as over or underexposed images. In this article, we will look at restoring some color by changing the hue, fixing white balance issues, and recovering highlight or shadow detail.

Part 1: Restore & Revive Color in DaVinci Resolve

Things don’t always go as planned when you are doing an on-location shoot. Weather can wreak havoc on outdoor shoots and sometimes it’s not even the weather on the day. A normally green field can easily be turned to nothing but dry yellow grass with a drought. DaVinci Resolve has some amazing color correction and grading tools that can help you fix color issues.

We will start with a basic hue adjustment to change that dry yellow grass into a lush green field. Keep in mind this is a basic adjustment of a landscape shot to illustrate how the feature works and what is possible. Once you introduce complex elements like people and clothing into the scene things become more difficult. Let’s look at the steps to make the grass green again.

  1. Add your clip to a timeline in the Edit tab then go to the Color tab.
  2. Select the qualifier then go to Curves and Hue vs hue.
  3. Select the yellow grass with the qualifier. This will create a point on the Hue vs hue graph that represents the hue (color) of the grass.
  4. Pulling the point up or down will change the hue (color) of the grass.  Down represents the colors to the right of the point and up the colors to the left of the point. Drag the point down until you see the grass change to a natural-looking green.
  5. Moving the point left or right will adjust the colors you are affecting. Make sure you are affecting all the grass and not leaving blotches.

That’s really it, you now have green grass. Be careful with your selection and adjustments as it will affect everything that has the same hue as your selection. Have a look at what happens when we introduce a clip with a person. Similar hues on the face and hands also get turned green resulting in an unusable image. Dealing with this kind of clip requires more advanced techniques for another tutorial.

Part 2: How to Fix a Color Cast in DaVinci Resolve

For an image to have a correct white balance, things which are supposed to be pure white should be pure white and things that are meant to be neutral grey should be neutral. Often your footage won’t have a perfect white balance. It may have been set wrong during a shoot or even purposely set a certain way for a look that is no longer needed. 

Sometimes you have to work with shots that are already color graded but you need to have a different look. An image without a correct white balance will have a color cast to it. To remove this cast we need to balance the colors in the image. There are a number of ways to do this but the easiest is by using the color picker with its RGB values enabled and watching your RGB Parade scopes in DaVinci Resolve.

  1. In the Color tab enable the RGB values for the color picker by right-clicking on the viewer and selecting Show Picker RGB values.
  2. Ensure your RGB Parade is enabled.
  3. Use the color picker and move it over an area in the image that should be white or grey. If the white balance is correct the RGB values will be close to equal. If the values are different you will need to adjust the image until they are nearly equal.
  4. Identify the white or grey part of your image in your RGB Parade. You will need to use the primary bars to adjust the image until that area of the RBG parade is aligned horizontally.
  5. This can be an iterative process where you need to align the highlights, shadows, and mid-tones, known as the gain, lift, and gamma, in order to achieve a natural image that will form the basis for color grading.
  6. Check the values with the picker until you get equal values on the whites and greys. Keep an eye on the overall image to ensure you end up with a balanced natural look.
  7. This base look can then be used to add a quick color grade or look by using a LUT such as the Pastel Color Grades from Motion Array.
  8. Simply drag the LUT onto a new serial node.

Part 3: How to Recover Highlight Detail in DaVinci Resolve

When filmmakers talk about recovering highlights and shadows it does not mean getting back lost data. Clipped highlights and crushed blacks are not recoverable. The data is gone so cannot be retrieved. It is possible to recover it if the data is there but it just looks washed or blown out. The level of repair highly depends on the quality and format of the footage you are working with. 

In the first clip, we look at the sun, and clouds in the sky are blown out. If you look at the scopes there is a crushed line where the data was clipped and nothing above that line. There is no more data. It’s ok in this shot, that was the look that was intended.

Fixing a Washed-out Sky

In part 2 we fixed the white balance of this clip and removed the yellow cast. Now with the balance in place, we will recover some detail from the washed-out sky without affecting the rest of the image. To do this we have to key the sky using the qualifier.

  1. Add a new Serial node and name it Sky to stay organized.
  2. With the sky node selected use the qualifier to create a key of the sky. Add and refine the key until only the sky is keyed.
  3. Now use the primary wheels to adjust only the sky by using the gain, lift, and gamma as well as contrast and pivot.
  4. The adjustments may introduce some noise so add a bit of noise reduction if needed.
  5. Notice how much detail has been recovered in the sky. You can even add a bit more blue with the offset wheel.

Tip: If your sky is unfixable, why not replace it completely. Have a look at how to do it here.

Color is incredibly important to filmmakers and DaVinci Resolve is an amazing tool for color grading. It’s possible to make amazing improvements to your images with just basic adjustments like changing colors with the hue vs hue curve, adjusting the white balance to remove color casts and bring back details in washed-out skies. Learn more about color grading with our detailed DaVinci Resolve tutorial.