Colour Grading Documentary

What do you need to know about colour grading for documentary?

17 April 2023

What you need to know about colour grading documentary is that you can do so much more than a “natural” look and still have your film based very much in reality.

We totally understand by the time you reach the colour grade, after months (and sometimes years) of shooting and editing, deciding on what you want to do in the grade can seem like another big hurdle. The default is to “make it look natural”.

BUT your colourist is an expert in visual looks. They bring fresh eyes and energy to your project and if given enough direction about the guts of the story, they should be able to come up with some great ideas which will completely completely elevate the pictures.  Colour graders know how to balance realism, aesthetics, and storytelling while exploring new depths.

If the treatment is subtle and executed elegantly, it can enhance and echo the deeper meaning in the story.

Examples include:

  • Enlightenment, positivity – can we use a glow, bright whites, lift the mid-tones, enhance the yellows or whites, lift the intensity of all colours, soften our blacks?
  • Adventure, grit, struggle – can we increase the contrast, make the pictures seem heavier and harsher, should we add some texture like grain, sharpen any soft images and desaturate poppy colours?

In a wildlife documentary colour might be used to convey the presence of an unknown danger.  It can make the scene seem more peaceful or more dramatic, depending on your story arc.

If you would like to chat to the Peachy team about how your documentary could be enhanced by colour grading, please please get in touch.

The Peachy's Team of colourists colour graded this shot of a skier, highlighted by a sunflare as they make their way down the snowy mountain, for the observational documentary TV series "Mt Hutt Rescue"

Image from observational documentary series Mt Hutt Rescue, which premiered last month on TVNZ. The Peachy Team coloured the 8 x 45min episodes, which follow ski patrollers, medical teams and road response crew as they brave high-pressure rescues in the stunning holiday destination.

Image from wildlife documentary feature “Living With Devils”, colour graded by Peachy