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What would be the best order to apply these node adjustments to ProRes HQ 4K footage in DaVinci Resolve 12:

  • Colour Chart
  • Primaries
  • Saturation
  • Sharpening
  • Noise Reduction

Thanks in advance.

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I'm not a professional colorist, but I do care a lot about color. (I run a fully ICC controlled workflow.) I would personally start with either noise reduction or color chart, depending on how noisy the footage was. Reasoning being that if it is too noisy, then the samples off the color chart may be impacted. It's also true that the denoise process may cause corruption of the color data from the chart, but if it is so noisy that the information effectively isn't there anyway, it isn't going to matter a lot.

Doing the noise reduction will impact the precision of information in the scene, but hopefully reduce visible artifacts. I generally try to do it as late as possible but as early as necessary. Each step of the process has a chance of making noise worse and at a certain point, it's going to become harder to deal with if you don't deal with it before making more changes, but that's a somewhat variable place depending on the type and quantity of noise and your level of comfort in dealing with it well.

Color charts are going to give you a decent baseline. They are all about getting color in spec. They aren't giving you a particular look, they are just getting you a starting point where certain known colors will match spec for whatever colorspace you are working in.

Primaries are going to develop the actual look and feel of your image to the way you want it colorized. This is where you will do most of the fine tuning to get the tone you want after starting from a well placed baseline from the charts.

Saturation may be adjusted a bit while working on the primaries, but I largely find I work with saturation after most of my primaries work is done. This will impact the strength of the color and may very well result in additional refinement being needed in the primaries, but the closer you can have the primaries before adjusting saturation too much, the faster I find my workflow personally. It's also worth noting that if you know you will want a somewhat pastel image or a more vivid image, it may be worth messing with saturation to get it in roughly the right range prior to doing primary work as drastic changes in saturation will have a larger impact on your primaries work.

Sharpening is almost always at the end and generally after noise reduction, but it does somewhat matter what you are trying to accomplish and how noisy things are. As sharpening looks to make edge contrast higher, it will tend to greatly amplify any noise, which is why it is generally done after noise reduction. It is also done after coloring since the coloring will impact the edge detection of sharpening.

This only reflects my process and isn't necessarily shared by everyone, but I find it works well for me in getting good results quickly. There's always going to be a degree of going back after the fact to correct things you notice later as you are further refining the image, but that largely will come from experience of working with color and being able to recognize what your goal is and what primary and side effects different adjustments will have.

Edit: Just noticed you were asking about node order, not adjustment order. I'd go with Color chart, primaries, saturation, sharpening with noise reduction entered based on where it is needed. Saturation would probably be reversed with primaries when doing a non-natural color look.

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1 - Colour Chart / LUT: Start from your desired color workspace.

2 - Denoise: First after LUT. Especially if footage is noisy. Steps 3 and 4 will likely only worsen noise issues, depending on how you grade.

3 - Primaries

4 - Saturation / Vibrance

5 - Denoise Again on per Channel Level

6 - Sharpening

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