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  • Writer's pictureDorsa Sajedi

Davinci Tutorials: Achieving a 'Dark/Moody' Tone


For research in how Davinci works to help my understanding of the program and prepare me for the colour grading of our film, I’ve looked at a few tutorials and picked out interesting techniques/things that I think may help me.


Taking notes from this tutorial, I am keeping in mind that the example they are using is very different to that of ours as it consists of a character with a fairly dark background in place whereas we are wanting to achieve a ‘dark’ and ‘moody’ tone through the colour grade in a seemingly dream/nightmare-like WHITE headspace. But, I feel that watching these tutorials will educate me more on the use of Davinci.

  • Adjusts contrast/exposure using Contrast & Pivot while keeping an eye on RGB Parade Scope

  • Bringing down the offset achieves a ‘darker mood’

  • Adjusting ‘Low Range’ will help in avoiding hitting the limit marks - i.e. hitting zero on the RGB parade scope

  • In this tutorial, he starts of adjusting the contrast and then works on balancing colour

  • Creating a dark mood colour: starting with shadows, reducing red and enhancing green/blue power

  • Shifting mid-tones to the opposite side of the shadow to bring in some red/magenta for skin

  • Maintaining the cold-blue feel on blues by getting more blues in the highlights


  • Next, working on skin-tone using the qualifier tool: once you select the skin, blend them together through the ‘blur radius’ on the matte finesse tool

  • Moving to Hue Vs Options, first Hue Vs Saturation: bringing coldness into the skin, so reducing saturation in the yellows/reds

  • Moving onto Hue Vs. Lum: Lowering reds and boosting yellows to make the colour ‘step’ in the skin

  • Hue Vs Hue: in the example he uses, he adjusts it ever so slightly to bring out the colour magenta in the skin.

  • After turning the layer off and on, we can see that the change is very subtle, but the skin feels colder than it was

  • Now, he creates a kind of window effect (with a vignette) which isn’t very applicable to what I’m wanting to achieve at all but it was interesting to watch and I know I’ll come back to it in the future if I ever need to do an effect like that

  • BUT what he does do is edit out the sides of the image, again editing in a black vignette, but I’m wondering if I could do something similar but with the colour, white to get out any bits that we don’t need

  • Using the pen tool in ‘Window’, he makes a box like below:

  • And feathers it inside/outside so it blends in nicely

  • Then he lows the exposure all the way down in ‘Curves’ until we don’t see the things in the corner of the room — he does this again on the other side

  • For the remainder of the tutorial, he finishes off the window effect with an additional mask on the face to lighten it up more by increasing the exposure in ‘Curves’

Final note: I’m struggling to get a sense of nodes because all of this still looks very messy to me, but I hope to get a test shot tomorrow when we set things up so I can complete a practice grade then.


  • A technique that he uses in this tutorial is that he ups the blue tones in the skin, making it blue, but only so that he can see the differences between the skin to the rest of the image which is something I’ll take into consideration perhaps? Might be helpful

  • Another technique that isn’t too applicable to me right now but might be in the future is a lamppost light effect using the gradient window to simulate the light of a lamppost coming in through the darkness

  • Curve is helpful as it adjusts the way the light hits the face


  • Creates layer node, then grabs the blue box from the skin layer and connects it to the new node that he just made: this will bypass the skin, from the look that he just made — this means that anything that is changed on node 04, won’t affect the skin & vice versa


Basic tutorial for Davinci beginners, looking at different grades in relation to the genre on the same shot.

  • Make sure that the frame that you choose to work on has everything that you’re going to see in that shot there (I.e. if a character is turning their head, make sure it's at the point where their head/skin is visible)

  • Very simple node tree:


  • The more ‘matched’ the RGB levels are, the more whites will look white

  • Shadows can be removed using a mask by selecting them (and tracking where necessary — for masks that aren’t shapes but more freeform, it will be good to use keyframes/manually moving the mask at times across the timeline to secure those points and not letting Davinci do all of it itself as it won’t be accurate)

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