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Editing for Sallie Mae’s “Bridging the Dream” Scholarship 2017 documentaries

It’s a pleasure to share these mini-documentaries that I worked on. These were cut, color graded and audio mixed in Premiere Pro CC. I found working with the Sallie Mae creative team was a great professional experience. I liked having access to serious feedback and critiques of my editing, and also felt encouraged to weigh in as storyteller. It was also really interesting to learn the stories of these outstanding high school students from across the USA.

You can view the series at the link below:

Sallie Mae’s Bridging the Dream Scholarship

Why I use a color card for video

I shot without a color card for years. I thought, “I’ll color correct in post so I don’t have to spend time on set fussing.”

I was wrong.

The day I started using a color card, my production life changed. Good bye time consuming color corrections. Good bye not so flattering color tones. Hello quick, methodical camera routine. Hello easy, eye catching images in post.

Any shooter can start with the color card of their choosing, I use the Datacolor SyderCHECKR 24. Your results may vary depending on which card you choose, but the process remains mostly the same. I’ll outline how I use the card and show the results of using Davinci Resolve to calibrate the footage.

Step #1: Light your subject


Whether your using natural or additional lighting, get your exposure and composition where you want it. In other words, make sure that the lighting environment of your shot will not change once you’ve introduced the color card.

Step #2: White balance


Do this by eye if you like, but color cards have a neutral grey patch or the SpyderCHECKR 24 has an exposure card on the rear with a middle grey tile. Lock and load your camera’s custom white balance with this feature.

Step #3: Record your color card in the camera’s frame


Place the color card in the frame. If you’re shooting an interview, hold it roughly in front of your subject’s face (to calibrate to the light source being directed there). If you’re shooting products, place the card where the object is or will be.

Hit record. If you’ve got a grey side to the card, flip it and record that too. Then carry on with your shooting.

Step #4: Repeat as necessary.

Each time you change a lighting set up or environment, you’re best bet is to repeat the process of recording the color card.

Step #5: Use software to calibrate in post


If you use Davinci Resolve, you’re on easy street with the built in color matrix calibration tool. Ingest your footage and look for the matrix tool in the color grading tab. Pull up a video frame of the color card and use the matrix tool to line up the grid with the card in the frame. Be sure to select the type of card you are using from the drop down menu, as well as the white balance and type of gamma profile you shot with (or are converting to).


Once you’ve lined up the tiles, click Match and the program calibrates the image’s color and gamma with impressive precision.


Now all you do is copy the color adjustment to other clips with the same lighting set up. Repeat this step for each series of shots where you used the color card.


Before color card adjustment applied


After color card adjustments and exposure correction

There are other ways to use a color card to calibrate an image in post, but none that I know of are as precise or quick as Davinci Resolve’s method I described above. Why not keep it simple? If you’re like me, a visual artist and a creative storyteller, you want the technology to empower you, not distract you from the moment you have to capture.

My hope is that this article was informative and gets you eager to put this technique to work on your next shoot.

Together Yes: Norwood Community Garden Documentary

Together Yes: Norwood Community Garden from Adrian Atwood on Vimeo.

I try to get out of my editing cave and walk around my neighborhood as much as I can. On one of those treks, I came across the Norwood community garden just a few blocks from my apartment. I was instantly impressed and inspired by the abundance of the garden and the social bonds that it produced. I approached the organization behind it with the idea of producing a video that could be used to share with the community. I wanted to create something that would spark a viewer to be inspired like I was by this local project.

I collaborated with TogetherYes to “find the story” to tell about how the garden came to be, how people participate and what role it plays in the town of Norwood. I shot everything with my modest Sony A7sII kit on 3 different days in late August and early September. It was the perfect time of year, my favorite really. The plots were overflowing, the bees and birds and rabbits were reveling in the flowers and shoots. I chose afternoon for the interviews because of the angle of the sun at that time, and because most community members arrive after the work day.

I knew what portions of the interviews I wanted to use to tell the story and it came together smoothly. Then came the b-roll, of which I had more than enough. I got carried away each time I brought my camera to the garden. There was something eye catching everywhere I turned. In editing,  I got to play with all these images and hopefully share a sense of wonder with the viewer.

As of 2018, the garden is receiving attention from Norwood’s community access station and will be the focus of another segment.