Color grading steps
You can divide grading into four simple steps:
- Primary grading – you add a LUT/Transform to bring your footage to a standard level, or in the case of multiple clips, you try to match white, black and grey levels.
- Secondary grading – this is the creative part of grading. A lot of shooters use LUTs to set a custom look and grade from there. Or, you can grade from scratch. Both are possible with N-Log.
- Noise Reduction – if the noise is too much for you, use a noise reduction app to remove noise.
- Dithering – if you see banding and hate it, use dithering to remove banding.
The bottom line is color grading is a specialized skill that takes years to master, and if you treat it lightly your results will be poor.
This is why I’ve shown how to use LUTs to grade quicker, but it’s never the perfect choice because you still have to learn to match clips. There’s no free lunch and no shortcut with grading.
What LUT should you use?
Since Nikon hasn’t published an official LUT at the time of this writing, the closest LUT you can use is the official Panasonic V-Log to Rec. 709 LUT. Get it here.
UPDATE: As of 27th August 2019 Nikon has finally released an N-Log to Rec. 709 LUT, and you can download it from the Nikon Download Center.
This will get your footage from flat-looking to tolerable. As you can see from the above video, the colors will still be off, since LUTs are not a magic pill. It also highlights the stupidity of using third-party LUTs without knowing the color science. Still, if it makes your clients happy…
The second step is to use creative LUTs or grade yourself. I don’t endorse or recommend any third-party LUT or application. If you would like to learn how to create your own film looks easily, use my crow chart as shown in this video:
Noise Reduction and Dithering
You can use noise reduction in Davinci Resolve or use NeatVideo. The latter is better, but both are fine for Internet work. Here’s a video that shows you how to use noise reduction and dithering for banding-free videos (go directly to the 14-minute mark):
The process is the same for any camera or footage.
Can you use this for the Nikon Z7?
Yes, you can follow these tips for the Nikon Z7 as well. Please use the Nikon Z7 LUT, which is separate.
That’s it! I hope the above videos give you confidence to grade N-log footage from the Nikon Z6 (Amazon, B&H). The good news is the 10-bit 4:2:2 footage is great for grading and offers many creative possibilities.
Sometimes though, you just don’t want to grade. If you need a picture control that you can use with confidence, sign up below and get my favorite picture control: