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Automated color grading
  • A while ago I came across a technique to transfer the look of one photo onto another.

    It was described in the following paper "Automated Colour Grading using Colour Distribution Transfer” by F. Pitié & al.

    Although there already were other similar techniques, none of them seemed as promising as this one because not only was the color palette of the source image transferred to the target image, but also its average luminance and contrast. I decided to give it a try. I programmed the algorithm with of few tweaks of my own and applied it to a bunch of random photos taken from the Internet.

    Below is a Vimeo video showing the results of the experiment:

    • in the first part I applied the look of 70 different source images onto the same target image,
    • in the second part I did the opposite: I applied the look of one unique source image onto 70 different target images,
    • finally in the last part I cross-processed a few pairs of images, exchanging their roles as source or target,
    • all photos were processed with the same standard parameters and the results are raw without any post-processing.

    Bottom line: although the technique doesn’t work every time, it has a high success rate and delivers very convincing results on stills.

    Next step: see if it holds up on real footage.

    Vimeo clip (password: photolook) :


  • 121 Replies sorted by
  • I think it is fun and interesting.

    Do you have link to this paper?

    Or may be to your utility?

  • very nice technique to match photos :)

  • really impressive results!

  • @Vitaliy_Kiselev I found it here: Serch on the subject "Automated Colour Grading using Colour Distribution Transfer" and you'll find more references.

  • in Photoshop (I'm on CS5) you load all your images, select the one to change and go to Image->Adjustments->Match Color ... There you select the image you want to pick the look from. Adjust the sliders. Done.

  • Good tip @alex, thx, it works also in cs4.

  • @Tomaso nice find! now someone needs to code a plugin for a video app :-)

  • @Vitaliy_Kiselev Tomaso has already found the source paper so no need to give the link. As for the code, it is developped under Matlab. I can send it to you if you are still interested. @Alex You are right, Photoshop offers something similar but it uses a different technique that doesn't transfer the complete 3D RGB color distribution and gives very different results.

  • @pwc I see, this could make up for a awesome grading tool. You grade a master look for every scene on a symbolic and easy to grade image and the tool matches all your difficult shots and grades the look into it in one pass ... ... and you can cross fade you master looks to deal with light changes within a take. So you will have a "look layer" on top of your edit and you just have to deal with your basic look idea. The color science is done by the plugin :-)

  • I've made a Photoshop Action that makes this work (Match Color) on a Quicktime file. Pretty cool.

    I'll try and get the source file/instructions together sometime today. I tested it out on a 70 frame .mov and it works perfectly for every frame.

  • pwc

    wow, interesting and great results. I wonder how it will hold up on 8 bit video footage, looking forward to your tests. Thx for sharing!

  • I would be very curious to see how it does with people in the shot... Purple people?

  • Very cool. I've seen something like this before in The Foundry's Furnace for Shake, a node called MatchGrade. But these results seem more impressive! Of course, it might come down to the flexibility of the video footage, but overall, really neat.

    And @Phenixone, that's a very good point. Maybe the plugin could have a secondary keyer to holdout skintones to keep them from getting too funky if that isn't the desired effect.

  • OK, here is an example of automatic color grading applied to video footage. Eight variations on a same clip for you to judge.

    Vimeo clip (password: Photolook )

  • @pwc

    Any reason to have password on all videos?

  • password doesn't work ether ..

  • @mozes, it works if you capitalize Photolook

  • @all Sorry my bad, I removed the passwords on all videos. It should be OK now.

  • @pwc This is exactly what I need for grading still images. I looked at the pdf and its way over my head as it would be for most artists's / creatives I reckon. Did you create a droplet or a Photoshop plug in to undertake your test? I am very interested. I have 100's of shots that are taken under differing lighting circumstances over a long period of time and need to grade all the images so that they complete a seamless image suite. Your help or advise would be very much appreciated.

  • this is really interesting. time saving and funny. If someone would like to make it like a PPro/AE or FCP plugin I would buy it (Ppro or AE for me).. .. and I´m shure I wouldn´t be alone here ! :)

  • The technique breaks down as it currently is implemented on video since as the image's change over time, the algorithm continually adapts the current frame using the same technique. In the sample you provide, the waves and large rocks shift in color/tone/brightness as the camera is panned. Obviously this isn't what the viewer expects.

    An improvement would be to lock the conversion down on the first frame of a sequence, and allow it to maintain the existing conversion matrix for the whole sequence. Problems may arrise when new colors/tones that were not accounted for in the first frame's conversion are entered into the scene. Having not looked at the method completely, I'm not sure what would happen, but perhaps it could interpolate the expected tones from the existing conversion.

    Very cool stuff, especially for still images, some of the results were fantastic! Throw this into a stand alone app, or plugin for lightroom, and I'd pay you $50 for it right now!

  • @joesiv Thanks for your comment. I agree with you: application of the technique to video is not yet mature. As for a stand alone app it can be feasible: if you or lachmoore are interested I can manage to send you the material (Windows only) for testing.

  • Yeah for sure, I'd be interested :D

  • Interesting. And should be a time saver once well implemented for video. First time (and only also) that I saw such technique was on DynamicPhotoHDR.

  • Im on Mac :( If you could send it maybe I can boot it up on paralells or something. How hard would a MAC version be to create? I think there is a massive opportunity here and I too would be happy to purchase.