Masterclass description

Walter Volpatto is one of Hollywood’s most successful colorist and some of his movies include Green Book, Dunkirk, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and The Hateful Eight. He primarily works in DaVinci Resolve and uses a fixed node structure that he has developed over the years.

Ravengrade visited Walter at Company 3 LA with our camera team to learn in detail about how he builds his grades.

Course content

Walter Volpatto walks you through the details of his fixed node tree

  • Joergen Erik Assentoft says:

    Thank you Walter and Lowerpost. I liked the way you argument for the different node structure.

  • sudip says:

    Really informative…thanks Walter.

  • Douglas Dutton says:

    Thank you so much for your insight Walter! That was very informative!! You said that you never have to key skin if you’ve done the balance and scene node right. Can you please expand a bit on this?

    I am learning color grading and I thought when pushing a look far it’s often the habit to key skin.

    Many thanks!

    • Walter Volpatto says:

      When I do the balance of the shot, I look at the subject: usually teh subject is a person, hence skin tone.

      i want the subject to be right after exposure/balance. i dont give a rat about the background shadow not being perfectly black. If I have to change the background shadow, that will be a secondary correction.

      so: balance for the skin/subject
      secondary on the “secondary” parts of the image.

  • Willian Aleman says:

    Amazing. a big thanks to Walter and Lowepost for both, the video and the node tree.

  • Nicolas Hanson says:

    A big thank you Walter and Lowepost, this is big! 🙏

  • Tobia Montanari Lughi says:

    Walter is such an inspiration and an incredibly talented colorist. Thanks so much for this insight! 🙏

  • François Dompierre says:

    Thank you so much Walter for sharing your hard-earned wisdom and experience. This is incredibly valuable.

    I think you usually work with a timeline set to Ari LogC so that the tools behave closely to how they behave with Cineon log film scans..? Where do you do the color space transform for clips that are not in Ari LocC (other camera types, VFX shots etc)? In a pre-group node perhaps? And the final color space transform is on a timeline node probably?

    • Walter Volpatto says:

      Either as DCTL on the media page (preferred) or it depends.

      if the shot is already in a LOG like i usually put it on the first node, a OFX color transform will act before the primaries in a node (order of operations) therefore your correction will still be in LogC.

      if the shot needs some hard transform, i might put it in the second node, (repurposing) so i can color some in the original space and then transform it.

      • François Dompierre says:

        Ah that makes sense. Thanks Walter!

      • Dave Austin says:

        Is working with DCTL’s in the media page a similar workflow to setting an IDT and working in YRGB colour managed? If you were replicating your workflow in a YRGB project, would the Log-Rec709/P3 transform go right at the end of the node structure? This would still allow you to work in Log C throughout?

        I’ve yet to try colour managed or using DCTL’s so just trying to get my head around it in a standard project. Cheers Walter really great insight into your workflow. The ‘hail mary’ comment had me in stitches!

  • Tom Evans says:

    I don’t believe I just watched this… thank you Walter!

  • Douglas Dutton says:

    Hello Walter and thanks a million for your insights!

    I’d love to know your approach for using a Film Emulation Lut such as the Kodak 2383 provided in Resolve.

    Do you use those LUTS at full opacity and do you do a Color Space Transform to Cineon Log for instance in order to match the Gamma the Lut is designed for? Overall how do you work with such LUTS?

    Many thanks!

    • Walter Volpatto says:

      I do use them at full opacity, they are designed to work in that way, but you need to transform the color space LOG you have in cineon log/709 primaries (that is what the lut is expected for my understanding)

  • Sander Ges says:

    Hi Walter,

    Amazing insight!

    When using the build-in grain, do you put it on the ‘OFX’ place or before / after the LUT or look on the timeline level?

    • Walter Volpatto says:

      There is the philosophical approach and the practical one.

      if I want to emulate negative film grain that modify with the color, it should be before the balance node. Nobody does that really, but it is a though.
      if I want to emulate as if the negative was perfectly exposed, then it will go before the LUT/Look/main tonal mapping, usually for me that is in the Timeline node before the “look”

      if you want to emulate print grain, it should go after the main look.

      But, all of this is purely academical: ALL of your material will pass thru a compression pass to be able to be seein: from theatrical (low) to streaming (technical term is “shit-ton of it”). So, the compression will attack the hi frequency of your signal first, if you have light grain it will be gone, if you have a lot, it might reduce the efficiency of the compression algorithm.

      it is a losing battle.

      I still like to see grain, resolve OFX is good for me, and it is mainly before the main LOOK in the timeline, if a shot or a scene need more, It will be in the shots.

      for a movie where two different worlds LOOK where created (Bliss, amazon, this coming February) the look and grain was moved at the group/scene level, so each set of scene had its appropriate look. But it was a bot of an odd ball… the fact that I did not use the group for anything (not corner yourself if you don’t have to) allow me to do that.

      • Sander Ges says:

        Thanks for the insight Walter. As most of my stuff goes to the web, I realise I need to add LOTS more grain to be able to even see it.

  • Jesper Hammarbäck says:

    Are you often using the standard luts in Resolve like Kodak or I heard you guys making your own luts.

    I was wondering how you do your own luts, is it in resolve or another program?


    • Walter Volpatto says:

      I used resolve luts in the past as well as we do our luts from analytic data from film.

      At Co3 we have a proprietary system for film profiling, in the past at fotokem i used truelight profiling system.

      “Hustler” look was initially modeled to a resolve film lut (modified to taste).

  • Valentin Gstöttenmayr says:

    Ciao Walter,

    so che non puoi rivelare a tutti il grande segreto della compressione della luminanza, ma quando scriviamo in italiano nessuno lo capisce con ayayayay per favore per favore per favore

    • Walter Volpatto says:

      There is no secret in “compressing the luminance” the idea is to build a tonal curve that has a goos “S” curve, you want to preserve in a linear fashion the 7(ish) stops around the 18%gray, then gently put toe and shoulder to flatten the extra black and whites, the more gently you do it, the softer the image is, the harder you do it, th more contrast the final image is.

  • Walter Volpatto says:

    Lut, Look, whatever is appropriate for the project.

    • Jesper Hammarbäck says:

      You most work in YRGB or Color managed?
      Or maybe ACEScct?
      Would love to hear how you think about the Color Management.

      I often work in Color Managed and set my input for the camera and output Color Space to Rec.709 Gamma 2.4.

  • Kenny Mosher says:

    Thank you for this!!!

  • Karim Zavaleta says:

    thanks Walter!!!!!

    amazing !!!!

  • Stefano Marconcini says:

    Thank you Walter!
    Unfortunately it cannot be used in version 17 until today.
    I hope BMD change the automatic numbers on node tree

  • Ivan Babushkin says:

    Thanks for wonderful tips and tricks Walter!

    Waiting for new techniques from Maestro!😎

  • Frans Suijs says:

    Thanks Walter! Really appreciate how generous you are in sharing your knowledge!

  • Jesper Hammarbäck says:

    Like a dream come true!
    Do you often start work with a LUT (log – rec709) in timeline when you do the base grade?

    Where do I apply for a job 🙂

    Love your work!


  • Valentin Gstöttenmayr says:

    Thank you Walter, this is so awesome!

  • Victor Riley says:

    Dear Walter, thank you so much for this insight! It’s incredibly valuable information you’re providing here. I love your idea about discipline and creativity inside a constrained workflow. With open-ended tools like Resolve, it’s easy to forget basics and lose oneself in dozens of correctors after correctors after correctors.

    A few questions that came to mind watching your course and playing around with the node tree:

    – How do you go about (if even) node caching? Depending on the footage and grading system, playback after heavy noise reduction in particular benefits from a cached node, which is why one might want to put that as the first operation on the tree.

    – You’ve talked a bit about color management in the comments. Could you elaborate more on that? For example, how would you work when there’s an ACES-workflow demanded? Or you have to work with HDR and SDR deliverables?

    – Did you have the chance to play around with Resolve 17? Any new tools that piqued your interest? I’m still trying to wrap my head around the color warp tool, and I fear that the new HDR palette might be a bit overhyped for what it can really to to improve an image, but maybe you found something you really liked?

    – Resolve 17: regarding the node re-numbering “feature” all of us hate that can’t be turned off and f*cks with rippling – how are you gonna deal with that?

    • Walter Volpatto says:

      I have lots of space and I turn on [smart caching]… usually it works…

      The basic idea works in HDR/SDR/and ACES…. there will be appropriate transforms either at group level, timeline level or ODTs.

      i just played with V17, the color warp interest me, I played with teh Nobe plugin and I can do things that are difficult in a normal situation, but it is more for either repair a shot or create a look…

      the reordering of node in V17 is highly aggravating…..

      • Victor Riley says:

        Thank you so much for your answers! I assume you’re working in Arri Log C whenever you can, and manage the transforms/IDTs/ODTs at a node-level – but an ACES-workflow would demand having the grading space in ACEScc/ACEScct. How do you approach this? DaVincis controls in ACES often work…unexpectedly bad.

        • Walter Volpatto says:

          I like the math with luma mix at 0, especially when I need to use LGG controls (rarely)

          Funny enough, in ACEScc/cct the logarithmic is such that a offset is really mathematically equivalent to a exposure change.

          • Victor Riley says:

            I really like the offset-focused approach for its simplicity and easy transfer using different grading spaces, and I’ll be surely playing around with your node tree for a while.

            I’d love to see a full master class with you – I think all of us here could learn a lot watching you grade.

          • Walter Volpatto says:

            it will be boring like hell!!!!

            keep in mind that when you work with excellent DoP, colorist have nothing much to do….. I work with excellent photography…

          • Victor Riley says:

            2021 is 13 days old, and you’ve just won understatement of the year.

  • Valentin Gstöttenmayr says:

    Hey Walter, thanks again for sharing your knowledge!

    May i ask, is there any article or course or something on luma/highlight-compression you would recommend? I know there is some information here on Lowepost, but maybe a bit more in depth.



  • Adam Fiori says:

    Much love @Walter Volpatto, such sage advice! After the primary node, did I understand correctly that you skip right to the scene node, adjust for the ‘look,’ and then go back to work on the L-C-R and other nodes?

    One of the things you stated once remains with me…adjust contrast in B&W and see where you land.

    • Walter Volpatto says:

      Roughly speaking, yes, just basic balance on the shot, then scene look, replicate the look to the scene then matching the shot to the hero one

    • Walter Volpatto says:

      BTW after a while I got used to do the contrast as is, I dont turn into BW anymore… I think is practice….

  • Severin Schultze says:

    Hey Walter – thank you very much for the insights!

    How is your workflow if you have a DCP and a R.709 version to deliver and you’re not working color managed?

    Thanks – severin

    • Walter Volpatto says:

      Using OFX color space transforms, you can pretty much do the same math that is is in RCM. It is identical…

      so it is a matter of knowing how to do it and where to put it.

  • Jesper Hammarbäck says:

    Wow! this is the holy grail! Thank you so much! 😍😀

    And if I am correct you also make adjustments to the look at the “trim” node?
    (Only if the client wants it?)

    • Walter Volpatto says:

      The idea is that at the trim node you are doing a “scene” look (if any) or client trims: it is not uncommon that after a scene is done, you need to do a small exposure adjustment or make it warmer or overall less contrast or whatever. Threat that as an overall..

  • Jesper Hammarbäck says:

    Hey Walter, one more hehe
    in the base node, do you often use the printer light or Curves?
    What do you prefer?


    • Walter Volpatto says:

      The basic idea is that the main tonal mapping is done at the LOOk level: LUTs, curves, look whatever you wan it to be

      at the node level, you are in the LOG of the camera and printer light simulate close enough exposure and white balance as if it is done in the camera. Therefore I use almost exclusively Printerlights/offset. Luma mix at 0. Gain if I need more contrast.

  • Juan Celestino says:

    Thank you, Walter!!! Anyone, there is any way to disable the new feature in resolve 17 that renames the nodes?

  • Aneel says:

    That was something good and a different piece of information there, thanks for the stuff Walter and Lowepost.

  • Marc Fisher says:

    thank you for this nice short and very informative video.

    I laughed out loud at your reasoning for the Hail Mary node.. been there too..
    and cleaning up.

    great info. the bigger node structures make a lot of sense to me now!

  • Laszlo Schriffert says:

    Very helpful, thank you Walter and thanks Lowepost.

  • Mikee Carpinter says:

    Hi Walter arey ou ever using camera LUTS on Node one?

  • Alistair Girardot says:

    Thank you so much for this Walter.
    For your trim nodes wouldn’t be easier to use shared nodes?

    • Walter Volpatto says:

      Yes, if you want, of course.

      It’s just time and I started when there was no shared nodes, in used to it.

  • Jose Arce says:

    Thanks Lowe Post and Walter for this. I used a Node Structure since you put on your Facebook page, a long time ago, but is very confortable to see you explain again and the evolution the node tree has taken.

    Love the SCENE node

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    Last activity on September 10, 2022 4:42 pm
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