Evolving looks

While color grading over the years I have seen some trends in commercial work that have become popular for one reason or another.  New influences, styles, and evolving ideas seem to grab hold of the creative community and not let go for quite some time.  Of course one of the most popular looks is the “teal and orange” look.  But I normally associate that with Hollywood movies.  In this post I’m just focusing on television and music.

The first commercial look and probably still one of the most popular is the high contrast/saturation look.  This one has been around for quite some time.  I normally associate it with food since everyone wants their product to look colorful and crisp.  Blacks generally border on crushed while highlights are retained, but pushed to the limit.  The production design normally has a wide range of colors that help achieve the look.  This look always stands out to me in Wendy’s commercials for some reason.  It’s very well done.

When cameras like the Alexa became popular and LogC became normal acquisition of media the flat look became quite popular.  I remember lots of clients saying “I like how it looked in the edit, can you do that?”.  Minimal saturation, muted highlights, and hardly and contrast.  While I’m not crazy about this look, I welcome change with open arms.  It helps keep things interesting in the color suite.  This Sprint commercial is a couple years old, but it has always stuck out to me as the defining commercial for the look.

Recently I’ve been noticing a new look that’s starting to become popular.  I’ve seen it on both commercials and music videos.  I don’t think it has a name yet, but generally the blacks are slightly raised and maybe even a little bit creative soft clipping is used on them as well.  Saturation and contrast are average and I feel like there might be a tinge of cyan in the blacks as well.  It leads to a vintage feel that I equates with an Instagram like filter.  Superstar Colorist Dave Hussey recently nailed this look on the Taylor Swift music video “Blank Space”.  This seems to be the next trendy look and I anticipate getting requests for this in the near future.

What’s next? Who knows.  That’s the fun of running a color suite.  You get to experiment creatively and try to come up with the next big thing.


  1. Marc Van Osdale

    Thanks so much for the great post, Rob!

    Can you explain Creative Soft Clipping a little more? Most of the information and tutorials I’ve found online have covered the technical side Soft Clipping, I’m curious how it’s used for a creative effect here.

    • Rob Bessette

      Thanks for reading!

      Basically, the way I define creative soft clipping in this piece is the treatment of the blacks. To me, it appears that the blacks are slightly bunched up on top of each other and that not much really hits “true black” in the video. Most of the depth appears as though it’s created through the gamma.

      Also a slight tinge of cyan to the blacks makes it feel a little more cinematic.

      The grade combined with the fantastic cinematography makes for one hell of a video.


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