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Review - The Grading Sweet 3

March, 2009



The Grading Sweet 3
Pro Kit $199.00 Standard Kit $99.00




Review by Steve Douglas

There is no question that without good color correction tools, many editors would be in a heap of trouble. No matter how good the shooter, or how capable the lighting tech, achieving continuity in color is a chore often fixed in postproduction. However, it is also just as important to consider the appearance of the final, edited outcome even before the first take is shot. To have a vision of what you hope to see on the television screen, or in the theater, is something that should be considered seriously and not as an after thought. This is where the editor goes further than simple color correction and moves into color grading. Armed with the proper tools, there is no reason why even the novice editor cannot achieve this vision taking his/her basic color correction even further to that of color grading.

When Apple included Color as part of the Final Cut Studio, it created a buzz for many. However, once reality set in, many found it not to be the most user-friendly application as it came with a fairly steep learning curve.

This is where the Grading Sweet 3 set of plug-ins comes in. Not only can it achieve many of the same effects that the experienced user of Color can gain, it is simpler and far more intuitive to use. Produced as a set of plug-ins for Final Cut Pro, the Grading Sweet consists of several individual plug ins designed to be extraordinarily flexible with multiple and easy to adjust parameters. The Grading Sweet is also considerably less of a drain on the pocket than many similar color applications on the market. Ben Allen, the developer of the Grading Sweet has actually produced two sets, the standard package, which consists of eight plug-ins, and the Pro package, that has four more plug-ins plus additional functionality and fine-tuning adjustment controls. These filters have been on the market for a number of years in two previous versions. I did not see any type of 'notify me' of updates on the website. However, when people create a log in for the online store they can choose to go on the mailing list and receive updates and special offers. In addition, there is a free demo version available that has the full functionality of all the filters only with a watermark on final renders. The demo version also includes 2 free filters with no watermark.

Both sets have filters in common. However, in addition to a few more,
the Pro Set provides greater flexibility in terms of parameter manipulation.

Among many of the filter parameters there are some very unique features. One that I've not seen before as part of any plug in set is the 'Filter Factor'. The Filter Factor provides different levels of strength when applied to your clip. You can adjust them to multiple levels of 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1, 2, and 3. You can also set the filter to 'Clear' which would have no color effect at all.

The Manual Trims provided within the Pro set, contain what I would expect from any high quality set of color grading plug ins.
There are controls for shadow detail, saturation, exposure and highlight trims.

On the left is the original image. The same frame on the right with the Bleach bypass Sweet Pro filter.

Similar to Red Giant's Magic Bullet Looks, the Grading Sweet Global Looks filter supplies many preset looks, which you can apply and use from either the defaults or as a starting point to achieve the appearance you want. Each look can be altered in infinite amounts utilizing the filter strength settings and parameter trims.

The drop down menu supplied with the Global Looks filter supplies you with numerous, geographicly named appearances.


The original frame prior to the application of the Global Looks filter. Below are just some of the results after using the filter.
Keep in mind that these examples are default settings and many look extreme.
The editor doing color grading should use these only as a starting point as the key to most good color grading is subtlety.









New York

The Grading Sweet Identi Sweet Pro filter is a time saving blessing for those who need to create clear and professional identifications of their footage. I found that applying the text was simple and being able to change the labels a real benefit for future needs. If you sell your work as raw footage, this is one great filter to help the client identify time, producer and other much needed information.

On the left are the default labels which can be changed to fit your needs. On the right, the Identi Sweet Pro filter allowed me to label as I wished.

Color Shading is an advanced extension of the Color Correction process, and there are enough filters within both these sets to accomplish just the shading effects you are looking for. With the B & W Sweet filter, I was able to take the clip past the typical desaturation plug-ins to produce a deep and rich image from a less than ideally shot original clip.

The original image on the left and the B & W image on the right with a deep reddish tint added.

The Sweetener Pro filter allowed me to create a deeper color saturation to this clip.

I was able to make good use of the Grading Sweet's Sweetener plug- to improve the overall appearance of this clip

Similar in many ways to the Global plug-in, the Super Sweet Cold filter delivers different degrees of color shading to fit the ambiance of your film.

The original clip on the left and on the right with the Super Sweet Cold filter applied and set to 'Clean'.

Super Sweet Cold filter with the 'Steel' setting and a filter factor of one half on the left and the 'Ice' setting on the right.

And as a final preview of the many filters found in either set, the Sweet Vignette filter was unique in its' ability to adjust the vignette either horizontally or vertically as well as to lighten or darken the area within the window. Used subtly, the Vignette filter will focus the viewer's attention toward the center of the frame while darkening the edges. This creates a more artistic image even when placed off-center. You can also adjust the edge featherer for a more natural and filmic appearance.

On the left, the original clip, and on the right the Sweet Vignette filter with a vertical setting and a crushing of the shadows.

The bottom line for Ben Allen's Grading Sweet 3 contains nothing but praise. Color shading and correction does not have to be a tiresome chore. The whole process of using any of these filters was not only easy to control going from one clip to another, but I found that it integrates very well with the entire workflow enabling anyone to create a consistent appearance and to do it in less time. Not having quite as many 'looks' or parameters to manipulate, as Red Giant's Magic Bullet Looks, is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes people can get in over their heads spending far too much time adjusting settings only to have the final outcome be less than ideal. That is a lot of render time wasted. It should not be an issue when working with the Grading Sweet. Having full control over each filter's parameters, and making good use of the Sweet's preview windows provides you with the ability to get the look you want considerably more quickly and for far less cost than comparable color applications. They allow you to go beyond basic color correction and onward to create simple or complex color gradings that can be applied to any number of shots with an innovative approach.

Steve Douglas is a certified Apple Pro for Final Cut Pro 6 and underwater videographer. A winner of the 1999 Pacific Coast Underwater Film Competition, 2003 IVIE competition, 2004 Los Angeles Underwater Photographic competition, and the prestigious 2005 International Beneath the Sea Film Competition, where he also won the Stan Waterman Award for Excellence in Underwater Videography and 'Diver of the Year', Steve was a safety diver on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed footage to the Seaworld Park's Atlantis production, and productions for National Geographic and the History channels. Steve is also feature writer for Asian Diver Magazine and is one of the founding organizers of the San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition. He is available for both private and group seminars for Final Cut Pro and leads both underwater filming expeditions and African safaris with upcoming excursions to Micronesia for the Manta Fest in 9/09, the Red Sea and Egypt for Nov.2009, Truk Lagoon and Yap in Micronesia for July, 2010. Feel free to contact him if you are interested in joining Steve on any of these exciting trips.

copyright © Steve Douglas 2009


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