Creating the Spirit of Christmas: Music, DIY, Color Grading & More


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Back in December of last year, we shot a commercial for our Christmas music collection. Since the making of this video involved some cool color grading techniques, mainly for creating contrast, I’d love to share the process with you.

A short description for those of you who don’t want or can’t watch the video: A video editor sitting in the editing room, puts on her headphones and looks for Christmas music on Artlist. When she clicks on the Jingle Bells song, the Christmas spirit immediately engulfs her. Once she takes off her headphones, she’s back to reality, sitting at her dimly-lit editing room.

What lies at the heart of this video is the moment of transition between the cold day-to-day editing room and the warm Christmas vibes, and our goal was to capture the contrast between these two states. So let’s talk about the different aspects of filmmaking on display here and the key elements we applied to generate the look and sound that we wanted.

DIY Set & Lighting Tricks

Check out this contraption

Essentially, we custom-built the set, setting up rigs for the tree and for Santa to make them both jump into the frame. At the same time, the Christmas lights along the walls had to fall down into the frame.

Speaking of lighting, the moonlight you see coming into the room is simulated by the versatile Westcott Flex RGB lights, the gold standard, by any means. We also installed the Aputure 120d along with a light dome pretty close to the actress, creating contrast between her and the background.

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For warmth, we went with the Arri SkyPanel, covering it right up to the moment our heroine clicks on the song. Then, we let all the light flood in, achieving that element of surprise. Lastly, we utilized two top Fresnel lights to make Santa and the Christmas tree really pop out when they appear.

To capture that warm look at the color grading stage, we used warm LUTs, which are basically formula-based image modifiers.

Cold vs. Warm

Sound & Music

It’s no secret that choosing the right music is key to creating a great video. That’s why we picked the Jingle Bells song, which is, of course, available on our royalty-free Christmas music collection. Nothing says Christmas quite like Jingle Bells.

To create the moment of transition, we cut off all the low frequencies of the music. The generated effect throws the audience, along with the actress, back to cold reality after she takes off her headphones. We also added a whoosh effect there, to give that transition that extra… oomph.

Another crucial and often overlooked element in filmmaking is sound design, and since we at Artlist came out with a Christmas sound effects bundle that included 50 free different sound effects, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to showcase some of them.

That’s a Wrap

If your objective is creating contrast, you should address it at every level of the process – from the physical set design and lighting, through the background music and color grading, to the sound design and visual effects. Hope you found some of these tips helpful to your filmmaking. Whatever you do, remember to stay creative.

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