July 1, 2008
The new Color application included with Final Cut Studio 2 greatly speeds up and enhances video work. These steps apply to any type of video work you do. First things first; anyone doing serious video editing work on the Mac should be using a multi-button mouse; Color requires it. It will make your work faster and more efficient. In Final Cut Pro, right-click functions are always mapped to control-click. But Color also includes many essential functions that are middle-click-only, and there’s no way to access them using your keyboard. So if you want to use Color to enhance your work by taking you beyond the colour correction capabilities of Final Cut Pro, now’s the time to buy that three-button mouse and step into a new world of clicking versatility. Step 1 Choose a clip with typical colour issues All of what we do here can be done with the 3-Way Color Corrector in Final Cut Pro, of course, but not with the speed, control, and unbelievably beautiful results Color will give you. Step 2 Correct the hue Start in Final Cut Pro, after all edits are done. Let us say a clip has bad white balance. To correct the problem, first, from the Timeline window, go to File > Send To > Color. The prompter will ask you for a name to save this Sequence. This is typical of Final Cut Studio’s non-destructive editing paradigm. Nothing you do in Color will change the original Sequence, nor the clips in it. You’ll see this as we progress. In Color, what you have to do is go to the Set Up room, and to the Project Settings tab at the bottom of that room, and turn off Broadcast Safe. This is a must-do for all colour correction work. Broadcast Safe filters “clip” whites & blacks, which can have detrimental effects on an image. This is not the same as doing a true colour grade that reins in these extremes. Do not confuse a quick-fix filter’s quality with professional grading work; they do not deliver the same results. Now go to the Primary In room and adjust contrast. Use the contrast sliders first on the Shadow settings, while watching the Luma scope to get blacks close to zero percent, without messing up the image, or going beyond zero. Next work with the Highlight settings, using the contrast slider to get whites up as close as possible to 100%. Adjust the Midtones the same way. Note: Once you adjust a clip in Color, it is vital to play the clip to be sure your corrections hold up through the movement throughout the duration of the clip. Step 3 Colour correct in the Secondaries Room Go to the Secondaries Room, tab 1, Enable it. Make sure you have the Preview tab in the middle section selected so you can see the matte you’re creating. Also, that above the Highlight controls the Control drop-down menu is set to Inside. Using the eyedropper, drag across the pedestal to isolate it. To the right of the matte preview, make sure the button that is red, green, and blue is selected. This shows the whole clip in its final form. Step 4 Correct underexposure using the Luma curve Double-click the next clip in the Timeline to select it. Play it through and watch the Luma scope to get a good feel for what’s going on. You will have to trust the Luma scope more than your eyes. In Primary In room, adjust Highlight contrast slider to bring the highlights way up, adjust Shadow contrast slider to bring the highlights back down, adjust Midtone contrast, and back to the Highlights, etc., until contrast is correctly balanced. Be aware that the contrast sliders are infinite; you can drag them up and down forever. This is good, but be careful. For one thing, it makes it very easy to blow out your Highlight settings. Take a moment to experiment with the Luma curve. Here’s how it works: Click on the line to make a point, then drag it up or down. Experimenting is really important to learning to do colour work properly. Step 5 Correct overexposure In the Primary In room, adjust contrast, watching the Luma scope carefully. Next, go to the Secondaries Room, Tab 1, and enable it. Use the eyedropper to drag across bright spots. Step 6 Additional adjustments Play with the contrast adjustments of Shadow, Midtone, and Highlight settings just for fun. It actually looks like it has more depth – more of a 3D look than the flat 2D medium that video actually is. This can make good shots stand out from the crowd. Correcting the contrast of an otherwise perfectly good shot can really make your productions stand out so much more, and Color makes it very easy to achieve this kind of effect. Step 7 Create custom presets Now for a little bonus lesson to save you time from repeating steps. First, double-click one clip in Color’s Timeline (or just place the playhead over it) to make it active. Then in the Browser, set it for icon view, click the Save button, save it as a custom preset in Browser. Next use Control+click to select all instances of that shot in Timeline, and click the “Copy To Selected” button, and Color will apply that “Grade” to all selected clips. Step 8 Getting back to FCP The final step is to get all this work back into your already-open FCP project. This is the easy part. First, go back to the Set Up Room and turn Broadcast Safe back on. Then go to the Render Queue Room, click the Add All button, click the Start Render button, and let it all render out. Once that’s done, go to File > Send To > Final Cut Pro. Back in FCP, you’ll have a new Sequence. It will have the name of the Sequence you sent to Color with “(from Color)” after the name. You have your original, and your graded versions of that Sequence ready to go. Nondestructive.