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Color correction in Final Cut Pro X

Mark Spencer | June 7, 2013
Color correction--also known as color grading or color timing--is the process of altering the brightness and color values of an image or video. While many of today's modern video cameras (and still cameras that shoot video) can produce great-looking shots automatically, sometimes you'll still want to manipulate the color "in post." Common reasons for doing so include:

Color correction--also known as color grading or color timing--is the process of altering the brightness and color values of an image or video. While many of today's modern video cameras (and still cameras that shoot video) can produce great-looking shots automatically, sometimes you'll still want to manipulate the color "in post." Common reasons for doing so include:

  • Correcting for mistakes you made during the shoot, such as over- or underexposure or incorrect white balance.
  • Matching shots taken at different times and/or locations so that they look as if they were captured at the same time and place.
  • Creating a particular look or style to support a mood, such as making a scene appear bright, warm, and cheery, or dark, cold, and foreboding.

Regardless of your goal, Final Cut Pro X includes powerful tools for grading your video. Let's get familiar with them as we explore the basics of color correction.

Tools: Color Board and Video Scopes

The primary tool for correcting video in Final Cut Pro X is called the Color Board. With the playhead over a clip in your project that you want to correct, open the Inspector (press Command-4 or click the Inspector button in the toolbar) and select the Video pane if necessary.

The Color section contains three tools for adjusting the color of a clip. The first, Balance, attempts to fix the brightness and color values of a clip automatically. To try it, just click the box to the left to enable it. The next tool, Match Color, is great for matching one shot to another. All you need to do is click the Choose button and then click a clip you want to match to. Both of these tools are simple and useful, but they are also one-trick ponies--either they work or they don't.

The third tool, Correction, is what we are interested in, as it gives us the most creative control. It's enabled by default (as the blue box indicates), but it has no impact on the image until we adjust it. To do so, click the right-facing Show Correction arrow to reveal the Color Board.

Before you get to work in the Color Board, it can be helpful to have the Video Scopes open. Click the tiny light-switch icon at the top right of the Viewer and choose Show Video Scopes, choose Window > Viewer Display > Show Video Scopes, or press Command-7. As you can see, Final Cut Pro X often gives you several ways to accomplish tasks.

The Video Scopes window appears next to the Viewer. The Scopes provide brightness and color information about the current frame of video, and you have many options for configuring them. Click the Settings menu at the top right of the window, and select the Waveform. Then click it again and select the Vertical Layout option, which places the Waveform beneath the image in the Viewer.

 

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