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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:

You are now all set to start correcting the image.

The process: color correction workflow
To really understand color correction, you need some knowledge of color theory, which is beyond the scope of this article. However, the basic idea is that a good starting point is to work on the overall brightness or luminance of a shot first, and then adjust its color components, which consist of hue and saturation.

In Final Cut Pro X, you adjust brightness values in the Exposure pane of the Color Board. The Waveform is the scope that tells you how bright and dark the pixels are as you move across the image from left to right, with 0 being darkest and 100 being brightest. As you can see by examining the Waveform and by looking at the image itself, our example shot doesn't have many dark areas. The Color Board has a master slider on the left that lets you adjust the overall (global) exposure, and it also has three controls for adjusting the shadows (black circle), midtones (grey circle) and highlights (white circle) independently. Simply drag the controls up and down, using the Waveform as a guide, to create more contrast for the shot.

Once you are happy with the exposure, a good next step is to evaluate the saturation, which refers to how rich the colors are. Select the Saturation pane in the Color Board. In the Video Scopes window, use the Settings menu to select the Vectorscope, which displays saturation information as dots for each image pixel inside a circular graph. The farther out from the center, the more saturated the pixels are.

Although you can adjust saturation in the shadows, midtones, and highlights separately, I often find that the global slider is all that I need to use. In the example here, I've bumped up the saturation to make the grapes and leaves more colorful, being careful to keep the bright dots in the Vectorscope from touching the boxes around the perimeter. By the way, to make an image black and white, simply drag the global slider all the way down to remove all saturation, and therefore all color, from the image.

The last step is to adjust the hues in the clip. The hues are the actual color values, as in red or yellow or blue. You adjust the hues in the Color pane of the Color Board. Select this pane, and you'll see that it contains four controls over a rainbow of colors. The large control on the left is the global control and the other three once again allow you to manipulate the shadows, midtones, and highlights individually.


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