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Brightening dark footage

From: After Effects CS5 Essential Training

Video: Brightening dark footage

Folks, I am really excited about this chapter. We're going to be covering Color Correction, which is such a huge deal in After Effects. Whether you're selling a product, like making a commercial or something, or whether you're making just like a cool animation or whether you're working on a film - no matter what you do in After Effects, color-correcting it with the tools that we'll be going through in this chapter, it really has the ability to take your work from just kind of okay to absolutely phenomenal. First, in this movie, we're going to be talking about brightening dark footage and also darkening shadow areas, which may be a little bit too bright.

Brightening dark footage

Folks, I am really excited about this chapter. We're going to be covering Color Correction, which is such a huge deal in After Effects. Whether you're selling a product, like making a commercial or something, or whether you're making just like a cool animation or whether you're working on a film - no matter what you do in After Effects, color-correcting it with the tools that we'll be going through in this chapter, it really has the ability to take your work from just kind of okay to absolutely phenomenal. First, in this movie, we're going to be talking about brightening dark footage and also darkening shadow areas, which may be a little bit too bright.

I'm also going to give you some artistic warnings here as we're going. So, what I'm going to do is go to this arrangingFlowers composition, select the arrangingFlowers layer, and then what we're going to do is search on the Levels effect. So, go ahead and double-click the Levels effect, with that layer selected, to apply the Levels effect. The Levels effect now in CS5 has kind of two categories, or two ways of looking at this little diagram called a Histogram. This bottom button shows us the Brightness information. And when we click on this top button, it shows the color information for each color channel.

For right now, it doesn't really matter which one you choose, although I'm going to leave this selected at the bottom circle here so we can just see this one gray histogram. Now the histogram looks pretty complicated. It's actually not very complicated. What this is showing us here is the shadow values on the left-hand side and the highlights on the right-hand side, and the middle values in the middle. The height of the chart is comprised of pixels or content in the footage that is of that brightness level. So, right now, what this is telling us is there is a lot of shadow area and dark midtone stuff, but even of regular midtones and of highlights - there is nothing.

This line is flat. So, there really are no highlights. So, what we're going to do here is grab this right triangle, which indicates our highlights, and we're going to drag it to the current brightest point of the image, which is right about there. And then that tells us that that bright-gray is now white. And look at our scene. It looks fantastic. We could also go to this Midtone slider and click and drag to the left to make the midtones brighter and drag to the right to make the midtones darker if we wanted to. But the cool thing about levels is that Shadows and Highlights stay where they are.

When you adjust any one of these triangles, the other two do not move. So, it looks like we're brightening the entire thing and darkening the entire thing by adjusting this middle triangle, but we're not. Highlights and Shadows stay exactly the same. That is really why I like using the Levels effect. If we were to use, say, for example, the Hue/Saturation effect, I'm going to type in Hue, to get the Hue/ Saturation effect and apply that really quick. You have to follow along with this. I just wanted to show you this as an example. And actually, we'll be looking at the Hue/Saturation effect in the next movie, but this is one thing that you probably wouldn't want to do with that.

If I increase Master Lightness, what that's going to do is it's going to universally lighten every pixel. So, you see the difference? Even the shadow areas and the midtones. Everything is lightened. Likewise, if I take this to a negative number, I'm darkening everything. So, the highlights get dim. So, this is bad brightness correction. This is not what we want. See, this is really bad. We started losing the contrast, losing the shadows, as opposed to Levels, whereas we move the slider around, the shadows stay where they are and only the midtones move. Anyway, I am just going to delete Hue/ Saturation by selecting it and hitting the Delete key.

We're going to come back to this example in just a moment. I'm not done with this yet. There's a warning I want to tell you about this. But for now, go over to the yummy doughnuts Composition. And here we have some yummy doughnuts, probably the greatest doughnuts I've ever been to, Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon. This is footage that I took with my new Canon 7D camera, and it was brand-new. This is like the first video that I took with it. So, the focus is - we were just kind of playing around with it. But it's still beautiful footage of some really awesome-looking doughnuts. So, let's apply the Levels effect here, and go ahead and apply that.

The histogram looks a little bit different. So, let's examine what this is telling us. Remember that the height represents the amount of that value in the image, and right now, there is some bright midtones, but not any pure highlights. There is not pure white here, and we really don't have any pure black, nothing in the Shadows. So, what we do here is drag this left slider to the right. At the first sign of a pixel, so the first little, tiny bump here is what we want to line up that arrow with. And then on the right-hand side, we want to bring this into the left.

And you'll notice, if you look at the highlight areas in this footage, you'll see that those areas are becoming a little bit brighter as well. So, now we have kind of a well-balanced image. At least we have a pure white and a pure black in our image. We have good shadows and highlights. Then we could adjust this midtone slider as we see fit. We can darken things by moving it to the right, brighten things by moving it to the left, base it according to your taste. Now we really didn't move the triangles that much, and the footage may look very similar to you. But if you click this little fx icon, seeing the before and after, you'll see a pretty significant difference. If you zoom in here a little bit, maybe you could see this a little bit better, but look at the contrast of the colors in the back and the depth of the shadows are the dark-colored doughnuts on the right-hand side here.

If we turn this effect back on, things just appear so much more rich. So, again, before and after. So, essentially then, the same process that we use to brighten dark footage is the same process that we use to darken rich shadows as well, the same effect. That's basically how you brighten dark footage or darken shadows. So, if that's all you understood in this movie, go ahead and close this movie now. But for those of you that are interested in learning a little bit more about the art behind things, then I invite you to keep watching. You might have noticed that I shot this very washed-out, like the colors were not very rich.

When I'm shooting video, I like to do this intentionally, because it gives me more dynamic range. A lot of times with cameras, they force everything to be really high contrast, so you get like a sexy- looking image right out of the gate. I don't like to shoot this way. I like a washed-out, what they call a flat image. So, that way you have more control over in postproduction. So, if I have a flat image like this, where the highlights are not too bright and the shadows are not too dark, then I have more leverage that I can use when I come back in here in After Effects and play with the colors. I could do a little bit more to it. But oftentimes, when you get really, really bright highlights and really, really dark shadows built into the image that the camera takes in, then it's very hard to come back into After Effects and fix that.

As a general rule when you're shooting video, film is kind of like the great standard that everyone aspires to. You always want to try to get your stuff to look as much like film is possible, because of the dynamic range of the film is so beautiful. And basically, film does have this kind of like washed-out look, which gives you a lot more flexibility to play with in post. Now another artistic tip: going back to this flowers shot here. It's beautiful what we did to this, I think. We really like brought out the brightness and restored a lot of this. Again, if we take off the Levels effect here, we have the before and the after.

No question, it looks a lot better afterwards. However, there is a little bit of a caveat here you've got to be careful with. This image singularly looks great. But if we play this back, especially zoomed in, I want you to pay close attention to the wall in the background here. As we play this, notice the jitter that's happening here. Hopefully, you're seeing that on the Internet. But if you look all over the place, especially in the dark areas, you'll see tons of jitter from the noise that's going on here. When you shoot something that's underexposed, it is possible, like we just saw with the Levels effect, to bring some of that back to lighten it up. But the problem with that is that the extra noise that comes from shooting underexposed, where it's a little bit too dark like that, it just creates all this noise.

It's almost impossible to get rid of. The challenge there is that when you cut this next to a shot that does have less noise, that is well-lit, like these candles here, we're still seeing some noise in the wrappers and other dark areas, but it's not nearly significant. So, then when we cut these two shots together, it's jarring to the viewer, because this shot would look so clean, and this shot that we've color corrected would look so dirty. So, my point is, is that while you can go in and lighten footage, and After Effects is amazing in what it has the capacity to do, you need to be aware of the way that it is shot. Sometimes it dictates whether a shot is really, ultimately usable or not.

And truth be told, I actually learned about this the hard way. In 2009, I directed a music video. I am not a cameraman by any stretch of the imagination, but I decided I would shoot it myself. And I shot a lot of underexposed shots knowing that in After Effects, I can just fix it. I can just fix it in After Effects with these same color lightening tools we've covered in this movie. But what I realized is there were shots that I exposed well. When you cut those next to the shots that were underexposed and really grainy, it just looked really terrible side by side. Again, just looking at still images, it's not that bad, but when you actually play these back, the difference is really shocking how clean this looks on the left and how really noisy and grainy this looks on the right.

So, be aware that the quality of the source footage really does play a significant role in the quality of the output.

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This video is part of

Image for After Effects CS5 Essential Training
After Effects CS5 Essential Training

111 video lessons · 67674 viewers

Chad Perkins
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 5m 40s
    1. Introduction
      1m 30s
    2. What is After Effects?
      3m 12s
    3. How to use the exercise files
      58s
  2. 28m 14s
    1. After Effects workflow overview
      2m 18s
    2. Bringing elements into After Effects
      2m 23s
    3. Adding elements to the Timeline
      1m 57s
    4. Working with layers
      3m 45s
    5. Creating animation with presets
      3m 24s
    6. Applying effects
      3m 34s
    7. Creating animation without presets
      5m 38s
    8. Previewing your work
      2m 46s
    9. Exporting content as a movie file
      2m 29s
  3. 27m 20s
    1. Touring the interface
      6m 2s
    2. How After Effects projects work
      4m 47s
    3. What is a composition?
      4m 52s
    4. Tips for adding content to compositions
      2m 49s
    5. Understanding the properties of video
      8m 50s
  4. 57m 8s
    1. Importing an Illustrator file
      4m 57s
    2. Animation basics
      7m 12s
    3. Animating opacity
      6m 40s
    4. Understanding anchor points
      4m 57s
    5. Animating position
      6m 8s
    6. Animating rotation
      4m 41s
    7. Animating scale
      7m 19s
    8. Using the Puppet tool
      7m 13s
    9. Copying and pasting keyframes
      3m 4s
    10. Animation shortcuts
      4m 57s
  5. 9m 42s
    1. Understanding precomposing
      6m 51s
    2. Navigating through compositions quickly
      2m 51s
  6. 1h 12m
    1. A showcase of effects
      2m 34s
    2. Creating a layer for effects
      3m 1s
    3. Applying effects
      4m 54s
    4. Animating effect properties
      4m 29s
    5. Using Glow
      5m 34s
    6. Creating patterns and textures
      6m 57s
    7. Creating a fireball
      7m 9s
    8. Using the Cycore effects
      5m 58s
    9. Adding blur
      5m 45s
    10. Creating a galaxy scene from scratch
      8m 38s
    11. Distorting objects with effects
      4m 7s
    12. Creating and using lens flares
      4m 21s
    13. Creating lightning bolts
      4m 3s
    14. Viewing random variations with Brainstorm
      4m 39s
  7. 30m 52s
    1. Shortening the duration of layers
      4m 23s
    2. Trimming in the Footage panel
      4m 14s
    3. Slowing and accelerating video speed
      7m 9s
    4. Applying video transitions between clips
      6m 7s
    5. Working with image sequences
      4m 47s
    6. Importing footage with an alpha channel
      4m 12s
  8. 36m 11s
    1. Brightening dark footage
      9m 12s
    2. Changing colors in footage
      6m 34s
    3. Creating cinematic color treatments
      8m 17s
    4. Creating a quick vignette
      3m 42s
    5. Colorizing black-and-white objects
      4m 50s
    6. Using adjustment layers
      3m 36s
  9. 21m 9s
    1. Creating and editing text
      7m 39s
    2. Applying text animation presets
      4m 41s
    3. Animating text manually
      4m 43s
    4. Applying layer styles to text
      4m 6s
  10. 28m 58s
    1. Let's get better
      37s
    2. Using work areas
      3m 37s
    3. Creating markers
      6m 17s
    4. Replacing layers
      2m 35s
    5. Mastering Timeline navigation
      3m 18s
    6. Aligning and distributing layers
      3m 4s
    7. Selecting layers quickly
      1m 56s
    8. Cropping layers
      3m 43s
    9. Adjusting comp resolution
      3m 51s
  11. 23m 53s
    1. Using the paint tools
      9m 35s
    2. Using the Roto Brush tool
      9m 25s
    3. Animating growing vines
      4m 53s
  12. 40m 29s
    1. Creating and using masks
      6m 42s
    2. Exploring mask options
      7m 57s
    3. Creating masks with Auto-trace
      6m 51s
    4. Masking objects with other objects
      5m 33s
    5. Making shape layers
      3m 43s
    6. Modifying shape layers
      9m 43s
  13. 30m 44s
    1. Turning 2D layers into 3D layers
      9m 22s
    2. Creating lights and cameras
      6m 14s
    3. Creating shadows
      4m 23s
    4. Using depth of field
      4m 42s
    5. Working with 3D effects
      6m 3s
  14. 18m 10s
    1. Removing a green screen background
      4m 37s
    2. Refining the matte
      4m 48s
    3. Compositing with color adjustments
      4m 50s
    4. Compositing with blend modes
      3m 55s
  15. 25m 44s
    1. Understanding spatial interpolation
      2m 5s
    2. Creating and adjusting motion paths
      3m 55s
    3. Orienting moving objects along a path
      1m 29s
    4. Drawing motion with Motion Sketch
      2m 51s
    5. Creating pauses in animation
      3m 6s
    6. Understanding temporal interpolation
      1m 56s
    7. Easing keyframes
      5m 57s
    8. About the Graph Editor
      4m 25s
  16. 12m 13s
    1. Stabilizing shaky footage
      7m 46s
    2. Tracking the motion in footage
      4m 27s
  17. 24m 58s
    1. Setting up parent layers
      5m 49s
    2. Working with null objects
      2m 31s
    3. What are expressions?
      7m 17s
    4. Modifying simple expressions
      2m 20s
    5. Using the wiggle expression
      7m 1s
  18. 6m 52s
    1. Understanding audio in motion graphics
      1m 22s
    2. Previewing and mixing audio
      3m 55s
    3. Enhancing audio tracks with effects
      1m 35s
  19. 11m 36s
    1. Adding comps to the Render Queue
      2m 30s
    2. Exploring key Render Queue settings
      4m 11s
    3. How should I export my video?
      4m 55s
  20. 7m 16s
    1. Using Photoshop with After Effects
      2m 10s
    2. Using Illustrator with After Effects
      3m 2s
    3. Using Flash with After Effects
      2m 4s
  21. 11s
    1. Goodbye
      11s

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