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Colorama is one of the most powerful and also probably one of the most confusing color manipulation effects inside After Effects. However, power users will tell you it's one of the most flexible color effects as well, so it's worth mastering. In the next three movies, I'm going to show you, how to set up Colorama and explain what the parameters do, how to use it as the ultimate Tint effect. It goes way beyond Tritone and similar effects. Then how to use it to create Color Cycling, an old psychedelic effect, where colors travel through gradients. So settle down, spend some time, master this really cool powerful effect.
First let's show the basic Colorama setup and explain some of its parameters. Select the footage and apply Effect > Color Correction > Colorama and watch out because the defaults are really garish. A lot of effects in After Effects do have defaults that are a little... non-optimal, shall we say. Well, the first thing you want to do in Colorama is twirl down the Input Phase and the Output Cycle. This basically says where do you want to take your input from, where do you want to get an underlying grayscale image, and then how do you want to output it.
What colors do you want to convert that grayscale ramp into? So in the Input Phase, you may want to start with something such as Lightness. That is a basic grayscale ramp. You can pick just a Red channel, Green channel or Blue channel, and it's worth looking at our special topics movie on Grayscale Shootout to show the differences between these. But you can also pick up the parameters such as Value another way of measuring the grayscale. The Alpha, the Hue, the Saturation. I'll start with Lightness. Now that you have an Input channel, pick your Output Cycle.
How do you want to send this out? And Colorama ships with a nice set of presets. Now just to start out simple, I'm going to ahead and pick Ramp Grey as my starting point. So take Lightness in and go to Gray out, and that's a quick way of setting up a grayscale image. You might be wanting to take this and save it as an Animation Preset and in the future instead of applying Colorama straight from the Effect menu, apply this preset so you already have Input and Output setup, and it should be a little bit less garish when you get going.
Okay! Now that we've got an image we are going to look at, let's start playing around with these different options. Input phase as we mentioned has different choices for picking say the Red channel, the Green channel or the Blue channel, in addition to other parameters such as Hue, Lightness, Saturation and Value of an image. You see that Lightness is indeed different than Value. I'll pick Lightness for now. You can use a second layer to mix in with this grayscale ramp.
In this case I'll have one layer in my composition, I could even pick the same movie and pick a different parameter such as say the Red channel and mix that in with my Lightness. How they get added together, these two different layers, is set by the Add Mode. Here I'm wrapping around. As I go beyond white, it's going back to black again. That's kind of crazy. I can Clamp, which basically says posterize the whites. Average, average together the two channels. Now that's kind of interesting, because at least I could pick say the Blue channel and Red channel and average them together to create a different type of grayscale image or use the blending mode Screen to mix these two together.
You don't need to use your second channel. I can set back to None. You can pick just Lightness, but you can pick more than one property and you can pick another layer. Phase Shift basically says do you want to offset these Input gradients that you are going to then be mapping colors to? This is of little use for color correction because these start creating strange wraparounds as you add and go through these different levels. It is much more useful when we talk about color cycling, which is in a separate movie.
Okay! We've got our Input Phase set. Now let's talk about the Output Cycle, what do we map our colors to. I'm going to cover this in much more depth in the next movie, but I just want to show you quickly. There are many different presets you can go ahead and choose from, Red, Caribbean, Fire And Smoke colors, all sorts of different color setups and in the next movie, I'll show you how to edit those color setups. I'll go back to Ramp Grey for now. Cycle Repetitions, you can have this color ramp appear more than once in your map.
For example, you can go from here to here, as you go from 0% to 50% gray, then start all over again and at 51% gray, you go from here around this wheel to 100% gray. That would be two Cycle Repetitions. Again, not that much use for normal Color Correction. It's of a lot of use when you're doing things like Color Cycling. We'll talk about Interpolate palette in the next movie as well. You don't have to alter the entire image. There's a couple of interesting areas down here, such as Masking and Pixel Selection.
For Pixel Selection, I can pick a color in the underlying layer such as say just the blue of this water, turn Colorama back on, and say match the RGB values of that water. Now you notice that just the water and similar colors have been turned grayscale, while the rest of the colors have been left untouched. In other words, Colorama will only affect the areas that match this color. And there are different matching modes. There are times when you want to use Chroma instead. You'll see here it still picked up the water.
That's left the mountain alone. Chroma is good for real video. RGB is good for synthetic images such as Illustrator or Flash artwork. I'll turn this off for now. There is also a masking selection. We'll go ahead and choose any layer on the composition and use a property of it such as its Intensity, basically its Luminance values or its Alpha channel to act as a mask for the Colorama Effects. In this I've chosen Intensity, so Colorama is only going to affect in the areas that high intensity to them.
But I'll leave this off for now and affect the entire image. Composite Over Layer becomes important in the next movie. Basically, I can choose to create holes in the image with Colorama. If I want the original layer underneath, I'll just composite over myself. And again, there is good old fashioned Blend with Original. The last section is really tricky and it's basically Modify. It says do you want to modify all the channels of the image? In this case turn Red, Green and Blue all into a grayscale image. Do you want to modify just one of the color channels of the image? Do you want to modify two of the color channels, so just the Red and the Green channels? Do you want to modify some other property such as the Lightness? The Hue and the Lightness, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Colorama is just extremely flexible in allowing you to say what characteristic of the color of the source image and/ or another layer do you want to pick, what colors do you want to map those to, and how do you want to reapply those layers back into this image. Flexibility can be daunting, but you don't need to do with all those things. You could go ahead and set the Input Phase to something like Lightness, Output Cycle to something like a preset to start with, then start working with the Effect. If you know you are going for a particular treatment, that's when you can get in to second layers for Phase, modifying specific color channels, etcetera.
The power is in there, but don't get distracted by it. Okay, now you know how to set up Colorama. In the next movie let's show working with this Output Cycle wheel and how you can use it to tint an image.
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