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Expanding contrast

From: Color Correction in Final Cut Pro X

Video: Expanding contrast

Clients say funny things when it comes to commenting on the contrast or color of footage. One of my favorite ones is, "Can we make that shot pop a little bit more?" You might be thinking, what does that mean? After years and years of color correcting and grading shows for clients, I can tell you it means they want you to expand the contrast of a clip. Earlier in this chapter we took a look at fixing an underexposed clip, as well as an overexposed clip. In this movie I want to take a look at a shot that has neither one of those problems but could use a little help to make it pop a little bit more. And to do this, we're going to expand the contrast of this clip using the Color Board here in Final Cut Pro X. Now, I've already gone ahead and opened up the Scopes in this project.

Expanding contrast

Clients say funny things when it comes to commenting on the contrast or color of footage. One of my favorite ones is, "Can we make that shot pop a little bit more?" You might be thinking, what does that mean? After years and years of color correcting and grading shows for clients, I can tell you it means they want you to expand the contrast of a clip. Earlier in this chapter we took a look at fixing an underexposed clip, as well as an overexposed clip. In this movie I want to take a look at a shot that has neither one of those problems but could use a little help to make it pop a little bit more. And to do this, we're going to expand the contrast of this clip using the Color Board here in Final Cut Pro X. Now, I've already gone ahead and opened up the Scopes in this project.

And I've set the Scopes up to show the Luma Waveform. Now if I skim through this clip, you'll notice that there is really nothing wrong with this shot. It looks okay and if I look at the trace here on Waveform Scope set to Luma, I can see that no portion of trace is over 100% and no portion of the trace is below 0%. So I don't have an illegal clip for broadcast, but we can actually improve this shot to make it pop a little more by expanding its contrast. One of the things that the Waveform Scope set to Luma shows us is the relative contrast ratio of a clip.

Contrast ratio, of course, is the difference between the lightest and darkest portions of the clip, and remember that the scale that the Waveform Scope uses goes from 0 or Black down here up to 100 or White up here with midtones in the middle of the scale. And right now this trace is pretty spread out, but it's not too spread out. This clip has an okay contrast ratio, but we want to expand the contrast to give it an even better contrast ratio. Okay, so to fix this clip I'm actually going to make a correction on the Color Board, so let's make sure that we have the clip selected and then to jump directly to the Color Board, I'm going to use the keyboard shortcut Command+6.

That shortcut will allow us to jump directly to the Color Board bypassing the main level of the Inspector. So here on the Color Board I want to come over to the Exposure tab, which I'm already on. Remember, you can simply click on these different panes to access them or you can use keyword shortcuts: Ctrl+ Command+S to show the Saturation pane, Ctrl+Command+C to show the Color pane, then finally, Ctrl+Command+E to show the Exposure pane. Now for this shot I guess I could use the global or master exposure control, this guy right here, and drag up to brighten the shot or down to darken the shot, but as you can see on the Waveform Scope set to Luma, that's actually not doing anything to expand the contrast ratio of this clip, so let me go ahead and reset that.

What I want to do is use the three controls right here in the exposure pane to adjust the three parts of the tonal range: Black or Shadows, Midtones, then Highlights or Whites. So let's start out here with the Shadows or Blacks control, this guy right here, and drag down just a touch. What I want to do is have the bottom of the trace just touch 0%. This will allow anything that's supposed to be black in the shot to be displayed as black. Next, let's come to the Whites or Highlights target and drag up. I'm going to drag up so the top of the trace is just about 97% or 98%.

And then finally, let's come in here to the Midtones control, and I'm going to arrow up--remember, you can use the up and down arrows to move this target or puck on the exposure pane--so I want to arrow up just slightly to improve the midtones in the shot. Okay, something like that works. Now you'll notice when I made that last correction that the bottom of the trace came off the 0% line. That's because of the overlapping nature of the tonal range and the controls here on the exposure pane of the Color Board. So what I need to do oftentimes is come back to another part of the tonal range after I've made a correction, so I'm going to click on the blacks or shadows target right here and just arrow down, just slightly, until the bottom of the trace is just touching 0%. Something like that.

All right, let's go ahead and hide the Color Board. I'll use that same keyboard shortcut of Command+6 that I used before and that hides the board, and now you can see on the scope that the trace is well expanded over the entire scale that the Waveform Scope set to Luma uses, indicating that we have a much better contrast ratio on this clip. Actually, let's go back and open up the Inspector now by pressing Command+4 and then I'm going to use Command+7 to hide the scopes. Then let's toggle the default correction, Correction #1, on and off.

Here is the shot before the correction, and you can see it's kind of flat and kind of gray. And here's the shot after the correction; it has a lot more punch and definition to it. If I skim through this clip, you can see that it looks pretty good. So that's expanding the contrast ratio of a clip. In my experience, while I do get over and underexposed clips, most of my time is actually spent expanding the contrast of footage to get it to pop or punch a bit more, and you can see that's easy to do with a simple exposure or contrast correction using the Color Board here in Final Cut Pro X.

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Color Correction in Final Cut Pro X

30 video lessons · 12787 viewers

Robbie Carman
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