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Understanding the video scopes

From: Color Correction in Final Cut Pro X

Video: Understanding the video scopes

Video Scopes. You've probably stumbled upon them before in Final Cut Pro X or other NLEs. These days every color correction tool and pretty much every editorial tool is going to have Video Scopes, but what are they and what do they do? Well, in this movie, I want to quickly answer those questions and in movies throughout this title, we'll use the Scopes to help us to make corrections. Put simply, Video Scopes allow you to objectively look at the video signal in a number of different ways, like measuring the lightness or brightness information of a clip, or the saturation of colors that are present in a shot.

Understanding the video scopes

Video Scopes. You've probably stumbled upon them before in Final Cut Pro X or other NLEs. These days every color correction tool and pretty much every editorial tool is going to have Video Scopes, but what are they and what do they do? Well, in this movie, I want to quickly answer those questions and in movies throughout this title, we'll use the Scopes to help us to make corrections. Put simply, Video Scopes allow you to objectively look at the video signal in a number of different ways, like measuring the lightness or brightness information of a clip, or the saturation of colors that are present in a shot.

The thing I want you to understand is that your eyes lie to you, and they lie to you all the time about the video signal. Described with scientific terms like adaptation, your eyes can quickly tell you things that aren't really happening in a shot, but by using Scopes, you can get a much more accurate idea of what is happening in the shot, without depending on your eyes alone. So the first thing we need to do is figure out how to gain access to the Scopes here in Final Cut Pro X, and to do that we have a few different options. First, I can come up to the Window menu and then down to Show Video Scopes. I can also use the keyboard shortcut Command+7.

Here in the viewer, if I click on this little light switch icon, I can choose to show the Video Scopes. When I activate the Videos Scopes, you'll notice that the viewer gets a little smaller to share space with the Scopes. Now the important thing I want to point out is that currently in Final Cut Pro X you can only display one Scope at a time. The other thing that I want to point out is that Final Cut Pro X is very sensitive about what it shows you in the viewer and thus the Scopes window, and the sensitivity is based on what you have selected. So for example, if I come over to my event here and select a shot, you'll notice that the shot is now viewable here in the viewer and the Scopes show me information about that clip that I have selected.

If I come down to, say, the timeline and select this shot, you'll notice that the viewer updates, but so do the Scopes. If you had skimming enabled, which I don't in this title, you could also skim a shot to get the scopes to update. To access the different scopes available in Final Cut Pro X and to access the options for a selected scope, what you need to do is simply come up here to the Settings menu in the Scope window itself, and here in the top section where it says display, we can choose from the Histogram, Vectorscope, or Waveform. These are different types of scopes. So for example, if I chose Waveform here, the scope changes.

Now again, I need to make sure that I have the clip that I want to view selected. So I'm going to go ahead and select this clip down here in the timeline. If I come back up to the Settings window, the lower section will show me different options available for that scope. And for the Waveform here, I have a quite a few different options, but again, these options will change based on what scope that you have active. The first scope that you'll use all the time is called the Waveform scope, and that's the one I currently am showing, and the Waveform scope can be viewed in different ways. The three most common ways are to view the Waveform Scope set to Luma, which allows you to measure the overall lightness information in the clip, as well as view the contrast ratio of a clip.

You can also use the RGB Parade, and you use the RGB Parade any time you want to see the relative color balance between the red, green, and blue channels. You can also use the RGB Overlay mode, which gives the same basic results as the Parade, but in more of a composite view with all the signal information layered. let's go back and choose Luma from the Settings menu once again. Before we go any further you need to understand what is displayed on each scope. Each scope displays what is called the Trace, this stuff right here.

Put simply, the trace on digital displays, like the ones used in Final Cut Pro X, show you all the pixels in the video signal. Next, each scope has its own scale and on this Waveform Scope you can see the scale right here, going from -20% to 120%. Each scale on the different scopes allows you to measure the trace in different ways. The cool thing about the Waveform Scope here is that it mimics the total range from bottom or blacks down here to white up here at the top, with midtones here in the middle of the scope.

The picture on screen is also mimicked on the Waveform Scope from left to right. So in this shot, this bit of trace right here is brighter than this bit of trace down here. And because the waveform scope mimics the picture from left to right, this bit of a brighter trace is probably this window right here in the shot. And the darker portion of trace right here is probably the actor right here in the middle of the shot. As I said, we'll break down the Waveform Scope in a little bit more detail in later movies in this title as we make corrections. The other scope that we use all the time is called the Vectorscope.

So let me come back up to the Settings menu here and choose Vectorscope, and let me select the shot in the timeline. This scope is the principal scope that you'll use to measure overall Hue and Saturation in your footage. Hue is represented as the angle around the scope and saturation is represented by the distance out from the center of the scope. The center actually represents no saturation. So in this shot you can see that most of the trace is pointed out towards the blue and kind of between the cyan targets. It's extended pretty far out but not excessively so, indicating that this clip is saturated, but not overly saturated, and if I look at the actual clip here you can see that it is indeed blue, and its looks to be saturated, but not too saturated.

Another thing to point out-- remember how we talked about the RGB Parade in overly Waveform Scopes? You'll often use those scopes in combination with the Vector Scope to get an accurate idea what's going on with color in your footage. So if I go ahead and switch back to the waveform and then go and choose RGB Parade, I can see that the blue trace here is elevated over the green and red traces, indicating that I have a blue color cast in this clip. If I change the waveform to show RGB Overlay, I'll see the same information. The blue trace is elevated over the green and red traces in this composite view.

The last scope that we have is called the Histogram. The Histogram provides you a statistical view of the video signal in a variety of different ways. We can view the signal as Luma only, so the histogram shows me only the brightness information of the clip. I can view the different color channels and I can also view an RGB overlay, as well as a parade. What I mean by statistical view is that spikes in the trace, these bits right here, indicate that you have more pixels or more values in that part of the tonal range. I like to use the histogram in combination with the various waveform scopes to get a good idea what's going on with my brightness levels as well as what's going on with color in my clip.

So for now, that's a quick introduction to the Video Scopes. As I said, we'll use the scopes throughout this title to make some informed decisions about the corrections that we will make.

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Color Correction in Final Cut Pro X

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Robbie Carman
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