Premiere Pro CS4 Beyond the Basics
Illustration by Richard Downs

Primary color correction


Premiere Pro CS4 Beyond the Basics

with Chad Perkins

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Video: Primary color correction

We're now going to look at Primary Color Correction. It's called primary color correction because it's the process of going through and universally altering all pixels in your image. We have here this still frame from the Zen Chemists music video Time. There are some interesting issues here. One of the big problems that bothers me is that these highlights are blown out. This is one of the problems of video and it's actually a mistake I made while I was shooting. Unfortunately, there are no ways to fix this. This is a dead giveaway that you are using video instead of film.
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  1. 4m 11s
    1. Welcome
    2. What's new in the dot release
    3. Using the exercise files
      2m 18s
  2. 18m 54s
    1. Capturing ambient audio
      3m 12s
    2. Getting plenty of coverage
      1m 48s
    3. Telling a story with camera angles
      3m 18s
    4. The 180 degree rule
      2m 13s
    5. Framing shots
      3m 25s
    6. Allowing "emotional space"
      1m 40s
    7. Overcranking and time lapse
      3m 18s
  3. 11m 38s
    1. Why is metadata important?
      1m 40s
    2. Browsing and adding metadata
      6m 4s
    3. Creating metadata with Speech Search
      3m 54s
  4. 33m 12s
    1. When to cut
      7m 38s
    2. Avoiding bad edits
      9m 17s
    3. Using emotional cutaways
      1m 53s
    4. Fixing problems with cutaways
      3m 53s
    5. Pacing edits
      3m 49s
    6. Matching action
      4m 14s
    7. The power of suggestive editing
      2m 28s
  5. 26m 31s
    1. Contrasting targeting and selecting
      3m 17s
    2. Copying and pasting clips
      2m 36s
    3. Replacing clips
      4m 8s
    4. Editing to music
      5m 0s
    5. Using sample rate for precise editing
      5m 34s
    6. Creating J and L cuts
      3m 33s
    7. Working with subclips
      2m 23s
  6. 11m 17s
    1. Ingesting media
      1m 39s
    2. Examining P2 file structure
      1m 31s
    3. Importing P2 files with the Media Browser
      5m 15s
    4. Converting DVCPRO HD to standard 720p
      2m 52s
  7. 38m 11s
    1. Using the Reference Monitor
      3m 0s
    2. Using scopes
      8m 33s
    3. Primary color correction
      10m 11s
    4. Secondary color correction
      8m 28s
    5. Creating a vignette
      2m 28s
    6. Creating a day-for-night shot
      5m 31s
  8. 37m 19s
    1. Censoring video
      5m 30s
    2. Creating a waving flag
      6m 5s
    3. Creating a lens flare
      3m 36s
    4. Creating background textures
      6m 19s
    5. Playing with time
      6m 4s
    6. Using transition effects
      6m 13s
    7. Working with presets
      3m 32s
  9. 15m 30s
    1. Creating a garbage matte
      3m 56s
    2. Removing green screen
      5m 6s
    3. Compositing with blend modes
      3m 32s
    4. Nesting sequences
      2m 56s
  10. 15m 27s
    1. Creating 3D reflections
      5m 0s
    2. Creating growing vines
      5m 52s
    3. Creating a track matte
      2m 39s
    4. Using the History panel
      1m 56s
  11. 42m 25s
    1. Censoring audio using bleeps
      5m 16s
    2. Understanding sample rate
      3m 0s
    3. Normalizing audio across multiple clips
      5m 7s
    4. Recording audio
      2m 24s
    5. Removing audio problems with Soundbooth
      5m 43s
    6. Working with VST plug-in effects
      2m 3s
    7. Mixing audio
      8m 20s
    8. Changing volume over time
      5m 22s
    9. Working with surround sound
      5m 10s
  12. 23m 52s
    1. About this project
      2m 26s
    2. Performing preliminary edits
      2m 35s
    3. Working with multi-camera footage
      7m 27s
    4. Creating a visual "stutter"
      3m 12s
    5. Adjusting color
      8m 12s
  13. 6m 28s
    1. Transferring projects to another machine
      3m 24s
    2. Removing unused footage
      3m 4s
  14. 25m 46s
    1. Choosing a format
      5m 35s
    2. Understanding spatial compression
      2m 5s
    3. Understanding temporal compression
      4m 19s
    4. About HD standards
      5m 46s
    5. Changing footage interpretation
      2m 17s
    6. Getting the film look
      5m 44s
  15. 27m 10s
    1. Working with After Effects
      5m 56s
    2. Creating titles in After Effects
      5m 39s
    3. Working with Photoshop files
      2m 29s
    4. Working with Final Cut Pro
      2m 2s
    5. Working with OnLocation
      3m 12s
    6. Working with Encore
      4m 27s
    7. Introducing Adobe Story for pre-production
      3m 25s
  16. 15s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course Premiere Pro CS4 Beyond the Basics
5h 38m Intermediate Dec 03, 2009

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In Premiere Pro CS4 Beyond the Basics, Adobe Certified Instructor Chad Perkins explains how to take video editing from simple nuts and bolts to an art form. He shares tips for shooting video in the field to get the most from a subject and get the best footage for a project. He demonstrates how to build a project through the careful use of cutaways, pacing, and suggestive edits. He covers special effects, color correction, and keying and compositing, integrating all these concepts as he builds a music video project from scratch. Exercise files are included with this course.

Topics include:
  • Working with P2 media
  • Keying compositions using garbage mattes and green screen
  • Using transition effects, lens flares, and 3D reflections
  • Compositing with blend modes
  • Understanding spatial versus temporal compression
  • Recording, mixing, normalizing, and fixing audio
Premiere Pro
Chad Perkins

Primary color correction

We're now going to look at Primary Color Correction. It's called primary color correction because it's the process of going through and universally altering all pixels in your image. We have here this still frame from the Zen Chemists music video Time. There are some interesting issues here. One of the big problems that bothers me is that these highlights are blown out. This is one of the problems of video and it's actually a mistake I made while I was shooting. Unfortunately, there are no ways to fix this. This is a dead giveaway that you are using video instead of film.

So it's an extra big blemish, in my opinion. It's one of those, once again, that there is really no remedy for once you're in post-production. But we do have some other issues here that I do want to address. The whole image is, on the whole, a little bit too dark. I kind of wanted our main characters here, the rapper guys, in shadow and the guy rapping here, I wanted him to have some highlights, and that worked out all right. Although, again, as I mentioned, highlights are over-bright. But I want these guys to stick out a little bit more, and also, another problem with this is that there's just too much saturation in some areas of this footage.

Also, I don't like the color tint. It doesn't really speak to the vibe of what they're getting at. It's soft and beautiful. It's blue. It's green. It's full of life. It's not kind of tougher and edgier like a rap video should be. Now all that explanation may seem superfluous for what we're getting out here in primary and secondary color correction, but really that is the core of what you should be thinking. It shouldn't be about how can I make this footage look cooler or what can I do to make this look kind of current and modern. You should be looking at the emotional needs of the piece, and then having the colors speak to those needs, so you know what you're trying to do.

You're not just going for some cool effect. You're actually trying to make something artistic. You're having the colors reflect what is going on inside of the piece itself. So the first thing I want to do is play with the luminance, the brightness values, and there are many ways to do different things in Premiere. I'm just going to show you a couple here. I'm going to use RGB Curves. I'm just going to put that on my footage here. You could just as well use Luma Curves, and actually we're not going to touch the Color Curves here, but I'm a bigger fan of RGB Curves.

We're going to be using the Master Curve here. Curves is one of those things you'll find in After Effects. You will find in Photoshop as well as other applications, and it can be a little daunting and intimidating. Basically, here's the way this works. The left side of the curve represents the shadows of the image and the right side represents the highlights. Now this isn't like a graph like a histogram. We're not getting a live feedback on what's going on. It's always a diagonal line when you first apply the effect, but it's relative in so much that as we want to, let's say, bring up shadows, I can grab the left-hand side which represents shadows.

If I drag it up, I'm going to be brightening the shadows, and if I drag it down, I'm going to be darkening the shadows. The same thing with highlights on the right-hand side. If I want to brighten highlights, move this up, darken highlights, move it down. Same thing with midtones, in the middle. The cool thing about the curves that we don't get with a Levels effect is that we have control over all of the degrees of luminance. So maybe this is a little bit too dark. You want to adjust shadows that are a little bit brighter than that. Then you can just move this point a little bit higher and adjust those points, instead. I'm just going to go ahead and reset that effect.

Across from the name of the effect, you will see this little circle arrow here. So I'm just going to click this to reset it. One of the most common adjustments that you'll see with the Curves effect is to click on the right side of the curve and drag up to brighten the shadows and go to the left side of the curve and drag left to darken the shadows. This is typically called an S curve, because it kind of vaguely is reminiscent of the letter S, and it's supposed to increase contrast. That's great for a lot of images, but with this one, we already have too much in the way of darkness and we have too much in the way of highlights.

So this is not what we want. Again, go in to reset the effect. What I really want to do here is take up the Shadow value. So I'm going to go over to the left- hand side of my curve and drag that up just a little bit to get a little bit more detail. Now because this was taken in kind of a low light situation, it's a very grainy footage. So if I start brightening this too much, you just start to see a lot of that noise and we definitely don't want to call attention to that. So I'll want to take this down to somewhere around there, so it's a little bit brighter and not overdone.

So let's see the before and the after. Good! I like that. It's subtle, but it does the trick. Now another part of primary color correction is setting the color tone of the piece. So for that, oftentimes a lot of people will use the Fast Color Corrector effect. So I'm going to apply the Fast Color Corrector effect and show you why you might not want to do that. The Fast Color Collector effect is very fast. It renders very quickly, and it's also very simple and easy to use. Basically, it has this little color wheel in the center and we could just click-and-drag the center to pull all colors toward a given direction.

So we could have this orange warm tint that we want or maybe pink or blue or green or whatever else we want. Now if you were going for like a simple alieny green effect, this might suit your needs. But for more professional applications, you don't want to tint everything, the highlights, midtones, and shadows the exact same color. So typically, for professional color correction, you will want to use the Three-Way, T-H-R-E-E and not the number 3, Three-Way Color Corrector. Let's go ahead and apply that to our footage. We're going to be looking more at the Three-Way Color Corrector effect in the next movie when we talk about secondary color correction, but it still does help for primary color correction as well.

Again, we have these wheels here, except that the Three-Way Color Corrector gives us a wheel for the shadows on the left, midtones in the middle, and highlights on the right. So we can adjust highlights, midtones, and shadows independently. This is typically the system that most people in Hollywood use for professional color correction. They'll have like a ball with shadows, midtones, and highlights. This is constant push/pull effect where you tweak the shadows and so it kind of messes with the other tones a little bit. Then you play with the highlights.

This is just kind of like this constant back and forth, give and take, until you find the right color scheme that you're looking for. One of the color schemes you'll see a lot in Hollywood blockbuster movies of late is having kind of an orangish tint to highlights and midtones and kind of a greenish tint to shadows. Now, when you look at your image, you might be saying, "Well, where's my shadows "and my midtones and highlights? "Where is that line of demarcation?" Well, at the top, there is an Output dropdown. Change the Output dropdown from Composite to Tonal Range.

This will show you the tonal range of your footage. So you're seeing black. That is what Premiere is considering to be your shadows. The gray areas are your midtones and your white areas are your highlights. Now as you could see here, our shadows are very, very strong. There is a lot of shadow area, and midtones, there's not too much and there's hardly any highlights, pretty much on his shoulders and a few random speckles throughout the image. So use this view as a guide, essentially. If I know if I'm going to go fiddling with this left circle, with the shadows, I know that the areas there, right now, that are black, those are the areas that are going to be affected.

So if I take the Output dropdown back to Composite and I move the shadow areas, let's say, to blue, then you could see the shadow areas, the areas that were black moments ago, those are turning to blue. It's actually a very ugly look, because midtones and highlights are unaffected. So to achieve that push/pull effect that I mentioned earlier, we would want to go into the midtones and push those in a given direction, maybe go into the highlights and push those in a given direction until the colors seem a little bit more evenly balanced out.

Now this is not the color scheme that we're looking for. So I'm just going to go ahead and reset the Three-Way Color Corrector effect. This time, we'll push things in the way that we want them, like the shadows, I'm going to push these towards a warm direction, just a little bit, and midtones also towards orange-yellow and maybe highlights also towards yellow a little bit, maybe little bit more toward the pink area of things. Now before we go any further, because it looks almost the same, it looks very similar, if we turn off the effect and then after the effect, we could see that we've actually made quite a bit of a difference.

Now again, what we're going to do is just kind of push and pull, back and forth, back and forth as we are tweaking colors and making slight changes to shadows, midtones, and highlights. Now one thing that kind of confuses me about this effect is that we have this Tonal Range dropdown that says Highlights. Now this makes you think that you are adjusting highlights with these three wheels here. This also makes me think, but actually this Tonal Range dropdown refers to the sliders that we adjust down here. That can be a little confusing. So as we take Tonal Range from Highlights to Midtones, then all of these sliders here change to Midtone, Hue Angle, Balance Magnitude, Balance Gain, Balance Angle, and Saturation.

We could also take this to Master, so we could have one wheel just like in the Fast Color Corrector effect, which is helpful if you want to adjust something like Master Saturation. We can take down the saturation of the whole piece and make it kind of feel a little bit darker. By darker, I mean emotionally darker, not necessarily darker from a luminance perspective. Being able to adjust just one Master Hue Balance Angle is good too if we just want to push everything in that orange direction and we don't want to really take time to balance things out and tweak highlights, midtones, and shadows.

So I know I want kind of more of an antique 70s-ish feel here. So pushing everything to orange, warm tones like that is going to work for me here. Now, I kind of like where this is going. If I take off these effects, I like that we've increased the brightness of the shadows with the RGB Curves effect, and then polish it off with some Three-Way Color Corrector to add that nice warm tone to it, but there are still a lot of problems. This area in the back is still very bright. These green leaves are just probably like a big focal point here, and I want our guys here in the front to be focal points, and they're still too dark, They kind of blend in too much.

So that is where Secondary Color Correction comes in handy.

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