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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.
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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