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This course is part of a series that looks at documentary editing from the point of view of 3 different editors in 3 different editing applications. For more insight on editing documentary projects, take a look at Documentary Editing with Avid Media Composer and Documentary Editing with Premiere Pro.
- Interpreting a creative brief
- Logging interviews and organizing footage
- Pulling selects and focusing ideas
- Assembling scenes into rough cuts
- Creating a title graphic sequence
- Animating images
- Tightening clip timing
- Compressing and exporting multiple files
Skill Level Intermediate
Documentaries are often shot on the run, and videographers don't always have the time to white balance their camera or even position the sun behind their backs. They're focused on getting the action in that moment. So as editor you could end up with clips side by side in the project that were shot in a variety of locations, times of day, and very possibly with different cameras. A larger documentary project might enlist the services of a specialized coloring facility, but for a smaller project, such as your Farm to Table doc, you as editor will be expected to make the clips match as seamlessly as possible.
Now we won't be getting into a lot of depth about color correcting, there are other courses in lynda.com, such as Color Correction in Final Cut Pro X, but I do want to just show you a few little tricks and tips that you can use to apply to the clips in this project. First thing we want to do is to prepare the Timeline and the entire interface to focus on coloring, and we won't be focusing on audio so we can toggle off the audio meters. We won't be looking at waveforms in our clips, so we can go to our Clip Appearance and just use the video thumbnails.
We can make our Clip Height a little taller so we can see a clear reference to what we want to work with. Now, there are some things we can do in the area above the Timeline. For example, we don't need to be working with the event library, so we can close that. We can create more space for the viewer by dragging the boundary line, and we're definitely going to need the information window so we can go ahead and open that. Another thing we're going to want to do is we're going to turn on some scopes, video scopes, and we find those under the Window menu, the shortcut is Command+7.
When you display the Video Scopes, it shares the viewer with the image, and what comes up is an RGB Overlay as a default. What I like to choose is Waveform. So if you go to the first marker in the Timeline and select that clip and then zoom in, we can see that this looks like a really good clip, good color, but it's just a little dark. Well, one of the things that you can do in Final Cut Pro, when you click on the Video tab of a particular clip in the information window, is that there's an option to choose Balance.
Notice that it says Balance and then Not Analyzed. Well, Balance is one of the things that Final Cut Pro can look at on import. When you import clips, you can ask Final Cut Pro to go ahead and take a look and automatically give it its first pass at balancing, and that would be the same thing as clicking this button now. Let's go ahead and do that and see what we get. Well, notice, and you can look over here in the waveform that, that raised the overall video levels. I'm going to deselect it, because you can toggle it off and on anytime you want.
Notice the levels are a little low and the image looks a little dark just clicking that Balance button raises everything up, and you can see the effect of it over here in the waveform. Well, let's jump down to some other clips. There are these three clips of this man picking, and then cutting or trimming these particular herbs, and then the next one of throwing them in the box. Well, all of these have a greenish tint, and then this third one looks particularly dark. Let's see what happens when we change the Color Balance for this first clip.
First, select the clip, because right now we're still seeing the selected clip that you've just adjusted over here in the information window. So select the man who is doing the picking and notice his Balance box is not checked, so go ahead and click that, and look at what a difference that made. That took a lot of the green out of that shot. You may not be entirely pleased with that, but it certainly gets you in the right direction. If you want to continue to tweak that color, go ahead and step in to the Color Board.
The Color Board is divided into three areas, Exposure, Saturation, and Color, and these are the three aspects of an image that you can change when it comes to color. The three knobs below allow you to adjust the highlights, the brighter portion of the image, and notice how the waveform changes there. The midrange-- now, the midrange is a good thing to know, because that often is what you adjust to bring the level down for faces. In fact, if we put it back to normal, his face looks a little washed out, so we'll drop the level down for his face just a little bit, and we'll leave the Color alone.
Go back to the video, and if you want to see what it looks like before and after, you just click the Color button. Now, if we go to the next clip, we see we have a similar problem with that green. Well, rather than start from scratch, what we know is that we really want this clip to sort of match up and look a lot like this clip. So what we can do is do that very thing, we can ask Final Cut Pro rather than Balance it independently, we can say no, Match the Color. And as soon as you click the Match Color button, see the little box is not completely filled yet, and that's because Final Cut is talking to you.
Right here it's saying, Skim to a frame you want to match. And let's go to the clip that we just finished adjusting and find a frame that you think is representative. This might be good right here. Notice in the Timeline, above the clip, there's a little camera next to the pointer. So when you click that frame, Final Cut applies that fix to this clip. Now, if you're not happy with it, well, pick another frame. So you can keep hunting for the frame you want, and when you do find it, go ahead and click Apply Match.
Now, remember, you may not get exactly what you want, but it gets you in the ballpark. And then what you can do once you're in the ballpark is you can go ahead and go to your Color Board and make adjustments to this particular clip. And again, as you would do with anything, you would find a representative frame. And I'm going to look at the frame where his hands are visible because what I'm thinking there is that they look a little purplish. So this might be where you click on the Color tab and take the overall level in a different direction.
So let's see, well, if I drag down, I go towards red, and that's not good. I go up. So you can adjust and play around a little bit, but know that when you make these sweeping motions, they can improve things, or they can make things look not as good. And if you don't like what you did, you can just press Command+Z. The trick with that is don't let go of the knob as you're controlling it so that you can just do one undo. So basically what we've got are two shots that are starting to look the same, and then we have a third shot.
Well, let's see what happens if we just Balance that clip. Well, Final Cut Pro really made it a little brighter, and now it seems to match the others. Let's take a look at these in real-time. (BD Dautch: ...to bring their produce. And that allows a high quality of freshness. And because of all the micro-climates that there are around here, people grow everything from mangos to cherries...) This gives you an idea--I'm going to press Shift+Z--and what you can do is go through your project and find clips that need help. And I would suggest, always select the clip, and then starting with what Final Cut Pro can offer in that clip, in it's automatic Balance or Matching Color, and then go into the manual correction from there.
Any steps you take to color correct, even the shortest documentary, will make a huge difference to the final piece. So make sure to put on your colorist hat and take a pass through your doc before you sign off on it. The more you can restore a realistic color balance and match out of whack clips, the more professional your documentary will look.