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Simon works with Adobe Premiere Pro and the Magic Bullet Colorista II and Looks plugins, but these lessons can be applied to any color correction workflow.
- How our eyes see color
- What colors tell the audience
- Making sure color is consistent
- Applying adjustments in the correct order
- Understanding how warm and cool colors frame emotion differently
- Isolating and adjusting skies
- Changing the time of day with color
- Designing interiors like an office, a hospital, or an interrogation room
- Creating fake depth of field
Skill Level Appropriate for all
There is in general a correct order to make corrections to your clips. I'm using the color correction sequence here in Premier Pro, and I'm going to switch over to the Color Correction layout so, I can see the RGB scopes. On this shot, I can see that the RGB channels are reasonably well-balanced, but they're not very bright. The brightest of these traces only reaches about 60% on the scale. And if I wanted to increase the contrast or increase the brightness of the shot, I need to raise these up to a higher levels.
I'm going to use the three way color corrector here. And drop it on to the clip, and open up the Effect Controls tab to see the settings. So, if I use the input sliders here, this controls the highlights and this controls the shadows with essential pin controlling the midtones. So, if I direct this one to the left, it reduces the width of the slider and increases the brightness of the traces. Similarly, if I drag the input levels and drag them down, it makes the shadows darker.
And what you want to try and avoid generally is impacting these levels on either the bottom or the top of the scale, because you then begin to lost detail. Here, I'm crushing the shadows against the bottom scale and we're losing detail in the darkest areas. If I increase the contrast so much so that I begin to clip against the top, then not only does it look quite sterilized, but I begin to lose detail in the brightest sections. I'm just going to reset this filter so, we get back to the start.
So, the general thing you do first is adjust how bright you want the image, including how bright you want the mid-tones. There's quite a lot of information in the mid-tones in this shot, and I can control that with this central slider here. I can bring those up slightly and then bring down the brightness slightly. Here's the before and after. And you don't have to spread this out to actually fill the scope. It's a matter of choice by keeping one eye on the final image.
And here I've increased the exposure, and made the image a little clearer to look at. Stretching an image all the way to the top of the scope gives you a high contrast image. And high contrast means that you that you got a larger distance between the brightest and the darkest areas of the image. Sometimes, you may want to deal with a low contrasting image. And you can do that using the Output sliders here. So, I can limit the brightest pixels here and limit the darkest ones as well.
And by doing this, I'm making a low contrast image, there's the shorter distances between the brightest and the darkest parts of the image. And I can control where that spreads over the scope with the central slider here. And these sorts of images tend to look a little washed out, there's not so much detail in the shadows, and the highlights an't to bright. And they tell a different story really. And low contrast images tell a different story to high contrast images. It really depends on the story you're telling.
I got to reset this again and adjust for some exposure, there we go. The next stage is to apply an artistic adjustment, for example, a tint. Once you set the contrast, you can then go on to move to the color wheels and make color adjustments. Have a look at the scopes just before we do this, they're all quite balanced. Each channel has a very similar shape and a very similar position on the scope. It's a general rule of them, that's if each channel matches, then you have a well balanced image.
If they don't match, then you have a cast or a colored tint. If I drag the mid-tone color wheel towards blue, you can begin to see I'm adding blue into the image, and the blue channel is higher than the red and the green channel, which indicates a blue cast. If I move this over to the oranges, then I'm introducing a warmer image, a more orange tint, and the red channel is higher than the other two. Balancing your images first gives you more control over the tint you want to then add.
But the core concept is, adjust your contrast first and then go on to adjust color. There are a variety of tools that you can use in Premier Pro to adjust your colors and to adjust the balance of an image. On this next shot here, there is an identifiable blue cast, because the white balance on the camera wasn't set correctly. As well as using the three-way color corrector, we can actually use the RGB curves. And they live in the color correction folder here. I'll drag that one to the shot here, this is what they look like.
You can control the contrast with the Luma curve. I can reduce it by dragging down, or increase it by dragging across. You can also set points on curves, and I can decrease the shadow and increase the highlights to get that classic film curve the s curve, which increases the highlights deepens the shadows and increases the contrast. Here's the before and after. I'm going to reset this filter, and show you that its really quick to balance an image with curves.
In this case, we've got a much identifiable blue cast which we can see in the height of the blue channel. What I want to do is slightly bring down the contrast of the whole image, then I'm going to increase the red channel by dragging left on the reds curve till I more or less match the blue channel. And then I'm going to do the same for the green channel. And very quickly, here's the before and after. We have a balanced image, because we're able to target each particular channel.
But having said that you have to balance channels first, there may be an artistic reason why you don't necessarily want to do that. I'm going to go to this last clip on the timeline, and here we have somebody shot outdoors. And there's a slightly warm hue to this image, which is illustrated by the higher levels of red in the red channel. If I use the RGB curves, type in RGB to show you the quick way of getting there, and drop those onto the shot and go over to the Effect Controls. If I balance this image, let me show you what happens, I'm going to bring down the contrast slightly and then bring up the blues to match the reds. And then bring up the greens a little bit.
And the more I adjust and balance each channel, the whiter the light becomes. Here's the before and after. This was shot on a sunny day and it has the implication of a slightly warmer atmosphere than this particular look. To some extent, it depends on your deadline, it depends how much time you've got to craft each particular shot. And it depends on the story you're telling. I actually prefer the warmer look of this image. And so, I wouldn't necessarily have to balance this image perfectly, especially if this was in keeping with the story I was wanting to tell.
Many times, grading is subjective and you have to balance your technical corrections with the artistic aim of the piece. So, do keep checking the channels to have a look at whether there's a color cast or whether the channels are in balance. But also have one eye on your main image to make sure that the colors in the story that you're wanting to tell are being represented.