Learn how to unique keyboard shortcuts for the Curves effect; work with Lumetri Scopes; use the Auto Color, Auto Contrast and Auto Levels effects; and use the Import Curves settings from Photoshop.
- [Eran] Hey everyone, my name is Eran Stern, and welcome to After Effects Weekly. In this episode I'll show you some cool techniques and hidden shortcuts for one of my favorite and most useful effects in After Effect, the Curves effect. So I have this drawn footage of the Old Port of Jaffa in Israel. This shot was taken by my friend Italia Solene, and as you can see it is quite flat in terms of color and contrast. This is a great opportunity to use the Curves effect to balance and correct it to look better.
Now the Curves effect work in eight, 16, and 32 bits per channel color. Currently it is not an accelerated effect but this may change in the future. Compare it to the Levels effect, which is GPU accelerated and also adjusts tone response, however, the Curves effect gives you more control. With the Levels effect you make adjustments using only three controls, Highlights, Shadows, and Midtones. The Curves effect, on the other hand, arbitrarily map input values to output values using a curve defined by 256 points.
So let's start with some of the basic stuff. First of all both curves and levels can be found under the Color Correction category and you will see tons of other effects that are quite useful when it comes to create color correction, inside After Effects. But for now, we're going to concentrate obviously on the Curves effect. So when you apply the effect, you've got three options, in terms of the size of the curve. This is the basic one.
You cen click on the second item, which will make it even bigger, and in order to see it on my screen, I'm going to make this panel full frame by double clicking on the words Effect Controls, and you even have a third and bigger size so you can be very precise and accurate. And of course for this you need bigger real estate, in terms of your screen. I'm going to bring it back to the default, and I'm also going to double click once again on the Effects Controls name, in order to bring back all the other panels.
Now you can obviously work with different channels, so here we are looking at the Composite RGB, but you can use this pull down menu in order to switch to a different channel, such as the red for example. And here is a unknown shortcut, which only works if the curves is selected. And this is control on the PC, command on the MAC, plus the digit one, two, three, four, and zero. And each of them will give you the different channel, accordingly.
So command one is going to show you the red channel, command two, control two of course on the PC's, the green, three is the blue, four is the alpha, and of course, command zero is the RGB Composite. Now you need to be careful, once again, if by any chance the timeline is selected, or any other panel for that matter, and you're going to hold down the control key on Windows, command on the MAC, and click one, then your tools are going to be hidden. Command two will hide the Info panel and so on and so forth.
So I'm going to press command one again to bring back my tool bar over here. And let's move on. I'm going to select once again, the Effect Controls panel. And obviously we can add additional points, 256, this is the maximum amount of points. And each one of them control different area of the curve. If you want you can use this pencil and draw whatever you like. I'm going to do something which is quite ugly over here, just for the sake of demonstration.
This will help me to show you that we've got a smooth background over here, which can smooth your graph, and if you're going to return to the point mode, then you can see all the point and you can manipulate them further. I'm going to reset the effect back to normal. And we also have this Auto key which in my experience, doesn't yield a great result, especially when you are working here inside After Effects. So I'm going to show you a better Auto options in a moment. Now in order to do so, I'm going to reset the effect, and usually when I'm trying to create some sort of color correction, I need to look at an histogram.
So, you've got couple of options. First you can apply the Levels effect without modifying anything, before or after the Curves effect. And you will have this histogram to work with. Another option that is available to you, you can use the Lumetri Scopes, so I'm just going to go to Window, Lumetri Scopes, and in this case, I'm just going to change the size of the scope, and I already chose to show the histogram. Although this is a vertical histogram, it is basically the same.
You can also right click inside this manual, and choose other way to show scopes. For example, the Parade RGB will give you this view, which is also useful. This is three histograms condensed, one near the other, each one represented the different channel. But I'm going the close this panel, and I'm going to show you my favorite way of working with the Curves effect. I really appreciate the effect that inside Photoshop, I have the histogram on top of the Curves effect, and I also got few more options that I can use.
So, thankfully, we can open and Save presets from the Curves effect, meaning that we can share curves adjustments between Photoshop and After Effects. And in order to show you my workflow, I'm going to select the timeline here, then then go to the Composition window, and choose this command, Save Frame As file. Now the default output model is already set to Photoshop which is great, I just want to make sure that the render settings here are going to be set to Best Settings.
Usually it is set to Current Settings. And since I'm using a four K image, my settings now are half of the resolution. So just make sure to use this Best Settings, when you export a still frame out of After Effects. Then you should decide where you want to save this file. I'm going to save it to the desktop, and this is going to be the name of it with the time code from After Effects. I'm going to click Render, and once the render process is finished, I'm going to switch back to the Project panel, and then select the output model, and bring it back to the project, which is going to import the still frame that I've just created.
All right, so return to the timeline, and I'm also going to select this frame, and go to the Edit menu and choose Edit Original, which is going to launch Photoshop on my machine, and allow me to work here and correct it. Now, the most flexible way, inside Photoshop, is to use an Adjustment layer. So in my case, I'm going to go to Window, Adjustments,. And this will allow me to add a Curves adjustment on top of my, the current layer.
I'm going to expand this panel. As you can see, this is almost identical to what we had in After Effects, but it is more friendly to work. It also includes this histogram, which means that I can see, where are my black and white colors, and I can arrange them and create some sort of a better beginning in terms of what I'm trying to achieve. I'm going to temporarily hide this panel, and then zoom in so I can get a better sense of what I'm doing.
Now, let's bring the Properties panels back, as you can see in the left corner, you've got couple of other tools, such as updating the histogram to represent whatever you already made in your correction. Now you also have this Auto button, which in this case, inside Photoshop, usually yield much better results. And you can also determine which one of the Auto algorithm the Curves effect is going to use. You can do it by holding down the Alt key option on the MAC, and click on the word Auto.
And this will allow you to choose between four different algorithms. So currently we are enhancing the brightness and contrast but we can check the Enhanced Monochromatic Contrast, we can Enhance Per Channel Contrast, and we can find the dark and light colors. And as you can see each one of these collections is going to give us different results. You can also set Neutral Midtones if you like, as well as Target Colors and Clipping.
And if you like these algorithms, now that you have access to them inside After Effects as well. So I'm just going to cancel out, in this case, and then switch back to After Effect, and here under the Color Correction category, you have these three options. Auto Color, Auto Contrast, and Auto Levels. And these three effects correspond to the same things that I just showed you inside Photoshop, so in order to work with them, I'm going to select all three at once and drag them on top of my footage.
Now I'm just going to switch off the visibility of the FX icon. Make sure that nothing is selected by pressing F two. And then I'm going to enable Auto Color, now I'm going to enable Auto Contrast, and now I'm going to enable Auto Levels. So each one is doing different calculation, depending once again, on the algorithm. All right, I'm just going to select all three, and delete them. Then I'm going to go back up, and return to Photoshop.
In this case, I'm going to once again, hold the Alt key, click on the word Auto, and I found out from experience that Enhanced Per Channel Contrast, which is equivalent to Auto Levels, is going to yield in this case, my preferred result. So I'm going to say okay. And now I have couple of other options that I can use here inside Photoshop, which are missing in After Effects. So I'm just going to reduce this in order for me to see more of the sky, and then I'm going to take this hand icon, and I'm going to click somewhere and you can see that once I'm clicking, I'm adding a point to the curve.
So I can now drag up or down in order to change and maybe bring more colors to the area that I'm clicking on. Let's do the same over here on the sky. We may want to lift it a little bit up, then over here, at the dark area of the sea, you may want to reduce it just a touch, and in this area, where the trees are, I'm just going to lift it a touch. So I've created a custom curve, and now I can actually save it, and apply it back inside After Effects.
And in order to do so, you need to go to the options menu over here, and choose Save Curves Preset. I'm going to point it to the desktop, and I'm going to call this one Jaffa Curves, and save it to my hard drive. Now I'm going to switch back to After Effect. And here inside the Curves interface, I'm going to click on the Open button, navigate to where I just saved the file, and click Open. And just like that I brought my custom curves from Photoshop back here inside After Effects.
And I'm using this method, a lot of times, when I want to give myself more control when working with the Curves effect. Now I'm going to bring the Compositions panel full screen by pressing on the tilde key, and then press space bar in order to preview the final effect. So this is it for this time, I hope you learned something new, and I'll see you again in the next episode.
Note: Because this is an ongoing series, viewers will not receive a certificate of completion.