Join Jeff Sengstack for an in-depth discussion in this video Analyzing clips for tonality issues, part of Premiere Pro CS5: Color Correction and Enhancement.
Before adjusting tonality, you need to take a look at your video clips and analyze them using the YC Waveform scope. That way you can figure out what needs to be done to fix tonality issues. So I'm going to look at a few clips here and give you my take on them. This first one is pretty well exposed. I can see here on the Waveform scope that it has deep shadows, although not right down to 0--and your goal is to bring the darkest shadows right down to the 0 line. You don't want to go below it. You can go a little bit below it if there aren't very many dark shadows, but basically you want to bring these down to 0, so that would be plan one: get the blacks taken care of first.
Then you want the Highlights down at the 100 line. You don't want them above the 100 line, but again, you can have some small highlights being above there in case you want little pieces of highlights. My concern here is whether these bright areas here, these highlights up to the 110 line are going to be blown out in their details. The thing about high-def camcorders these days is that they record in what's called super white, that's from 100 to 110 IRE, and they retain the details in this zone, which is a really good thing, such that when you get them in Premiere Pro you can still retain the highlights and bring these guys down.
I'm wondering right there whether I've blown out the details of the highlights, and I don't think I have--I would check this later to make sure--but if I had, they would be kind of crushed up against this line, and they're not. So that tells me that this little area here along the ledge and these details in the hair will probably look better when I do bring these highlights down. Then finally, I might want to bring the midtones, which are just hovering here at the 50% line or below, maybe bring them up a little bit to kind of brighten the overall look of this clip. So that would be my plan of attack for this particular clip. Let's move on to the next one. Now, I'm looking at this, and right away my eyeballs tell me that that is way, way underexposed, and I actually purposely way underexposed it for this particular exercise.
It you look at it here, you can see just everything is down near 0,. There actually aren't any true blacks here. They're just sort of hovering close to 0. And then the only highlights are these two cloud areas here, and they're way down about 40. So my plan of attack with a really seriously underexposed clip like this is to bring the highlights up pretty high, but not to 100, because that would stretch these guys out way too much and just make it look kind of strange and muddy. And also, when you take something that's underexposed like this and expand it out, it tends to look really desaturated, so you're going to have to kind of bring up the saturation at the same time, and the farther you spread it the more you need to bring up the saturation, and that tends to throw things off.
But my goal here would be to bring up these highlights to maybe around 90 or 85, something like that, and that would spread out these midtones a bit. And then I also want to make sure I bring down the blacks to 0. And that I think will repair this clip pretty well. It may not look perfect, but it will be a heck of a lot better than it looks now. This coastal shot is, I think you might look at it and go, that's a pretty nice picture, but in fact, if you kind of sit there and look at it for a while, you begin to see that it's just a little dull. And if you look at the scope then that confirms that, because there are no blacks. The shadows here and the rocks are just kind of like dark, dark gray, but not black.
So I want to bring these guys down to the 0 line. And now, look at the highlights here. This is the sky right along there. As you see, as it gets toward the right side, it gets a little bit brighter, matching that brightness. But holy cow, the sky right there maxes out at 90. So I'm going to want to bring the sky up to about 101 or 102, just to get that little tip of highlight there, and that will maximize the contrast ratio and make this look much better when I do that. Next clip. Okay, now this is a problem. If I'm going to try to make these gnarled vines a little more obvious, I need to bring them up, but look at the highlights here. The highlights for the sky are right there, peaked out already at 100, maybe a little bit above.
And so if I started lifting up these midtones to show the gnarled vines, I'm going to lift up these highlights too. And so when I do my tonality correction I'm going to lift up the midtones and not the highlights. I can isolate the midtones and lift them up only, and that will bring up these values here a little bit without bringing up the highlights of the sky. So that will be my approach to that one. These trains, look at the difference here. We have a lot of dark area. Everything is below 40%, lots of dark stuff on this clip, which you can obviously see.
These green areas here are these edges of the highlights. You can see the plants kind of sticking up like that. This is an equivalent of the midtone highlights, if you want to call them that. Then there is nothing here in the middle. Then you've got these super-whites here, above the 100 line and below the 110 line, which tells me that, oh gosh, I can capture detail in this line. It is still there. Thank you to the super-whites. So my plan here would be to isolate this area using a secondary color correction technique, which I talk about in a different chapter, and bring down this brightness, and the detail will suddenly show up there, which is really exciting, because you think, oh my gosh, there is nothing there, but you can make the detail show up.
Then I probably want to spread out these midtones a little bit, just to make them jump off the screen a bit more. This is a case where you've got some whites that can't be recovered. See how they're all crushed up against the 110 line there? That means there are no details there. You can't suddenly see sky out there or clouds or trees or whatever. It's just blown out. Now, also if you look down here, you see that there are no shadows down toward the 0 area. In fact, the Shadows, if we looked them, are kind of purple. So my work is cut out for me here. I need to bring these guys down, and then I need to do something about that window.
And what I would do about that window is it's easy to isolate this bright highlight, as I mentioned before, using a secondary color correction technique. I'll just bring down the brightness a little bit and then add a little bit of color to it, and that's about the best I can do. I can't bring back highlights that are not there. This clip is just flat and boring. That's because they're just aren't any dark shadows here. And I can see that here in the Waveform monitor. There is nothing here below, let's say, 15, which means I've got to bring these guys way down to get some blacks here in the shadow. And the highlights are up to about 88 or something like that, so I've got to bring them way up to get the sky a lot brighter. So I can spread this guy out a lot.
The one kind of neat thing to look at here is, see those little blocky things there in that little area of the highlights? Those are the equivalent of where these guys are cutting into the sky. You notice that there is nothing here, and that's not because there is nothing here in the picture. That just means that this area here is a low midtone, a sort of darkish midtone. So we need to lift up the highlights and drop the blacks, and that will make this thing jump off the screen at you. Here we are in the fog, and there is the fog. You can see the brightness of the fog right there. And usually when you're working with fog you don't want to get it much higher than 80, so it's already at about 80.
If you bring it above that, it's going to start looking like a bright shiny thing, and that's not really how fog looks. So you don't want to mess with the highlight here at the top too much. You want to bring up a little bit. But you do want to bring down these dark areas. So I want to look at these dark areas and say, oh yeah, there is room to bring those guys down, so that would be my plan of attack. Finally, this is a bridge that I shot purposely to create a day-for-night shot. My goal here is to, first of all, darken it, which I can do fairly easily, but then what do I do about all these highlights up here? The highlights are all these shots up hare and they'll look weird in a day-for-night shot.
This is a bright sky. Well, again, I can use a secondary technique to isolate that bright area. It's very simple, because there is nothing close to it in brightness, so it's easy to isolate something that sits out there by itself, but I have one extra little challenge here. Those little lights are bright too. Now, I don't want those little lights to be put in the secondary color correction and have them get dark. So I need to use another method where I put a mask on those lights to make sure they do not come down when I bring down the rest of the highlights. So basically once you see what you need to do, then it's pretty easy to have a plan to fix it.
- Touring the vectorscope, YC waveform, RGB parade, and YCbCr scopes
- Analyzing clips for color and tonality issues
- Adjusting tonality with RGB Curves and levels-style controls
- Making specialized tonality edits
- Adjusting color channels using RGB Corrector
- Animating track mattes
- Compensating for changing lighting conditions within clips
- Isolating and changing a single color
- Creating film-like looks
- Working with third-party plug-ins