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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 Final Cut Pro X.
- Interpreting a creative brief
- Logging interviews and other footage
- Pulling selects and presenting ideas
- Building sequences and scenes
- Creating title graphics
- Animating images
- Adjusting b-roll shots
- Tightening clip timing
- Compressing and exporting multiple files
Skill Level Intermediate
Color Correction is a necessary step in all professional projects. This is for technical reasons to make sure the signal is within acceptable range and also for aesthetic reasons, to sort of smooth things out when there are changes in color tone and sometimes to add an emotive effect. In this case, we're mostly concerned with evening out the colors so that we don't have a jarring effect when we switch from one shot to another, especially if they were shot under different lighting conditions.
Now this material was well shot, and that just goes to show you, especially with outdoor shooting, there's no avoiding those lighting changes and therefore there's almost always the need for some color correction. Like with many specialized functions in Premiere Pro, I start by setting up my workspace. I am going to start with one of the pre-built workspaces, but then I'm going to adapt it to my own needs. The Color Correction Workspace brings up automatically the Reference Monitor, and that's going to be useful, but I prefer to see it up top so I can look at these two side by side.
Then I don't really need this window at all, and I'd prefer to have some more Timeline space. That's basically my Color Correction Workspace. I may need some more room over here once I start color correcting, and of course, you can save this workspace. We've seen that already. We've already looked at some points of emphasis for color correction on our Timeline, so now I want to start at the beginning and begin to color correct working toward our goals. We've already talked about this shot and why it has some special needs. It's also the very first shot, so let's start there.
You can see that our layout provides our affects controls right next to our affects themselves, and you do have some choices in what color correct effects to use. Two of my favorites are the Fast Color Corrector and the very robust Three-Way Color Collector. I'm going to use the Three-Way Color Correct because I see it as the best of both worlds, but I am going to come back to that and show you exactly what I mean. I've now applied the filter, and I can see the Three-Way Color Corrector. I do need a little more space here because I want these wheels to be bigger.
I don't know that I need a bigger frame, I might be able to just get the real estate I need there, maybe a little of each. That looks good for my Color Correction setup. I use the Reference Monitor for two important things. I like to look at the Scopes for a reference, and I also like to use it to compare frames. So let's look at those Scopes first. There's a lot of Scopes, and they can be intimidating. I'm not going to cover everything, but I do want to look at the YC Waveform and then sometimes at the Vectorscope.
Waveform gives me a plotting of Luminance, which can be very useful. The first changes I usually do have to do with Contrast and Brightness, and I make those changes down here. I'm looking at both the video and the waveform monitor, and I am adjusting brightness and contrast. I have a choice to Split the shot, so I can see my changes side by side. I'll do something radical just so you can see what I mean. And I also have the choice of turning things on and off.
In this case, I am looking for an emotive effect. This is the very first shot, and I want it to appear clean and good, but it also looks a little oversaturated and too rich to me, so I am looking for a perfect balance point. I like to adjust first contrast and then colors, and this is why I said that the Three-Way is the best of both worlds, it's because of this Master checkbox. I have Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights, but when I click Master they all become slaved to each other.
In essence with Master clicked, the Three-Way Color Corrector is exactly like the Fast Color Corrector, and that's why I say it's the best of both worlds. Even better, once I make some Master adjustments, if I uncheck this it will save the Master Adjustments, and I can continue to tweak Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows. So for this very shot, I want to play with its tonality a little bit, both warming it up and then also desaturating it.
I always like to check before and after a lot while I am color correcting. I am concerned that we're losing a little bit of definition down in our blacks, so one more little adjustment. And now we're starting to see the shot the way I want it, with a lot more definition and the gradation, still warm but not terribly oversaturated.
The next thing I'll do is move on to the very next shot, and again, I'll refer to the Scopes as I adjust the contrast, and I'll also compare to the shot previous to see that they match. The way I'll do that is by changing to Composite Video, unganging, and placing this playhead on the previous shot. Now I'll make these adjustments. But actually, I prefer to skip ahead to a place we've already highlighted that needs exactly this type of comparing Color Correction. It's the farmers market scene here.
Do you remember we looked at these shots, and because of the sun and light conditions they just have a lot of different color qualities to them? From bright to a little bit flat to bright again, flat, flat, and then very bright. It's going to be very important that when we do this Color Correction we compare shot to shot. Let me get started on the first couple of shots, and then we'll skip ahead to see how it turns out.
Again I'll add the Three-Way Color Corrector, and this shot looks overall very good to me, which is good to start with because it creates somewhat of a baseline for everything we have to correct in this scene. Again, referring to the Waveform Monitor, I'll make some brightness and contrast adjustments. As I said this shot is pretty good, so I am just going to add a little definition in the blacks and move forward.
This is where things get interesting when we go from saturated to a lot less saturated, so I want to get that comparison up. Making sure that we're not ganged, I can move ahead and compare it side to side, this shot versus this shot. Now when I make the very same adjustments, I may flip back and forth between Scopes and a comparison, but the important thing is that we cut down on the differences as we go from shot to shot.
All right, there is a lot of careful work to make this good, so I want to go ahead and skip ahead and see how this scene works out. Okay, this is the finished Color Corrected sequence, and what I want to do is just watch the scene that we were working on to see if we've succeeded in smoothing out that distraction that happens when we go from bright to darker shots. Okay, I am going to play this through. (video playing) (male speaker: And we're serving our local customers our local product, and so--since we can, and since it's an amazing product-- we're happy to do it.) (male speaker: We definitely have access to some of the nicest produce around. I don't know how I'd run my restaurant without all these farms, that's for sure. This is where the magic starts.) You can see that it's a lot smoother.
What you may or may not have noticed is that sometimes I went for matching rather than the absolute best look of the shot. This was one example, here. This shot followed a very sunny shot, and rather than trying to make it look just perfect unto itself, I actually went a little brighter than is good so there would less of a distinction from the shot before. Let's look at a quick before and after on this one. Not necessarily better, per se, but better when we compare to this shot, and that's what's most important about Color Correction, especially on something like this that's documentary in nature, and people understand that there really is different lighting. People understand that the sun is shining on this guy's face.
There's a lot more to learn about Color Correction, and I encourage you to study and experiment on your own. The bottom line for me is that you can make an improvement to your stuff. It's true that some people spend a lifetime mastering Color Correction, and I don't think you're going to reach that level in your first project inside Premiere. However, I do think that you can improve your piece even if you're just experimenting, and I encourage that.