It’s not a new concept that color has significant influence over our mental and emotional state. Just look at your surroundings. Think about how certain places make you feel. In most cases, color is playing a part.
Now I’m sure if you’ve been in the business for a bit, you are familiar with color correction and grading, and apply them to most of your projects. However, if you’re new to video editing and looking to improve your craft, here is a quick overview of the basic principles.
It’s widely known that marketers use color psychology in their advertising efforts to evoke emotions, influence buyer behavior, and increase sales. But why does this matter for video editing? Well…sort of for the same reasons. Essentially, your goal as a video editor is to set the mood for your production, to evoke your audience’s emotions, and to make the experience of watching your movie memorable. So how do you do this? One of the best ways is – you guessed it – color, and that’s when color correction and grading come in handy.
There are 3 steps in color correction and grading. The first step is color correction, also known as primary color correction. Color correction is usually done first because raw footage can tend to be flat or under-saturated, or shot in less than ideal conditions, and things like color and contrast may need enhancing. The basic goal of color correction is to make sure the footage looks natural to the human eye, and to give the multiple clips in your sequence a uniform look. Often times, a shoot will be done over several days in multiple locations and the differences in lighting will need to be fixed. This all can be corrected so that the final product has consistent color and lighting.
The second step is color grading. Color grading is the process of creating the actual aesthetic of your video. For example, you can take a gloomy day at the beach and make it look like it was shot in Hawaii under a bright summer sky. You can catapult your audience to a different era by manipulating the color saturation and contrast. Or, you can mimic a post-apocalyptic world using dreary and depressing tones, and so on.
The last step in the coloring process is to make sure that everything in your footage blends together nicely and your color ranges are correct or ‘broadcast-legal’.
Now to get more technical, what exactly is color correction and grading, and how do they work? At the most granular level, color correction and grading involve changing the color of a pixel to another pixel. 4K video at 24 frames per second is about 200 million pixels per second so it’s absolutely impossible to do this process on a pixel-by-pixel basis. That’s where color fixing plugins come into play.
Some editors use the color correction and grading tools that are built into their NLEs, while others utilize 3rd party plug-ins, such as those offered by NewBlue. Now while almost all NLE’s contain some basic color correction tools, the choices can be somewhat limited and your project might require a more specialized set of tools. In such a case, we recommend that you consider our ColorFast 2 – a comprehensive color correction plugin that’s compatible with most NLEs and provides a powerful, intuitive set of features all the color correction steps outlined above. In addition, it contains a wide range of other advanced features, such as more than 60 preset looks to choose from.
Watch a short walkthrough of ColorFast 2
Let’s look at an example. The human eye is quite sensitive to human skin tones, preferring natural-looking shades of skin color. ColorFast 2 helps solve this problem by providing a Skin Mask option that allows you to preserve the corrected skin tones from a shot, based on skin detection, while allowing the rest of the image to be graded with more extreme color change.
Another example is the included scopes in ColorFast 2. FActors such as your monitor and the lighting around you during editing can make it hard to accurately gauge what color specs are actually in your video. The included scopes help you set your adjustments within ‘broadcast-legal’ limits and the Region Scope feature helps you easily visualize and stay within your desired color range. It lets you measure the whole picture or select a specific region for precise scope readings with an on-screen indicator.
Vector – Classic is a traditional display which shows saturation levels in your picture.
Vector – Color displays saturation information with the addition of color being shown within the scope display.
RGB Parade shows the luminance levels of your picture, separated out into Red, Green and Blue channels.
Waveform shows the luminance levels of your picture from black and shadow levels at the bottom, to white and highlight levels at the top.
Histogram shows the spread and quantity of pixels from black and shadow levels toward the left side as well as white and highlight levels toward the right side. This scope also separates out three channels of Red, Green, and Blue, including the combination of all three as combined luminance represented by White.
ColorFast 2 also includes 65+ professionally curated preset looks ranging from modern cinematic to old vintage classics. Furthermore, it includes balancing options and final composition correction, for finishing touches after the initial steps of color grading and correction are complete.
Color correction and grading is a vital part of video editing. By mastering these concepts and making sure your favorite video editing software is equipped with the right tools, you can be confident your work will shine.