The Color Corrector Filter

The Color Corrector filter controls are deceptively easy considering the amount of power they give you over the look of your clips. The main controls are at the top of the visual interface tab—color balance controls and level and saturation controls.

General Controls in the Color Corrector Filter

There are several basic controls in the top-left corner of the Color Corrector filter.

Figure. Color Corrector Fitler options and the Numeric button, Keyframe controls, Enable/Disable checkbox.
  • Visual button (appears when viewing the numeric controls): Click this button to view the visual controls for that filter in the color correction tab.
  • Keyframe controls: A set of three keyframe controls allows you to keyframe all of the settings in a color correction filter at once. To keyframe individual settings of a color correction filter, you need to use the filter’s numeric controls.

    There are two ways to keyframe color correction changes over time. Using a filter’s visual controls, you can place single keyframes that include the settings of every parameter of the color correction filter. If you set one keyframe, move the playhead ahead several seconds, and make further adjustments to the visual controls of the color correction filter, Final Cut Pro automatically interpolates the change from one keyframe’s settings to another to make the smoothest transition possible.

    For more precise control, you can keyframe individual color correction parameters directly in the Filters tab of the Viewer. For more information about keyframing filters, see Animating Motion Effects Using Keyframes.

  • Enable/Disable checkbox: Select or deselect this checkbox to turn on or turn off the entire filter. This can be useful if you want to compare your clip before and after the color correction filter has been applied. When working in the visual controls, you can turn the filter on and off by pressing Control-1.

Copy Filter Controls in the Color Corrector Filter

The Copy Filter controls give you an easy way to copy color correction filters and filter settings into other clips in your sequence.

Figure. Copy Filter controls.
  • Copy From 2nd Clip Back: Copies the settings from the color correction filter of the same type that’s applied two clips behind the currently selected clip, and pastes those settings into the current color correction filter. The new values replace any values or keyframes that were already applied in the current filter.

    If the filter being copied from is keyframed, the values from the last keyframe are applied to the current clip. If the second clip behind the currently selected one has no color correction filter, this control is dimmed.

  • Copy From 1st Clip Back: Copies the settings from the color correction filter of the same type that’s applied to the clip immediately behind the currently selected clip, and pastes those settings into the current color correction filter. The new values replace any values or keyframes that were already applied in the current filter.

    If the filter being copied from is keyframed, the values from the last keyframe are applied to the current clip. If the first clip behind the currently selected one has no color correction filter, this control is dimmed.

  • Drag Filter: Allows you to drag a copy of the current color correction filter, with all of its settings, and drop it onto another clip in your sequence. Click this button, then drag the filter to another clip.
  • Copy To 1st Clip Forward: Copies the settings of the current color correction filter into the next clip in your sequence. If the current color correction filter is keyframed, the values from the last keyframe are copied. If there is no color correction filter in the next clip, one is applied automatically.
  • Copy To 2nd Clip Forward: Copies the settings of the current color correction filter into the second clip forward in your sequence. If the current color correction filter is keyframed, the values from the last keyframe are copied. If there is no color correction filter in the second clip forward, one is applied automatically.

    The Copy Filter functions are also available using menu commands and keyboard shortcuts. For additional information about using these controls, see the next section.

Working with the Copy Filter Controls

The Copy Filter controls are designed to help you color correct sequences that have shot-reverse-shot editing. For example, suppose you want to cut from a wide shot of two actors to a medium shot of them from a different angle, and then back to the wide shot. Assume you also already applied a color correction filter to the first shot. A render bar appears above that clip.

Figure. Timeline window showing a render bar that indicates the first clip has a filter applied to it.

Because the third shot in this sequence is another segment of the media used in the first shot, it needs the same color correction settings. Use the Copy To 2nd Clip Forward button to apply the same color correction filter with all its settings directly to the third shot in the sequence, skipping over the second shot. Once you’ve done that, the third shot displays a render bar, indicating that the filter has been applied.

Figure. Timeline window showing a render bar that indicates that the third clip has a filter applied to it.
To copy color correction filter settings forward to another clip
  1. Double-click a sequence clip with a color correction filter applied to open the clip in the Viewer.

  2. In the Viewer, click the Color Corrector tab.

  3. Do one of the following:

    • To copy the current color correction filter settings to the next clip: Click the Copy to 1st Clip Forward button (or choose Modify > Copy Filters > To 1st Clip Forward).
    • To copy the current color correction filter settings to the clip that is two clips forward: Click the Copy to 2nd Clip Forward button (or choose Modify > Copy Filters > To 2nd Clip Forward).

You can also copy the color correction filter settings that you’ve previously made from another clip to the currently selected clip.

To copy color correction filter settings from a previously corrected clip
  1. Double-click a sequence clip with a color correction filter applied to open the clip in the Viewer.

  2. In the Viewer, click the Color Corrector tab.

  3. Do one of the following:

    • To copy the current color correction filter settings from the previous clip: Click the Copy From 1st Clip Back button (or choose Modify > Copy Filters > From 1st Clip Back).
    • To copy the current color correction filter settings from the clip that is two clips previous: Click the Copy From 2nd Clip Back button (or choose Modify > Copy Filters > From 2nd Clip Back).

Another way to use these controls is to select all the clips in the scene you’re working on and then apply the color correction filter to all of them. Once you’ve done that, it’s easy to use the Copy Filter controls to copy any color correction settings that you change from prior clips in the sequence to current ones, and vice versa. For clips with multiple filters, the Copy Filter controls operate by the following rules.

“Copy From” Rule

If the current clip has multiple filters and you’re copying from a clip with multiple filters, Final Cut Pro copies from a filter with the same index number as the current one being adjusted, if possible. For example, if the previous clip has three filters, and the current clip has three filters, clicking the Copy From 1st Clip Back button in the Color Corrector-3 tab copies the settings from the third color correction filter in the previous clip.

If the previous clip doesn’t have the same number of filters, the Copy From buttons copy settings from the first available color correction filter that matches the type of the current one. If there are no color correction filters in the previous clips, these buttons are dimmed.

Figure. Diagram illustrating copying color corrector filter settings from the previous clip to the next clip.
“Copy To” Rule

If the current clip has multiple filters and you’re copying to a clip with multiple filters, Final Cut Pro copies the current filter’s settings to a filter with the same index number in the next clip as that of the current filter. For example, if the current clip has three filters, and the next clip has three filters, using the Copy To 1st Clip Forward button in the Color Corrector-2 tab copies that filter’s settings into the second color correction filter in the next clip.

Figure. Diagram illustrating copying using the Copy to 1st Clip Forward button.

If the clip you’re copying to doesn’t have any color correction filters, the Copy To buttons create a new filter with these settings. If there are no clips following the current one, these buttons are dimmed.

Menu Commands for the Copy Filter Controls

Some Copy Filter controls have equivalents in the Copy Filters submenu of the Modify menu:

  • From 2nd Clip Back

  • From 1st Clip Back

  • To 1st Clip Forward

  • To 2nd Clip Forward

Color Balance Controls in the Color Corrector Filter

Color balance controls are color wheels that allow you to change the mix of red, green, and blue that falls within the area of a specific range of luma in your clip. The color balance controls act like virtual trackballs; you can drag anywhere within a color wheel to move the color balance indicator. The Color Corrector filter has one color balance control that affects the whites of a clip, as well as a Hue control.

The angle of distribution of red, green, and blue in all the color balance controls corresponds to the angles of those colors in the Vectorscope. The direction in which you move the color balance indicator within the color wheel is matched by the mix of colors moving in the same direction in the Vectorscope.

If you hold down the Shift key while dragging a color balance indicator, the angle of the indicator is constrained, so that the indicator can only move out toward the edge of the color wheel, or in toward the center. This lets you change the intensity of your color mix without changing the distribution of hues.

Figure. Color wheel showing the Color balance indicator path constrained by the Shift key.

Unlike other controls in Final Cut Pro, a color balance control doesn’t “gear down” when you hold down the Command key while manipulating the color balance indicator (allowing you to make more subtle adjustments); rather, it “gears up” the control, causing the indicator to respond more quickly and resulting in greater changes.

Note: The Color Corrector filter is more likely to be supported by real-time hardware than the Color Corrector 3-way filter.

You use the controls in the Color Corrector tab to balance the whites and change hues displayed in a clip.

Figure. Color Corrector tab showing the Balance control, Balance Reset button, and Auto-Balance eyedropper.

The Color Corrector filter has one color balance control that lets you manipulate the whites in a clip, as well as a Hue control. You rarely use the Balance and Hue controls simultaneously in a single color correction operation.

  • Balance control: The Balance control affects the color balance in the whites of your clip. Drag within the color wheel to move the color balance indicator and change the mix of red, green, and blue in the whites of your clip.
  • Auto-Balance eyedropper: Clicking this eyedropper turns the pointer into an eyedropper when it’s moved into the Video tab of the Viewer or into the Canvas. Position the tip of the eyedropper in what is supposed to be the whitest area of your image, such as a highlight on a white shirt, then click. The color value of the pixel you selected is analyzed, and the Balance control is automatically adjusted to turn that pixel into white. For example, clicking a pixel that’s slightly yellow nudges the color balance indicator toward blue, to turn that yellow into a neutral white.

    When using the Auto-Balance eyedropper, don’t select an area that’s overexposed, such as a light source or a shiny highlight. This won’t give you the desired result. Instead, select a properly exposed area of your picture that’s white, such as a well-lit shirt sleeve or white wall.

    Note: When color correcting a clip, using this eyedropper tool is usually the second step you take, after first using the Auto Level controls and the Whites, Mids, and Blacks sliders (described in the next sections) to maximize the contrast of your image.

  • Balance Reset button: Click this button to reset the Balance control to its default settings and restore your clip to its original color mix. Holding down the Shift key while clicking this button also resets the level and saturation controls (described in one of the next sections) to their default settings.
  • Hue control: Rotate the Hue control to change the overall hue of the affected clip.
  • Hue Reset button: Click this button to reset the Hue control to its default settings and restore your clip to its original hue. Holding down the Shift key while clicking this button also resets the level and saturation controls (described in one of the next sections) to their default settings.

Auto Level and Contrast Controls in the Color Corrector Filter

Using the Auto Level controls and the Whites, Mids, and Blacks sliders to maximize the contrast of your image is usually the first step you take when color correcting a clip.

Figure. Auto Level and Contrast controls showing Level sliders, Saturation slider, and Auto Black Level button.
  • Auto White Level button: Click this button to analyze your clip and find the maximum level of white in the frame. The Whites slider is then adjusted to move the maximum white level to 100 percent as viewed in the Histogram.
  • Auto Black Level button: Click this button to analyze your clip and find the maximum level of black in the frame. The Blacks slider is then adjusted to move the maximum black level of your clip to 0 percent as viewed in the Histogram.
  • Auto Contrast button: Click this button to perform the functions of both the Auto White Level and Auto Black Level buttons simultaneously.

Level and Saturation Controls in the Color Corrector Filter

The level sliders allow you to adjust the levels of the whites, midtones, and blacks in your clip to adjust the contrast of your image. The first step when color correcting one clip to match another is to adjust its overall luma levels to match those of the other. Only after doing this are you able to adjust the colors appropriately and achieve the results you want. The Saturation slider lets you increase or decrease the intensity of the color in your image.

  • Whites slider: Drag this slider to adjust the maximum level of white in the affected clip. To move the slider in increments, click the small arrows to the right or left of the slider. Moving the slider to the left lowers the maximum white level (letting you bring the whites in overexposed clips down to a more acceptable level, for example).
  • Mids slider: Drag this slider to adjust the average distribution of values in between white and black in the affected clip. To move the slider in increments, click the small arrows to the right or left of the slider. You can use this slider to adjust the midtones of your image, increasing or decreasing the apparent contrast of your image without washing out the whites or blacks. For example, you could manipulate the Mids slider to bring out detail in shadowed areas of your clip.
  • Blacks slider: Drag this slider to adjust the minimum level of black in the affected clip, deepening or reducing the level of absolute black in your image. To move the slider in increments, click the small arrows to the right or left of the slider.
  • Saturation (Sat) slider: This slider raises or lowers the overall saturation, or intensity of color, in the affected clip. Drag the slider all the way to the left to desaturate the color from the clip completely. This results in a grayscale image. Drag the slider to the right to increase the saturation of color in the affected clip. To move the slider in increments, click the small arrows to the right or left of the slider.

    Note: Be very careful when raising the saturation of a clip using the Saturation slider. It is very easy to raise the saturation too high, resulting in saturation values that are illegal for broadcast. Never adjust the saturation of clips based on how they appear on your computer display. NTSC and PAL video never look as vivid on a computer display as they do on a properly calibrated broadcast video monitor, and it’s often tempting to overcompensate when basing your adjustments on a computer display. It’s a good idea to turn on the Excess Chroma option (in the Range Check submenu of the View menu) to warn you when you’re boosting the saturation too much. For more information, see The Importance of Using a Properly Calibrated Broadcast Monitor and Displaying Excess Luma and Chroma Levels in the Viewer and Canvas.

Match Hue Controls in the Color Corrector Filter

The Match Hue controls allow you to adjust the hue of the current clip to match a similar color in an adjacent clip in your sequence. A common example is matching the flesh tones of an actor in two different shots with different lighting.

The Match Hue controls provide a way to adjust the color balance of the current clip, based on a specific hue, to match a similar hue in another clip. A common example of when you might use the Match Hue controls is when you are matching the flesh tones of an actor in two shots that have different lighting.

The Match Hue controls do not affect the contrast of your image. Adjusting the Whites, Blacks, and Mids level sliders to maximize the contrast in your image is still going to be the first step in your color correction process, even when using the Match Hue controls.

Note: The Match Hue controls are intended to match similar colors to one another. They cannot be used to match completely opposite colors.

Using Limit Effect Controls to Control a Match Hue Correction

Color corrections made using the Match Hue controls affect a clip’s entire image, not just the particular subject you’re matching. The resulting change to the background of your clip may be inappropriate, even if the foreground subject is properly adjusted. In these cases, using the Limit Effect controls may allow you to restrict the correction to the areas where it’s needed, leaving the rest of the image alone. For more information on using the Limit Effect controls, see Limit Effect Controls in the Color Corrector Filter.

The Match Hue controls work well as a starting point to help you quickly match the overall color balance of two shots; however, you’ll probably want to further adjust the end result by hand to achieve the exact effect you’re looking for.

Figure. Match hue controls.
  • Match Hue eyedropper: Clicking the Match Hue eyedropper turns the pointer into an eyedropper when it’s moved into the Canvas, the Video tab of the Viewer, or a Frame Viewer tab in a Tool Bench window. With the current clip open in the Viewer, open the clip you want to match it to in the Canvas or in an available Frame Viewer tab.

    Click the eyedropper in the color of an adjacent clip in your sequence that you’re trying to match to the current clip. Once selected, the match color is displayed in the Match Color indicator.

    Once you’ve selected a match color, you can click the Whites, Mids, or Blacks Auto-Balance eyedropper and then click the eyedropper in a color in the current clip that’s supposed to be the same as the match color. Final Cut Pro automatically adjusts the Whites, Mids, or Blacks control in an attempt to rebalance the clip to match the color you selected with the match color.

  • Match Color indicator: Displays the currently selected match color. Whichever color is displayed by the Match Color indicator affects how the Whites, Blacks, and Mids Auto-Balance eyedropper tools make their corrections.
  • Reset Match Color button: Resets the match color to white, the default behavior of the Whites control.

    Note: With a match color selected, the functionality of the Whites, Blacks, and Mids controls is unaffected. Only the functionality of the Auto-Balance eyedroppers is affected by the Match Hue controls.

Limit Effect Controls in the Color Corrector Filter

The Limit Effect controls are a group of controls in the Color Corrector filter that let you key a specific color and apply color correction to just the areas of the picture that you’ve keyed on.

For example, suppose you have a scene with people wearing different-colored shirts. After the shoot, you decide you want to change the color of one of the actor’s shirts that’s now yellow. Assuming there is nothing else in the picture with the same values of yellow, you can use the Limit Effect controls to selectively make this change.

You can use the color value, saturation, and luma of your clip together or separately to perform a key using the Limit Effect controls. For example, if you want to modify only the bright areas of your picture, you can turn off both color and saturation and then perform only a luma key.

Figure. Limit Effect controls.
  • Enable/Disable checkbox: Make sure there’s a checkmark in this checkbox for the Limit Effect controls you want to use. This lets you add or remove color, saturation, or luma from the criteria used to define a key.
  • Reset button: Click to restore the Color Range, Saturation, and Luma controls to their default values. Shift-click the button to reset all three controls at once.
  • Color Range control: Allows you to fine-tune the range of color that you want to key on.
    • Top handles: Let you select a larger or smaller range of colors that are keyed, based on the original colors you selected with the Select Color eyedropper. These handles correspond to the Chroma Width control in the numeric filter controls.
    • Color gradient: Drag left or right within the color gradient to shift the overall hue of the color range you’ve set with the top set of handles. This corresponds to the Chroma Center control in the numeric filter controls.
    • Bottom handles: Allow you to define the tolerance of your key. These handles correspond to the Chroma Softness control in the numeric filter controls.
  • Saturation (Sat) control: Allows you to adjust the degree and range of saturation that contributes to defining your key. The top and bottom handles work the same as those in the Color Range control. Drag left or right within the gradient to move all four handles simultaneously.
  • Luma control: Allows you to adjust the degree and range of luma that contributes to defining your key. The top and bottom handles work the same as those in the Color Range control. Drag left or right within the gradient to move all four handles simultaneously.
  • Edge Thin slider: Allows you to modify the keyed area by shrinking or expanding it. Using Edge Thin, you can control a noisy key, filling in small gaps and adjusting the edge of the key to include borderline values that are otherwise difficult to get at using the other controls.
  • Softening slider: Allows you to soften the edges of the key, creating gentler transitions between affected and unaffected parts of the image.
    Figure. Select Color eyedropper, View Final/Matte/Source button, and Invert Selection button
  • Select Color eyedropper: When you click this eyedropper, the pointer turns into an eyedropper you can use to select a color from a clip in the Video tab of the Viewer or in the Canvas. Shift-clicking this eyedropper allows you to select another region of the background screen that wasn’t keyed out by your first use of this control, thereby broadening the range of colors to be keyed out and enlarging the keyed-out area. You can do this repeatedly to broaden the range of keyed-out color to include shadows or highlights on the background screen, if necessary.
  • View Final/Matte/Source button: This button has three states:
    • Final: The default state (a gold key against a gray background) allows you to see the end result—the effect happening within the keyed area.
    • Matte: The second state (a black key against a white background) displays the key itself as a grayscale image, so you can fine-tune it without being distracted by the image.
    • Source: The third state (a gold key against a blue background) shows only the original video image.
  • Invert Selection button: Click this button to invert the key you’ve defined. For example, if you’ve set up a key based on the color of a green car and turned the desaturation all the way down so that the car is grayscale and the background is color, clicking the Invert Selection button makes the background turn grayscale, and the car appears in color.

Using Multiple Filters Together with the Limit Effect Controls

You can use the Limit Effect controls to layer multiple color correction filters onto a single clip, selectively balancing specific areas of your picture based on their color, saturation, and luma levels. Color correction filters work serially, the same as any other filters. This means that if two color correction filters are applied to a single clip, the second color correction filter works on the modified output of the first filter, rather than on the original color values of the image.

For example, if you add a filter that adjusts the color in a group of flowers but causes the green grass in the background to look too red, a second color correction filter using the Limit Effect controls will target the greenish red color of the grass as it has been modified, rather than the original green values.