Example: Using the Color Corrector 3-Way Filter

While the Color Corrector filter lets you adjust the overall color balance of a clip, the Color Corrector 3-way filter gives you even more control by allowing you to adjust the color balance of the shadows, midtones, and highlights individually. All three of these affected parts of your picture overlap, allowing you to make extremely involved changes to your picture. For additional information, see Blacks, Midtones, and Whites.

The following example shows you how to use the Color Corrector 3-way filter to adjust a clip that was both underexposed and shot with an incorrect white balance, giving it an orange tinge.

Figure. Canvas window showing an image that needs overall color balancing, and the Video Scopes tab displaying all four scopes.
To use the Color Corrector 3-Way filter
  1. Move the playhead in the Timeline over the clip you want to work on so that you can see your changes output to video as you work.

    With an external broadcast monitor connected to your computer, and the External Video submenu of the View menu set to All Frames, whichever frame is at the current position of the playhead in the Canvas will be output to video.

  2. Apply the Color Corrector 3-way filter to the sequence clip.

    For more information on applying filters, see Using Video Filters.

  3. Open the selected clip in the Viewer by double-clicking it, or by selecting it and pressing Return.

  4. Click the Color Corrector 3-way tab at the top of the Viewer to access the Color Corrector 3-way filter visual controls.

    Figure. Viewer window showing Color Corrector 3-Way tab.
  5. Choose Window > Arrange > Color Correction.

    The Video Scopes tab appears in the Tool Bench window. While color correcting, it’s helpful to have the Video Scopes tab open to get a more detailed analysis of your video as you work.

  6. From the Layout pop-up menu of the Video Scopes tab, choose All to make sure that all the scopes are available.

    Figure. Layout pop-up menu showing the All command.

    You are now ready to begin adjusting the image.

  7. Click the Auto Contrast button to maximize the range from white to black in your clip.

    The Blacks and Whites sliders automatically adjust themselves to achieve the best numeric distribution based on the luma levels shown in the Histogram. This gives you a starting point from which to proceed.

    Figure. Auto Contrast button.

    If your image was incorrectly exposed, you can now adjust the Blacks, Mids, and Whites sliders as necessary. As with all level controls, moving a slider to the right redistributes the affected values farther to the right, making the affected parts of the image appear brighter. Moving a slider to the left redistributes the affected values farther to the left, making the affected parts of the image appear darker.

    In this example, the image is underexposed, so move the Mids slider to the right to bring more detail out of the image.

    Figure. Mids color wheel showing the Mids slider moving to the right and the resulting change in the image in the Canvas window.

    Tip: One of the key differences between film and video is that video preserves much more information in the shadows of an underexposed image than film does. You might be surprised at how much detail you can bring out of the shadows of an underexposed video clip. On the other hand, video doesn’t preserve any information in overexposed highlights, whereas overexposed negative film does. The picture in an overexposed film shot can be corrected during the telecine process, so that you have the maximum amount of information available to you when color correcting the transferred video.

    Note: Unlike negative film, reversal film preserves details in dark areas, much as video does.

    Now it’s time to address the color. In the example, the image is too warm because the video camera was color-balanced incorrectly for tungsten instead of daylight. Although this is obvious by looking at the shot, you can see just how far off the color balance is by looking at the cluster of color falling above and to the right of the Flesh Tone line in the Vectorscope of the Video Scopes tab.

  8. To begin to compensate for this, click the Whites Auto-Balance eyedropper.

    Figure. Eyedropper near the Whites control.

    Note: When you click the eyedropper, your pointer turns into an eyedropper when you move it into the Canvas.

  9. Click the eyedropper in an area of the picture that’s supposed to be white. Depending on the image, you may not necessarily want to select the purest white in the image. You want to find an area of the image where you can see the tint, even if faintly.

    Don’t select an area that’s overexposed, such as a light source or a shiny highlight. This does not give you the appropriate result. Instead, select a properly exposed area of your picture that’s white, such as a well-lit shirt sleeve or white wall.

    Figure. Eyedropper pointer positioned over a white background.

    The Color Corrector 3-way filter adjusts the Whites control to compensate for whatever tint is affecting the highlights and bright areas of your picture.

    Because the clip was tinted toward the reds, when you click the eyedropper in the white piece of scenery outside the window, the Whites color balance indicator moves into a mixture of blue and cyan and turns the whites of the image into true white.

    Figure. Whites color wheel showing the Whites color balance indicator.

    You can see the correction in the Canvas.

    Figure. Canvas windows showing the before and after states of a color corrected image.

    Note: When using the Whites Auto-Balance eyedropper, it’s important to recognize that the color temperature of the light illuminating the white area you select will affect the hue of the compensation that is made. If the picture is lit with a combination of daylight and tungsten sources, selecting a part of the picture illuminated by daylight will result in compensating the overall color temperature of the image by adding more reds, whereas selecting a part of the picture illuminated by tungsten will result in adding more blues. In such a case, you need to simply pick the best possible compromise that looks right to you.

    Next, you’ll focus on the blacks in your image, making further adjustments for more accurate colors.

  10. Click the Blacks Auto-Balance eyedropper.

    Figure. Eyedropper located near the Blacks control.
  11. Click the eyedropper in an area of the picture that’s supposed to be neutral black. Depending on the image, it may be more useful to pick a spot that’s a bit lighter than pure black so that you can see the tint that’s affecting that part of the image.

    Figure. Eyedropper positioned over a black area in the image.

    The Color Corrector 3-way filter adjusts the Blacks control to compensate for whatever tint exists in the shadows of your picture. In this example, cyan is added to the blacks as well, to compensate for the reds that exist in the shadows of the image.

    Figure. Canvas windows showing the before and after states of an image adjusted for blacks levels.

    An optional step (usually if the clip you’re color correcting has a chip chart that was shot along with the slate for that take) is to use the Mids Auto-Balance eyedropper.

  12. Click the Mids Auto-Balance eyedropper, then click the eyedropper in an area of the chip chart that’s supposed to be neutral gray.

    The Color Corrector 3-way filter adjusts the Mids control to compensate for whatever tint exists in the vast midrange of your picture.

    If you don’t have a chip chart to refer to and are unsure of the neutrality of a gray in the background, don’t worry about performing this step. You’ll generally get good results from simply using both the Whites and Blacks Auto-Balance eyedroppers by themselves.

    After you’ve used the Auto-Balance eyedroppers to achieve a properly balanced image, it’s time to fine-tune the color balance. To really get the look you want, you need to adjust the various color balance controls by hand. When adjusting the color balance controls, you always want to start by first correcting the whites and then correcting the blacks. You’ve already performed these two steps using the Auto-Balance eyedroppers. Adjusting the midtones now will allow you to make the most accurate correction, with the greatest degree of control.

  13. Drag anywhere within one of the color wheels to move the color balance indicator relative to its previous position. Because you already used the Auto-Balance eyedroppers in the whites and blacks, these positions will be your starting points if you make any further adjustments.

    In this example, drag the color balance indicator in the Mids color wheel more into a mix of cyan and blue to give the image a cooler look, particularly in the actor’s face and the roof of the car.

    Figure. Mids color wheel showing the Mids control adjusted to add more blue.

    A before-and-after comparison of this change illustrates the effect.

    Figure. Canvas windows showing the before and after states of an image adjusted for midtones.

    While making these adjustments, it’s a good idea to use the Flesh Tone line in the Vectorscope to show you how accurately the color of the actor’s face is represented. As you can see in the Vectorscope’s analysis of the “before” image, the cluster of colors about the Flesh Tone line was still a little off. Adjusting the Mids control corrected for this.

    Figure. Vectorscopes showing the before and after states of changes in the flesh tones.

    Because you’re not worrying about matching this image to any other shots right now, you can select whatever look you want. Whether you go warmer, cooler, or even into other more surreal balances of color is purely a creative choice at this point. If you’re going for a realistic look, however, it’s important to be restrained and stick to making subtle changes.

    Once you’ve achieved the color balance you want, it’s time to adjust the saturation of your clip to complete the look you want.

  14. Drag the Saturation slider to increase or decrease the saturation.

    Be careful when you do this. A common mistake beginners make is to oversaturate shots to make them look “better.” Although a highly saturated look is sometimes appropriate, less saturation may actually improve the look of your footage. This is especially true if you have a camcorder with artificially vivid color.

    In this example, the corrections applied so far have caused the image to be slightly oversaturated. This is especially apparent in the red third of the RGB Parade scope, in the Video Scopes tab.

    Figure. Canvas window displaying an image of a woman and the corresponding RGB Parade scope shown before a saturation adjustment.
    Figure. Canvas window of an image adjusted for saturation and the corresponding RGB Parade scope.

    Note: As always, be careful to make adjustments to saturation only while looking at a properly calibrated broadcast monitor. It can be very tempting to mistakenly oversaturate the colors of your clip based on the way video looks 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 keep yourself from inadvertently setting illegal chroma levels by boosting the saturation too high.