An often-misunderstood aspect of video production, color correction, should always be part of your post production process. I want to demystify the process and help you plan your shoot to make color correction work for you.
Before diving in let’s define some terms: Color correction and color grading are somewhat interchangeable terms. However, there are subtle differences. Often, color correction is the first step in the color process. It simply means correcting the problems in the video image. This means adjusting the black and white levels, gamma and contrast as well as fixing exposure and white balance problems. Most projects, for reasons of time or budget constraints, stop here. The next step in the color process is color grading. Color grading adds another level of artistry in which the colorist (the person trained in color grading) can use masks to change and alter the image, can match the look and color of different shots and adjust the overall tone and feel of certain shots.
Why Color Correct?
Color can change the mood and emotion of a video and affect the audience. It’s important not to overlook its power, just as audio can make or break a video. But all too often production can be a whirlwind process. Once you get the video edited it’s tempting to upload the file and rest easy. But I would encourage you to push through and do some color correction. When shooting a sermon bumper, story, testimonial or any other project, many times filming happens in multiple locations at different times of the day with different lighting conditions. To think that every frame of every shot will be exactly correct would be a mistake. What if you accidentally
When shooting a sermon bumper, story, testimonial or any other project, many times filming happens in multiple locations at different times of the day with different lighting conditions. To think that every frame of every shot will be exactly correct would be a mistake. What if you accidentally under expose some shots, or over expose? What if you used different cameras? Color correction helps minimize these issues and keeps the viewer from being distracted by problems in your video. The most important thing to get right in
The most important thing to get right in video is skin tones. Color correction should be the process of getting skin to look most natural. We do this by adjusting the video as we would a TV picture…brightness, contrast, tint, etc. It’s a good idea to use the waveform scope in your editor to make sure your video levels are acceptable while simultaneously looking at a trusted monitor to make sure it looks good. Ideally, wherever skin tones appear in the video, the scope video level should be around 80%. You don’t want black levels to go below 0% or white levels above 100%. Otherwise,
Ideally, wherever skin tones appear in the video, the scope video level should be around 80%. You don’t want black levels to go below 0% or white levels above 100%. Otherwise, detail in these areas is lost, like an audio signal that clips when it’s too loud. The best way to get great video through color correction is to expose your image correctly when you are shooting.
Tools of the Trade
Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere CC have built-in color correction tools. Read through the manuals and learn how to make adjustments to your video so your viewers won’t find your images too dark, bright or distracting.
Additionally, you can purchase specific color looks that emulate film stocks and popular film styles. Red Giant is known for having a large library available on their website.
Learn more about the process and art of color correction and color grading here.
DaVinci Resolve is a professional-grade color correction and grading software. The company behind the software actually offers a free version.
Next time you take a project through post production, take a little extra time for color correction to match your shots, correct the image, and better tell your story through color.