How to Color Correct Video

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Lighting is incredibly important to filming; however, sometimes you’re going to run into situations where you just can’t control the lighting, whether it’s because you’re in a public place, the weather is bad, or you’re just experiencing technical difficulties. That's where postproduction color correction comes in.

What is Color Correction?

Color correction is a process that allows you to adjust the colors in video footage after shooting. Color correction is often done to add a visual tone or mood as an artistic choice in film, but it's is also helpful for fixing mistakes. For example, it can be useful for improving a demo reel that would otherwise have inconsistent or unflattering lighting. If your footage consists of scenes shot outdoors, or in rooms with incandescent or fluorescent lighting, color correction can help to match them and ensure consistency throughout your film.

Color Correction Software

A number of editing programs come with color correction capabilities, including Final Cut and Adobe Premiere. Adobe After Effects is also commonly used for coloring footage in postproduction.

Color Correction Basics

In all video editing programs with a color correction function, there are two graphs, or scopes, that you'll need to refer to: the vectorscope and waveform monitor. Reading the vectorscope and waveform monitor is vital to color correction. Reading these scopes will show you exactly how things will look, since every computer monitor display is different, and you can't trust your naked eye.

What is a Waveform Monitor?

The waveform monitor displays the whites, blacks and grays in your footage. This scope will appear as a graph covered in dots. Each dot that shows up in the waveform monitor represents a pixel in the footage, and that dot's position on the y-axis represents its luminance (brightness). The waveform monitor does not display colors in your footage. However, it is a great way to graphically view the exposure of the clip. Well-exposed footage will have these dots at all levels. If your footage is poorly-exposed, the dots will appear clumped together on the graph.

What is a Vectorscope?

The vectorscope graphically displays the colors in your footage. Similar to the waveform monitor, the vectorscope is a graph of dots, each of which represent a pixel. This scope is organized around a color circle, which displays two dimensions: the shade and amount of color. A dot's position around the circle represents the shade (green as opposed to blue). A dot's distance from the center of the circle represents the amount of color (a deep green as opposed to a light aquamarine). It's important to note that in the upper left quadrant of the circle, close to the 45° mark, there is a line that represents flesh tone. If your footage has a person in it, regardless of the color of their skin, their skin will appear close to this line. Realistic skin tone will always fall close to this line, which is a good guide when adjusting skin color in your footage.

How to Color Correct in Adobe Premiere Elements

Now, on to the actual color correction. Adobe Premiere has a great function called "Fast Color Corrector," that allows you to quickly and easily color correct. This is essentially white balancing in postproduction.

  1. After opening your project, go to the "Effects" panel, open the "Video Effects" folder, and then, within that folder, open the "Color Correction" folder.
  2. Then double click "Fast Color Corrector" to apply your color correction to all the clips in the timeline, or drag it to the specific clip you'd like to color correct.
  3. After selecting the clip, click the "Effect Controls" tab to open a tab to control the color correction. This will display a lot of controls (including a color wheel), but you won't use most of them Above the color wheel, there will be "White Balance," next to a white rectangle and an eyedropper.
  4. Click on the eyedropper, and select something "gray" in the clip.It's important to note that in this case, "gray" is not necessary the color gray. In color correction, gray means that the color contains the same amount of red, green, and blue. This means that in the case of selecting something with the eyedropper, something in the frame that should be white, black or gray (all contain the same amount of red, green and blue), but isn't.
  5. After this, click more objects in frame that should be "gray," although each time the change will be less noticeable. This should improve the clip drastically.
  6. For more color correction, you can move the white dot in the middle of the color wheel towards a color you'd like the clip to change to. Drag the dot towards the blue end of the wheel to make the footage more blue, and likewise for the rest of the color wheel.

While each program is different, they’ll all allow you to change the overall brightness of the footage, and tweak the colors, allowing you to correct for different lighting settings. Fluorescent lighting appears very blue on film, while incandescent lighting appears yellow. You should always white balance your camera before shooting, which normally accounts for different color temperatures, but color correction can make up for drastic differences.


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