FCPX & DaVinci Resolve Workflow.

Color correction can be a powerful tool in video production. In fact, it can be one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal. In this blog post I’m going to show you 3 things that can be used with nearly any video editing software, but are specific to our workflow which includes FCPX and Da Vinci Resolve:

  1. How powerful color correction can be
  2. How color grading can help tell story
  3. Our process when color grading projects

The images below overviews the process, which consists of multiple steps and advanced techniques. The first image is straight out of the camera, and you’ll notice that the colors are muted and overall the image is washed out. This is because cameras capture as much data as possible, allowing for more control in the color grading process. The second image has the color’s saturation boosted and contrast increased, this is closer to what the human eye would see and is considered “normal.” After this step is completed you can further create a look- which will further enhance and subject mood and/or feelings. The third image is the final product for this example. We isolated our character and removed all saturation from everything else. The final spot is embedded below and you can see why we chose the isolation effect.

penny_red_raw

penny_onelight

penny_final

Color correction is a term that the digital production environments have borrowed the analog production process. In the days of film the negative was “corrected,” whereas in the digital environment it’s referred to as grading as the information is either there or not there in a digital frame. For the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to use these terms interchangeably because they each achieve the same goal.

Color correction let’s you shape the look and feel of your image. You can turn a scene into a cold eerily feeling, or warm and fuzzy, or just make it look better. Better is a relative term but there are a few tricks and tips to increase focus and attention. Look at the two images below and notice how the different color suggests different moods or environments. This can impact a story greatly.

BTS-Penny1-(1)

BTS-Penny2-(1)

Recently we had a shoot with a plot similar to the movie Pleasantville. We were in a stale, perfect world where nothing was fun nor boring, without a lot of life. In our story, skateboards are introduced with bright, saturated colors bringing life and fun into the town. Our black and white world had little contrast and no saturation. This was contrasted by isolated objects that were full of saturation and affected other elements as the skaters rode past them. If you were to watch this spot in full color, the story wouldn’t be nearly as powerful. It would be boring almost. But because we isolated some of the colors we were able to have our audience focus on what we wanted them to, not the other way around.

An important but often overlooked element of color correction is isolation. We have the ability to change or correct certain shades of blue, or specific parts of the screen. For example, if we are shooting an interview and our focus is on the subject’s face, we can put a mask around her face and darken the exposure elsewhere. The human eye focuses on brighter and more contrast areas of an image naturally, and this little trick helps the audience watch the part of the screen that we want them to. Color correction is as much about what we see as what we don’t.

Color correction is as much about what we see as what we don’t.

We edit all our projects in Apple’s Final Cut Pro X. FCP X has pretty decent, and fast, built in color correction tools. They are very intuitive and simple to use and for more basic grading they work just as well as anything else on the market. Final Cut Pro X has a lot of developer support which means powerful plugins with built in presets for different look/feel/moods to take your image even further.

The other advantage of Final Cut Pro X is the powerful round tripping to DaVinci’s Resolve, the gold standard in color correction. Recently, DaVinci released a free version of the Resolve which can do 90% of what the full version can. With industry standard tools DaVinci not only has a powerful feature set, it can get to a level of detail that the most demanding project require. DaVince also allows for 3rd party boards to be integrated into the software. Color grading is something that you feel, and using traditional tools to feel the grade is still common among the top professional and amateur colorists alike. The image below shows what a typical color board will look like.

On smaller project we typically do color correction as the last step in our post production process and handle this inside Final Cut Pro X. We do this for speed, efficiently and flexibility. Sometimes it can be advantageous to open your editing file and make tweaks as needed. For medium and larger projects we prefer to use DaVinci Resolve with a professional colorist. Professional colorist are not only faster, but they can also interpret looks and execute on them. For projects that require a lot of shot-to-shot matching professional colorists working in Resolve can achieve a level of consistency that provides a polished and professional look throughout your edit.

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