Color grading apps have come a long way in the past few years. Now Technicolor, the folks who know color better than most, bring us a new product called Color Assist. It is unique, compact and will fill some specific needs.
Color Assist is a simple color grading application that uses Technicolor’s own color science to deliver very nice results. This is not like Apple’s Color or Blackmagic’s Resolve, it is much smaller and simpler. Yet it can deliver good results for what it does. It runs as a standalone app that runs on both OS X and Windows, with plug-ins for Premiere Pro, After Effects, Final Cut Pro 7 and Final Cut Pro X.
The minimum specs require OS X 10.6 or later on a Mac and Windows 7, 64-bit on a PC. Both platforms require at least an Intel i3 CPU or faster, 4 GB RAM and 1 GB VRAM with 1280x900 screen resolution. As for file formats pretty much what you’d need is there: MOV, AVI, FLV, MP4 with common codecs of ProRes, WMV, H.264 and DV. Color Assist supports SD, HD and 2K video files. You can send the viewer to a second desktop monitor, but not to a broadcast monitor.
At a price of $99.00, it can be an attractive tool for many post production folks. Two add-on products allow you to expand the included preset collect with “Color Assist Looks: Extreme” and “Color Assist Looks: Movies”. Each are only $19.00.
The interface is pretty simple. Along the top is a strip that holds your clips. The can be manually imported making it ideal for grading digital dailies, or sent into Color Assist via one of the plug-ins to grade whole scenes, which I’ll get into later. Double-click one and it will load into the viewer. The viewer has controls to zoom in/out, pan the image around when zoomed in, and a fit to window button. There is a play/pause button with a scrub control. You can even adjust audio level or mute the audio all together.
Below that is a column on the left with your color controls. Each control has a mute, solo and reset button. In the lower center is an area that doubles as a file browser for manually selecting files to import, or to select color grade presets. The presets that come with Color Assist are pretty nice, I must say. And you can of course save your own custom presets.
The right-hand column has collapsable and adjustable windows from top to bottom that include: Histogram, Waveform and Vector scopes. Followed by a very handy History pane where you can jump back to previous grading steps you’ve taken, and reset back to any operation you’ve done during that session. Below that is a metadata window showing clips metadata, a comments box, and a section to store several unique grades to a specific clip. These unique grades, which you can easily switch between, follow the clip back to your NLE when using one of the included plugins.
There are four color tool sections to work with. The first one is Looks, where you can chose and freely switch between 25 preset color grades. Just double-click a preset, and there you have it. The thumbnails for the preset looks are very representative of what they’ll do, also.
The Color Control gives traditional three-way color wheels. I am impressed by how sensitive these wheels are. I’d say they are much more sensitive, allowing for much more detailed work than the tools built in to most NLEs. You can also adjust RGB values and luminance for each wheel. Plus each wheel has two modes. All controls in all of the grading sections are very easy to use and allow for a good bit of detailed adjustments. The only caveat I found here were the luma sliders. They’re overly sensitive, making the very slight adjustments necessary impossible. I gave up on them for anything but major adjustments, and started using the curves for that purpose. One area that needs improvement for sure.
Next is the Key Selector where you can create an HSL key in order to isolate a specific color range. Once the key is created you have a single color wheel to adjust that key with all of the accompanying adjustments included in the Color Control. There is also a pane showing the selected key in 3D color space that can be rotated.
Finally is the Curves section. Here you can make adjustments on a traditional curve globally and to each of the red, green and blue channels. Eye droppers allow for automatic shadow, mid, and highlight adjustment. The best part of this section are the 4 buttons that allow you to load preset curves. This means you can apply log or standard profiles to your clips. These include: linear, inverse s-curve, video gamma 2.2 to log, video gamma 2.4 to log.
The panes on the right hand column are very flexible and well thought out. Each can be opened and collapsed individually. The best part is that you can grab the title bar of any one of them and tear it off so that it becomes a floating window in the interface. At that point you can enlarge it as much as you wish. Very handy for getting details out of the scopes. To put a floating pane back, just drag its title bar into the right hand column and it will snap back into place. You can also drag title bars to rearrange the order of the panes.
At first glance, I thought the scopes looked completely useless and tiny. Once I started to grade, I was very wrong. Even in this side stack they are clear and readable. The waveform is an RBP parade which is a huge plus in my book. As I said before, being able to tear them out and enlarge them even more is a huge plus.
The History window is one feature I really like. It adds an entry for each color grading operation you preform. By simply clicking on a previous step, you can jump back to that step. If you go back to a previous step and want to start over from there, while that step is selected, start to grade and everything after that step is erased. The one catch is that when you switch to a different clip, or quit Color Assist, the History pane is completely reset. Yet this is one of my very favorite features.
As stated before there are Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro 7 plugins and Final Cut Pro X. The way these work is interesting and uses XML.
In your NLE you apply the Color Assist filter to a clip. In the filter’s controls you click one button to create the XML file. It gets stored in the same folder as your original clip file. This button is labled “Link To MetaColor”. Then you click the “Send To Color Assist” button to send the clip to the color assist application. When you’ve made your adjustments and saved your various versions, or “compositions”, the clip is automatically updated in your NLE’s timeline.
Once back in your NLE, all of the individual “compositions” are available, with a maximum of 9. Just click each one in the filter controls to switch back and forth. This makes trying out variations inside the NLE very easy. You can even copy and paste that specific Color Assist filter to other clips, too.
The two things to watch out for are that you are round tripping one clip at a time, and you must already have Color Assist open. It won’t launch itself.
If you’re using this as a standalone app, there are some cool features. When you’re grading is done, you can export it as a 3D LUT in either 8-bit, 10-bit, or floating point. Or export it as a 1D LUG in either 8-bit or floating point. You can also export it as a CDL. For review purposes you can also export a still image of the current fame as PNG, DPX, TIFF, or JPEG file.
At present, using Color Assist as a standalone without PPro or FCP, there is no way to share video files with the grading baked-in, meaning a QT file independent of a sidecar metadata file. Technicolor is releasing “CineStyle MetaColor Player” soon that will allow you to “...send your customized video creations to others.”
At first glance I was not expecting much from Color Assist. After using it for a while, I became quite impressed. It is not a full-blown color grading application like Resolve. It is really nice for doing grades to individual or groups of clips with a basic, but very nice set of tools.
The things that I’m not thrilled with is the tiny size of the color grading tools, not so much the color wheels, but the sliders. The sliders are also over sensitive and difficult to work with. There is no HD-SDI output to a broadcast monitor. Finally there is no way to save your work as a baked-in video file.
For what it is, it is really nice. If your NLE isn’t quite what you need, but Resolve is way too much, this is worth checking out. A 14-day trial version is available for download. Be aware the trial version won’t work with the NLE plugins and you can’t export your compositions. For more information check out Color Assist at
Find out more: https://www.technicolorcinestyle.com