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Creating Unique Seasonal Color Looks in FCP X

You may be familiar with Primary and Secondary Color Correction and Grading workflow that involves exporting your footage to applications such as Final Cut Studio's Color or the Color Finesse plug-in with After Effects. If you are, then you will be interested to know that you can alternatively create a graded look right in Final Cut Pro X's Project Timeline without having to export. If you've never attempted any grading before then you're about to enjoy your first go at it. Let's have a look at a technique to change the season in a shot in FCP X.


Try a Preset First

You could of course start out by having a look at some of the new color effects that come with FCP X. In my timeline I have selected a clip to apply the color effect over. 

Selected Clip.

A Selected Clip in the Event Browser.


The Effects Browser contains a fairly hefty range of color effect preset looks. Form the effects browser categories select Looks. Some are particularly stylized like 50s TV. Others more subtle such as Cartoon.

Effects Browser.

The Effects Browser showing the Looks category.


Before selecting an effect and applying it, FCP X has a very handy method of previewing a clip effect. Placing the Skimmer over the preset's thumbnail and skimming back and forth will preview that effect without actually applying it. This is a hugely helpful feature. 

To apply an effect preset to the clip or clips, simply double-click on the thumbnail. You might find just what you're looking for right there in the presets, wouldn't that be lucky? 

TIP: I've often found that combining two or more effect presets can have some surprising effects. Not always good ones, I'll grant you, but it's always worth experimenting. 


Removing Presets

On this occasion, like so many others the presets are not going to cut it, so I need to remove them. With the effected clip selected, open the inspector window and select the Video tab.

Inspector button &Window.

Inspector button & window.


Under the Effects category you will see all the effect presets you just tried applying. Select them and press delete to remove them.

Effects selected in inspector.

Effects selected in the Inspector.


TIP: I've learned over the years it's actually quite smart to deactivate them instead, that way you can switch them back on at will if you change your mind or wish to experiment further. To deactivate click on the blue box next to the effect(s); click again to reactivate.


Step 1 - Creating the General (Primary) Look

So with this clip I am using I want to change the season from Summer to Autumn (OK, Fall). To start with, I want to make the overall look of the clip colours to look a little less intense with a little less contrast.

Summer clip.

Summer clip.


In the  timeline's toolbar select Show Color Board from the Enhancements Menu or press Command-6 to bring up the tools to make adjustments to Color, Levels and Saturation.

Enhancements menu and color board.

Enhancements menu and color board.


To better see just what changes I'm making to the clip, I like to use scopes as well as my eye. My eye shows me what I want to see whereas the scopes show me what I'm actually doing to color, levels and saturation. 

Switch on the scopes in the Event Browser by pressing Command-7.

Scopes panel.

Scopes panel.


In the Video Scopes pop-up menu I'll choose Waveform > Luma for this step as the waveform will display the luminance levels as I modify them.

My first task is to reduce the light levels in the shot so that it has a cooler, less summer-like feel. 

Exposure color board.

Exposure color board.


Under the Exposure settings in the color board I can adjust the luminance of the shot. To affect the overall look I'm trying to achieve, I'm going to adjust the Mids to -19. This will reduce the intensity of the majority of the shot but without overly affecting the Shadows or Highlights; I want those to remain unchanged. Monitor how much of a change you get using the Waveform. 

The shot now looks like this:

Mid point adjust & image affected.

Mid-point adjust & image affected.

 

Step 2 - Using Color Mask

The image is still very green, in particular the foliage. To make this shot look more Autumnal I intend to turn most of this green foliage to an Orange/Red hue. 

I need the color change I'm about to make to be separate from the luminance change I made earlier in order that I can target just the green hues rather than the whole image. A secondary color corrector enables that. 

In the inspector click next to the current color corrector to create a secondary correction. 

Add color correction button.

Add color correction button.


A new corrector appears in the inspector window under the original; this reflects the fact that this secondary color corrector is applied after the primary, so it affects your already modified image further. 

New color corrector and eyedropper.

New color corrector and eyedropper.


Using the eyedropper tool, I'm going to click on the green of the trees so that my adjustments in the corrector are limited to that color range. To increase or decrease the range use the slider next to the color key. 

Tip: Press and hold Shift and click with the eyedropper to add to the range directly from the image.

In the Color Board I can turn this green range to more of an orange using the Color mode. This time I'm going to move the Global setting towards the Orange/Red hues and slide it up to increase until the image looks more like this:

Orange hue applied.

Orange hue applied.


Changing the Scope setting to Vectorscope will monitor this hue shift more accurately. The general hue should swing toward the Red [R] and Yellow [YL] range. The adjusted colors are too intense for what I need, I can re-dress this by reducing the saturation in the Color Board until the image looks like this: 

Orange desaturated.

Orange desaturated.


I intended to adjust the foliage, however as you can see I have turned a lot more of the image orange than that. 


Step 3 - Adding a Shape Mask 

In the Inspector, next to the Eyedropper there is also a Shape Mask tool. If I click on it an oval shaped mask appears on my image.

shape mask button and oval..

Shape mask button and oval.


The shape mask clips the secondary color correction so that the orange hue I've added is only visible within the shape masks boundary. The shape mask can be modified to suit:

  1. The Centre point moves the shape mask around
  2. The Shape handle modifies the shape and size of the mask
  3. The Rotation handle rotates the mask
  4. The Feather handle adjusts how feathered the edges of the mask appear. 

I have moved my mask so that it masks around the foliage only, which is getting close to what I wanted for this clip. 

Mask done.

Mask done.


The final stage is to make the remaining green areas a little bit more blue, to make the clip feel colder. To achieve this I don't need to add any further corrections or keys. 

In the Color board and because I have applied a shape mask there are now two buttons marked Inside and Outside.

Inside-Outside.

Inside-Outside.


The Inside button controls parameters inside the oval, and the Outside controls them outside of it. 

With outside active and using the Color mode I can add blue subtly by dragging the Global setting to the blue hues and adding a little more blue. Setting the waveform monitor to 'RGB parade' gives you a clear visual guide for how the Blues will adjust compared with the Reds and Greens. 

Finished image..

Finished image..


And there we have it, an Autumn scene instead of a Summer one. Having the ability to color correct in such detail in your edit timeline rather than have to export to another application is really a huge asset for FCP X. I hope you find it as useful as I have. 


Check out Michael Wohl's in-depth exploration of the color correction features within Final Cut Pro X here.


David Smith

David Smith | Articles by this author

David Smith is Scotland's most qualified Apple and Adobe certified trainer. Having completed his education at Edinburgh College of Art's BAFTA winning Film School, David moved straight into TV production, first as a Vision Mixer then quickly becoming, at the age of just 24, a director of live TV studio productions. In 2001 he moved into Higher Education where he became a lecturer in TV Production, specializing in post-production and live studio production. During this time, and working with the support of the BBC, Channel 4 and independent production companies, David was instrumental in the design, development and implementation of industry-approved vocational courses across Scotland's Colleges. In 2006, after working closely with Apple Computers to create a unique multimedia studio for education at the Music and Media Centre in Perth, David became Scotland's first Apple-Certified Trainer for Pro Apps. This led on to David forming the first Apple Authorized Training Centre for Education, north of Manchester. In 2008 David made the move to full time training and joined the ranks at Academy Class, Ltd. where he continues to train industry professionals as a certified trainer across the Adobe Creative Suite and Apple Pro Apps range.

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