Macworld Masterclass: Speed up grading in Final Cut Pro X

Using the new built-in colour correction effects in Final Cut Pro X

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  • FCPX Icon Intro
  • Balance Color Step 1: Balance Color
  • The Inspector Step 2: The Inspector
  • Match Color Step 3: Match Color
  • Background Rendering Step 4: Background rendering
  • Preset Looks Step 5: Preset looks
  • Accurate Skintones Step 6: Accurate skintones
  • Additional Effects Step 7: Additional effects
  • More Control Step 8: More control
  • Color Board Step 9: Color Board
  • Color Board Presets Step 10: Color Board Presets
  • Scopes Step 11: Scopes
  • Vectorscope Step 12: Vectorscope
  • Color Masks Step 13: Color masks
  • Shape Masks Step 14: Shape masks
  • More stories
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Intro

For the release of FCP X, Apple folded some of the features of its professional grading tool Color, into the video editor itself, and also introduced some new effects. The aim is to enable video editors to apply extended colour corrections and grades on the timeline, which makes for a more efficient workflow than round-tripping sequences to an external program.

Grading is an absorbing discipline, which often takes up as much time as you can make available for it. Here we’ll be looking at the fastest ways of colour correcting clips as well as methods to learn the new interface as well as increasing productivity and reducing rendering time.

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Next Prev FCPX Icon

For the release of FCP X, Apple folded some of the features of its professional grading tool Color, into the video editor itself, and also introduced some new effects. The aim is to enable video editors to apply extended colour corrections and grades on the timeline, which makes for a more efficient workflow than round-tripping sequences to an external program.

Grading is an absorbing discipline, which often takes up as much time as you can make available for it. Here we’ll be looking at the fastest ways of colour correcting clips as well as methods to learn the new interface as well as increasing productivity and reducing rendering time.

 

Step 2 of 15: Step 1: Balance Color

A typical grading workflow is to balance a shot before making further colour corrections. Balance Color removes colour casts, adjusts contrast and helps keep skintone looking natural. Select a shot in the timeline or event browser and choose Balance Color from the drop-down Enhancements menu (Option-Cmd-B).

 

Step 3 of 15: Step 2: The Inspector

Show the Inspector (Cmd-4) to switch on/off Balance Color, check if your clip has been analysed, and further adjust other effects. If you selected Analyze for balance color during import, FCP X extracts colour balance information for the entire clip. Unanalysed clips are balanced based on the current playhead position.

 

Step 4 of 15: Step 3: Match Color

As well as balancing shots to remove casts, grading matches colours from shot to shot for consistency. Select a clip and choose Match Color from the Enhancements menu (Option-Cmd-M) or click Match Color in the Inspector. Skim to a frame you want to match, click to preview and then click Apply Match.

 

Step 5 of 15: Step 4: Background rendering

Shortly after you preview the Match Color frame, FCP X automatically starts rendering the effect in the background, significantly speeding up the editing process. In Preferences you can change the amount of time your system is idle before FCP X begins background rendering.

 

Step 6 of 15: Step 5: Preset looks

If you are in a hurry, FCP X has a series of preset grades that let you quickly add stylised looks to your footage. With a clip selected, Press Cmd-5 to view the Effects Browser, and then choose Looks from the video effects list of categories. Skim over each effect to preview it and then double-click to apply.

 

Step 7 of 15: Step 6: Accurate skintones

The preset looks also have controls to enable you to keep your actors looking natural. Open the Inspector, and hit the disclosure triangle next to the effect to reveal the controls. Many of the looks have a Protect Skin slider, which lets you affect the image while keeping the skintone colour accurate.

 

Step 8 of 15: Step 7: Additional effects

Next to the Looks effects, is the Basics category, offering more subtle ways to treat your footage. It’s a fast method to control the hue, saturation and brightness of your shots. Vibrancy is useful for increasing contrast and saturation, which gives your images more punch without looking stylised.

 

Step 9 of 15: Step 8: More control

You’ll often want to colour correct with more precision than is available using the presets. To manually balance and adjust a shot, open the Color Board (Cmd-6). Within the sections for Color, Saturation and Exposure, you have individual control over the settings for the Shadows, Midtones and Highlights.

 

Step 10 of 15: Step 9: Color Board

The Color section of the Color Board is where you adjust the hue of your shot. Drag each control button above the grey line to add that hue, and below the line to subtract it. For more precise control, when a colour button is highlighted, you can make small adjustments with the keyboard arrow keys.

 

Step 11 of 15: Step 10: Color Board Presets

The Color Board has been designed specifically for FCP X and will be new to most editors. To work faster, click the cog icon at the bottom right of the Color Board to reveal a series of presets. You can then make small changes and save those corrections as custom presets.

 

Step 12 of 15: Step 11: Scopes

FCP X comes with several scopes, which help you analyse which sections in an image need adjustment, and can show if clips are over exposed. Open the Video Scopes panel (Cmd-7), and choose the type of scope from the Settings drop-down. Many editors will be used to working with the RGB Parade Waveform.

 

Step 13 of 15: Step 12: Vectorscope

The Vectorscope is particularly useful for identifying colour casts and oversaturated hues. Try to ensure skintones remain targeted around the top-left diagonal Skin Tone Indicator bar, which will keep them in an accurate range. To quickly toggle the Vectorscope on and off, press Option-Cmd-7.

 

Step 14 of 15: Step 13: Color masks

You can isolate skintones or specific colours with a secondary or isolated correction. In the Inspector, click the Add Color Mask eydropper icon, then click and drag on a colour in the image. Now use the Color Board to correct just that area. Use the Softness Slider in the Inspector to soften the edges of the mask.

 

Step 15 of 15: Step 14: Shape masks

To restrict corrections to specific areas of a shot, click the Add Shape Mask icon, and use the onscreen controls to affect the position, shape, rotation, range and aspect of the mask. You can make corrections inside and outside the mask areas, which is a fast way of creating effects such as a vignette.

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