How to Edit a Video So You Can See What's in The Shadows
written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/31/2011
Here is a look at what to do with your video during the post-production process so that you can see what is in the darker areas of the frame.
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Much of editing and post-production is meant to repair what could not be done during the actual production. Sound that was not clear, objects that must be composited out, and especially images that were too dark or bright. Part of the post-production process actually involves color correction where you repair the color grade that appears in the image. Shadows can be the most difficult part of lighting a scene, or just capturing a clean image of what's there when you are at a location. If you cannot get a clear image for what is actually in these darkened areas, you have a few options when you are color correcting during post-production. Here are some basic tips on how to edit a video so you can see what's in the shadows.
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Lifting It Up
The main point that you want to focus on when you are looking for how to edit a video so you can see what's in the shadows is to bring up the dark areas as much as possible. In general, it is much more difficult to brighten a video image than it is to darken it. You often get a white haze over the image when you are trying to brighten an image that came in dark, so you will want to use a detailed color grading program. You will want to use a program like Apple Color, which will give you a direct back and forth workflow if you are using Final Cut Pro.
When you are working there you are going to want to focus in your brightening on specifically the blacks, not the mids or whites in the image. Since you are focusing on how to edit a video so you can see what's in the shadows you will not need to look too closely at the Parade or the balance of red, blue, and green. Increase the Shadow until you begin to see what is there, and if you are not getting the results you need then you can move on to the mids. White should be avoided all the way through this process as they will rarely allow you to see what's in the shadows.
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You are going to encounter a lot of issues when you are testing out how to edit a video so you can see what's in the shadows. First off, when you raise up the blacks without countering with the whites you will find that you greatly reduce the contrast in the scene, giving it a much more flat appearance. This is not to mention the amount of grain that you will likely end up with in those shadow areas, even though you will be able to see what is actually there. This means that you are going to compromise the footage in a film project where it must match with other clips, but if you just need to see what is there then this will not matter.
Another issue is that you may not be able to ever lift up the blacks enough to see what is there. If there is no aspect of that object actually picked up by the camera then you will never be able to reveal it. The camera must have picked up the visual information to work with, but if there was not enough there to extract then the image will remain a fog.