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How to Do Color Correction in Final Cut Pro

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/24/2011

Changing the ways the colors appear in your digital video projects is a great way to make the images match and "pop out" of the screen. Here's how to do it.

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    Fixing The Images

    One of the most useful tools available in Final Cut Pro is color correction. Whether it was bad lighting or someone forgot to white balance, having your color balance look slightly off is a common occurrence. One of the options in Final Cut’s whole arsenal of video effects and alterations is a Color Corrector 3-way that allows you to change the balances in the color so you can better fit the color scheme you are hoping to achieve in your digital video project.

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    Color Corrector 3-way

    The best way to do this is similar to the way you would apply motion to a photo. Make sure the clip you want to correct is already in the timeline where you would like it to be. This allows you to see the changes you make to the clip in the Canvas while you are altering the color in the Viewer.

    • Select the clip so it goes into the Viewer, then go to the Browser and click on the tab labeled Effects.
    • Click on the option labeled Video Effects and go down and click on the sub-option labeled Color Correction.
    • Once that is open you are going to be shown a variety of color correction options, including RGB Balance and Desaturate Lows. These all have their place in certain types of color correction, but for the best all-around color correction you would use Color Corrector 3-way.
    • Drag this option over onto the clip in the Viewer and two new tabs will appear at the top of the image, one labeled Filters and one labeled Color Corrector 3-way. The Filters tab is where you would normally change the effect settings for the clip, but the 3-way has its own way of altering the settings.
    • Click on the Color Corrector 3-way tab and you will be given a window with three color wheels, one each for blacks, mids, and whites. Below each of these wheels is a bar that alters how bright each of these segments of the image are, and then one bar at the bottom of the window to alter how bright the entire image is.
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    Color Tips

    Now it is up to your judgment how you would like to alter the image, but trial and error is the best way. If someone looks too pale or bluish in the face you might drag the white dot in the middle of the color wheel labeled “whites" more toward the yellow and red side of the color spectrum.

    Essentially you drag the white dot around on each color wheel until you find the image a satisfactory color. If the subjects clothes are a dark color but look too understated you might try and bring the brightness up on the blacks, and if there are bright white glares on their face then you could try bringing the brightness down on the whites. It is all up to how the image looks to you and how you would prefer it to look.

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    Be Careful

    It is best if your editing system has a large monitor attached to it so you can see what the image looks like on a television. It is hard to tell exactly how the colors will look when just viewing them in the Viewer on your computer monitor, so using a well calibrated television as a monitor will give you a better idea of how the image will actually end up looking. Also be careful about lighting the image too much because it can make it look a little foggy. Darkening the image is much easier, but you have to make sure that you do not try and lighten the picture too much in the color corrector.

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    Get To It

    Now that we are able to jump on a computer and alter our digital video we have options that home video producers used to only dream about. The ability to correct the colors of a recorded picture because of faulty camera work, or simply because we want to add an imaginative feel, is a great resource. Color Corrector 3-way is one of the best, and easiest, of all the many options in Final Cut Pro. Once you get started working on the colors in your video clips you will begin to get an instinct for it, and eventually you will be able to notice imperfections in videos you see made by someone else.