Well, here I am, in the middle of color correction. Stalled a bit while I dropped in my master stills (pictures) and adjusting them, and getting in the full res maps (courtesy the man who did them last time for Mexican American War – which was a task because I don’t have the Curious mapping software here, so instead of rendering them out myself, I he send them via YOUSENDIT.com…took a while) and prepping the show for an audio mix (compressing the file, exporting the OMF with Automatic Duck). But now that is behind me and I can dive fully into color correction.
Am I using Color? No. If you look back a few days (week?) in my archives you’ll note that I have not upgraded, and won’t for a while. Plus I hear there are more than a few bugs and issues that need to be worked out. Nope, I am using Magic Bullet COLORISTA, by Red Giant Software. Best $200 I spent.
First, I’d like to mention a bug that I discovered with Colorista (sheesh, bugs everywhere). Well, I didn’t “discover” it…I saw it, mentioned it to Walter Biscardi who also uses Colorista and he said “yup, known bug. They are working on it.” Good. Nice to know. In the meantime I can correct for…oh…wait, I didn’t tell you what the bug was. If your video levels are above 100 IRE…say they are at 110 IRE…and you apply Colorista to the shot, the levels are immediately crushed to 100 IRE.
Wait…so it takes levels that are WAY above legal, and crushes them into the legal level…this is a good thing, right? Well, no. Because when it does that, you whites go yellow, you lose detail…it just chops it off. In a not nice way either. So, the workaround? To drop on the 3-way color corrector and drop the whites down overall, or adjust the plugin to only drop the levels of the bright areas (limit the effect to the upper LUMA range, there’s a drop down arrow in the plugin that does that). Once you adjust that, than you can drop on Colorista and color away. Then the image looks great! I have been dipping into the Magic Bullet Looks Suite to get ideas of what I might want, then adjusting Colorista to match as close as I can. Coming out pretty nice. I can’t wait for Magic Bullet Looks Suite…or Color…both. I like playing with color correction.
Now…onto the topic of the COLOR BAY. The bay that you color correct in. This was a topic that came up on the Digital Production Buzz a couple weeks ago. At the end of the show…the last 10 min or so. The topic was about COLOR and color correcting and people doing all this from their home edit bays…and I was mentioned as a “classic” example of this. A lot of people, including myself, are color correcting in rooms that are…less than ideal…with less than ideal equipment. An IDEAL color correction bay would have gray walls (a specific tone of gray), and lighting behind the color correction monitor (specific level and color of lighting), and the colorist would not only have access to a nice HD CRT, but also hardware video scopes and a color correction interface.
I have the HD CRT….that’s about it. My room is, well, off white and wall to wall bookshelves…light wood bookshelves. Behind my desk is a wall of glass facing outside…a sliding glass door. I have drapes, but they are tan. Hardware scopes? Nope…I rely on the ones in FCP. Color Correction Interface? Nope…I have a mouse. Less than ideal…well, yes. A few weeks ago I was color correcting in such a bay, and it was nice. Perfectly lit. But, at home, a little less than perfect. But, I am a renter so no tearing out the bookshelves (which are REALLY handy, BTW) and painting the place gray. I’ll have to save that for when I get a small office AWAY from home.
So, what do I do? How can I possibly color correct properly with such a room? Well, I do this. I get it CLOSE. I color correct to what I think looks good. I do have the lights off, and the drapes block a LOT of lite, so it is pretty nice in here. BUT…I do rent a bay for a day before I lay off to tape to do “touch ups.” That bay will have the gray walls, the proper lighting, and hardware scopes. Not to worries about the scopes. The ones in FCP are DARN good, and when we export I put on the Broadcast Safe filter, AND run the output thru a hardware limiter to make sure we are legal. So all my concerns are getting the colors just right.
Am I being a purist? Sorta. I have to be. This is network TV, and one hiccup, one level over legal and the show gets kicked back. Then you have to rent a bay again, do the corrections, redub, re-closed caption…a lot of costs. Would I be legal by just adding the BS Filter (heh heh) and using the hardware limiter? Yes. But I just want to make sure that my REDS are RED, and not maroon. Because the light reflected off the walls hits my eyes and the monitor, and can skew things. Does everyone need to be this critical? No. Doing it from home might be considered “good enough.” I did Mexican American War that way. But when I got to the output I did notice the subtle difference in the colors. Small, but noticable. Would that small difference be seen by the time it is downconverted to Digibeta, compressed for the airwaves and landing on the TV sets of America, who is no doubt NOT watching it in a gray room with special lighting and a professional color correction monitor. But, you want to make it as good as you can, so that it doesn’t look too bad by the time it gets there.
OK…more color grading.