When I first started color correcting in FCP I used the built in 3-way color corrector.  When it first was introduced in FCP 3, it is what first drew me to FCP.  And I have been able to do quite a bit with it.  But when Magic Bullet Colorista by Red Giant Software came out, and I was able to push the colors further than the 3-way…take things more to the extreme.  And lately, while I have been glued to COLOR, there are many instances when I can’t use it.  Such as times when I have projects with mixed formats, and no time to conform everything to one format.  It happens more often than I’d like.

Such was the case on a recent project I was slated to online.  And when you are the online editor, handed the project only when picture has locked, you don’t have the luxury of getting everything converted to a uniform codec for editing.  Editors often do what they want, and if it works, they keep doing it.  This project was mainly DVCPRO HD from P2, but also had a lot of stock footage, in many formats…DV, DV50, Photo JPEG (SD and HD) and ProRes.  All on a DVCPRO HD timeline.  And as most of the projects I work on lately, it was a LOW low budget project, and I only had 2 days to color correct it.  Given that time constraint, I didn’t have time to convert all the footage to DVCPRO HD, or ProRes, so that I could take it into COLOR and do my work there.  I did have a lot of converting to do to get frame rates to match, and that was already eating into my allotted time.

Because of this, I opted to go with Colorista…because I feel limited by the 3-way color corrector, and I really like the ability to use SECONDARIES in Colorista.  But now I was psyched because a NEW version of Colorista was released, Colorista 2, and with this, many new improvements.  I still had the great control and ability to push colors as much as I can do with COLOR, and I still have access to the easy to use Secondaries that allow me to target color correction, or create vignettes…but now I have access to a great thing called the HSL KEY, and other small improvements.

First, the small improvements:

– Along with EXPOSURE controls, I have PRIMARY DENSITY which deals more with the gamma and the blacks, and HIGHLIGHT RECOVERY, which allows me to pull in detail from the highlights, that I tend to lose when I push the highlights up really high.

– I not only have a PRIMARY 3-way, and a SECONDARY 3-way…but a MASTER 3-way, that is not unlike COLOR’s PRIMARY OUT.  You can make primary corrections, secondary corrections, then adjustments to the overall image.  I don’t often use this, but I have, and it is nice to have.

– CURVES!  For those who don’t like the the color wheels, but rather like to adjust the image via CURVES, you can.  But there is the drawback that you can’t adjust the curves directly on them, but rather by using the sliders.  The sliders control CONTRAST, SHADOWS, MIDS and HIGHS for the overall RGB space, or for each individual color.  Nice for those used to using them.  And I have gone to them on occasion.

– FLIP IMAGE.  Nice thing to have if your footage was shot with a camera that used a lens system that flipped the image.  Color correct and flip in one plugin.

– Render using GPU (graphics card) or CPU (computer processors).  If you have a kick ass graphics card, you can opt to use it to render.  Yeah, it does speed things up.

And then my favorite, the HSL KEY.

This amazing tool allows you to target a specific color, and only effect changes to that color.  For instance, if you have one color that is too bright, straying into the illegal chroma zone (say really bright RED), then I can grab the RED control and knock in down only…instead of reducing the saturation of the entire image.  This is something I do in COLOR in the SECONDARIES, SAT CURVE area.  You can also do this in the 3-way color corrector, by playing in the LIMIT EFFECT area of the color wheels.  But this is much faster.  Much much faster, and with better control.

Another great improvement that Colorista 2 has made is that it no longer instantly gives you the RED render bar.  I got the orange render bar and was able to play the footage.  And the new version renders faster than the original version.  I’m thinking it is due to the ability to render using the GPU.

There are a few drawbacks to Colorista 2.  First is that the original issue of it instantly cropping the highlights to 100 IRE is still present.  You might think it is a good thing, because it ensures that your levels are under 100 IRE for broadcast, but it isn’t.  Your highlights are cut off, and white becomes yellow.  So I still had to use the Proc Amp or 3-way to adjust the highlights before I added Colorista 2.  And if you open the project in a computer that lacks the Colorista plugin, you are unable to play the sequence.  You get a RED screen and a missing plugin warning.  Not the best thing when you need to swap sequences with other editors, or hand it back over to the client.  Unless they get the plugin too.

Another drawback is that this version doesn’t work in the Avid Media Composer.  The original version did.  But the new one uses modern programming that the Avid MC simply cannot work with.  Sad, but true.  If it did work with Avid MC, then I won’t be so tempted to bring everything to FCP so that I could use Color.

But one of the biggest joys of this plugin is the ability to color correct with a powerful color corrector right inside FCP.  I can color correct, and play back the correction with audio…which isn’t always necessary for colorists, but it is a nice added bonus.  Most of the controls I have with Color, but I get to stay in FCP.  And not have to worry about variable speed changes, freeze frames, still images, and mixing formats.

And that is exactly what I was dealing with on this project. As I said, no time to convert everything, so the ability to use Colorista 2 meant that I could dive right in, push the colors as much as I could in Color, not worry about speed changes…color correct DVCPRO HD from one shot, PHOTO JPEG in the next shot…and then have it all render out to ProRes when I was done. Oh, yeah…I copied everything from a DVCPRO HD sequence to a ProRes sequence, so that when I rendered out everything I was rendering 10-bit and not 8-bit. A big thing when it came to rendering out graphics, and the PHOTO JPEG files…and the other ProRes files in the project. If I wanted to do this in Color, it would take another day or two of prep to convert everything to 1080i 29.97 ProRes. But because I could use Colorista 2 right in FCP, I saved the client time and money…and made them very happy.