Color correction refers to the process where every individual clip of a video footage is altered to match color temperature of multiple shots to a consistent technical standard of appearance. It’s about balancing out your colors, making the whites actually appear white, and the blacks actually appear black, and that everything in between is nice and even.
The goal is to match the video footage to a standard that would be an accurate portrayal of how it would look if viewed from the human eye. With the human eye, under a warm light or cool light, a white object will always appear white. But with cameras, if you don’t set it to the proper white balance, it can appear either blueish white, yellowish white or actual white.
Also, if you’re shooting outside over the course of a day, the quality of the sun is going to change and your video will not look quite right, as certain shots of your video will not match up. That’s why color correction is so important, as it will make your shots seamless and make your video look like they were all shot at the same time. Color correction can be done using primary and secondary tools, as well as masks and mattes.
Color correction is used in many Hollywood blockbusters, from action movies like Transformers and Black Hawk Down, to horror movies like The Ring and Saw; to make scenes from a movie look as natural and as close to the way the human eye views something. To view more examples of color correction profiles used in Hollywood, click here.
Primary and secondary color correction
Primary color correction is done across the entire image, utilizing controls over the intensities of the red, blue, green, gamma (mid tones), shadows (blacks) and highlights (whites) of the entire picture. Usually, altering the intensity of one color can completely change the look of the image.
Secondary color correction is based on the same idea behind chroma keying, where the saturation, luminance and hue of only the yellows, magentas, cyans, blues, greens and reds are altered; and other colors in the spectrum are minimally affected.
Masks and Mattes
Besides the primary and secondary color correction, geometric shapes like mattes or masks can also be used to isolate color adjustments to specific areas of an image. This means that you can highlight and change the color of a particular section, or change the color on everything else except what was selected.
Watch: How Color Correction Alters a Film’s Tone
Color correction is often the least talked about, most overlooked portion of the post-production process. Alex Bickel has spoken out about how grading can alter the presumed production value of a film, and a recent guest post from Michael Medaglia and Jalal Jemison discussed the importance of communicating your story through the process. This video from the International Colorist Academy offers a nice visual supplement to the aforementioned claims, as it demonstrates the colorist’s ability to amend the tone and context of any given scene. When it comes to transforming day to night, and romance to horror, some things can be left to post.
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