Colour Matching

Colour grading, colour correction (color to our friends across the pond) is a big buzzword right now in the post-production industry.  2012’s NAB featured a lot of new colour grading products – article link. Colour grading/correction is a covers two separate elements:

  1. Matching individual shots to each other
  2. Improving individual shots to highlight the actors, minimise distracting elements and generally give video a mor filmic look

There’s lot of tutorials covering the latter, but very few which deal with the former.  I think that’s because professional camera operators and cinematographers take the time and care to do this in-camera.  Unfortunately home and semi-pro camcorders do not have all the settings needed to do this properly at the time of shooting.   Everyone’s heard of white balancing, but that only takes you so far.

I found this tutorial on Color Grading by Barend Onneweer at Creative Cow a while ago which takes a maths-based approach.  The only issue with this tutorial is the time it takes to manually calculate the colour values.  So, I’ve taken Barend’s principal and used After Effects Expressions to process it automatically.  You can download this as an FFX Preset here.

Colour Matching Interface

To use:

  • Apply the preset to the video (or adjustment layer), make sure the Levels fx is turned off.
  • Follow Barend’s tutorial by selecting a neutral grey point (seen in all shots)
  • Turn on the LevelsColour matching sequence

The sequence above is from my friend Jeff Smith’s new web series, Stella B and the Busted League.  Unfortunately the camera reset itself in-between set-ups and white balance was lost.  He contacted me to ask if there was anything I could do.This is the first time I’ve actually tried colour matching and was really impressed by the results.  The preset made this quick and easy to apply, although you do need a neutral gray in each shot.  It’s possible to do this without, but it is less automated.

To address this, I suggest using a reference card, similar to this one I developed for Virtual Sets in Cinema 4D.  (I’m working on a full tutorial about that).

Published by ShiveringCactus

Tutorials and videos, mainly After Effects, but with some 3D and puppetry stuff too.

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