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Apple's Color

Apple?s Color blows Final Cut Pro?s (FCP) 3-Way Color Corrector out of the water! By Heath McKnight

One of the biggest announcements during Apples NAB 2007 Final Cut Studio 2 (FCS 2) presentation was Color, a very professional and high-end color grader and finisher that blows Final Cut Pros (FCP) 3-Way Color Corrector out of the water. With flexible and powerful primary and secondary color grading tools, plus effects, 4:4:4 rendering with 32-bit float support and more, all bundled with FCS 2.

The easiest workflow is to do your editing in FCP 6, then highlight specific clips with an In and Out point, then go to File, Send To and select Color.  The clip will open in Color and you can start your work.

One note: if you are used to the graphical user interface (GUI) of FCP, DVD Studio Pro and other Final Cut Studio apps, all of which are similar to FCP, it may take a little time to get used to Colors GUI.  Apple purchased Silcon Colors FinalTouch to develop Color, and the GUI appears to have gone with the app.  I am guessing that the GUI change from DVD Studio Pro v. 1 to v. 2, which made it have a more FCP-like appearance, may happen in Color by version 2.


Also, to use Color, according to Apple, you will need a graphics card found in the ?17-inch MacBook Pro, the Mac Pro line-up, a 24-inch iMac (Intel Core Duo-only) or a 2.5 ghz or faster Power Mac G5. Apple specifies these cards: ?ATI Radeon X1600 (and also the Mobility), the NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT, 7600 GT, 6600, or Quadro FX 4500.  Display-wise, you need at least a 1680 x 1050 or higher resolution. 

Primary
Use the Primary color tools to change the overall look of the shot, correct it and get the look you want. You can definitely create custom looks that can be saved for later, which makes it easier if youre creating a specific look for certain shots and scenes in your project.

Below are three examples showcasing three stills from 24p HDV footage, including the original, a still with FCPs Color Balance (two filters) which is what we went with for the final output, and Color, which I did for this article. If I spent more time with Color, I wouldve been able to match the look of the Color Balance filters (the Cinematographer on the project instructed me to use those two filters to get the look we wanted).

Original HDV still, no color correction. Click for full view.

HDV still with Final Cut Pro's Color Balance. Click for full view.

Color grading and correction, HDV still. Click for full view.

Secondary
This is where things get interesting, because you can correct specific parts of the frame by ?drawing shapes in the image you want to correct. This is very similar to what Photoshop does if you want to work on only a portion of the shot. Use the tracking tools to make sure everything is working right as the shot progresses when in motion. Also, you can do up to eight secondaries, which is amazing!

There are some great tools to monitor what youre doing, including 3D scopes and a viewer. If you have two monitors, you can set it to Dual Display Mode, though youll need to quit and re-open Color for it to work. Same with going back to Single Display Mode.

Color FX and Geometry
There are some great cinema-quality filters you can use to create looks, then customize them to your own visual specifications. If youve shot on an older DV camcorder, you can add any number of filters to create a film-like look. There are also gamma curves, which can help increase or decrease the black and white levels, which help define the ?film look.  Check out my article on achieving a film look with DV/HD cameras.

You can also change the ?geometry of the shot; for instance, you can create a pan-and-scan 4:3 video image for a commercial or a full-screen DVD. Another example would be if a shot was off a bit, you may turn it to the way you want. Perhaps its a level medium shot of an actor and you want it to be off the horizon a little (canted angle). You can easily turn the image and render.

Render Queue
You can send one or all shots and FX renders here to perform the render. On a very fast 3 Ghz Quad Mac Pro with 8 GB RAM, the render of my basic color finishing, as seen above, took about two minutes. I also fiddled with Secondary colors, which may explain the extra time.

Nattress
As usual, Nattress Filters come in with some incredible plug-ins, including FX such as Bleach Bypass and others, plus some great tools like Gamma Curve and Chroma Sampling. Graeme Nattress had developed these filters for Final Touch, and was able to port them over for Color.  As with Final Cut Pros Nattress plug-ins,Graemes Color plug-ins are a must for any editor using this great application.

Conclusion
Color is a much-welcomed addition to the Final Cut Studio line-up, and helps push Apples professional bundle of apps to the industry forefront. Color grading and finishing is, as Ive learned, an art form in and of itself. Those used to color correcting with Apples 3-Way Corrector will have no problems moving to the professional app.  However, there is a learning curve to using it, but there are many excellent training tools out now and on the way that will help you get a jump-start on it.

Final Touch was a pricey color grader and finisher, and that Apple has bundled it with all the other Final Cut Studio applications makes this an even more must-have app. Be sure you check out our Advanced Color techniques.


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Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and author who has produced and directed several independent feature and short films, including Hellevator, 9:04 AM and December. He is currently web content manager for doddleNEWS. Heath was also a contributor to VASST's best-selling book, "The FullHD," and has written for TopTenREVIEWS and Videomaker.


Related Keywords:color grading, color correction, NLE,


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