FCP X grading styles and tools

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One of the aspects I enjoy about Final Cut Pro X is the wealth of tools and methods for color correction, grading or whatever you want to call the process. There simply is no other NLE on the market with as many built-in and third-party tools for making adjustments to image color and style. I’m not limiting this to simply color correction, but also glow, diffusion and stylizing filters that increasingly are a part of  a grading session. It’s about getting the right look for the best emotional impact and with FCP X there are a host of choices at very little expense.

In addition, the filters being developed for FCP X include more photographic correction functions than we’ve been used to in the previous class of effects filters. For example, many of these plug-ins include color temperature, tint and contrast controls that add a nice dimension past the usual three-way correctors.

Below is a quick potpourri of plug-ins (built-in and third-party) that you can use with FCP X. Click the thumbnail images for an enlarged view. My sample image is from the John Brawly Afterglow clips used to promote the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. A few of these clips have been posted online in both CinemaDNG and ProRes formats. In this case, I started with an already-corrected clip that I created in Adobe Lightroom. This is my starting point, which is typically what most editors encounter when color correcting a job. It’s nice to get flat, log-profile images for grading, but that’s not always the case. Often you start with a good-looking Rec 709 image that needs some pizzazz. That’s what I’m demonstrating here.

Remember that getting the right look is often a matter of using a combination of filters, rather than just one.

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A combination of Alex Gollner’s Levels and YUV Adjust filters. These are two of a set of free FCP X filters.

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A combination of three built-in FCP X filters – Hard Light, Hue/Sat and Crisp Contrast.

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CoreMelt has released several free filters, including a curve adjustment used to correct “flat” HDSLR images. Of course, you can play with it on non-flat images, too.

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CoreMelt’s SliceX masking tool includes several filter variations. One allows extra color correction control within the mask area.

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CineFlare has released several free sampler filters. This QuickLooks Teal filter gives you an “orange-and-teal” look. Note that Mac OS color picker controls allow you to tweak the tinting colors.

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Developer Simon Ubsdell has posted a number of free filters at the FCP.co forum. This Cross Process filter simulates film processing effects, which, when pushed to extremes, offers a nice way to stylize an image.

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Tim Dashwood’s Editor Essentials package includes several image adjustment tools, including Levels and Camera Gamma correction.

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Digital Film Tools’ Film Stocks is an external application that’s accessible from FCP X via a plug-in. The adjustment is customized in the external window, with many controls designed to emulate various film emulations.

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DV Shade EasyLooks is a full correction suite within a single plug-in. In addition to grading, it also offers controls for gradients, diffusion, warm/cool hue shifts and vignettes.

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Rubber Monkey Software’s FilmConvert Pro is available as both a standalone application and as a plug-in. The filter version has a limited range of color correction controls, but like DFT Film Stocks, is designed to emulate film. You can also change the intensity of the grain structure by selecting between film options from 35mm to Super 8mm.

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Noise Industries’ FxFactory Pro package includes several color correction filters, including Bleach Bypass, Crush Color and Film Process (their version of the Technicolor 2-strip look).

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Hawaiki Color has been jointly developed by Simon Ubsdell and Lawn Road as a full-fledged color corrector, using the color wheel model. In also features blur and sharpening, plus a wealth of color controls. The unique interface may be used as a HUD overlay or surrounding the image. I’ll take a detailed look at Hawaiki in a future post.

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Lawn Road also offers other color correction filters, such as Color Grade. Like others, they use the Mac OS color picker controls as a form of three-way color correction without building a separate grading interface.

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FCP X’s built-in Teal & Orange look. Like most of the built-in filters, slider control is kept to a minimum, but real-time (unrendered) performance is superior to third-party effects. That’s thanks to under-the-hood optimization done by the Pro Apps engineers, which isn’t available to external developers.

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Luca VFX Lo-Fi look is another tool to stylize an image with grunge effects. This is an “animated” effect with built-in flickering. It also includes an image drop well for custom pattern used within the effect.

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Luca VFX Vivid Touch is more of a standard color correction filter.

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Red Giant Software’s Magic Bullet Looks is the best-known external image stylizing/color correction application. Like DFT Film Stocks, the correction is done in the external application and accessed via the plug-in from FCP X.

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Nattress Curves is a venerable tool that been updating from the FCP “legacy” days to work in FCP X. It adds a valuable missing ingredient to the built-in correction tools.

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This is a combination of the PHYX Color Bleach Bypass, Glow Dark and Techni2Color effects. By stacking the skip-bleach style (but with more control than usual), a localized contrast function and the 2-strip process, you end up with a very unique look.

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Pomfort’s filters are designed to work as LUTs used on ARRI ALEXA images, but can also be used with other clips. Naturally, when you do that, the colorimetry is technically wrong, but offers some interested color options.

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Sheffield Software’s Vintage filter is another that’s been ported over from FxScript.

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CrumplePop’s ShrinkRay X is designed to create a tilt and shift look with defocused outer edges.

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FCP X’s built-in Super 8mm filter is useful, though not as realistic as FilmConvert, because the built-in effect maintains the image sharpness.

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Tokyo’s Lomography Look is another Ubsdell filter posted over at FCP.co. It mimics the current photo trend of grunge images created with vintage or poor-quality lenses.

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The built-in FCP X Color Board is actually one of my favorites, but you have to get used to its color control model. Slider/puck controls tends to be a bit coarse. Thanks to optimization, the performance is great and beats anything else offered for FCP X. You can stack many instances of the Color Board onto one clip, giving you great primary and secondary color correction control.

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Yanobox Moods uses a different approach to color wheels within FCP X. Unlike Hawaiki, Moods uses different color science for its controls, including a silver control and black wash (tints black levels).

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Like Dashwood’s Essentials, Ripple Training’s Ripple Tools also includes a grab bag of effects. These include several color correction effects, such as Color Balance and Glow. A unique aspect of their filters is that they are all filter adjustment layers, which are applied as FCP X connected title clips. They will alter any image below this adjustment layer and therefore, may be used as a single filter over more than just one clip.

©2013 Oliver Peters