Basic Color Correction in FCP X

posted Jan 19, 2012, 8:33 AM by   [ updated Jan 24, 2012, 10:50 AM ]
Pretty good overview of the basics—from the Izzy tutorial page (lots of good stuff there)

Color Correcting in FCP X

There are 3 different approaches available for correcting color:
  •  Engage "Balance" if the clip has been analyzed; if not choose Clip > Reveal in Event Browser [⌘-] and then Contol-click on the Event version and choose Analyze and Fix
  • Match, where it attempts to get the same color balance as another clip of your choosing
  • Manual, where you have the most control and can target that control: 
    • Exposure
    • Saturation
    • Color
    • Each of those can be applied globally or just in the shadows, mids, or highlights
Use any or a combination of those techniques

Recommended Procedure for Manual Correction

  1. Show Video Scopes (Window > Show Video Scopes or ⌘-7)
  2. Set it to Waveform for measuring luminance values (light/dark).
  3. Fix Exposure
    1. Click on Exposure tab
    2. Move the Shadow slider until the darkest parts just hit "0"
    3. Move the Highlights slider until the brightest levels just hit 100
    4. Adjust the Midtone slider to taste
  4. Fix Color
    1. Click on the Color tab.
    2. Use the Global slider if it's obvious the image needs more/less of a certain color
    3. Move the Global slider to the color you want to increase/decrease
    4. Move the slider up/down in tiny increments by selecting the slider and then using Up and Down arrows to add/subtract that color. Often, just 2 or 3 clicks is enough. Don't overdo it.
    5. Alternatively, you have the option to use the Shadow, Midtone, and Highlight slider instead (any or all of them; often Midtones is the one you most need). This gives you more targeted control.
    6. If you want, change the Waveform scope to the Vectorscope to check
      1. Oversaturation (don't go beyond the Saturation Limit Boxes; see picture below; if necessary, you can fix in the Saturation tab)
      2. Skin Tones—the northwest dividing line represents skin tones for all humans. Tip: temporarily crop your image so only skin tones are present and then
  5. Fix Saturation
    1. Click on the Saturation tab.
    2. Again, you have a choice of using the Global slider or any/all of the Shadow, Midtone, and Highlight sliders. Or a combination (e.g. globally add blue to the image, but reduce the blue in just the shadows if it looks too strong).
    3. Also, a little goes a long way; use the Up/Down arrows to go in tiny steps to get what you like. Here, too, don't overdo it.
    4. If you want, change the Scopes to Vectorscope. Two important things:
      1. The saturation level for any color should never go beyond the Saturation Limit Boxes; usually it won't even be close
      2. Skin tones are important; they should always be along the northwest vector line, regardless of race or ethnicity. This is sometimes called the Skin Tone Reference Line. Tip: temporarily crop an image so that all (or most) of what's visible is skin. Check it against the skin tone vector.