Advanced Color

Until FCPX 10.4 advanced color correction in FCPX had been left to third party plugins like Color Finale Pro and the excellent Chromatic from CoreMelt. FCP has now taken up advanced color tools, making them available to every user. 

The Color Board is still there, and can now to accessed with the click of a button.  It can still be called up with the shortcut Command-6. Now every clip, once in the Timeline, has a triangular button at the top of the Video inspector that can be used to activate the color tools. 

The Color Correction effect from previous version has been renamed Color Board.  The new effects are: Color Wheels, Color Curves, Hue/Saturation Curves, Custom LUT, and HDR Tools. These obviously can be accessed from the Effects Browser like other effects. You can also activate them by clicking the color correction button and selecting the Color Board or one of the other advanced effects, such as Color Wheels.

Even the old Color Board has some enhancements, showing a better distribution of colors across the space. 

Another feature is that it’s no longer necessary to use a back button to get from the Color Board, or whatever color tools you’re using, back to Inspector. The controls at the top remain open and available to switch to any of the Inspector panes. 

In Editing preferences you can now choose which tool you want to set as the default and automatically open when you click the color correction button on the clip, or when you press Command-6.

When you have a color effect in the Video inspector you can open it by clicking the neat rainbow triangle, or simply double-clicking anywhere on the effect bar. 

To close the interface and return to the Inspector you need to click on the Video inspector icon in the upper left. 

Color Wheels

If you worked with legacy FCP or other color correction tools you’re familiar with the way Color Wheels work. There are separate wheels for Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights, and there’s also a Master wheel, like the Global control in the Color Board.

If you push the puck in the center towards one of the colors on the edge of the wheel that color will be added the the image, with the color being displayed on the left side of the wheel.

Like the pucks in the Color Board, once a control is selected, you can move it around the wheel, by holding down an Arrow key or by tapping it for single unit adjustment. You can also reset a selected control by pressing the Delete key, or by double-clicking the control you want to reset, the color or luma or chroma controls.

Color in video is an additive system, so to reduce a color, you add in the complementary color on the opposite side of wheel. If the scene is too blue, you push the puck away from blue to add in orange; too magenta, push across the wheel towards green.

A little goes quite a way, especially with the Master wheel. To gear down the movement to gain finer control hold the Option key. The arrow on the outside left will control the amount of the color added, down for less saturated, up for more. With the puck in the center it’s a Saturation tool, raising or lowering the overall color level in the luminance range of the wheel you’re working with.

I’m finding myself usually pulling down the Master wheel saturation. For instance, to add a warm look, the mid point is too much I feel and needs to be pulled down.

The arrow on the right side of the wheel will raise or lower the luminance values.

It would have been nice if the Highlights wheel had a white eyedropper that could be used for color balance.

A great feature of the new advanced tools is that they are keyframeable. The whole effect can be animate, just as the Shape and Color Masks could in earlier versions. The masks as still available for each effect of course. 

In addition to the wheels there are RGB slider controls below the wheels if you prefer those. One thing good about the sliders is that there are values boxes, and like everywhere that there are value boxes in FCP you can use mouse gestures to raise and lower the values, which is very useful when working with the RGB Parade. There are also sliders for color Temperature, Tint, and a dial for Hue. These are overall image controls. While Tint is pretty crude, Temperature works well to subtly control the look of the image from quite cool to warm. The Hue slider will spin the colors in the vectorscope so is quite useful when the white balance is a little of.  Moving the slider can pull skin tones to the flesh line. Notice also at the bottom there is a Mix slider, which allows you to blend the grade into the original. This can be really useful. There are also value boxes and sliders that correspond to each of the wheels, Master, Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights. These are useful when you have exact values you want to enter.

Most users accustomed to color wheel controls are used to seeing them displayed separately. In FCP to save screen space the wheels can all be collapsed into a single wheel with buttons to switch between them as in the Color Board.

If you wish Color Wheels can effectively replace the Color Board, controlling Exposure, Saturation, and Color very efficiently and with more precision. 

Each of the advanced tools have multiple controls, wheels or curves. Each can have the individual control reset with the usual hooked arrow, or the entire effect can be reset with the popup at the end of the effect bar and selecting Reset Parameter.


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