Film School: Intro to Colour Correction

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Helpful advice on software for, and general approach to, managing colour in your video.

Colour Correction comes before Colour Grading. This entry is about correction – head here to learn about grading.


First off: here’s a handy three-minute explainer about the Vectorscope, which is crucial in colour correction (via LensProToGo):

Working with Scopes

In this video tutorial from Surfaced Studio, Tobias seeks to demystify Scopes, and how they, moreso than just your eyes, are used to “read” colour in image. Importantly, Tobias offer tips (in Premiere Pro, but which can be applied in any software) with a focus on the order in which to take on colour (my notes follow the video):

Premiere Pro Advanced Colour Correction Tutorial by Surfaced Studio

What to do:

Levels in RGB Parade (source: Surfaced Studio)
  • Colour Correction happens before Colour Grading
  • Make each clip looks its best, individually
  • Make the clips look consistent, collectively

How to do it, one tool at a time:

  1. Levels – highlights (Gain), mids (Gamma) and shadows (Lift)
  2. Waveform (Luma) – first look at the image in grayscale, to ensure it takes advantage of the full brightness/contrast range, from blacks to whites
  3. Parade (RGB) – the same grayscale range idea repeated, but this time in each individual colour channel
  4. Vector Scope (YUV) – together with the Parade scope, tells you where on the RGB spectrum the colours in your image are most distributed.
  5. Colour Corrector + White Balance – how to “drag” the colours of the image in the general direction you want (which, at this stage, is usually towards the most neutral, balanced point possible)
  6. Correcting Skin Tones – using the “skin tone line” in the vector scope

Skin Tones

On that last point – once you’re more familiar with working with scopes, spend another ten minutes with Color Grading Central to learn a more precise focus on adjusting for skin tones:

Further Reading

Still on that last point: I’m still on the hunt for other, more diverse, technical resources on correcting skin tones – especially non-Caucasian skin tones. In the meantime, I’ve collected some topical discussions of film’s troubled history with dark skin, and what modern DOPs are doing about it.