Colour correction for your videos

What is Color Correction?

Color correction is a process, that uses filters to alter the overall color of the light. Typically the light color is measured on a scale (color temperature). In video production, as in life, we often find ourselves concentrating on the big picture, only to miss the small details that can keep us from achieving our goal. One of these fundamental details is white balance. Despite advances in video editing software that allow us to ‘fix it in post,’ white balance remains an important component. We need to understand early in the production process if we’re to end up with the best possible video.

Color filters may be applied over a camera lens to adjust its white balance. In video systems, white balance can be achieved by digital or electronic manipulation of the signal. In these systems color correction filters are not entirely necessary. However, some digital cinema cameras can record an image without any digital filtering applied. Using physical color correction filters to white balance (instead of digital or electronic manipulation) can maximize the dynamic range of the captured image.

Some professional cameras use filter wheels containing color correction filters. They are able to optimize performance for different color temperatures.

In film cameras, no electronic or digital manipulation of white balance is possible in the original camera negative. Color correction filters are an effective method of adjusting white balance. Without filtering, one must attempt to fix white balance through color timing or by manipulating the film after it has been scanned or telecined.

How to prevent issues

If your videos come out sometimes discolored or lifeless, you might want to improve your shooting skills next time. You will unlikely record perfectly coloured videos without putting a little effort into it.  There are some simple steps you can take to improve:

1. Use the proper amount of light

Usually, this means “use lots of light” but there are very legitimate times when a scene needs to be dark and adding lots of lights would detract from your overall look.

2. Don’t use automatic gain control

Computers are great at doing lots of stuff, but they’re not always the best at figuring out how you want something to look. For that reason it’s often — but not always — advisable to use your camera in manual mode, where you’re the one making the decisions about how bright and how dark things are. Automatic gain control, or auto ISO, varies the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor based on how bright or dark it thinks things should be. When the camera boosts the ISO in dark places, you can end up with a muddied, compression-artifact-ridden mess in the shadow areas instead of the rich blacks you’re looking for.

3. Be careful of your light sources

Things that your light is passing through or bouncing off of will affect the color of your subject. If you’re shooting with existing light through red curtains, your subject will look red, likewise if you’re filming in a room with orange walls, lights that you set up that reflect off of these walls will throw an orange tint onto things. Which leads us to …

4. Set your white balance!

Different light sources have different color properties. Tungsten lighting tends to be reddish, fluorescents appear green, and the sun, bluish-white — at least as seen by your camera. Your camera has the ability to guess at a proper color temperature, but nothing beats setting a manual color balance using a sheet of white paper held next to your subject as a reference.

5. Use a neutral color profile

Color depends on your lighting, but its rendition in your video also depends on how the camera interprets colors. Most video cameras have a number of different color profiles to choose from and each will render colors in a different way (some of these mimic old film stocks). When capturing your video it’s best to use a relatively neutral picture profile that you can tweak in post. And although this article is generally about how to capture good color, there are times when fixing things in post gives you more latitude.

Use these tips to capture better color and give your video the look you want. Though it’s possible, to some extent, to adjust color in post, it’s always best to get the color information you need during production. That way, you know you’ll be able to use that color in the most effective way possible.

Watch this quick video and see, what color correction can do to your footage.

Need help bringing your videos to the next level? Get in touch and see how we can help.

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