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Tutorial: Adjusting Color and Brightness in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5

When you compress video for the web, the video can darken and colors can become muted. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to correct color and adjust brightness and color saturation with Adobe Premiere Pro's Fast Color Corrector.

Making Simple Color Changes in Premiere Pro’s Fast Color Corrector

But let’s tackle color first. The Fast Color Corrector—which you’ll find under Video Effects—is a very, very simple tool for making simple color adjustments. Click the disclosure triangle adjacent to Fast Color Corrector to reveal the White Balance control. Click the eye dropper and click a pixel in the frame that’s supposed to be white. In our example, the color chip is brown. That tells us that the clip is brownish and corrects for that (Figure 5, below).
Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5
Figure 5. The color chip next to Fast Color Corrector shows that the clip is more brownish than it should be.
To boost the adjustment a little bit further, drag the little circle in the color wheel or scroll down in the Effect Controls tab and adjust the Balance Magnitude value, as shown in Figure 6 (below).
Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5
Figure 6. Adjusting Balance Magnitude in the Fast Color Corrector
If I want to preview with and without the adjustment applied, as with any filter in Premiere Pro, click the Fx button next to the Fast Color Corrector effect to toggle the effect on and off. You can also do a splitscreen view in the monitor, which is most useful if you do it vertically, which allows you to control the location of the adjustment. In this example, if I set it at about 45 it’s positioned in the middle of my face, and I can see that in the White Balance color chip that it’s yellowish before the adjustment and corrected after.

Adjusting Brightness Using Input Levels

When adjusting the Brightness in this image, our sole goal is to boost the clump of pixels called out in Figure 3 to above the 60 line. Still working in the Fast Color Corrector, the tool we’re going to use the Input Levels (Figure 7, below). Moving the marker at the left edge of the Input Levels slider adjusts the black values, the darkest pixels in the image; moving the marker at the right edge adjusts the whitest pixels; and moving the marker in the middle of the slider makes adjustments in the midtone region.
Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5
Figure 7. The Input Levels slider in the Fast Color Corrector
As you drag the midtones slider to the right you’ll increase primarily the pixels in the brighter regions. In this example, we’ll see the clump of pixels associated with my face (as highlighted in Figure 3) rise to well over 60, into the 70 range, which is a good value. If we look at the splitscreen view again, we’ll see a clearer split between the corrected and uncorrected versions.
Now we’ve got the values where we want them. The blacks are still up around zero so there should be very little fading, and we’ve boosted the whites a bit closer to 100 IRE. The face still looks a little bit washed out and, as we talked about up front, sometimes you want to boost the Color Saturation to correct for that.
I’m wearing a blue shirt and where we started at 100, you really can’t tell what color it is. If we bring the Color Saturation up to 150 you get a nice balance of facial color and blueness in the shirt (Figure 8, below). I probably went a little bit too far to prove my point but compared to where we started, we’ve got much more contrast in the video, we’ve got a brighter face that will withstand compression a lot more effectively, and we’ve got correct colors. So at this point I would probably call this edit done and just move on to my next edit in this project.
Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5
Figure 8. Moving the Color Saturation up to 150 brings out the blue in my shirt.

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