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Video Review: Color Grading Central cineLook Final Cut Pro Plug-in

Here's a look at two workflows for applying film grain to your footage in FCP X using cineLook (with and without Gorilla Grain), first with 4k footage shot with the Blackmagic Production Camera, and then with Cinestyle-flattened DSLR footage.

Adjusting the Parameters of the cineLook Effect

By default, when you add the cineLook plug-in, you can see by the checked checkboxes next to all the parameters of the effect that everything is turned on. I prefer to start with everything clear, so I'll uncheck all of the boxes (2.35:1 Widescreen, Vignette, Film Effects, Noise Reduction, etc.) and then build the effect from what the clip looked like before I applied the plug-in.

Color Treatment

Starting from the top in Figure 3 (click the link to open it in a new window), the default setting for Color Treatment is 60%. You can decrease or increase that by moving the Color Treatment slider left or right. As you dial in the Color Treatment setting, note that you do have other settings below it--Exposure, Gamma, Cool/Warm, Tint, and Saturation--with adjustment sliders of their own. Adjusting Exposure will affect your highlights; Gamma will affect the midtones. Cool/Warm, as you might expect, will cool off or warm up the image, and of course you can preview all these in real time as you adjust the settings.

One thing worth noting is that if you have Color Treatment set to 0 (all the way to the left), you can still adjust Exposure, Gamma, and Saturation. However, any adjustments you make to Cool/Warm and Tint--your white balance settings--will not take effect. Both are contingent upon having Color Treatment turned on.

Noise Reduction

Once you've got your Color Treatment settings where you want them, next up is Noise Reduction. If you click it on by selecting the Noise Reduction checkbox, zoom in to 100% magnification by clicking the zoom pull-down at the top of the preview window, and get a really close look at how adjusting Noise Reduction affects the image, as shown in Figure 4 (below).

Figure 4. Zoom in to 100% see the affect of your Noise Reduction adjustments. Click the image to see it at full size.

When you pan around the image and view the affect of the Noise Reduction effect up close, you'll see that it does reduce noise, but at the expense of softening your image. It's not something I would normally use unless I had a lot of noise in the image to begin with. Although it does provide some smoothing, you can lose a lot of detail when you apply this effect.

The Threshold slider below Noise Reduction adjusts the strength of the smoothing. As you move it to the right, the image gets smoother and softer; moving to the left leaves more noise in the image but also retains more detail.

2.35:1 Widescreen

Below Noise Reduction is the 2.35:1 Widescreen matte. If you check that, cineLook automatically gives you the cinema aspect ratio 2.35:1. The parameter also includes an Offset slider that lets you re-adjust image positioning to avoid having your composition compromised by the 2.35:1 crop.

Film Effects

Below the 2.35:1 Widescreen parameter are the Film Effects. In the standard version of the plug-in, you'll see the Film Effects visible in Figure 4. In the Gorilla Grain version, those Film Effects will be replaced with Gorilla Grain. Turn it on and you can use the sliders to determine how much Grain, Dust, and Hairs to apply to the image. When you turn Grain all the way up, your image will most likely look like Figure 5 (below).

Figure 5. Too much grain.

It's not a very good-looking grain; it's more like RGB color noise, or like if you shot really high ISO and ended up with a lot of color noise. It's not something I'd really want to add to an image. You might be able to put it on a very low setting and add a slightly grainy look to your image, but otherwise it probably doesn't provide a look you'll want to use.

When you apply Dust and Hairs, your image will start to have an old 8mm, film-damage type of look.  


Below Film Effects is Vignette. This effect darkens the edges of your image. Below it are several sliders that are fairly self-explanatory. Note that Blur Amount will actually blur your image (not just the edges), so I usually turn that off. One good method of adjusting your vignette is to start with the last slider, Darken, turned all the way up, so you can really see your vignette as you adjust the Size and Falloff settings, then dial it back down when you have those where you want them.

Figure 6 (below) shows the effect that I got adjusting each filter in turn as described above. You can toggle that effect on and off (as you would any other effect in FCP X) by clicking the box next to cineLook at the top of the effect. Figure 7 (below Figure 6) shows the effect toggled off.

Figure 6. The cineLook effect with each parameter adjusted. Click the image to see it at full size.

Figure 7. The adjusted cineLook effect toggled off. Click the image to see it at full size.


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