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Tutorial: Color Correction with Avid Media Composer

This tutorial demonstrates how to leverage Avid's powerful and efficient color correction by working in Color Correction mode, which allows you quick access to its color grading features but keeps them out of the way while you're editing.

Color Correction Controls

In the middle is where the magic happens. These are the color grading tools (Figure 6, below). They’re laid out in a simple tabbed configuration. The way these look depends on whether you have the Symphony option or not, but we’ll assume that you don’t.

Figure 6. Color grading tools, HSL tab. Click the image to see it at full size.

The first tab is the HSL tab (Figure 6, above). Within that are the Control tab and the Hue Offsets tab. The Controls tab (Figure 7, below) includes some controls I like and some that are really there because they are familiar image controls, but they aren’t my favorites. For most tasks, there are better controls for hue than the Hue control. Saturation is a control I recommend using at the end of your other corrections. Brightness and Contrast, for most purposes, are not controls I use because of their lack of control.

Figure 7. The Controls tab. Click the image to see it at full size.

Instead, go to the Hue Offsets tab (Figure 8, below). Here I use Gain, Gamma, and Setup, or black. Gain controls the highlights, Gamma controls the midrange, and Setup controls the black levels.

Figure 8. The Hue Offsets tab.

Back in the HSL tab (Figure 7), Clip High and Clip Low are preset at legal levels and, most of the time, shouldn’t be changed. The controls to the right side are for matching colors and for temporarily saving color grades. The two color chips at the top allow you to select a color, like a skin tone, from the current clip. Then, in the next color chip, select a color from a reference and then match the two colors.

The pull-down menu below the chips provides some options for matching the color: Hue only, Saturation only, Luminance only, or all three combined. To execute the match, press the Match Color button. Below Match Color are eight buttons labeled C1 through C8 (bottom right of Figure 7). These are the color buckets. They are temporary storage locations for placing color grades that you may want to re-apply later in the sequence.

With a grade that you’ve created in the current monitor, just Option-click on a Mac or Alt-click on a PC to load that grade into the color bucket you choose. You can also load grades that’ve been stored in bins by dragging them from the bin to the color bucket you choose (Figure 9, below).

Figure 9. Dragging a stored grade to a color bucket from a bin. Click the image to see it at full size.

Above these controls are five buttons (Figure 10, below). The first is an icon that looks like two sliders. This takes you into Effects mode. The second is a rainbow-colored rectangle. This is called the Create Color Correction Effects Template, but it’s really the Save Grade button. You can drag this button to a bin to save the current grade. You can also drag it directly to any other clips in the timeline to apply it directly, similar to dragging an effect icon onto a segment. The next button calls up the Color Mode Settings, just like accessing the settings from the Setting or Preference list. 

Figure 10. The button panel described in the paragraph above.

The next button allows you to set broadcast-legal level parameters for your videos (Figure 11, below). This is somewhat similar to the Safe Color Warning in FCP. Basically, the default levels are a good start. I recommend changing them only if someone provides you with specific video restrictions for Specific Broadcaster or File.

Figure 11. Setting broadcast-safe settings.

When these warnings are switched from their default of Ignore to the Warn setting, you’ll see a series of colored bars in the top-left corner of the current monitor (Figure 12, below). The first yellow column is your composite video level. If the yellow chip is at the bottom, then your composite video level is illegal on the low end of your video. In other words, the black levels are illegally low. If it’s at the top, then your composite video levels are too high. In other words, your highlights are illegal. If the chip is in the middle, then the level is okay. The next column to the right is the luma level. The error codes on it are the same. A chip at the bottom indicates illegally low luma levels. A chip at the top indicates illegally high luminance levels. The next three columns are the red, green, and blue gamut levels. Indications in these columns work the same as for composite and luma.

Figure 12. Level indicators at the top left of the current monitor.

The final button in that row allows you to make notes. Sometimes an editor will do a basic color correction but will leave the fine details to the online editor. In this case, you could leave notes about what you did or problems to look out for (Figure 13, below).

Figure 13. Leaving comments for another editor.

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