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Q: How does post production colour correction work? As a producer I regularly produce videos, but I’m in the dark on the technicalities of colour correction

Corporate Video Producer

A: Post production and colour correction can have a massive impact on the look and feel of any corporate video or DVD.

The right colour treatment can make your corporate videos look like movies, TV ads, or better. And for very reasonable cost.

At its simplest colour correction is there to make sure your video images are correctly balanced suitable for broadcast. We call this broadcast-ready or legalising.

But there’s a much larger world lying out there where colour correction is concerned.

You can add colour effects to ordinary video footage and transform them into something filmic.

For example:

> Make part or all of a video look like The Matrix or Traffic or The Island or CSI

> Give outdoor scenes a tremendous punch, especially on wide shots

> Cosmeticise VIPs’ faces to make them look younger and more attractive

> Fix aliasing problems where video compression has resulted in jaggy edges

> Enhance the whole perception of mood, whether busy, industrial, high tech, electronic, consumerist, serious, light hearted, and so on. Colour treatment makes moods happen.

How does colour correction actually work?

There are a number of colour correction packages on the market, but they all work in a similar way – the good ones at least!

It happens in three stages:

> Treating the colour on the way in

> Processing in the middle

> Treating the colour on the way out.

Let’s look at these:

Treating the colour on the way in means that the raw video footage needs processing first. This usually has the effect of bleaching out the image, removing all the strong contrasts and colours so the image looks relatively flat and “normalised”. Quite dull, actually.

Processing in the middle means applying some camera or film or lens effect. You can emulate expensive lenses or the same film stock that Martin Scorsese used for last year’s Oscars. Or add a graduated lens to reduce the effect of an overpowering bright sky. Lots of possibilities here.

Stage 3 is that once you’ve got an effect in the middle, the colour needs treating on the way out. In a simplistic way, this reverses the colour and contrast you took out in stage one, reversing the normalising effect by putting the colour and contrast back in.

In short, lose the colour and contract in the first stage, then process the image, then put the colour and contrast back in.

Exactly how you tweak the knobs at each of the three different stages determines the resulting look of the footage.

How Easy is it to Use?

Very easy.

Most colour correction packages with these facilities come stuffed with presets, so you don’t even need to know how the software works.

Presets are usually usefully labelled, perhaps by movie title, or mood (soft and warm, clinical etc). Presets range from subtle to bold.

The latest packages render very quickly, and usually have a real time preview at full screen.

Because there is no lengthy rendering to preview, there’s lots of time to get creative and experiment with different visual ideas until you get the effect you really like, that brings out the look your corporate client will appreciate.

I’ve used a few of these packages over the last five years, and they’re all worth a look at.

Post production colour correction has now become one of the most fun parts of the whole video production process.

© Studio Rossiter 2007

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