Color Correction Basics: Setting Black and White Levels
Color Finesse 1.0 or later on Macintosh OS X or Windows XP.Setting Black and White Levels
When starting to color correct a piece of footage, the first task is to make sure that black and white levels are set properly. When we say "correct" levels, we mean appropriate for the particular footage being corrected. We do this before trying to take out any color cast, match the color to other footage, or do any "creative" color correction. By first standardizing the black and white levels of all footage it becomes much easier to do subsequent color correction consistently since you're always starting from the same point.
Start the color correction process by identifying the portions of the frame which should be the darkest. The area that you choose may not need to be fully black; a foggy scene may in fact have no full black in it. But in most cases you will find a part of the image which should be black, even if it is very small.
Choose the RGB tab and the Master tab and adjust the Master Pedestal slider so that the area you've identified is appropriately black. You can use the waveform monitor and/or color sampler to see the actual pixel values as you adjust Pedestal. For most footage, you will want these pixels to be at or very close to zero.
Once you are satisfied with the black level, identify the lightest portion of the image. Again, some footage—such as our foggy scene—may have no true white in it. But once you've found what should be lightest, use the Master Gain slider to adjust the footage until the area you've identified is appropriately white.
You can now look at the footage and see if midtones appear to be the appropriate brightness. If you think the midtones need adjustment, use the Master Gamma slider to make the necessary adjustment.
Once you've established a neutral color correction for the footage you can then begin to do more advanced color correction. Performing these same steps for every clip will give you consistent, reliable results.
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This page was last updated Monday, March 19, 2007.