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2.2 Working Within Limits

Color correction is a very powerful part of the post-production process, but it does have limits. Those limits are, in large part, defined by the quality of footage you work with. In this lesson you will learn about what type of footage offers the most room to work with and what type of footage is more of a challenge.

2.2 Working Within Limits

The color correction process, like everything else in life, has limits. And those limits are often based on what type of footage you are working with. In this lesson you're gonna find out what types of footage work best for color correction and what type of footage is a little bit more of a challenge. So this idea of working within limits is to set expectations on what is possible in color correction. Now a lot of folks think that the post production world, anything is possible. You can take a shot of a vegetable patch and make it look like it was shot on mars with lasers and explosions in aliens. And I suppose that's true, if you have enough money. But for most of us normal folk, there is going to be some limitation, and that limitation is based on what your footage looks like. Think about the color correction process like this, all changes to exposure, saturation, and color are exposure changes. I know that doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, but let's say you had a clip that was too warm looking, right. It was too orange looking and you wanted to neutralize that. You wanted to push it away from the orange. Well, away from orange is towards blue. You're not going to be desaturating it, that's not going to fix it, you need to push the color in the direction of blue, because that's opposite of orange. When you do that you're not pushing around magic pixels, you're re-exposing pixels. You're taking the red channel and the green channel and you're re exposing them. The red comes down and, more importantly, the blue channel comes up, you're re exposing the blue channel. The pixels that are in blue, the pixels they have blue information, you're increasing those pixels' exposure. And the pixels the have a lot of red, you're decreasing the red exposure. Saturation and exposure also deal with re-exposing pixels, pushing them up in exposure, pushing them down in exposure. So when you have footage that's already really contrasty, and really saturated, the levels are going to be really close to the limits. Which means when you start pushing pixels around you're going to hit the limits and things are going to start to get clipped. And clipped, generally doesn't look great. Also consider this, most of the footage that you're going to be working with is lossy. Meaning that, at some point in the encoding process from the sensor to you, information was thrown out the window. The way they encode the footage,they don't give a lot of information to the things that are really dark. Most of the bandwidth, if you will, in the encoding process is focused in on the brightest things. When you try to bring up those shadows, because there's less data and information there, if you need to break in that area up, you're going to see more really nasty compression artifacts. So it's best to work with footage that is flatter, footage that's less contrasty, less sharpened and less saturated. If you were just to play this footage back you would say, that footage does not look fantastic. But it's usually better to work with In color correction, because the values are not so close to those limits and you still have some range to work with. Your highlights still have detail, your shadows are pushed down so low that they are not getting any encoding bandwidth. And so when you make adjustments to those, you have room to work, you have detail. Because if you don't have detail, in the brightest parts, and the darkest part of your image, that's going to introduce limitations, and so, that's not going to be the best thing. So some cameras will offer some kind of flatter picture profile to work with and that's going to give you better results. Even better than dealing with flatter looking footage, is a camera that shoots to some kind of log profile. A camera that shoots to some kind of log profile basically remaps brightness values. So that it's able to squeeze more information into the same amount of encoding bandwidth. When you look at this footage, and you play it back without adjusting it, it looks even worse than flat looking footage. It actually looks really bad, but in the color correction process, you apply something called a look up table, which basically remaps those brightness values back to where they were supposed to be. But you're able to squeeze out a little bit more detail, if you recorded in this log profile. Raw footage is even better, in terms, of the amount of information and data that you may be working with. But for most folks that's not going to be a realistic solution, because, for one, you can't use raw footage right out of the camera. It has to be interpolated, and then trance coded into some kind of video format that you can actually edit and the size requirements for raw are astronomical. And that is not going to work for most folks. But shooting with a camera that shoots to log, or a flat picture profile, is going to be in the realm of possibility. So the take away here is, log footage, or flatter looking footage, is going to be better to work with, you're going to have more room to push things around. Now hopefully, you won't need to push things around a lot. It would be great if you didn't have to do a whole lot of massaging of the colors, or very severe exposure adjustments. But when you do need to make large adjustments to the picture, you're going to want to room to work and so flat looking footage is going to be the best. That's not to say that you can't fix high contrast footage. But you're going to have a little less room to work. Now that you understand what type of footage will give you the best results. You're ready to move on to the next lesson, where you're going to learn about the order of operations.

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