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Have you ever heard a video producer or editor talk about colour correction and wondered what it was?

Colour correction defined

Colour correction is a term that covers two different steps.

  1. Making footage look right
  2. Making footage match all of the other footage around it.

I am aware that writing these out doesn’t necessarily explain it so let me make it clear…

Making footage accurate

When something is filmed there are lots of things going on, especially if you are not in a controlled environment like a studio. There is fluorescent lighting, the sun constantly shines through windows or is hidden by clouds and the colour of walls, clothes and everything else reflects light and changes its colour.

In cameras there is a setting called white balance. In basic terms it allows you tell adjust what the camera perceives as white. It then works out how to display all the other colours from this. This is a simplified explanation but should help you to understand colour correction better.

Even with white balance shots do not always look as you intend when you film them.

Colour correction is the process in post-production where the footage you are using is adjusted to make it look right.

Without Colour Correction

Raw footage (before colour correction)

With Colour Correction

After colour correction

Making footage look right

What does making footage look right mean? Footage is adjusted to ensure that the lighting is right that bright objects aren’t too bright and that shadowy objects aren’t too dark. It is an art to get it right.

Colours need to look right. White should look white, black should look black and all the other colours in-between should accurately represent how things looked when you shot it.

The process of correction looks at each clip individually and helps it to look right, adhering to broadcast guidelines and matching how something was shot.

Making footage match

Every time you shoot from a different angle the lighting changes, the settings on the camera might change or you might be shooting with a different camera. This makes the footage look different.

Compare how pictures look different if they are shot on one phone versus another to see this in action.

The final element of colour correction is making different shots match. Once all clips look right they need to be brought inline with each other. If the colours in one shot don’t match or look right next to the colours in the next shot it can distract the viewer.

Avoiding distraction

Essentially good colour correction will never be noticed. It is about avoiding distraction and allowing the footage to appear as it originally did.

Of course colouring can be used to help tell a story, guide the viewers eye and create artistic effects but this is colour grading and is another discipline altogether.

For more information about Smarter Video take a look here.

Please get in touch and let me know what you would like to learn or read about.

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