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Chapter 5. Color Correction
I cannot pretend to be impartial about the colors. I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am
genuinely sorry for the poor browns.
—Winston Churchill
What is the pinnacle, the sunnum bonum, or (dont speak Latin?) the ultimate achievement for a compositor?
Pulling the perfect matte? Creating a convincing effect seemingly from nothing? Leaving the last doughnut at
dailies for the effects supervisor? Those are all significant, but none is as essential as the ability to authoritatively
and conclusively take control of color, such that foreground and background elements seem to inhabit the same
world, shots from a sequence are consistent with one another, and the overall look matches the artistic direction
of the project.
Without color correction skills, you will not have earned the privilege of the compositor to be the last one to
touch the shot before it goes into the edit. No matter how good your source elements are, theyll never appear
to have been shot all at once by a real camera.
With this skill, however, you can begin to perform magic, injecting life, clarity, and drama into standard (or
even substandard) 3D output, adequately (or even poorly) shot footage, and flat, monochromatic stills, drawing
the audiences attention exactly where the director wants it to go, and seamlessly matching the other shots in
the sequence.
Is this some sort of pure art, requiring that you have a good eye or some other capability no one can teach you?
Of course not. Its a skill that you can practice and refine even if you have no feel for adjusting imagesindeed,
even if you consider yourself color blind.
And what is the latest, greatest toolset for this lofty job? For the most part, it is a trio of tools that have been part
of After Effects and Photoshop practically since day one: Levels, Curves, and Hue/Saturation. You will use
other tools in the Color Correction category in other situations, but for basic effects composites these no frills
tools endure, and with good reason: They are stable and fast, and they will get the job done every timeonce
you fully understand how to use them.
If you remain skeptical, you may be asking:
Why are we still using the same old tools, found in Photoshop since even before After Effects existed, when
there seem to be so many cool newer ones such as Color Finesse and Auto Color?
If Im adjusting brightness and contrast, shouldnt I use the Brightness & Contrast effect, or Shadow and
Highlight if its the shadows and highlights I want to adjust?

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