FCP 7: A Fast, Easy Method of Color Correction

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the June, 2004, edition of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.
Updated July, 2004, Feb. 2006, and Dec. 2011 with different

images and including comments from Andrew Balis. ]

Here’s the challenge: you need to color-correct a scene in Final Cut and you don’t have a lot of time or experience.

While there are a number of great articles on the subject, here’s a seven-step quick way to improve your color. It isn’t perfect, but its a WHOLE lot better than doing nothing.

These are the steps:

  1. Put your playhead in the clip you want to color correct and select the clip
  2. Apply the Color-Corrector 3-way filter to the clip
  3. Double-click clip to load it into the Viewer and click the Color Corrector 3-way tab at the top of the Viewer
  4. Select Window > Arrange > Color Correction
  5. Adjust the black levels to 0
  6. Adjust the white levels equal to or less than 100. (I tend to use 97)
  7. Color balance the whites using the eyedropper tool. (Using mid-tones is better, but they are harder to find.)

Voilá. Seven steps to perfection.

Let’s see what this looks like in practice.


Select a shot that needs correction. This one, from “Getting Ready to Fly”, has a scene which is too yellow.



To fix, this, we apply the Color Corrector 3-way filter to the clip. (This is the only color correction filter that works in YUV color space, so it’s the preferred filter to use for video. Plus, it works in real-time on most systems.)


Double click the clip to load it into the Viewer.



Either click the Filters tab in the Viewer, then click the Visual button to display the Color Corrector 3-way filter — or click the Color Corrector tab in the Viewer.



However you decide to select it, the three distinctivecolor wheels that appear represent — from left to right — the black, mid-gray and white color ranges of your image.


Go to Window > Arrange > Color Correction. This opens the video scopes window and arranges everything so you can see the scopes, Timeline, Viewer and Canvas on one screen.



In this example, the black levels are too high, so click the left black level arrow under the Blacks color wheel to bring down the black levels so they are sitting right at 0%. Bringing black levels down helps make an image look richer and more vibrant.


(Digital black levels always set to zero. If you are outputting to Betacam for broadcast, your capture card will raise digital black to the broadcast standard of 7.5 IRE.)



Now, click the white level arrows to adjust the white levels so they are just at 100%. Remember, move gently — don’t just grab and drag the slider!



To help make sure your settings are correct, go to View > Range Check > Excess Luma (Control+Z) and make sure the checkmark symbol in the Canvas stays green. A yellow icon means your white levels are too hot.


For me, I find where the yellow checkmark disappears, then lower the white level by four clicks.


Now that the black and white levels are set (and, by the way, it helps to set them in this order), it’s time to get the colors right.



Change the scope to “Vectorscope,” and click the eyedropper in the Color Corrector next to the far right circle, labeled “Whites.” Use this to select the color in the image you want to adjust to make white.

Andrew Balis prefers to color-correct on mid-grays. When I first wrote this article, I found it easier to color correct on whites. However, after studying this for a few years, Andrew is exactly right. The closer you get to pure white and pure black, the less room you have for color correction. You have the greatest latitude when you color correct on mid-tone gray.


I’ve created several webinars that cover this topic. If you have FCP 7, watch this training. If you have FCP X, watch this episode.


Click the eyedropper on something that should be white in the image, in this case, I used the white paper on the desk. Be sure to select something that is not over-exposed and blooming. (In other words, avoid the sky, light through windows or overexposed sections of your image.)


Notice how the colors have instantly shifted closer to the flesh tone line?

Ta-dah! Instant color correction.

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3 Responses to FCP 7: A Fast, Easy Method of Color Correction

  1. Mike says:

    Larry – Still using FCP 7 as the workhorse editing platform, and this tutorial of yours just did wonders on a 1 hour interview that was suffering from unwanted green tones. Thank you!
    Mike D.

  2. Anmeet says:

    Before colour correction was a tough job for me

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