[ This article was first published in the September, 2009, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]
For the last couple of months, I’ve been conducting seminars around California and one of the segments I’ve been presenting is on filters to improve the look of your video.
Patrick Sheffield, at Sheffield Softworks, sent me some of his filters to showcase at my seminars. There are three that are specifically valuable in retouching:
He also has a variety of other filters which are useful in creating cartoon and graphic novel looks. You can see his full product line here: www.sheffieldsoftworks.com,
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Digital Coverup solves the problem of getting rid of facial blemishes without requiring frame-by-frame retouching in Photoshop.
As their website states:
You first select the color of the blemish, then select the skin tone, and it colors the former to match the latter, along with smoothing if specified. The coverup keys on color, so the color of the blemish must be distinct enough from normal skin-tone for DCU to isolate it.
Digital Coverup can be used for changing the color of and/or smoothing anything you can isolate. It’s been successfully used to change eye color, tone down the highlight on a bald spot, and change the color of a blanket from pink to blue. Need to make your grass greener?
Here’s how it works.
In this example, we have a kid eating a candy cane – with a red bump on her forehead. We want to keep the candy cane, but loose the red bump.
1. Apply the Digital Coverup filter.
2. Double-click the clip to load into the Viewer and select the Filters tab.
3. Click the eyedropper next to Blemish Color and click directly on the blemish. Instantly, you’ll see a white matte effect that illustrates the colors to be modified.
Your goal is to get the white area to JUST cover the blemish and nothing else.
4. In this case, the red of the bump and the child’s skin color were so close, that I twirled down the arrow next to Blemish color and adjusted the HSL settings until I got the best isolation on the red that I could.
This adjustment took me about five minutes before I was happy.
By the time I was done, I tweaked all three HSL levels, plus the Threshold and Edge Feather. Fortunately, the filter provides great feedback on the quality of your matte, so you can see instantly what works and what doesn’t.
5. Change the Show popup menu to Source, to make the matte effect go away.
6. Click the eyedropper next to Skin Color and select the skin color you want to hide the blemish with. In this case, selecting a lighter color made the face go too plastic and pasty. I selected a slightly darker color, closer to the temples.
7. Switch the pop-up back to Final and – poof! – no blemish.
This beats hours of work rotoscoping a clip in Photoshop!
Adjusting this filter reminds me of using the limit effect in the Color Corrector 3-way filter. It takes time to get the right isolation on color you want to remove. But, as long as you take the time, and are gentle with your replacement colors, this does a very nice job cleaning up faces without rotoscoping.
However, the process isn’t instant – so allow yourself 5-15 minutes to get the effect to look right. But the good news is that as long as the color of the blemish doesn’t change, as it would, for example, under different lighting, you can quickly fix an entire clip.
Look Sweet is composed of three filters:
Again, from their website:
Mr. Fixit is the ultimate footage rescue system. What Mr. Fixit does, using some HDR photography techniques, is build the brightest possible shadows and the darkest possible highlights and allow you to mix them back into the original image without affecting the color.
Vibrance+ gives you fine control over saturation and desaturation of your clips – it increases chroma more in the lower saturation areas, so you get a more vibrant image. You can also drag the slider negative to decrease the chroma in higher saturation areas more than lower ones. The “plus” modes are Pastel, which lightens the high chroma areas and makes them pale. And Enhance, which slightly brightens higher chroma areas so can give people an “inner glow”.
Glamour gives your footage the final polish. One user described it as sprinkling gold dust on everything. It’s a combination of sharpening highlights and softening shadows. It can really bring dull DV footage to life.
So, let’s see how these work in practice.
Here’s an image where a professional business woman is lit with flat lighting, with a orange color shift, and her skin tone lacks pop.
I apply Mr. Fixit, and while it improves the detail in the highlights (notice the wall under the ceiling lights) and the shadows (notice the edging around her arm), the effect is too pronounced. In this case, we don’t need the extra detail Mr. Fixit provides.
Let’s remove the filter and apply Vibrance+.
This is a bit more subtle, but much more pleasing.
I created a split screen where the filter effect is on top. Notice how much more saturated and “rich” the skin tones of her face are, compared to her arm.
What I need to do, however, is color correct this clip first to remove the color cast, then apply the Vibrance+ filter.
When I do, the image looks like this. (The effect is on the top.) I like what this filter does and, unlike Digital Cover Up, applying this filter is one-button easy.
Clearly, this filter needs to be done AFTER you do any color correction, or the effect would be lost.
Let’s apply the last of the three filters – Glamour.
This filter sharpens edges, softens shadows, and allows you to darken mid-tones. This is similar to a multi-layer effect using composite modes, but much easier to achieve.
I found the sharpening was a bit too aggressive for my taste, but the Sharpen slider made it very easy to adjust.
The amount of softening, what the filter calls “smoothing”, is also set to look best for a close-up, but by backing the Smooth slider down just a bit, we end up with a very impressive image.
The nice thing about Look Sweet is that by breaking the process of final image enhancement into three filters, you can easily pick the filters you need to improve specific shots.
ELECTRONIC MAKEUP ARTIST
The third filter in this group is the Electronic Makeup Artist.
Again, from the website:
This filter allows the user to select skin-tones and apply smoothing to reduce wrinkles, blemishes, etc. Using various detection algorithms, enough detail can be retained to avoid a ‘blurry’, vaseline lens look.
The idea behind this filter is to isolate a particular color – in this case skin tone – and soften it, without losing the sharpness in non-skin colors – like fabrics and backgrounds.
We can adjust this filter several ways:
You can also select a range then invert it to select everything except that color.
Again, the process of selection is very similar to the Limit Effect filter in the Color Corrector 3-way filter.
Here’s our starting image. I want to smooth the lines in his face, somewhat, without losing the detail in the red fabric of his hat or the hairs in his beard.
After applying the Electronic Makeup Artist filter, the process of selecting the area to smooth begins.
There are four Method’s that this filter uses to determine what to smooth. Labeled Method 1, 2, 3, and 4, you select between them using a pop-up menu. Determining the best method will vary by shot. In this example, Method 1 and 4 yielded the best results.
Here’s how this works:
1. After applying the filter, change the View to Detail Mask. This colors everything to be smoothed white, so you can easily see what you need to adjust.
2. Adjust the Hue Center until you maximize the white covering the skin and minimize it everywhere else.
3. Since every image is different, it will take time to fine tune your settings.
4. After adjusting all the different Hue controls, turning off Luma and Saturation limiting, my final matte looked like this.
5. When I switched the View pop-up back to With Detail, my final image, with smoothing looked like this.
As a comparison, here is a before (left) and after (right).
Look Sweet is a no-brainer. It is easy to use, makes skin tones glow and doesn’t complicate the process with a lot of controls. It integrates easly with color correction filters. It is very cool and is now part of my permanent filter kit.
Digital CoverUp is a solid repair tool for those shots where make-up wasn’t available. Properly used, it can save hours in Photoshop retouching.
Electronic Make-up Artist is a specialized tool. Properly used, it can soften hard edges. But this filter makes it way too easy to over-soften, making skin look plastic, artificial, and stretched. (For example, I really don’t like the effect of the filter illusrated on the Sheffield Softworks website. If you have the option, a warm black ProMist filter on the camera will do a better job. If you don’t, and the client is screaming that “something needs to be done,” this filter is worth a try.
All filters have demo versions – feel free to try them out and let me know what you think.
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