Digital innovations and Filmmaking -

Monday, October 24, 2011

Color Grading and Denoising with FCPX and Avidemux

What do you do to create the best possible image in post?

DSLR cameras like the Canon 5D Mark II are changing the way people look at HD acquisition, but be careful, the camera doesn't do everything. Many people, both professionals and amateurs, buy a 5D to get the "film look". How do I get the "film look" is the lingering question. The 5D is a good basis but it doesn't do it itself! You need a story and many technical stuff, 24 frames per second shooting, good composition, shallow depth of field, professional lighting, camera equipment, prime lenses... The list is bigger but my point today is that one thing is often missing : Color Grading!

Color Grading is an important piece of the puzzle to create the illusive cinematic "film look" with DSLR cameras! I will show you how I have started making minor tweaks to the colors of my images to get clear shots. It is not the perfect way, it is just my own experience and it works for me.

First of all, the Color Grading process begins while shooting! You need to take the creative control of your camera. Grading is when you choose a look for your film. It's better to choose the look in post-production and apply that throughout to get an unified artistic vision. You will have greater flexibility in color grading by shooting flat with the Technicolor Cinestyle picture style. CineStyle works with all Canon DSLRs but it was clearly aimed at perfecting the Canon 5D Mark II specifically. CineStyle optimizes the dynamic range in the image by leveraging the capabilities of the Canon imaging chipset. It is well-known that it helps to maximize shadow details without hurting tonal range. Technicolor CineStyle comes with more noise, but it doesn't matter, you can use a denoiser after the color correction step. Let's continue the process!

The image is not as beautiful coming out of the camera but you will have something far more beautiful at the end of the color grading workflow. I edited my last short films Russian Sandglass and Barely Legal Stories in FCPX and I love the way you can make adjustments to the colors. You have an independent control of the shadows, midtones and highlights during all the process (color balancing, brightness / contrast and saturation adjustments).

Let's go further! What is the best workflow? What is the most efficient way to work with color correction in NLE softwares like FCPX? You know what... here is the perfect resource for you! You probably know the Color Grading Central web site. If not... It's not too late, this is by far the best free tutorial I've ever seen on this subject. It takes only 30 minutes to watch all the videos. If you don't have the time, just watch the 2 following videos. It will make you want to see the complete color grading training.

In the next video Denver Riddle talks about the workflow that top colorists use. It’s important to have an ordered systematic approach to your grading so you don’t get lost and end up making your image look "muddy" because you’ve lost track where you’re at. 

I use the same workflow all the time : setting focus exposure > setting dynamic range > color balancing > shot-to-shot matching > looks building. Technicolor CineStyle helps to get the best dynamic range. You have more latitude when you set the proper exposure correction between 0 and 100 on the waveform scope of each specific shot.

Editing in FCPX is really a good experience but I had many problems to get the best result as possible (clear shots) only with FCPX and Compressor (which is just unusable for me at this time). I have always an Avidemux step in my workflow. Avidemux is an open source project with many cool editing features. For instance, I like to apply my last gama correction in Avidemux with a filter called "Mplayer eq2" and my favorite companion is a filter called "Mplayer Hqdn3d" to remove the noise at the end of the process (very useful with the CineStyle).

I hope it could help make things look better than they really are. Don't hesitate to give your opinion and to share your workflow. What do you do to create the best possible image in post?


  1. Really i appreciate the effort you made to share the knowledge.The topic here i found was really effective to the topic which i was researching for a long time
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  2. Thank you for the feedback and the link ;-)

  3. You have no idea how long I've been trying to find the solution to fix my lack of a denoiser or s-curve in FCPX. I kept telling myself that there's no way I'm the only one with these problems. Having Lion's been a pain in the ass, I didn't want to have to partition my HDD in order to install Snow Leopard and FCP 7 JUST to be able to denoise my clips and adjust the s-curve to get all the info back from CineStyle.

    Your posts saved the day. I'm so pumped about Avidemux and DSLR Log2Video--you're really the only one I've found on the web who has recognized both those shortcomings for FCPX and offered real solutions. KEEP POSTING!

  4. Thanks a lot for these advises. Can you tell something about the video codecs? How to export from FCPX and what to choose in avidemux if want the best results for HD and vimeo? I'm a bit new with these things.. Thanks anyway!!

  5. Avidemux won't open .mov so prores is out of the question. What settings do you use to output a FCPX project to avidemux for noise reduction?

  6. It depends... H.264 if my target is Vimeo... I think that I have already had the same issue with ProRes422 in the last version of avidemux

  7. I wasn't able to get H.264 to work. In my testing I was able to get Mpeg-2 4:2:2 to import, but I'm wondering what visual impact will be of compressing twice. It is too bad avidemux does not accept uncompressed fcpx output, or at least ProRes422 HQ.

  8. Writing
    Thanks a lot for these advises. Can you tell something about the video codecs? How to export from FCPX and what to choose in avidemux if want the best results for HD and vimeo? I'm a bit new with these things:)

  9. It is not the perfect way, it is just my own experience and it works for me.

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  11. Neat Video is now available for FCPX, so it seems to be the best way to go ;-)

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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