Using Final Cut Pro X for Quick Color Correction

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Yesterday I had a really hard time getting a project in to Black Magic’s DaVinci Resolve (lots of mixed media, QTDecoder bug which I still haven’t figured out, but I think it has to do with H.264 media from a Canon 5DMKIII). I don’t have the time to troubleshoot right now, so I decided to brave the FCPX color correction avenue (because that’s what the project was cut in). It’s not as robust as DaVinci, but you can still do a lot—Much more than I initially thought. Unsurprisingly, Apple’s take on color correction is just as distant from the norm as FCPX is for editing.


Color correction "classic"
Color Correction “classic” (DaVinci Resolve)


It's like the original iMac's silly one-click mouse...sleek, shiny, and frustrating.
Apple’s new color correction method—It’s like the original iMac’s silly one-click mouse…sleek, shiny, and frustrating. (FCPX)



First thing to know: You’ll be moving pucks around. A lot. And it’s still not fun (when doing your primary correction). If you’ve ever opened FCPX up, you’ve probably seen them. One for highlights, mid tones, shadows, and global. I prefer the 3-color wheels, as is common throughout post production applications. This is possible with some third-party plugins (FilmConvert being one of them), but I’d rather just be in DaVinci (when it works).


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These color correction wheels are a little difficult to work with…but still a good effort.


As for the pucks in FCPX, they do actually become a pleasant surprise to use when adjusting specific hue v hue/hue v luma/hue v saturation scenarios. As you can see in the examples below (check out that sweet .gif I finally figured out how to make!), changing specific hue properties in DaVinci Resolve is a powerful and easy process. The best way I’ve found to mimic this usage in FCPX is to apply color masks, which can be a surprisingly powerful tool. It’s easy to add or subtract a range from a color mask select (by holding shift or option while you have the droplet tool selected on a new color correction level).


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Oops, I’m getting too much of the shorts along with the green trees…that’s what you get for shooting 8bit 4:2:0 and color correcting in an editing application!


If you have a decent GPU, it’s not a problem to keep stacking these color corrections. It does start to get disorganized very quickly though. In DaVinci you can create many ‘nodes,’ and arrange them graphically in a flow chart representation. But FCPX is limited to a simplified version. You also don’t need to create a new instance or node every time you want to adjust a hue in DaVinci, so you can see where FCPX is really for just a few minor touch ups—it’s not great for organization, creating ‘looks,’ or dealing with any higher-end color correction abilities (nodes interacting, and other complex stuff that’s way over my head).


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This is how you adjust hue specifics in DaVinci…pretty simple.


When it comes to hotkeys, I’ve found that FCPX is what you make of it. You can assign a toggle for color correction (hidden deep within the keyboard prefs, option+command+k) which is pretty essential. I set it to Command+D to emulate DaVinci’s disable feature (though it overwrote something, but I’m not really an editor, so I was throwing caution to the wind—stuff gets crazy in post-production). Command+7 will get you your video scopes (which are actually pretty nice), Command+6 brings up the color correction palette, and control+tab will toggle color/sat/luma tabs. They’re pretty handy shortcuts (you can see the workflow in the gif below).




You could write a really rather lengthy book on DaVinci Resolve, but when it comes to FCPX’s color correction abilities, you’d be looking at more of a pamphlet at best. I still get caught up on small things that shouldn’t be an issue—like when you make a shape mask, you have to go to the very bottom of the color correction pane to toggle “inside” and “outside”…you’ll definitely miss that the first few times. Still, it’s more powerful than you think. It’s no Color (the color correction application that used to be bundled with Final Cut Studio), but for a really quick turn around, it should get you most of the way there—just don’t expect to be using power windows on this bad boy.


Look at all that sweet, sweet real estate!
Look at all that sweet, sweet real estate!