How often do you end up spending way more time than you intended trying to get just the right color correction for your shots? It’s a well-known problem many editors have. With the digital arena and the endless amount of tools available, you could spend hours, days, weeks, months editing your video so everything looks exactly perfect. You can also spend endless amounts of time tweaking the settings here and there just because you can do so at no cost. A big part of filmmaking is having an eye for what looks good and all the best directors, editors, and cinematographers have this eye. The problem is, they are getting paid lots of money to stress over tiny details and make their film perfect. For those of us who may be on a deadline and don’t want to spend 13 days on a 14-day project editing every shot to get just the right color correction, there is a trick you can do in Adobe Premiere to get solid looking color correction very quickly without having to do much.
For this post, I will be working with some footage I shot of my cat using my Canon Rebel T2i with the standard 15-55mm lens. Footage was shot in 30 FPS at 1080p with low saturation and contrast.
Here’s a still frame of Buster, my cat, before and after.
The after image was lightly touched up to make things a bit darker to give it more of a cinematic look. This was done in less than one minute using a quick color-correction trick a friend of mine used to use when we would make short films. I have not modified the brightness of the shot yet so it may look a bit dark.
Let’s jump into the procedure. First thing’s first, open up Premiere Pro CS5 (that’s the version I’m used to using. I am unsure if this works in other versions) and create yourself a new project with an appropriate sequencer.
Now, go to your media browser at the bottom-left of your workspace and find your video file you want to work with and drag it into the Project Window at the top-left.
Once your video is in the project window, drag it into the sequencer:
Now that you have the clip in your sequencer, cut it up however you want to. Once that’s done, highlight the video in your sequence and copy it (Ctrl + C or Edit → Copy). Now, move the marker somewhere to the right of your original video and then paste it (Ctrl + V or Edit → Paste). Your sequencer should now look like this:
Now, right-click on the copy that you made and click “Unlink”. This will separate the audio and the video so they can be moved individually from one another. You will want to click on the audio track and delete it. The reason for this is because we will be doubling up the video. If the audio doubles up, then you will introduce unwanted phasing into the audio.
Now that the audio is deleted and you have your copied video by itself, you want to drag and drop it on the “Video 2” track at the same exact starting point as your original clip, as seen here:
Always make sure that your video channels are synced up exactly on time. Remember, you are dealing with two overlapping videos. If one of them is a few seconds or even milliseconds off, you may notice a slight blur effect due to the images being out of sync.
Now we’re almost done. Once you are positive that the timing is matched up exactly, go ahead and click on the video that is on the “Video 2” channel. Upon doing so, you will see the “Effects Control” come up just above the sequencer. On this window, click the drop-down for opacity as seen here:
First of all, click on the little alarm clock icon next to the words “Opacity” to disable the animation toggle. I’ve run into lots of issues when this is enabled. If it asks you to delete key frames go ahead and click “Yes”. Now, click the Drop-Down next to “Blend Mode” and choose “Overlay”. You will see your output image get some added contrast and saturation. In my opinion, the overlay is a bit overpowering. If I want to tone it down a bit, I just modify the amount by double-clicking the 100.0% next to the “Opacity” text and putting in a new percentage. I can also left-click and hold my mouse on it and move it up or down, left or right and make it change. The lower the percentage, the less intensity there will be in the color correction.
If the overlay option doesn’t appeal to you, then try some of the other options listed under “Blend Mode”. I personally enjoy the “Soft Light” setting.
That’s all there is to it. Sure, it’s not full-on color correction but if you’re on a time-crunch and need to have a finished product quickly; this is a great trick to use to get a very basic cinematic/professional look without much tweaking. My friend and I had a month for pre-production, principle photography, and post-production of a short film we were working on for a student project. We employed this trick extensively for the final product as we only had 2-3 days for editing and it worked out rather well. We only used a three-way color corrector on the shots that we felt absolutely needed it. You can see the final product here: http://youtu.be/2098TO8R41Q?hd=1. Hopefully that gives you an idea of what can be done using this trick.
Even if you still want to utilize normal color correction, I find that this is a good way to add something extra to your shot. Maybe your original color-corrected clip looks great by itself. It’s worth a shot to try adding the second video with a certain overlay on it and see if it makes your shot look even better. Beyond the Opacity/Overlay features, doubling up your shots and putting different effects on each one is a practice that can open up a world of possibilities for you. I could spend all day messing around with this kind of setup and seeing what I can get out of it.
This trick can also be done in Final Cut Pro. However, I do not use Final Cut Pro regularly so I do not know the entire workflow. I imagine that it is very similar to the process described above though.
I hope this has been helpful. That being said: get out there and make some movies! Need software but short on cash? Enter contest to win a free software shopping spree!
Author: Mark Philipp