The advent of Apple Color in Final Cut Pro has made professional colour grading available to a broader range of film editors. Dado Valentic shows how to grade a music promo using Color.

Every movie, TV show, music video and commercial has been colour-corrected or graded. In most cases, this has been done for image-legalization reasons, but colour correction offers more.

In simple terms, colour correction brings enhancements that adds to the emphasis and meaning of images. Colour increases production value greatly.

Colour correction is the most expensive part of the post-production process. Until now, the tools required for colour correction, have been expensive and few in number.

This situation changed when, with the advent of digital cinema cameras, Apple purchased Silicon Color, re-released its software under the new name Color and bundled it with Final Cut Studio 2. Thus opening up professional-level colour grading to all.

Yet as an application created for professional artists, Color’s lack of presets and learning tools means FCP users may find it hard to get to grips with its feature set.

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to make the most of Color and create cool looks for your music video project in just a few simple steps.

01. The easiest way to open a sequence in Color is to do so from Final Cut Pro using command Send to Color. Your project should automatically open in Color.

Once opened, go first to Setup Room and Project Settings tab. Here, we first need to set Render Directory, which should be on a fast media drive; QuickTime export format as Output Format (ideally uncompressed or ProRes); and since we are outputting for TV, switch on Broadcast Safe. Set Ceiling IRE to 90 and Composite Limit to 95.

02. Make sure that Limit Shadow is on and internal pixel processing is set to 32-bit floating.

03. First, we will start by balancing the image in Primary In. Click on Luminance setting for the shadows (third bar) and drag with your mouse down, looking at the RGB Parade. The darkest parts of the image should just be touching the 0 point mark.

04. Click-&-drag highlight Luminance, watching the Histogram. You should have enough detail in mid tones and highlights without clipping the highlights too much in the RGB Parade.

05. Drag the Primary midtone ‘ball’ into direction of warm colours. This time judge by monitoring your image on your reference monitor: ideally, you should give the image enough warmth without distorting skintones too much.

06. We’re going to desaturate the image slightly and move saturation to 0.8.

07. Next, switch to the Color FX tab. Drag-&-drop the Bleach Bypass operator onto the FX stage. This FX will give us the desired filmic look of reverse stock that’s regularly used on music video productions.

08. As the image seems to be too ‘hot’we’ll drag the Exposure Operator and drop it just above Bleach Bypass node and connect its output to Bleach Bypass Input. By adjusting Exposure to -0.1, we will be able to correct the Bleach Bypass FX output. It should still preserve enough detail in highlights and shadows to not look washed out.

09. In order to recover some detail in the shadows, we’ll add a Lift node just after Bleach Bypass and set it to 0.05.

10. Next, we can go about creating a slight glow effect. Drag and drop HSL Key to the stage. Switch off Hue and Saturation Controls and set Luminance controls so that you’re able to isolate just the highlights. The result should be something like this.

11. Add blur by connecting the output of HSL node to the input of a Blur node and setting blur to 8.0. Next, add the Add node and connect Blur Output to Left Input while leaving parameters of Add the way they are.

12. Since we want to limit glow FX only on the outside border of the image, we shall create a Vignette node. Set parameters to size 2.8; Aspect 1.14; Softness 0.05.

13. Add an Alpha Blend node and connect it as in the image above. Lift Output to Input 2, Add Output to Input 1 and Vignette to Alpha In. The next step is to connect Alpha Blend Output to Output node.

14. You should be getting a healthy looking RGB Parade with the full spectrum represented. There should be no heavy clipping in shadows or highlights area. Also, your Histogram should be free of any heavy clippings. If necessary, use Primary Out to correct your output image.

15. In order to duplicate this FX room setting to more clips in the sequence, go to Setup > ShotsSelect all clips that you wish to copy the setting to by clicking and pressing Shift. Switch to the icon view and press G. This will create a Group.

Now drag the CFX bar from the time line and drop it on the group icon. The next step would be to correct Primary settings for each clip individually and possibly isolate portions of image by using Secondaries. Add them to the render queue, then choose Render and send back to Final Cut Pro.


01. One important thing to keep in mind if you’re coming to Color from another tool, Color doesn’t respond the way other applications do when it comes to key frames and masks. Remember that you have to add your keyframe first, then adjust your mask.

02. A little-known feature is that Color can update Scopes during playback. To enable this handy feature, Setup > User Preferences, select Update UI During Playback and Update Secondary Display.

Who: Dado Valentic is a colourist and online editor working for the D-Cinema facility Mytherapy in London. He started out with Apple in 1998 and later worked for Sony Broadcast and Professional Europe in technical support and development of NLEs. His technical background and traditional filmmaking skills has seen him gain a strong reputation in the post-production industry.
Software: Apple Color
Time to complete: 2 hours