Final Cut – Find/Try the Basic Enhancement Effects

Basic effects from my point of view are color curves, color correction and denoising.  Indeed the test footage I had was in dire need of all these enhancements.  Here, I began seeking how to do a simple levels adjustment, hoping to move on afterwards to S-Curves as in Sony Vegas.  However even for simple levels adjustment the process in FCP turned out not to be as simple as I hoped…  Probably the best solution was FCP’s 3-Way Color Corrector.  Had high hopes for using Apple Color (the application, not a fruit-specific effect) but for some reason FCP’s “Send to Color” option was greyed-out.

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 To begin with, here are some handy tips: 

  • FCP: FCP > User Preferences: Undo Levels -> 99, Recent Clips -> 20 (max poss)
  • Playing the Unrendered: Some kinds of effects cause a red line to appear above the affected part of the timeline, meaning essentially that the effect is so heavy on CPU that it can’t be played in real-time and must first be rendered (e.g. hit Command-R), then the red line disappears and it plays smoothly.   For me, such renders typically take a minute or two – boring and frustrating when all you want to do is experiment with settings etc.  There is however an alternative: Alt-P for “force rendered playback”.  Not so smooth but far less boring.  Reference: []

Now the actual Effects experiments:

  • Levels Adjustment – Attempt 1 (works but awkward): The in-built Levels effect.  This effect is not what I expected – it is a little weird and non-intuitive.  Others agree.  
  • Levels Adjustment – Attempt 2 (easier): Joes Filters [] makes a (commercial) filter with 5-way controls (min & max input & output plus gamma) as in Vegas.  The sliders are tiny and fiddly – but presumably that’s an Apple thing (?)
  • Levels Adjustment – Attempt 3 (failed so far): Apple Color.  That’s reportedly far more sophisticated in capability than FCP’s filters and allegedly [] includes S-curve levels adjustments equivalent to Color Curves as in Sony Vegas. It is advised by some [] to use that instead.   Allegedly [] a good instructional DVD on it is Creative COW Master Series : Stop Staring and Start Grading with Apple Color by Walter Biscardi.
    • So I tried to use Color, as follows: [FCP: (Sequence) > (RtClk) > Send To > Color].  However Color was greyed out (unavailable).  Why?  Color is installed OK and can be started up as an app in its own right.  Tried doing that then “..Send To” it again, but no difference – still greyed-out.
  • Some other people [] had some other difficulties in FCP<>Color exchange.  Though not exactly as mine, it illustrates kind of the fiddly fussiness that can become an issue.
  • Yet others [] suggest instead using the Low/Mid/High levels sliders of the 3-Way Color Corrector to achieve the same effect as an S-Curve.  
    • There is a free tutorial for this at Creative Cow, explaining not only levels adjustment but also my standard “face cropping & vectorscope” method of flesh color correction.  There are plenty more FCP tutorials there of similar calibre.  
    • I tried the 3-Way and yes it is by far the easiest method, very simple and intuitive, though once again the (Apple-standard?) sliders are a bit too small and fiddly.
    • A further advantage of using the 3-Way is that it also in Apple Color and can an even (in some sense) be migrated from FCP to Color, if that’s where you later prefer to work on the grading.
  • Still wish I had a proper interactive S (or Bezier) levels/colors curve effect though…

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