Real estate video color correction made easy
(DIFFICULTY LEVEL: EASY) If you are shooting your first videos and wonder why they don't look as great as your favorite movies and tv shows, the reason is likely color correction (more correctly known as color grading). Now, you might be surprised that I'm not going to simply record a video of my process, but rather I will give a simple formula that you can quickly scan and refer to as you need to. I find that tutorial videos are opaque, because I have to commit to watching the entire video to find out if I can use or learn anything from it. I would prefer to take 15 seconds to scan a tutorial to understand if it might be of use to me, then I don't mind spending the time to study it closely.
The first steps to getting great looking shots is setting up your camera correctly. It is important to understand the functions of ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, Compression, etc. and below I'll briefly go over a few settings.
When shooting a video you want to use an ISO at the slowest setting (lowest number) because it keeps the sensor open to light the longest which creates the least amount of digital noise. Except in extreme conditions, I shoot between ISO 100 and ISO 800. This allows me to expose the shot correctly and minimize the noise. The photo above was taken with a Canon 70D and shows very good quality up to an ISO of 3200.
When shooting architectural or real estate properties for PalbergWERX Creative Direction, I use a medium aperture (F-stop). This allows me to have the greatest focal range before the image is degraded too far.
Each lens has its limits and the only way to know the limits of your lens is to test it against a variety of aperture settings. Shown above is a Nikon 50mm lens test shot with 4 different apertures settings.
Here we don't have many options simply because we are shooting video and not still images. You should be shooting at 30fps / 1920x1080 (actually 29.97 frames per second) so, set your shutter speed to 1/60 and forget about it. You can read more about 30fps vs 24fps here. If your camera has the option to shoot 60fps for slow motion shots, then you would change your shutter speed to 1/120.
I won't go into detail about the various compression algorithms used by different manufacturers, but set yours to the least compression possible to attempt to preserve the quality during post production editing. In the case of Canon that is the ALL-1 setting (NOT jpeg).
Camera picture style settings
Here things get interesting. At the very least you should set your sharpness to the minimum, your contrast to zero, your saturation to zero and color tone to zero. The reason for this is that your camera will introduce artificial detail and sharpness that cannot be fixed afterwards - you can always increase the sharpness of your image afterwards in a way that will make the final shot much more pleasing to the eye. NOTE: If you are technically inclined, you might choose to add the Cinestyle camera presets and LUT (look up table) presets. You can download the camera settings for Canon for free here and the site has downloads for many other popular camera models as well.
That's it for the camera settings - remember to shoot with reasonably well lit areas and you should capture good shots ready to edit.
TIP: When shooting, use a calibrated exposure disc so that you can fix any color cast issues in editing. These are a bit expensive, but they make editing so much quicker and more accurate.
Once you've downloaded your footage to your computer, you need to set up your editing software. I will be focusing on Adobe Premiere, however the techniques are applicable to Final Cut and other software.
Initially you need to set your project to the same dimensions of your footage. Choose the 1080p preset (1920x1080 pixels). Import your footage into the project and let's get ready to edit.
Tonality (brightness and contrast)
When you look at any footage in the timeline, it will not be accurate or you may be color blind. Did you know 20% of males have some form of color blindness? So, it is not a good practice to edit by visual cues only as there are numerous factors that contribute to inaccurate images. The best way to edit is to open up one of two calibrated video monitors. The YC waveform monitor is to first adjust the tone of your image. Tone is defined by the highlights, midtones and darks. The YC waveform monitor analysis your footage and gives you a graphic representation of the tones in any footage.
After it is open, uncheck the 'Setup' and the 'Chroma'.
Our goal is to get more picture information by moving the highlights to approximately 5% and the darks to approximately 95%. These are identified on the waveform graph lines on the left side.
Now, open the video effects folder and get the 'Fast Color Corrector'. Add this to your clip and here we will do our editing adjustments for tone while watching the waveform monitor to see how it is affected.
Here we will move the sliders of the input levels, which corresponds to the darks, mids and lights from left to right. Begin with the lights on the right and move the slider leftwards until the waveform green color touches the 5% line.
The output levels are only necessary to adjust if you have an image that touches the 0% white or the 100% black, then we would move the slider to bring those waves back down so that the image is not blown out or completely black with no detail.
Above you can see the footage in a split screen as well as the corresponding waveforms of both split screens and at the bottom the input/output levels sliders as they were adjusted for the correct left hand screen. The left hand waveform is now broader and the result is an image with wider image information and more detail. Often times just adjusting the tonality will correct the color cast, or at least leave it in a range that is pleasing to the eye.
Color adjustments (color and saturation)
Next we need to adjust any issues there may be with color. Open the Vector Scope, found in the same menu as the YC-waveform monitor. Here the Vector scope analyses the image and tells us if there is a color cast and I've identified the corresponding locations on the Fast Corrector color wheel.
In the case of the left hand image below, the shot was indoors and very yellow/red.
Grab the center of the color wheel icon and drag it in the opposite direction of the yellow/red cast. You will see the Vectorscope update and the green trace moving in the same direction The image will lose it's color cast and move to a neutral tone.