Grading with Color Wheels

Digitalfilms by Oliver Peters

Recently fellow editor Shane Ross and I were discussing the relative merits of grading in Avid Media Composer versus Apple’s FCP or Color, as well as using the Colorista plug-in. Our conversation got down to how each treated the image when you used the color wheels. After I did a quick test, it was obvious that FCP and Avid don’t process the image in quite the same way, even when you push what appears to be the equivalent control in the same direction. So I decided to dig a bit deeper.

The so-called “color wheels” (also called hue offset controls) are separate color balance controls for the shadow, midrange and highlight portions of the image. When you want to effect a change, such as make an image less red, you push the appropriate control in the opposite direction of red-yellow – towards the blue-cyan segment of the control. In addition to low/mid/high ranges, some applications also add an overall “master” balance control for the entire image.

The concept of these tools grew out of early “video shading” controls in studio cameras and color correction systems like DaVinci. To my knowledge, the first actual use of software color wheels originally appeared in Avid Symphony a decade ago. read more...

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