PRODUCT: Apple Color
PRICE: Comes free with Final Cut Studio 2, $1,299. Registered users of the current version of Studio can upgrade for $499; registered users from any previous version of Final Cut Pro can upgrade for $699.
- powerful grading toolset
- clean integration with FCP
- over 35 very useable presets
Color 1.0.1, a new program introduced in Apple's Final Cut Studio 2, brings professional color correcting and finishing to the already robust suite. Far more powerful than the basic color correction tools found in the previous version of Final Cut Pro, Color introduces Bezier-based masking and color selection tools, single and multipoint optical tracking, advanced effects and creative color correction capabilities.
Based on the FinalTouch technology acquired from Silicon Color, it was originally developed for the frame-based DPX (Digital Picture Exchange) format commonly used for post production workflows in commercial and feature filmmaking. Color offers a wealth of logically ordered tools that provide color grading access to the masses.
As you'd expect, the interface uses a neutral grey background so as not to detract from the subtle chrominance decisions you are making in your project. As you wouldn't expect, the Color GUI looks nothing like an Apple application. In fact, my first stabs at working with Color, left me feeling totally lost, and not worthy. Something, I know will be fixed in the near future, as Mac users do not like to feel “not worthy.” But, that aside, Apple is really gifting this app to us, by including it in the Studio package, without raising the price. In my book, that cuts them some slack, so we'll see how — with a little more time — the Apple engineers can adapt FinalTouch to a friendlier interface that feels more familiar, and less like a DOS prompt.
Ideally, you'd want to run Color on dual displays, although the entire interface can fit on a single screen of 1680x1050 pixels or greater. This means you can run Color on a single-screen desktop system, a 17-inch MacBook Pro or even one of the higher-end 15-inch MacBook Pros with an external monitor. In a two-screen configuration, one screen displays the working interface while the other shows video and a variety of scopes and measurement tools. For this review I tested color on two MacBook Pros, one with two 23-inch Cinema Displays, and another using a single 30-inch Cinema Display with HD-SDI video out via a Blackmagic card.
Color uses a task-based workflow that is organized logically into eight “rooms,” or workspaces, designed to offer streamlined access to just the tools you need. Start with “Primary In” for foundational grading, then use any other room in any order until you're ready to render through the Render Queue room. The Primary In room is used in every grading project to perform global adjustments on an entire clip or sequence. The primary grade serves as the foundation for applying additional corrections and effects as needed.
Use secondary correction tools to isolate discrete parts of the image for further adjustment. You can track selection areas over time so effects happen precisely where you want them. The Color FX room allows you to apply color transformations and other effects to create a specific look. Quickly adjust the composition of a scene or your entire project in the Geometry/Pan & Scan room. Prepare a 4:3 version of a 16:9 project using preset aspect ratios; or use custom settings for zooms, scaling and rotation. To change the composition of the shot over time, it is easy to designate automatic motion tracking or keyframes.
IN THE TOOLBOX
The tools in Color extend from a familiar timeline, color wheels, and standard scopes to an intuitive new 3D color space scope. Editors will find it easy to use Color because of their experience with Final Cut Pro. Your sequence in Color appears the same way you see it in Final Cut Pro, complete with a customizable multitrack timeline. Bins are used to save settings for later reuse, including Corrections (made in a single room), Grades (made across multiple rooms), Still Store images and custom color effects.
Choose from over 35 color effects included in the app, with some of my favs being Grain Reduction, Film Look, Bleach Bypass and Printer Lights. Apply a single effect or create completely custom effects by chaining effects in a node tree with drag-and-drop ease. Then save your effects for later use. If you want, expand your library even further with third-party plug-ins from leading developers.
Color makes it easy to experiment freely, with or without a client hovering over your shoulder. Apply a grade to an entire sequence, copy and paste grades, and save any grade for reuse or sharing. A professional colorist using Final Cut Studio can create a grade for you on a separate workstation. Then you can import the grade into Color and apply it to your sequences before returning to Final Cut Pro for finishing and output.
Beyond my initial jitters with this app, I quickly discovered its power and place in my post workflow. It's a great way to experiment on the fly with “looks” to enhance your project, or triage footage that needs TLC to save your project. I look forward to some Apple GUI adaptations and better support for third-party video codecs in future revisions. For now, I'll enjoy some of the cool drag-and-drop “canned” effects.