How to Color Grade S-Log 3 Footage in FCP X

Despite its flat color and contrast aesthetic, Sony’s proprietary picture profile S-Log 3 is well known for its flexibility when it comes to color grading. While the profile definitely has certain advantages, its main difficulty is that it may be tricky to actually work with, especially for those who have just started shooting and editing with S-Log, or any other log profile for that matter. While the image may appear unpleasingly bland, this is necessary since a lot of data is preserved in the shot, making it easier to dial in the exact look you’re aiming to achieve.

Thankfully, Daniel Schiffer has created a well-made guide on how to grade S-Log 3 footage in Final Cut Pro X. While he may be working specifically with S-Log 3 in the tutorial below, keep in mind that these techniques can be used when shooting with virtually any other log profile available out there.

Once you’ve added your clip to the timeline, you’ll need to use the “Color Finale Pro” effect to adjust the exposure of your shot. Drag the effect onto your clip and then click on Open Controls. To aid you in setting your exposure, activate your scopes by pressing “Command + 7”. Set the scope to Waveform and then to the Luma Channel.

Next, add the color wheels effect to your clip and drag the Lift/Shadows downward until the waveform on the scope almost reaches the 0 value. After that, move the Gain/Highlights slider upwards slightly until the waveform barely gets to the 100 value. You should see a significant improvement in the exposure of the shot just after this initial adjustment.

The next step is to fix your white balance. On the Gain/Highlights color wheel, move the center target of the wheel to a color that will counter the dominant color in your shot. For instance, if the image looks too blue/cool, drag the gain slightly into the yellow/orange area to give it a warmer tone.

In order to restore the vibrance of the colors in your shot, adjust the saturation slider. The higher the value, the more saturated your image will be so it will depend on your preference as to how much saturation you’d want to apply.

At this point, you should be able to get a shot that is much more balanced and aesthetically pleasing than before the adjustments were made. You could leave your video as it is but if you want to add some creative flair to your work, you can try playing around with vectors and curves.

Vectors allow you to select a particular color and individual adjust its hue, saturation, and luminosity. This is especially helpful when there is a specific color that you want to emphasize on. In this particular case, Daniel uses the vector color tool to make yellow under-glow below the counter appear warmer than it initially looked on-camera.

Curves, on the other hand, can be utilized as a more detailed way to adjust the highlights, midtones, and shadow areas of your shot. In the tutorial, Daniel created an S-shaped curved on the Master Curve in order to balance out the midtones and bring up the shadows slightly.

He also created a separate curves layer and brought up the highlights in the blue curves to change the color of the outside light to a cooler tone, adding an interesting color-contrast effect between the warmth of the under glow light and the cool outdoors.


Now that you understand the basic functionality of each tool discussed don’t hesitate to adjust the settings to get the exact look you feel fits your shot. As a quick tip, if you want to make your workflow more efficient, you could save your settings as a preset, so if you need to color grade in a short period of time, it’s only a matter of dragging and dropping your preset and adjusting any settings if needed.

[source: Daniel Schiffer]

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