How to Grade S-Log and Cine4 Footage in FCPX Using Curves

Color grading video captured with Sony’s proprietary picture profiles can be pretty hectic, especially for new editors. This is mainly because both S-Log and Cine4 produce extremely flat-looking footage that requires a decent amount of time to process in post.

However, when it comes to grading clips using Sony picture profiles, many folks often forget to take advantage of one simple, yet powerful tool – curves. In the next video, Harv of Harv Video/Audio Stuff explains how to properly grade S-Log and Cine4 footage in Final Cut Pro X, primarily using the curves tool.

According to Harv, utilizing curves when color grading allows you to add contrast that can emphasize facial and background features in a way that the typical contrast adjustment slider just can’t do. In other words, curves enable you to manipulate shadow, midtone, and highlight areas of the frame more precisely by selecting and adjusting specific points across the entire image.

Whether you’re using S-Log or Cine4, the first step into properly grading your footage would be to apply a LUT that converts the colors of your clip from whatever picture profile you’re using to the standard Rec. 709 color space – i.e., Cine4 to Rec. 709 or S-Log (2/3) to Rec. 709. Once the LUT is applied, Harv suggests decreasing the intensity of the effect to 50%.

Afterward, you can use the color wheels to make any minor color corrections. For instance, you may want to reduce the green or magenta tints synonymous with most Sony footage. Alternatively, you could use the color wheels to tweak the colors of the shadows, midtones, and highlights to whatever aesthetic you wish.

The last step would be to go to the Master curve tool and create several control points along the Curves line. Depending on your shot, feel free to play around with the highlights, midtones, and shadows to emphasize the appropriate areas of your image.

A great example in that regard would be the shot above. By increasing the brightness in the highlight region, while slightly crushing the shadows in the process, Harv was able to create emphasis on the background lines as well as the talent’s face all at the same time.

When using the curves, however, it’s important to be careful not to break your image, especially if you’re working with 8-bit footage. For example, when filming with Cine4, you may notice banding and artifacts if you are not careful and you bump up the highlights too much.

Beyond any doubt, Sony’s picture profiles are tricky to work with in post. However, by understanding the color tools available in your NLE, and particularly the curves tool, you can attain greater control over the captured images, thus taking your bland-looking video into a polished cinematic masterpiece in no time.

[source: Harv Video/Audio Stuff]

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