Getting your color and exposure right can be really challenging, especially if you are tight for time. Mixed light sources, changing color temperatures, the hundreds of permutation of camera settings and picture profiles that are now available and the inbuilt ‘color-science’ of your chosen camera all add up to some tricky mental math.
Sometimes as things become more advanced they become more complex and with that more opportunity for error. Shooting raw may be the answer but that also brings with it a host of other challenges including data storage and increased edit time. Raw should also not be seen as a get-out-of-jail-free card for faultless shooting.
Caleb at DSLR Video Shooter is a great YouTuber, let’s find out a little about his solution.
An Xrite color checker is an invaluable tool and I have one myself in my kit-bag at all times. It feels like quite an expense for such a simple little thing but it is specifically calibrated for video shooting. It includes white/black chips, color chips, and skin tone chips.
The back side has a focus chart and white balance card. I have never used the focus chart on shoots but sometimes to check the lenses I am using before going out and the white card is a little small for setting a custom white balance. If you are using it for post white correction, then I use the other side.
So, how does it work?
Caleb & the Xrite
Once you have your shot set-up, place the card into your shot, record a little and move it out of the way. If anything in your shot significantly changes, i.e. a new light comes on, you move something, then you will have to re-shoot your card.
Tilting the card to make sure you get a clean shot of it (the black chips are reflective so need to be shot without a shine) should mean to get a usable color checker chart for your edit.
Once in the edit, an app like Color Finale can be used to beautifully line up your color checker with corresponding dots to accurately apply a color correction to fix, for example, an incorrect white balance.
Color Finale is a great app, and not too pricey. I used to have it on all the time but as a FCPX user I have been using it less recently as Apple have added almost all its’ features into the stock FCPX software. Sometimes I have found it to be slow to update with FCPX and then a little buggy and this has caused me some major headaches in edits. The company are responsive and Denver Riddle there seems like a really good guy with great color correction knowledge so it is well worth a look.
Worth noting is that Caleb corrects exposure before color. This is a good idea as the exposure correction will affect the color. Using the scopes to really look deep into your shot is something I highly recommend.
There are a few methods for correcting the color and a number of tools will do the job. Isolating different parts of the color checker card and zooming in can make this easier and using the scopes certainly will. There is also the automatic mode that can do a lot of the work for you.
Adjusting color is where this tool becomes really fun. I use this to look at the color of my camera, lenses, ND filters etc and how different choices affect the colors in my image. It can be quite eye-opening. Using the Hue / Saturation curves to manipulate specific colors is great fun!
The Color Checker is a really valuable tool and it can give you some fantastic insights into the images you are capturing. Is it practical to use all the time – probably not, especially if you are a run-and-gun shooter. It will add post-production time but that could be time well spent if it means saving a bad shot. Shooting in Log or Raw will give you even more options but this little chart can be apparently a lifesaver.