Video Color Correction For The Subtext-Conscious Editor

As a standard process within most edits, video color correction is far more than a means to fix exposure issues or even up tones between shots, although that is, of course, its most obvious application. It is important to remember that coloration can and does affect mood, theme and other subtextual elements of the storyline. It is also a means of attracting the eye to important props, characters and other visual elements. Most people realize that the artful handling of composition, light and motion can elicit emotive and psychological reactions from the viewer, what most people miss, however, is that the clever manipulation of color can do the same.

Good directors of photography must maintain a careful balance of aesthetic convention, shooting style and technical considerations with the piece's symbolism, theme and narrative. Every element must harmonize with the next in order to support the director's vision, the production design and the script. Good video editors must do the same with the elements of their craft: pace, continuity, movement, audio and color. Content, director-instruction and overall quality are the just a few important factors to consider in the decision-making process.

As the most basic function of color correcting, fixing image problems is still crucial. Variable or incorrect white balances, bad or inconsistent lighting and numerous other conditions, due to error or circumstance, contribute towards problematic footage. Documentary, news gathering and other live-event non-fiction projects are especially prone to these issues, as most footage is gathered in the field, with lighting, subject-movement, weather etc. Out of the cameraperson's control.

Image problems also tend to occur more frequently in low-budget productions, where camera gear and lighting equipment rental may be constrained. However they happen, image problems need to be fixed and coloration continuity errors solved before moving into advanced colorization.

Once those basics are covered, the art of colorization comes into play. Color has meaning. In nature, it can indicate danger or toxicity, ripeness, fertility, seasonal shifts, etc. Human beings imbue it with the full gamut of our species' emotional range - jealousy is green, cowardice yellow, anger red, and so on.

Common elements of our daily life have created general psychological associations also, and these are almost always highly contextual - a red rose on a table for two communicates romance, a red exclamation point on a computer says 'error', a red light on the road means 'stop', and so on. When enhancing, adding or otherwise manipulating subtext with video color correction, paying heed to natural/primal reactions, psychological associations and socialized connotations is crucial.

Snow White's gleaming red poisoned apple grabs our attention immediately and evokes dread and anxiety at what we know is coming. We know when Neo's in the Matrix by that green tint and we start worrying that agents are on their way. The world glows with golden light when the hero kisses the leading lady and we know they will live happily ever after. Hogwarts is so much more vibrant than the Muggle world, you can almost feel the magic. Video color correction can be a powerful story-telling tool.

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Filmmaking, Post-Production


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