We welcome Matt Madrid for a guest blog about his experience with X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. Matt is a Video Editor and Videographer in Phoenix, AZ. He graduated from Arizona State University’s Film and Media Production School in 2011, and worked at Snapfactory with photographer and educator Mark Wallace until 2014. Matt is now a freelance Editor and Videographer as well as a hobbyist photographer. He lives in the Phoenix area with his wife Catherine. Learn more about Matt on his new blog at www.mattmadridmedia.com.
How 15 Minutes with the ColorChecker Passport Changed the Way I Work
by Matt Madrid, Videographer/Editor, Phoenix, AZ
Having worked in a studio as a videographer and editor for a few years the ColorChecker was always one of the tools that photographers used when photographing people. It was one of those tools that, maybe someday, if I started shooting more portraits, I’d pick one up too. But after recording one of my videos in the studio, I would ingest the footage and color correct for our mix of tungsten video lights and the fluorescent fill that hangs above our warehouse studio. Usually, I would have to pull out a little green and add a little blue and I would just look at the image until I thought it was correct, and then leave it at that. I was just guess-and-checking in my head and eyeballing the results because I needed to spend my time doing the edit and not the color correction.
It never really occurred to me to use the Passport for video color correction until recently.
When I received my ColorChecker Passport, the first thing I did was look around to find something in my house with complicated color. I ran outside to the golden hour shade, where I knew I would have to set my cameras WB to some constantly changing Kelvin value, and I found the large roses that grow on the side of my house.
Workflow: Camera set to Aperture Priority. ColorChecker up. Snap. ColorChecker down. Snap.
In this case, the auto white balance on my camera did a terrible job. Probably because the stucco on my house is a rosy off-white color. The beauty of the ColorChecker came in as soon as I brought the images into Lightroom.
Workflow: Lightroom Develop Module. On the ColorChecker Picture – Select the white or neutral gray chip. Copy Settings. Apply Settings to 2nd Picture. Tweak exposure/contrast to taste. Done.
Here is a before and after split of that picture. As you can see, the color is wildly different. The ColorChecker took a terrible picture and helped me turn it into a pretty good picture in about 30 seconds. It is so simple to use, and it worked so quickly.
For video, this process is very similar, except for that I don’t shoot RAW video, so I can’t change my white balance to auto. Maybe for a locked off shot that would be fine, but I can’t have a cloud pass by and the camera starts changing my settings. I use what know about light to estimate my WB in Kelvin. Once I’m close the ColorChecker will get me spot on.
For this example I decided to shoot a quick video of my cat in my living room. I know that my mostly tungsten lightbulbs are about 3400 Kelvin.
Workflow: Set Custom WB to 3400 Kelvin. Get a shot of the ColorChecker. Re-Focus to my cat. Shoot for a few seconds.
Now I bring my footage into my editing software. Keep in mind, I am not a colorist, and I won’t be spending hours in After Effects or some other beefy software fine-tuning my color. I have to do this fast. In Adobe Premiere CC, and other versions of Premiere, there is an effect called Fast Color Corrector. I use this almost always for my minor color correction.
Workflow: Set playhead to a Frame of the ColorChecker. Apply Fast Color Corrector to clip. Use White Level Picker to choose ColorChecker’s white chip. Adjust Brightness and Contrast while I can see a reference for all colors.
That’s it. Just knowing that the color I chose was 100% white it automatically corrected something I may have spent 5 to 10 minutes on in 5 to 10 seconds. Also, with the playhead at this frame, I can do minor adjustments to White and Black levels and Saturation. Being able to see a selection of colors and grayscale tones while color correcting is a welcome change to me rather than deciding whether or not a subject’s skin is too red or the grass is a little pale.
Using the ColorChecker in my photography and videography is now going to be the standard. This is my new multitool for photography. It’s the pocket-sized fail safe on which I can always rely to contain the standards for color and contrast. It is simple to use and the color chips are guaranteed accurate. Altogether, the process of taking and editing both the photo AND the video took about 15 minutes. It was 15 minutes that changed the way I will work forever.
Thanks Matt for sharing your experience with ColorChecker Passport. For more on using ColorChecker in video see below.
Matt Madrid uses X-Rite color management solutions to ensure that his photo and video workflow is under control.
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