It would be a videographer’s dream if the footage came out the camera ready to go, this would save countless hours tinkering with footage to get it perfect, but as this doesn’t happen, what do we spend hours doing to footage to get it looking perfect?
When you take the footage straight off the camera, your footage may look flat, unsharp and quite rubbish, definitely something you wouldn’t put straight onto YouTube or give a client. But there’s a tons of tools in any NLE video software, we use Premiere Pro, to tidy up footage and get it that little bit closer to that ready-to-go standard. Here are a couple of steps in our workflow to get things perfect.
You’re filming tracking shot of someone walking or you’re using a zoom lens, like the canon 70-200 and you find your footage looked fine on the camera, but when it’s blown up on a monitor it’s like you filmed it during an earthquake? This is where the ‘Warp Stabilizer’ tool comes into play. Simple drag it onto a wobbly clip, let it analyse and hey presto, the wobble has gone. You may need to play with the settings to get it perfect, but it’s a lot better than it was before.
Now colour correction is different from colour grading, which I will get into later on. Colour correction is making sure the clips don’t look over exposed or underexposed and generally trying to get the most information out of a video clip as possible. There’s a couple of built-in tools in Premiere Pro to help with this, like the brightness/contrast video effects which can help regain some of the information lost in clips. Another handy tool is the “Unsharp Mask”, drop an adjustment layer on top of your entire sequence, pop ‘Unsharp Mask’ on it, change the amount to 19 and the radius to 166 and the image immediately pops out. This is particularly handy if you working with a very flat colour profile and codec like ProRes and helps give the clip some contrast.
This is the art of adjusting the colours in a clip to give a style you want to portray. For example, a scene filmed in a warehouse with a very industrial feel may have a very cold hue to the scene with very little colour vibrancy, but on the other hand a scene in front of a warm fire at home would have a completely opposite tone to it to give it that homely feel. Colour grading helps tell the viewer about the scene without actually telling them. The best tools for ‘hard-core colourists’ are programs like DaVinci resolve lite and Adobe Speedgrade, but you can spend hours colour grading clips in these programs to get them absolutely perfect. Tools like ‘Film convert’ allow for simple, drag and drop colour grading within Adobe Premiere Pro. Simply place the effect on a clip you wish to colour grade and select from a variety of camera presets until you get one which matches the feel of the scene you want, then tinker away with the settings until you get it perfect. Check out the video below for a brief introduction to film convert.
I’m sure all of you have seen movies and noticed the super wide format due to a letterbox? This enables the director to be a lot more selective with the footage he shoots. This is a god send in post as you have a lot more room to play around with the footage and to potentially reframe a shot without having to go back and reshoot it. The subject too low in framing? Not to worry, simply drop a letterbox over the clip and move the clip up and the subject is back in the centre of the frame. Another handy trick is using a vignette, this can subtly draw the viewers’ attention to the centre of the frame, for this there isn’t a preset in adobe but you can play around with the ‘circle’ tool until you get the desired vignette.
These are just some tips and tricks that we have picked up over the years of being in the industry which helped us get a head of the game and get your footage looking like it came straight out of a movie.
Here's a little video demonstrating how each of these effects stack up when working with footage.