FCPX 10.4 Update : Evaluating The New Color Correction Features

January 6, 2018

FCPX 10.4 update introduces some long-awaited color correction features, like wheels and curves. This Insight reviews the standout points of this new color correction toolset - and gotcha's you should understand.

Day 6: 24 Insights in 24 Days 2018 New Year Marathon

Moving Towards A Better Color Grading Experience

In Mid-December of 2017, Apple updated Final Cut Pro X to version 10.4. This new update is packed with many new features, but the highlights are 360 VR editing, advanced color grading, and high dynamic range videos. This means that two-thirds of the enhancements added in this update are aimed at Final Cut Pro X color toolset.

FCPX 10.4 New Features
FCPX 10.4 New Features: mainly color correction enhancements

You need to be running Mac OS 10.12.4 (Sierra) or later to update to FCPX 10.4. Also, notice that the latest Mac OS version (High Sierra) is needed to take advantage of some of the new features (H265 export and 360 VR tools, for example).

FCPX 10.4: Is All Forgiven?

Back in 2011, when Final Cut Pro X first shipped, there was a YUGE amount of complaints: every basic task for importing, editing, grading, monitoring and delivering was tossed aside. Professionals were lost. And many jumped on another ‘NLE boat’.

One of the main complaints was the built-in color toolset. Gone were the Apple Color and 3-Way Color Wheels; replaced by the “Color Board”. A whole new paradigm. For users, the problem wasn’t just to adapt and make the most of the Color Board. If they didn’t like it, there was simply no other legacy color tools shipping with FCPX: no color wheels, no curves.

This created opportunities for third party plugins, and they’ve taken advantage of these glorious days: Color Finale, Colorista, and more recently Chromatic, to name a few. Despite that, FCPX users have constantly asked Apple to implement Color Wheels and Curves as built-in tools.

Finally, six years later, Apple answers. But was the wait worth it?

In this Insight I’m going to give you the information you need to decide for yourself if it was worth the wait. And I’ll offer some cautionary advice about the color wheels, if you’re coming from other Color Wheels. But before we get to the Color Wheels, let’s take a look at how to enable the other major new feature, HDR.

Enabling High Dynamic Range Color Science

To see the full range of colors and brightness while editing and color correcting HDR video in FCPX, you need to use an external reference HDR monitor.  Setting your project for HDR isn’t obvious.You need to set both the library and the project in Wide Gamut HDR to benefit from FCPX’s HDR capabilities. Otherwise, the Color Space dropdown menu will be greyed out when creating a project.

Greyed out Color Space Menu
Creating an HDR project: why is the Color Space menu greyed out, and set to Rec. 709?

Here’s the confusion: When creating a new Library, FCPX doesn’t offer a Color Space option (only name and disk placement). By default, the Library is created in SDR Color Space.

To enable HDR:

  • Create, then highlight the new library in the Browser
  • In the Inspector panel, click Modify under Library Properties
  • Choose Wide Gamut HDR, then click Change
Choosing A Color Space
Modify the Library Color Space FIRST in order to create HDR projects

Now, Color Spaces will be available in any new project created in that Library, including HDR opitons (Rec. 2020 PQ and Rec. 2020 HLG):

Color Space is OK
Once the Library has been set correctly, the Color Space menu is unlocked


A Closer Look at FCP X 10.4 New Color Correction Tools

The Color Inspector Tab

With FCPX 10.4, Apple has considerably improved its color game, with new features that will make any editor’s life easier. In addition to the Color Board, now there are Color Wheels, Color Curves, Hue / Saturation Curves, and a new manual White Balance, amongst others.

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