Final Cut Pro X Color Correction Desert Island Challenge

Final Cut Pro X Color Correction Desert Island Challenge

December 6, 2014

What if a professional colorist were required to color correct in Final Cut Pro X (without plug-ins)? We start by exploring Exposure.


Day 6: 25 Insights in 25 Days Holiday Marathon

What is a ‘Desert Island Challenge?’

You know the question: If you were stuck on a desert island and could only bring one book/record/movie, what would it be?

Here’s the color correction equivalent: If you were stuck on a desert island with only Final Cut Pro X—and no plug-ins—and a project you had to color correct, how would you go about it?

Welcome to the Final Cut Pro X Color Correction Desert Island Challenge

This is a short series of Insights where I show you how I evaluate Final Cut Pro X’s image processing pipeline to help you make smart decisions about which FCPx tools to use and when.

As if I were stuck on a desert island, I’ll restrict myself to using ONLY the native filter set in FCPx (at the end of this series I’ll explore the question: If I could only bring 1 color correction plug-in, which would it be?)

I’m approaching this Challenge by answering: How do I transfer my DaVinci Resolve and SpeedGrade habits to FCPx, while being restricted to its (more limited) toolset.

I’ll say this up-front: If I had to grade in FCPx and do high-quality work that I can be proud of… I could do it. This series will show you how I’d approach it.

And it all starts by breaking down the toolset to develop a workflow.

Adopt my thinking, Adapt to your workflow

The point of this series isn’t to provide the Single Definitive Final Cut Pro X Color Correction workflow. The point of this series is to teach you how I break down toolsets to help me understand how to develop a workflow in the first place!

And since each of us has a different workflow, we’ll develop different strategies to solve our unique workflows. But knowing how I created my workflow? Knowing why I make the recommendations I do?

Once you understand How and Why I approach FCPx the way I do, you’ll be able to do this same thing for ANY color grading app you use. Always.

In other words: rather than handing you a fish filet, I’m teaching you how to catch a fish and then use a knife to trim it.

Final Cut Pro X: Primary Color Corrections and Order of Operations

This Insight will focus on making our Primary corrections and understanding the Order of Operations I’ll be advocating for working in FCPx.

At the moment I’m ignoring the Auto-Balance function… but we’ll probably discuss it later in the Challenge.

We’ll also look at supplementing the FCPx interface with a super-useful image evaluation tool that has shipped with every Mac for over 20 years!

Related Insights

In mid-2013 I did a two-Insight series on breaking down Final Cut Pro X’s Color Board. If you don’t remember it (or have’t watched it), I suggest you watch those two Insights first – since I won’t be repeating that information here and I will be building on it:

Watch: Color Board Foundations, Part 1

Watch: Color Board Foundations, Part 2


– pat

Member Content

Sorry... the rest of this content is for members only. You'll need to login or Join Now to continue (we hope you do!).

Need more information about our memberships? Click to learn more.

Membership options
Member Login

Are you using our app? For the best experience, please login using the app's launch screen


Homepage Forums Final Cut Pro X Color Correction Desert Island Challenge

  • Definitely a FCPX Ah-HA! moment for me. I wasn’t aware at all that FCPX was screwing the contrast shape while using the global exposure in combination with the tonal ones. What a nice habit to try your color tools on gradients first!

    By the way, I’m now wondering if the same apply for the saturation Tab. At 9:20 in the video you’re increasing the midtones saturation after you’ve set the global one to 100. Have you tried if FCPX behaves the same for saturation that what you describe for contrast? In other words, do we get same results with one color correction changing both global and midtones saturation, compared with two separate corrections (one for global and one for midtones sat)? Thanks again for this revelation Pat.

  • Patrick Inhofer

    It’s always interesting trying to figure out if Exposure / Offset tools remap the tonal controls in the same ‘instance’ of a filter. Usually they don’t.

    As I was recording I was asking myself the same question in regards to the other controls. I’m not sure it’ll be as easy to figure out – but I’ll try. I have an idea for a test that may reveal the answer to that question.

  • whats you opinion on starting with film convert since it does such a job bringing various cameras and gammas to a common end point?

  • I noticed you flanders monitor looked a lot different than your computer’s in the video. Could you guys do a series of insights on calibration?

  • RobbieCarman

    Greg – I wrote a overview article a little while back you can find here:

    I need to update that article and then as you suggest go next steps with LightSpace and Calman. I’m looking to do this right around the start of the year in the studio so I can have a little bit more of a hands on feel – show the gear etc. I think it’ll work better then just voice behind the screen

    Also this week we I did a piece on the new Colorimetry Research meters which are making waves in the industry.

    Keep in mind different backlights – like OLED for Pat’s FSI and LCD on his computer monitors are going to show up differently when recorded like that because of the different spectral powers of each backlight type.

  • Cool yeh a calman for resolve with a basic colorometer and lut box would be cool

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Also – I purposely keep my LCD looking wrong. I never want a client to point to my UI display and say, “I like that better”. But yes, I’ve been pushing Robbie on a calibration series, he’s our Team guru on that topic 🙂

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Greg – we have a short series on Filmconvert:

    Would you mind re-posting this question over there (since this Insight doesn’t deal with FilmConvert or shot matching)? It helps us keep things neat and organized.

  • sure I only brought it up because you mentioned u were going to cover shot matching in the next fcp movie

  • Patrick Inhofer

    Ah, yes. But I’ll be covering using the basic toolset. I’ll deal with plug-ins later in the series. And I’m not sure FilmConvert would be the 1 plug-in I’d bring with me in the Desert Island Challenge.

    The quick answer: Sometimes FilmConvert works to ease shot matching. Sometimes it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Varies from gig to gig.

  • Thats a genius idea regarding keeping your LCDs slightly off purposely. Thx for sharing Pat.

    Calman just did a HUGE revamp to their line, and “Calman for Resolve” is now known as Calman Studio Lite. It has a some more functionality than Calman for Resolve did, so its a nice “free” update. They are great in allowing you to update with “discounts” for products you already own, so you can slowly buy your way up to the higher level products. Just my experience w Calman recently.

  • RobbieCarman

    indeed they have and they’ve fixed several issues related to their LUT building and OLEDs. Also the lightening LUT functionality is pretty darn awesome for a quick calibration

Log in to reply.

1,000+ Tutorials to Explore

Get full access to our entire library of over 1,100+ color tutorials for an entire week!

Start Your Test Drive!