Reviews, Video

FxFactory plug-in Hawaiki Color enables colour grading inside Final Cut Pro X

Final Cut Pro X has a colour grading module, but the interface is non-standard and the capabilities are pretty basic. One FxFactory plug-in that tries to fix this is Hawaiki Color. It’s a plug-in that uses the traditional but familiar interface elements for colour grading: colour wheels and sliders, combined with numeric configuration fields. It extends colour grading inside Final Cut Pro X beyond the basics and is great to work with.

Ever tried working with Da Vince Resolve? Or Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Looks? You won’t find the colour grading controls the way they were implemented by Apple in Final Cut Pro X. It’s all traditional, familiar stuff with colour wheels, sliders and as much visual feedback as you possibly can cram into an app. So is Hawaiki Color, which displays itself as an overlay on top of your clip in the Viewer window, or as a set of controls surrounding the (resized) clip.

Hawaiki Color has sliders on-screen and in the Inspector that are duplicates of each other, so you can have numerical input (Inspector) in addition to on-screen controls that provide for instant visual feedback. The sliders that you can access on-screen affect white balance, exposure, saturation and hue/contrast/blur/sharpness. All of these sliders can be changed on a global scale as well as for lows, midtones and highlights.

FxFactory Hawaiki Color

This per-band control allows you to adjust colours with a maximum of flexibility and creative possibilities — moods like ‘mojo’ are easily set up.
In addition, the three colour wheels let you set an individual colour bias for the low/midtone/highlight values, adding to the range of colour effects that are possible.

Better yet, with the controls in the Inspector, you can set the sensitivity of the wheels to a higher or lower degree than the standard, which lets you play with subtle changes or, on the contrary, turn on drama.

If you’re using Hawaiki Color in Full-screen mode — overlaid on top of your clip — the wheels are by default turned off, but the control dots on wheels and sliders remain visible. Experienced users will like this mode as it offers all the controls without the distraction. If you are not yet experienced — as I was during this review — you can turn on a faint white edge on the wheels so they are more clearly visible.

The whole on-screen system kept reminding me of Da Vinci Resolve’s primary colour grading tools, but inside Final Cut Pro X. Not that Hawaiki Color lacks in power. For example, it comes with a view menu that allows you to see your grade in split mode — left, right, diagonal. A dim menu lets you dim the entire grading interface or only parts of it. A Blend mode drop-down enables you to combine the grade with the original shot. I was kind of surprised to find this in a colour grading plug-in and tried it out by setting the blend mode to Multiply after turning the highlights somewhat cooler and shadows somewhat warmer on a shot of a ruin of a small manor house. The clip instantly changed to a dark and eerie mood.

Before and after Hawaiki Color

Sharpness is also a very nice addition. Final Cut Pro X has a built-in plug-in that lets you sharpen your clip, but there are no controls except for a strength slider. With Hawaiki Color you get controls for the four tone values/bands. In addition, you can adjust sharpness settings with what Hawaiki Color calls “Sharpness Calibration” parameters — the familiar radius and amount settings we all know from image editing software. Using the sharpness slider with different radius and amount settings for the different tone values can improve (or make a lot worse!) local contrast. Such a level of control is only available in the high-end colour grading apps as far as I know.

An added bonus with Hawaiki Color is that you can legalise your colours — make them suitable for broadcasting on TV sets.

By now, I should have convinced you that Hawaiki Color is a powerful, full-featured colour grading plug-in. Of course, there are competing products. Take for example Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Looks. That’s a fine colour grading plug-in with a lot of features that you won’t find in Hawaiki Color. But while you can use Magic Bullet Looks to just colour grade clips with, it’s really more of a complete ‘looks’ transformation system with modules for creating tilt-shift effects, improving skin-only hue, etc. In addition, it lives in its own interface which will only display the frame under the playhead instead of a live clip. It’s also more expensive at 399.00 USD than Hawaiki Color that only costs 49.00 USD.

So, if you have a copy of FxFactory on your system, do try it out. If you don’t, and you’re in the market for a colour grading plug-in worthy of its name, it’s worth downloading a copy of FxFactory just for trying out Hawaiki Color. You won’t be disappointed.

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J.D. – Copywriter – Tech. Writer – Editor at Visuals Producer – Contributor at Photoshop User, Studio Daily – Sub-editor at RedShark News