Big news this year in the video market: X-Rite released its ColorChecker Video range of products. The ColorChecker family is valued by photographers who want their images to look colour-accurate — especially those who print their photos on a large format inkjet printer. Not much comparable existed for video editors, until now. The ColorChecker Passport Video and ColorChecker Video fill a void in the tool box of professional colourists and video editors alike.
X-Rite sent me a ColorChecker Passport and ColorChecker Video to try out. The ColorChecker Video is a large colour reference target with white balance and greyscale tools. The target will especially appeal those who use colour grading equipment and software such as Da Vinci Resolve. The ColorChecker Passport uses a clamshell design. It has four targets rolled into one and in my opinion will become the workhorse for most semi-professional and professional video editors.
I am focusing this review on the ColorChecker Passport Video because of its four targets. Perhaps even more importantly, it integrates with Color Finale, the professional colour grading plug-in for Final Cut Pro X by Denver Riddle. The ColorChecker Video is too large to fit into a bag. It’s more like a studio tool. The ColorChecker Passport Video is made so you can use it when you’re outdoors, shooting video with a very small crew — or on your own.
The ColorChecker Passport Video has a white balance tool, a greyscale tool with a 40 IRE midtone grey patch, a focus target and the colour target itself. Unlike its photo sibling, the colour target on the ColorChecker Passport Video has a reflective black patch.
Using the ColorChecker Passport
The workflow is very simple. Before you start your actual take or shot, you let your subject hold up the ColorChecker Passport Video (or place it somewhere in the frame) for a couple of seconds facing the camera. You’ll have to make sure the reflective black patch does not reflect into the lens. It doesn’t matter if you hold the target upside down or somewhat skewed. When everything’s been done correctly you can shoot your clip as usual.
In post-production you can now correct colours, but without knowing the reference values of the card, you’ll have to rely on the rendition accuracy of your monitor. If your monitor is not properly calibrated (or can’t be), you’re out of luck.
Denver Riddle, a professional colourist himself, developed the integration with his Color Finale plug-in for Final Cut Pro X. His solution takes all the guesswork out of the equation. What you do is this:
- You load the preroll bit with the ColorChecker Passport Video on the Timeline
- Drag the Color Finale plug-in to the clip
- Select an area where the chart is well lit and all patches visible
- Check the “Use chart” and “Show chart” boxes
- Drag the chart outline across the chart in the frame starting with yellow and green
- Click the Match button
- Copy the Color Finale settings and paste to each take shot under the same lighting conditions and you’re done!
The whole process takes seconds and you’ll end up with a properly balanced, all colours exactly rendered result. It’s a lot easier and faster than having to correct using videoscopes and trying to get all colours to render properly.
You’ll be colour grading — which is the process of setting a mood or atmosphere — much faster and with much more predictable results. In colour grading apps like SpeedGrade you miss out on this user-friendly integration, but you’ll be able to correct colours using the videoscopes method in a more standardised way. For DaVinci Resolve, a Color Match feature is currently in development. Other colour grading apps and plug-ins may soon follow with their own solution.
If you are using Final Cut Pro X and don’t have Color Finale yet, I’d say get out your credit card and buy the plug-in if you’re serious about colour grading inside Final Cut Pro X. However, if you’ve already invested in for example Red Giant Software’s Magic Bullet Looks that comes with Colorista III, you’ll probably balk at the idea of having to invest in yet another colour plug-in.
That’s fine as you’ll be able to colour-correct using the videoscopes — it won’t be as fast and easy, though. Perhaps Red Giant is developing its own integration too, but I haven’t heard about plans in that direction.
The ColorChecker Video costs about €125.00. The ColorChecker Passport Video costs approx. €143.00. Make sure you buy the Video product, not the “ColorChecker Passport”, which is for photography only. Color Finale costs about €90.55. The version that integrates with the ColorChecker Passport is currently in beta.