Avid Media Composer’s color correction tools are tucked away and often overlooked by new editors or new users of the NLE. Once you find the tools they aren’t that intuitive at first glance. This article will walk you through the basics and make color correction in Avid Media Composer feel less daunting.

By the end of this article you’ll know how to access Avid Media Composer’s Color Correction Tools, how to change the monitors while in color correction, the difference between HSL and Curves and how to use them, how to perform auto color correction, and you’ll learn some other tips and tricks about using the color correction tools inside of Avid Media Composer. Let’s get started!


Finding the Color Correction Tools in Avid Media Composer

Unless you’re looking for the color correction tools in Avid Media Composer you probably won’t find them. There are two ways to get to them. The first way is to navigate to the menu bar at the top of the application then go to Windows > Workspaces > Color Correction.

Avid Media Color Correction


The second way is to select the Color Correction Mode icon on the left side of the timeline.


Avid Media Color Correction


Once you select Color Correction from the menu or click the Color Correction Mode button you’ll notice two main things happen. First the two standard monitors, the Source Monitor and Record Monitor, change into three monitors. More on this in a moment. The other change is that the Color Correction Tool pops up. Traditionally you would place this on your screen in between the Timeline window and your now three monitors in the Composer window.


Avid Media Color Correction


Color Correction Monitors

Before we jump into color correcting it’s important to know how to use the monitors to your advantage.

From left to right, the default three monitors in the Composer window show the previous shot, the current shot, and the next shot. This is dependant on where your time position indicator is. If it is sitting on the first shot in your sequence then the “previous monitor” will be black. This is also dependant on if the track is active so make sure you activate whatever video track(s) you want to color correct.

You don’t have to keep the monitors setup as previous, current, and next though. Click on “Previous,” “Current,” or “Next” at the top of the monitors and you can choose from any of those listed.


Avid Media Color Correction


A favorite monitor for color correction newbies and veterans alike is the RGB Parade. This is the easiest way to the see red, green, and blue levels of your shot and see what levels their shadows, midtones, and highlights are at. There are other great monitors available such as the Vectorscope Monitor but if you don’t know how to read it or any of the other ones then RGB Parade will be your best friend as it’s the simplest one to comprehend.


Avid Media Color Correction


The Color Correction Tool

The Color Correction Tool has two tabs — HSL and Curves. They both essentially do the same thing but in different ways. HSL stands for Hue, Saturation and Luminance. The HSL tab has three color wheels — Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights. Click the crosshairs (it looks like a plus symbol “+”) in the center a color wheel and drag it. As you drag it the color of the shadows, midtones, or highlights will change depending on the color wheel you selected. You can see the change in the Current Monitor and also in the RGB Parade Monitor if you have it open.


Avid Media Color Correction


The Color Correction Tool opens up on the HSL tab by default. Click on the Curves tab to change to the Curves tools.

Avid Media Color Correction


Instead of three color wheels like in HSL, there are four graphs in Curves. There is a graph for reds, greens, blues, and master which are the blacks and whites of the shot. The line that is at a 45 degree angle is what you click and drag to change the color of your shot. Each graph can adjust the shadows, midtones, and highlights of the given color.

You can click and drag from either of the corners or click on any portion of the line to create a new point where you can pull the line in any direction. You can create multiple points on any line giving you a ton of control. Moving the top-right point will affect the highlights of your shot. Moving the bottom-left point will affect the shadows of your shot. And creating new points and moving them from the middle of the line will affect the midtones of your shot. Just like with the HSL color wheels, anytime you make a change with the Curves graphs you can see the changes in your Current Monitor and RGB Parade Monitor.

Auto Color Correction

If you want to get a headstart on your color correction or if you’re just in a hurry, Avid Media Composer has Auto Contrast and Auto Balance features in its Color Correction Tool.

Avid Media Color Correction


To use them, first hit the Auto Contrast icon. Then hit the Auto Balance icon. It’s that simple. If the Curves tab is open, Auto Contrast and Auto Balance will automatically adjust the Curves graphs. If the HSL tab is open then the HSL color wheels will automatically be changed. Feel free to tweak as needed. These icons can also be mapped to your keyboard for even faster color correcting.

Auto Contrast and Auto Balance will work for most well-shot shots. If a shot is very overexposed or underexposed then Auto Contrast and Auto Balance will not work as well.


Color Correction Tips & Tricks in Avid Media Composer

To keep shots looking “normal,” it’s generally recommended to keep the colors between the top and bottom lines of the RGB Parade graph. When a color in any section of the graph goes above the line then it is too hot and will look overly bright. The same goes for the bottom of the graph. When a color dips down below the bottom line then it’ll be too dark. Here’s an overdramatic example:

Avid Media Color Correction


In this example the blues are too hot and the greens are too low.

When you’re making your initial color corrections it’s okay to make big adjustments first. Then subtly refine them. It’s difficult to see small changes, especially at the beginning of a correction, so making a large adjustment at the beginning may help you see if it helped or hurt what you were trying to accomplish. Remember, you can always undo or remove the color correction effect entirely later and start over.

To make a shot black and white, grab the Saturation slider and drag it down to 0 (zero). This is found on the Curves tab and on the Controls sub-tab on the HSL tab. You can also set this slider to around 105 to 110 to give your colors a little extra “pop.” However be very careful not to overdue it. This will make colors more colorful so if a shot is too blue in the highlights it’s going to look even extra blue in it’s highlights if you turn the Saturation slider over 100. Alternatively, you can grab the slider down to around 60 to mute the colors without turning it black and white. Saturating or desaturating shots can be a very powerful editing tool when you use it wisely.

Let’s say you are editing an interview and have b-roll spliced in through the a-roll of the actual interview. If you color correct one shot from the interview you’ll probably want to have the exact same color correction on the rest of the interview shots. You don’t need to go back and change the Curves graphs or HSL color wheels again. Find the Color Effect icon in the top-right of the Color Correction Tool.

Avid Media Color Correction


You can either click and drag it into a bin or click and drag it onto another shot. If you click and drag it into a bin, you can now click and drag that effect icon from the bin onto other clips. Once the Color Effect is dragged onto a clip, that clip gets the exact same color correction that was set up when it was created. Please note that if you adjust a clip with this color effect applied to it that only that clip will be adjusted. This does not make a global color correction adjustment across all clips with that same color effect.

As mentioned earlier, be careful about which tracks are activated. If you only have shots on V1, then only have V1 selected. If you have no video tracks selected then Avid Media Composer will put a color effect on the top-most layer as soon as you make an adjustment with the Color Correction Tool. You probably won’t want this 99 times out of 100.

One last tip is to use Dual Split. Dual Split lets you see a before and after of the color correction you’ve applied.


Avid Media Color Correction


Click on the Dual Split icon in the lower-left corner of a monitor. Before is on the left and after is on the right by default. You can click and drag any of the white triangles on the monitor to adjust the view.

Color correction in Avid Media Composer can feel extremely difficult at first. But once you get the hang of it then it can be really powerful and more importantly fun to use. Use the knowledge you learned above to experiment as much as you can. Hopefully us here at Soundsnap were able to help you grow as a video editor with this article.