Adobe Premiere Pro CC (2016)

14. Color Correction and Grading

Lesson overview

In this lesson, you’ll learn about the following:

• Working in the Color workspace

• Using the Lumetri Color panel

• Using vectorscopes and waveforms

• Using color correction effects

• Fixing exposure and color balance problems

• Working with special effects

• Creating a look

• Sharing work with Adobe SpeedGrade


This lesson will take approximately 70 minutes.

In this lesson, you’ll learn some key techniques for improving the look of your clips. Industry professionals use these techniques every day to give television programs and films the “pop” and atmosphere that set them apart. This chapter is not a “deep dive” into color theory but should get you up and running with some of these powerful tools in Adobe Premiere Pro CC.


Editing your clips together is just the first part of the creative process. Now it’s time to work with color.

Getting started

Until now you’ve been organizing your clips, building sequences, and applying special effects. All of these skills come together when working with color correction.

Consider the way your eyes register color and light, the way cameras record it, and the way your computer screen, a television screen, a video projector, or a cinema screen displays it. There are a great many factors when considering the final look of your production.

Premiere Pro has multiple color correction tools and makes it easy to create your own presets. In this lesson, you’ll begin by learning some fundamental color correction skills and then meet some of the most popular color correction special effects, before using them to deal with some common color correction challenges.

1. Open Lesson 14.prproj in the Lesson 14 folder.

2. Choose Color in the Workspaces panel, or choose Window > Workspaces > Color.

This changes the workspace to the preset that was created to make it easier to work with color correction effects and, in particular, the Lumetri Color panel and Lumetri Scopes panel. If you have been using Premiere Pro for a while, you may need to reset the workspace to the saved version by clicking the Color menu in the Workspaces panel.

The subject of color science requires ongoing learning and development, but you can get by with a rudimentary understanding of key concepts.

About 8-bit video

It’s worth knowing that regular 8-bit video works on a scale from 0 to 255. That means each pixel has red, green, and blue (RGB) values somewhere on that scale, which combine to produce a particular color. You can think of 0 as 0% and 255 as 100%. So, a pixel that has a red value of 125.5 is equivalent to having a red value of 50%.

Without going into the deeper details of the technology behind this number range, you can be reassured that the numbers 0 and 255 will come up a lot when working with video. It’s the most commonly used range to measure video image pixel values.

However, we’re talking about RGB images, and broadcast video uses a similar but different range, with a color system called YUV.

If you compare YUV video with RGB video, mapping one scale against the other, you’ll find that YUV pixel values range from 16 to 235, on the RGB 0 to 255 scale. TVs usually use YUV color, not RGB. However, your computer screen will almost certainly be RGB. If you are producing broadcast video, this can create issues because you are looking at your video footage on a different kind of screen than the kind it will ultimately be viewed on. There is only one sure way of overcoming the uncertainty this creates: Connect a TV to your editing system and view your footage on that screen.

The difference is a little like comparing a photograph you view onscreen with a printed version. The printer and your computer screen use different color systems, and it’s an imperfect translation from one to the other.

When working with the Lumetri Scopes panel, you can check your media to make sure it fits within one color system or another. In particular, look out for 16 to 235 ranges in the waveform display, and look for the smaller inner boxes in the vectorscope that indicate the YUV color range or the larger outer boxes that indicate RGB.

Any value less than 16 or greater than 235 is effectively chopped off and displayed as 0% or 100% when shown on a regular TV screen.

This means sometimes you will view footage with visible detail on an RGB screen like your computer display that disappears when viewed on a TV screen. You’ll need to color correct to bring those details into the TV screen range.

Some TVs give you the option to display color as RGB, using a range of names such as Game Mode or Photo Color Space. If your screen is set up this way, you may see the full 0 to 255 range.

Following a color-oriented workflow

Now that you’ve switched to a new workspace, it’s a good time to switch to a different kind of thinking. With your clips in place, it’s time to look at them less in terms of the action and more in terms of whether they fit together and have the right look.

There are two main phases to working with color.

• Make sure clips in each scene have matching colors, brightness, and contrast so they look like they were shot at the same time, in the same place, and with the same camera.

• Give everything a “look,” in other words, a particular tonality or color tint.


You’ll use the same tools to achieve both of these goals, but it’s common to approach them in this order, separately. If two clips from the same scene don’t have matching colors, it creates a jarring continuity problem.

Color correction and color grading

You’ve probably heard of both color correction and color grading. There is often confusion about the difference. In fact, both types of color work use the same tools, but there’s a difference of approach.

Color correction is usually aimed at standardizing the shots to make sure they fit together and to improve the appearance in general to give brighter highlights and stronger shadows or to correct a color bias captured in-camera. This is more craft than art.

Color grading is aimed at achieving a look that conveys the atmosphere of the story more completely. This is more art than craft.

There is, of course, a debate about where one ends and the other begins.

The Color workspace

The Color workspace displays the new Lumetri Color panel, which has a number of sections offering color adjustment controls, and the Lumetri Scopes panel, which displays a new set of image analysis tools.

The remaining screen area is devoted to the Program Monitor, Timeline, and Libraries panel. The Timeline shrinks to accommodate the new color adjustment panels and the larger Effect Controls panel. Remember, you can open and close any panel at any time, but this workspace focuses on finishing work, rather than organizing or editing your project.


There’s another important change when switching to the Color workspace. You’ll notice that clips on the Timeline are selected automatically as the playhead moves over them.

In fact, this is a new setting you can enable or disable by choosing Sequence > Selection Follows Playhead. The option is enabled automatically when you switch to the Color workspace.

Enabling this option means you can quickly move from clip to clip and work in the Lumetri Color panel.

Let’s find out a little more about this important new panel.

The Lumetri Color panel

The Lumetri Color panel is divided into five sections. You can browse color adjustment controls selectively or work from the top downward, working with increasingly advanced tools.


Each section provides a group of controls with different approaches to color adjustment.

Basic Correction


This section provides you with simple controls to apply quick fixes to your clips. You can apply a preset adjustment to your media in the form of a LUT file, which makes standard adjustments to media that might otherwise look quite flat.


If you are familiar with Adobe Lightroom, you’ll recognize the list of simple controls. You can work your way down the list making adjustments to improve the look of your footage, or you can click the Auto button to let Premiere Pro work it out for you.

Image Note

You can expand or collapse a section by clicking its heading.



As the name suggests, the Creative section allows you to go a little further into developing a look for your media. A number of creative looks are included, with a preview based on your current clip.


You can make subtle adjustments to the color intensity, and there are color wheels configured to adjust the color for the shadow (darker) pixels or highlight (lighter) pixels in the image.



These are some of the more advanced controls, providing nuanced adjustments to the luminance, red, green, and blue pixels.


The Hue Saturation Curve control gives precise control over color saturation based on hue range.


Image Tip

You can reset most controls in the Lumetri Color panel by double-clicking a blank area of the control.

Color Wheels


This section provides precise control over the shadow, midtone, and highlight pixels in the image. Simply drag the control puck from the center of a wheel toward the edge to apply an adjustment.

Each color wheel also has a luminance control slider, which allows you to make simple adjustments to the brightness and, by appropriate adjustment, the contrast of your footage.



It’s surprising how much difference a simple vignette effect can make to a picture. A vignette was originally caused by camera lenses darkening the edge of frame, but modern lenses rarely have this issue.

Instead, a vignette is commonly used to create focus in the center of an image, and it can be highly effective, even when the adjustment is subtle.


The Lumetri Color panel in action

When you make adjustments using the Lumetri Color panel, they are added collectively as a regular Premiere Pro effect applied to the selected clip. You can enable and disable the effect in the Effect Controls panel, or you can create an effect preset. The controls are repeated in the Effect Controls panel too.

Let’s try some prebuilt looks.

1. Open the sequence Unexpected Color in the Sequences bin.


2. Position the Timeline playhead over the first clip in the sequence. The clip should highlight automatically.

3. Click the Creative section heading in the Lumetri Color panel to reveal its controls.

4. Browse through several prebuilt looks by clicking the arrow on the right side of the preview display. When you see a look you like, click the preview to apply it.


5. Try adjusting the Intensity slider to vary the amount of adjustment.

This is a good time to experiment with the other controls in the Lumetri Color panel. Some controls will make sense immediately, while others will take time to master. Use the other clips in this sequence as a testing ground to learn about the Lumetri Color panel through experimentation; just drag all the controls from one extreme to the other to see the result. You’ll learn about many of these controls in detail later in this lesson.

Lumetri Scopes essentials

You might have wondered why the Premiere Pro interface is so gray. There’s a good reason: Vision is highly subjective. In fact, it’s also highly relative.

If you see two colors next to each other, the way you see one is changed by the presence of the other. To prevent the Premiere Pro interface from influencing the way you perceive colors in your sequence, Adobe has made the interface almost entirely gray. If you’ve ever seen a professional color grading suite, where artists provide the finishing touches to films and television programs, you’ve probably noticed that most of the room is gray. Colorists sometimes have a large gray piece of card, or a section of a wall, that they can look at for a few moments to “reset” their vision before checking a shot.

The combination of your subjective vision and the variation that can occur in the way computer monitors and television monitors display color and brightness creates a need for an objective measurement.

Video scopes provide just that. And they’re used throughout the media industry; learn them once, and you’ll be able to use them everywhere.

1. Open the sequence Lady Walking.

2. Position the Timeline playhead so that it’s over the clip in the sequence.


You should see the lady walking in the street in your Program Monitor, along with a second, synchronized display of the same clip in the Lumetri Scopes panel.


The Lumetri Scopes panel

The Lumetri Scopes panel displays an array of industry-standard meters to get an objective view of your media.

The full complement of displays can be a little overwhelming at first, plus you’ll have smaller graphs. You can turn individual items off and on by right-clicking anywhere in the panel and choosing items on the list.

You can also specify whether you are working to an ITU Rec. 709 (HD) or ITU Rec. 601 (SD) color space. If you’re producing content for broadcast television, you will almost certainly be working to one of these two standards. If not, you will probably be happy with Rec. 709. Check with your ingest department for confirmation.

You can choose the setting by right-clicking anywhere inside the Lumetri Scopes panel or clicking the Lumetri Scopes panel Settings menu (Image) and choosing Colorspace.


Let’s simplify the view now.

Repeatedly right-click anywhere in the Lumetri Scope panel and click each of the selected items to deselect them and remove them from the display. Keep the waveform display only, or right-click in the panel and choose Presets > Waveform RGB.


Let’s take a look at two of the main components in the Lumetri Scopes panel.


If you’re new to waveforms, they can look a little strange, but they’re actually simple. They show you the brightness and color saturation of your images.

Every pixel in the current frame is displayed in the waveform. The brighter the pixel, the higher it appears. The pixels have their correct horizontal position (that is, a pixel halfway across the screen will be displayed halfway across the waveform), but the vertical position is not based on the image.

Instead, the vertical position indicates brightness or color intensity; the brightness and color intensity waveforms are displayed together, using different colors.

• 0, at the bottom of the scale, represents no luminance at all and/or no color intensity.

• 100, at the top of the scale, represents a pixel that is fully bright. On the RGB scale, this value would be 255 (you can see this scale on the right side of the waveform display).

This all might sound rather technical, but in practice it’s straightforward. There’s a visible baseline that represents “no brightness” and a top level that represents “fully bright.” The numbers on the edge of the graph might change, but the use is essentially the same.

You can view the waveform in several ways. To access each type, right-click inside the Lumetri Scopes panel and choose Waveform Type, followed by one of these options:

• RGB: Shows the Red, Green, and Blue pixels in their own colors.

• Luma: Shows the IRE value of pixels, from 0 to 100, against a scale of –20 to 120. This allows for precise analysis of bright spots and contrast ratio.

• YC: Shows the luminance (in green) and chrominance (in blue) values in the picture.

• YC no Chroma: Shows the luminance with no chrominance.

Why YC?

The letter C, for chrominance, makes simple sense, but the letter Y, for luminance, takes a little explaining. It comes from a way of measuring color information that uses x-, y-, and z-axes, where y represents the luminance. The idea was originally to create a simple system for recording color, and the use of y to represent brightness, or luminance, stuck.

Let’s test this display a little.

1. Continue using the Lady Walking sequence. Set the Timeline playhead to 00:00:07:00 so you can see the lady against the smoky background.


2. Set the waveform display to Luma.


The smoky parts of the image have little contrast and are displayed as a relatively flat line in the waveform display. The lady’s head and shoulders are darker than the smoky background. They’re around the middle of the image, and they are clearly visible in the middle area of the waveform display.

3. Expand the Basic controls in the Lumetri Color panel.

4. Experiment with the Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks controls. As you adjust the controls, watch the waveform display to see the result.

Image Tip

You can double-click any part of a slider control in the Lumetri Color panel to reset it.

If you make an adjustment to the image and then wait a few seconds, your eyes will adjust to the new appearance, and it will seem normal. Make another adjustment, and a few seconds later the new appearance seems normal too. Which is correct?

Ultimately, the answer is based on perceived quality. If you like what you see, it’s right. However, the waveform display will give you objective information about how dark or bright pixels are or how much color is in the shot, which is useful when attempting to meet standards.

Image Tip

It can sometimes seem as if the waveform display is showing an image. Remember, the vertical position of the pixels in your images is not used in a waveform display.

You should be able to see the parts of the picture where the smoky background of the image is displayed, toward the left and right (with some ridges where there is a pattern in the background). You should also be able to see a darker section, in the middle, where the lady is. If you scrub through the sequence, you’ll see the waveform display update.

The waveform display is useful for showing how much contrast you have in your images and for checking whether you are working on video that has “legal” levels (that is, the minimum and maximum brightness or color saturation permitted by a broadcaster). Broadcasters adopt their own standards for legal levels, so you will need to find out for each case where your work will be broadcast.

You can see right away that you do not have great contrast in this shot. There are some strong shadows but few highlights pixels in the upper part of the waveform display.

YUV Vectorscope

Whereas the YC waveform shows luminance in terms of the vertical position of pixels displayed, with brighter pixels displayed at the top and darker pixels displayed at the bottom, the vectorscope shows only color.

1. Open the sequence Skyline.


2. Right-click in the Lumetri Scopes panel and select Vectorscope YUV; then right-click again and select Waveform to hide it.


Image Note

The HLS vectorscope is sometimes used by film grading artists in preference to the YUV vectorscope. It has no guiding overlay and is a little harder to read if you are not already familiar with it.

Pixels in the image are displayed in the vectorscope. If a pixel appears in the center of the circle, it has no color saturation. The closer to the edge of the circle, the more color a pixel has.

If you look closely at the vectorscope, you’ll see a series of targets indicating primary colors:

• R = Red

• G = Green

• B = Blue

You’ll also see a series of targets indicating secondary colors:

• YL = Yellow

• CY = Cyan

• MG = Magenta

The closer a pixel is to one of these targets, the more of that color it has. While the waveform display indicates where a pixel is in the picture, thanks to the horizontal position, there is no position information in the vectorscope.

It’s clear enough to see what’s happening in this shot of Seattle. There’s a lot of darker blue, and there are a few spots of red and yellow. The small amount of red is indicated by the streak of peaks reaching out toward the R marking in the vectorscope.

The vectorscope is helpful because it gives you objective information about the colors in your sequence. If there’s a color cast, perhaps because the camera was not calibrated properly, it’s often obvious in the vectorscope display. You can simply use one of the Lumetri Color panel controls to reduce the amount of the unwanted color or add more of the opposite color.

Some of the controls for color correction effects, such as Fast Color Corrector, have the same color wheel design as the vectorscope, making it easy to see what you need to do.

Let’s make an adjustment and observe the result in the vectorscope display.

1. Continue working with the Skyline sequence. Position the Timeline playhead at 00:00:01:00, where the colors are more vivid.

2. In the Lumetri Color panel, expand the Basic Correction section.

3. While watching the result in the vectorscope display, drag the Temperature slider from one extreme to the other.


The pixels displayed in the vectorscope move between the orange and blue areas of the display.

4. Reset the Temperature slider by double-clicking the slider control.

5. In the Lumetri Color panel, drag the Tint slider from one extreme to the other.


The pixels displayed in the vectorscope move between the green and magenta areas of the display.

6. Reset the Tint slider by double-clicking the slider control.

By making adjustments while checking the vectorscope, you can obtain an objective indication of the change you’re making.

About primary and secondary colors

Red, green, and blue are primary colors. It’s common for display systems, including television screens and your computer monitor, to combine these three colors in varying relative amounts to produce all the colors you see.

There’s a beautiful symmetry to the way a standard color wheel works, and a color wheel is essentially what the vectorscope displays.

Any two primary colors will combine to produce a secondary color. Secondary colors are the opposite of the remaining primary color.

For example, red and green combine to produce yellow, which is the opposite of blue.

Additive and subtractive color

Computer screens and televisions use additive color, which means the colors are created by generating light in different colors and combining them to produce a precise mix. You produce white by combining equal amounts of red, green, and blue.

When you draw with color on paper, it is usually white paper, reflecting a full spectrum of colors. You subtract from the white of the paper by adding pigment. The pigment prevents parts of the light from reflecting. This is called subtractive color.

Additive color uses primary colors; subtractive color uses secondary colors. In a sense, they’re flip sides of the same color theory.

RGB parade

Right-click in the Lumetri Scopes panel and choose Preset > Parade RGB.


The RGB parade provides another form of waveform-style display. The difference is that the red, green, and blue levels are displayed separately. To fit all three colors in, each image is squeezed horizontally to one-third of the width of the display.

You can choose which kind of parade you see by right-clicking in the Lumetri Scopes panel and choosing Parade Type.


The three parts of the parade have similar patterns in them, particularly where there are white or gray pixels, because these parts will have equal amounts of red, green, and blue. The RGB parade is one of the most frequently used tools in color correction because it clearly shows the relationship between the primary color channels.

To see the impact color adjustments can have on the parade, go to the Basic Correction section of the Lumetri Color panel and try adjusting the Color Balance Temperature and Tint controls. Be sure to reset them when you finish, by double-clicking each control.

An overview of color-oriented effects

As well as adjusting color using the Lumetri panel, there are a number of color-oriented effects worth familiarizing yourself with. You add, modify, and remove color correction effects in the same way that you manage the other effects in Premiere Pro. Just as with the other effects, you can use keyframes to modify color correction effect settings over time.

Image Tip

You can always find an effect using the search box at the top of the Effects panel. Often, the best way to learn how to use an effect is to apply it to a clip with a good range of colors, highlights, and shadows and then adjust all the settings to see the result.

As you build familiarity with Premiere Pro, you may find yourself wondering which effect is best for a particular purpose; this is normal! There are often several ways of achieving the same outcome in Premiere Pro, and sometimes the choice comes down to which interface you prefer.

Here are a few effects you may want to try first. If you want to look at these effects and experiment with the controls now, you may want to use the Effects workspace, rather than the Color workspace.

Coloring effects

Premiere Pro features several effects for adjusting existing colors. The following two are for creating a black-and-white image and applying a tint and for simply turning a color clip into a black-and-white one.


Use the eyedroppers or color pickers to reduce any image to just two colors. Whatever you map to black-and-white replaces any other colors in the image.



Convert any image to simple black-and-white. This is useful when combined with other effects that can add color.


Black-and-white images can often withstand much stronger contrast. Consider combining effects for the best results.

Color removal or replacement

These effects allow you to make changes to colors selectively, rather than modifying the entire image. You’ll be working with some of these effects later.

Leave Color

You can use an advanced secondary color correction feature available in the Three-Way Color Corrector effect to achieve a similar result, but this filter is often faster.


Use the eyedropper or color pickers to select a color you want to keep. Adjust the Amount to Decolor setting to turn the saturation down on every other color.

Use the Tolerance and Edge Software controls to produce a more subtle effect.

Change to Color

Use the eyedroppers or color pickers to select a color you want to change and the color you’d like it to become.


Use the Change menu to select the method you’d like the effect to use to apply the adjustment.

Change Color

Similar to the Change to Color effect, this effect gives subtle controls to adjust one color to another.


Rather than matching another color, you change the hue and finesse the selection using the Matching Tolerance and Matching Softness controls.

Color correction

These effects include a range of controls to adjust the overall look of your video or to make precise selections to adjust individual colors or color ranges. You may find yourself using the Lumetri Color panel for some kinds of adjustments and using some of the effects covered in the following sections for others.

Fast Color Corrector

As the name suggests, Fast Color Corrector is a quick and easy-to-use effect for adjusting the overall color and luminance levels in your clips.


Three-Way Color Corrector

Similar to Fast Color Corrector, this effect has separate controls for adjusting color for the shadows, midtones, and highlights of your clips. The Lumetri Color panel has similar controls. However, this effect also has powerful secondary color correction controls that allow you to selectively color correct pixels that have a specific color, brightness, or amount of color saturation.


RGB Curves

The RGB Curves effect is a graph control that gives natural-looking, subtle results. The horizontal axis of each graph represents the original clip, with shadows on the left and highlights on the right. The vertical axis represents the output from the effect, with shadows at the bottom and highlights at the top.

A straight line from the lower-left corner to the upper-right corner means no change. Drag the line to reshape it, changing the relationship between the original clip levels and the resulting output levels. These controls are available as a separate effect or as part of the Lumetri color panel.


Video Limiter

In addition to creative effects, Premiere Pro’s color correction repertoire includes effects used for professional video production.

When video is broadcast, there are specific limits that are permitted for maximum luminance, minimum luminance, and color saturation. Although it’s possible to confine your video levels to the limits permitted using manual controls, it’s easy to mix parts of your sequence that need adjustment.

The Video Limiter effect automatically limits the levels of clips to ensure they meet the standards you set.

You’ll need to check the limits applied by your broadcaster before setting the Signal Min and Signal Max controls with this effect. Then it’s simply a question of choosing the Reduction Axis option. Do you want to just limit the luminance, the chrominance, or both, or do you want to set an overall “smart” limit?


The Reduction Method menu allows you to choose the parts of your video signal you would like to adjust. You’ll usually choose Compress All.

Image Tip

While it’s common to apply the Video Limiter effect to individual clips, you might also choose to apply it to the whole sequence by applying it to an adjustment layer.

Fixing exposure problems

Let’s look at some clips that have exposure issues and use some of the Lumetri Color panel controls to address them.

1. Make sure you are in the Color workspace, and reset it to the saved version if necessary.

2. Open the sequence Color Work.

3. In the Lumetri Scopes panel, right-click or click the Settings menu to select the Waveform.

4. Again, in the Lumetri Scopes panel, right-click or click the Settings menu to choose Waveform Type > YC no Chroma.

5. Position the Timeline playhead over the first clip in the sequence. It’s the shot of the lady walking. You’re going to add some contrast.

The environment is smoky; 100 IRE (displayed on the left on the waveform) means fully exposed, and 0 IRE means not exposed at all. No part of the image comes close to these levels. Your eye quickly adjusts to the image, and it’ll soon appear fine. Let’s see whether you can bring it to life a little.

6. In the Lumetri Color panel, click to display the Basic Correction controls.

7. Use the Exposure and Contrast controls to make adjustments to the shot, while checking the waveform display to make sure the image doesn’t become too dark or too light.

You’ll get the best perceived results if you have a frame from a later part of the clip onscreen. Around 00:00:07:09 there’s a section of sharp focus.

Try an Exposure setting of 0.6 and a Contrast setting of 60.


8. Your eye is likely to adjust quickly to the new image. Use the check box to toggle the Basic Correction adjustment off and on to compare the image before and after.


The subtle adjustment you made adds more depth to the image, giving it stronger highlights and shadows. As you toggle the effect off and on, you’ll see the Waveform Monitor changing. You still don’t have bright highlights in the image, but that’s fine because its natural colors are mainly midtones.


Underexposed images

Now you’ll work with an underexposed image.

1. Switch to the Effects workspace.

2. Position the Timeline playhead over the second clip in the Color Work sequence. When you first look at this clip, it might look OK. The highlights don’t look strong, but there’s a reasonable amount of detail throughout the image. The face, especially, is sharp and detailed.

Image Tip

Remember, you can open any panel by selecting it in the Window menu. The Lumetri Scopes panel isn’t limited to the Color workspace.

3. Open the Lumetri Scopes panel so you can view this clip in the waveform. At the bottom of the waveform there are quite a few dark pixels, with some touching the 0 line.

In this instance, it looks like the missing detail is in the right shoulder of the suit. The problem with such dark pixels is that increasing the brightness will simply change the strong shadows into gray, and no detail will emerge.

4. In the Effects panel, locate the Brightness & Contrast effect. Apply the effect to the clip.

5. Position the panels so you can see the Lumetri Scopes panel, Effect Controls panel, and Program Monitor.


6. Use the Brightness control in the Effect Controls panel to increase the brightness. Rather than clicking the number and typing a new number, drag to the right so you can see the change happening incrementally.

Image Tip

The Brightness & Contrast effect offers a quick, easy fix, but it’s easy to accidentally clip the black (dark) or white (bright) pixels, losing detail. The Curves control keeps adjustments inside the 0 to 255 scale unless you drag the end control points.

As you drag, notice that the whole waveform moves up. This is fine for bringing out the highlights in the image, but the shadows remain a flat line. You’re simply changing the black shadows to gray. If you drag the Brightness control all the way to 100, you’ll see just how flat the image still is.


7. Remove the Brightness & Contrast effect.

8. Switch back to the Color workspace. Try to make an adjustment using the RGB Curves control in the Lumetri Color panel. Here’s an example of a Luma Curve effect that would improve the image.


Image Tip

You can remove a control point from the curve control by dragging it completely out of the graph.

Experiment with the third clip in the sequence. This clip demonstrates that there are limits to what can be fixed in post.

Overexposed images

The next clip you’ll work with is overexposed.

1. Move the Timeline playhead to the fourth clip in the sequence. Notice that a lot of the pixels are burned out. Just as with the flat shadows in the second clip in the sequence, there’s no detail in burned-out highlights. This means that lowering the brightness will simply make the character’s skin and hair gray; no detail will emerge.

2. Notice that the shadows in this shot don’t reach the bottom of the Waveform Monitor. The lack of properly dark shadows has a flattening effect on the image.

3. Try using the RGB Curves control in the Lumetri Color panel to improve the contrast range. This approach might work, although the clip definitely ends up looking processed.


When is color correction right?

Making adjustments to images is highly subjective. Though there are precise limits for image formats and broadcast technologies, whether an image should be light, dark, blue-tinted, or green is ultimately a subjective choice. The reference tools that Premiere Pro provides, such as the Lumetri Scopes panel, are a helpful guide, but only you can decide when the picture looks right.

If you’re producing video for display on televisions, it’s vital that you have a television screen connected to your Premiere Pro editing system to view your content. Television screens usually display color differently from computer monitors. For professional broadcast television, editors will usually have a carefully calibrated monitor that displays YUV color.

The difference is comparable to the difference between looking at colors in photos on your computer monitor and then seeing the colors as they are produced by your printer.

The same rule applies if you are producing content for digital cinema projection. The only way to know exactly how the picture will look is to view it using the destination medium. This means if your ultimate destination is a computer screen, perhaps as web video or part of a software interface, you are already looking at the perfect test monitor.

Fixing color balance

Your eyes adjust to compensate for changes in the color of light around you automatically. It’s an extraordinary ability that allows you to see white as white, even if objectively it’s orange, for example, because it’s lit by tungsten light.

Cameras can automatically adjust their white balance to compensate for different lighting in the way that your eyes do. With the right calibration, white objects look white, whether you are recording indoors (under more orange tungsten light) or outdoors (in more blue daylight).

Sometimes, automatic settings are hit or miss, so professional shooters often prefer to adjust white balance manually. If the white balance is set wrong, you can end up with some interesting results. The most common reason for a color balance problem in a clip is that the camera was not calibrated properly.

Basic white balance (Fast Color Corrector)

Let’s look at a clip in this sequence where the color calibration is pretty awful.

1. Switch to the Effects workspace.

2. Move the Timeline playhead to the fifth clip in the sequence.

On first inspection, this clip looks reasonably well balanced, but the background wall was originally white, and now it has a warm color cast.

3. Apply the Fast Color Corrector effect to the clip. This effect shares many controls with another effect, Three-Way Color Corrector.

You’ll explore the controls for this effect later in this lesson. In the meantime, you’ll find out why this effect is described as Fast.

4. Select the White Balance eyedropper in the Effect Controls panel.


Image Tip

You may need to try a few times to find the perfect spot to click with the eyedropper. Try holding Control (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) to get a 5×5 pixel average selection.

5. In the Program Monitor, click the wall just under the subject’s chin. Be careful to avoid her skin and the paper lower down.


Image Tip

When using the eyedropper, you might find it helpful to change the zoom setting for the Program Monitor to 100%, making it easier to click the pixels you want.

The White Balance control tells the Fast Color Corrector effect what should be white. By default, the color swatch is pure white. When you select a different color with the eyedropper, the Fast Color Corrector effect adjusts all colors in the image by the difference between pure white and the color you selected.

In this example, you selected a tan color, which is the result of the lighting on the scene. The Fast Color Corrector adjusts all colors in the scene toward blue.

You can see exactly what the effect is doing by looking at the color wheel, located just below the White Balance control. Like the vectorscope, the color wheel represents colors with increasing intensity toward the edge of the circle. Rather than measuring color, the color wheel in the Fast Color Corrector applies an adjustment. The more the small circle at the center of the wheel is moved toward the edge, the more adjustment is applied.


Image Tip

The difference made with color correction can be quite subtle. Toggle the effect off and on in the Effect Controls panel to see a “before” and “after” comparison.

You can see in this example that Premiere Pro has applied an adjustment toward blue. In this way, using the White Balance eyedropper and the color wheel can help you to learn about color correction and the adjustments needed to balance whites.

Let’s try this with a more challenging shot.

1. Position the Timeline playhead over the last clip in the sequence. This shot has a severe blue tint, caused by a badly calibrated camera.

2. Apply the Fast Color Corrector effect to the clip.

3. Use the Fast Color Corrector White Balance eyedropper to click the same part of the wall in the background.

The effect does a good job of automatically correcting the color cast, though perhaps you could do better with manual adjustments. Try this now, using the control puck (small circle) in the center of the Fast Color Corrector color wheel.

Try using the Lumetri Scopes vectorscope (YUV) to observe the results of your adjustments. When you have finished, remove the Fast Color Corrector effect from the clip.

Primary color correction

The words primary and secondary have multiple meanings. Historically, the place where “color timing” was applied was during the film transfer process at the telecine. A primary correction involved adjusting the relationship between the primary colors (red, green, and blue) in the printer lights. A secondary correction involved focusing on certain color ranges within an image, often through adding adjustments of secondary colors. So, while primary and secondary define types of colors on a color wheel, you can also use these terms to describe stages in the color correction workflow.

Broadly speaking, primary color correction still involves overall color correction adjustments to the whole image. These days, you can also employ adjustments through secondary colors and still consider it “primary” because the entire image is affected and it’s typically most effective to make these adjustments first.

Because secondary color correction (so called because it’s typically performed second) usually involves more subtle fine-tuning, the name has come to mean applying adjustments to selected ranges of pixels within an image.

Let’s look at primary color correction. The Three-Way Color Corrector effect works in a similar way to the Fast Color Corrector effect, but with more advanced controls. It’s a powerful color correction tool that, combined with the Lumetri Scopes panel, adjustment layers, master clip effects, and effect masks, helps you achieve professional color correction results.

Some of the same controls are available in the Lumetri Color panel, but the Three-Way Color Corrector offers more automatic adjustment options and secondary color correction.

Let’s run through the main controls.


• Output: Use this menu to view your clip in color or black-and-white. Viewing in black-and-white is useful for identifying contrast.

• Show Split View: Turn on Show Split View to see a “before” and “after” version of your clip, with one half changed by the effect and the other half unaffected. You can choose a horizontal or vertical layout and change the percentage of the split.

• Shadows Balance, Midtones Balance, Highlights Balance: Each color wheel allows you to make subtle adjustments to the colors in your clip. If you select the Master check box, Premiere Pro will apply the adjustments you make to all three controls at once. Note that the adjustments you make with the Master mode on are independent of adjustments you make to the individual parts of the clip; you can apply both.

• Input Levels: Use the slider controls to change the Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights levels for this clip.

• Output Levels: Use the slider controls to adjust the minimum brightness and maximum brightness for the clip. The Input Levels settings relate directly to this control, so, for example, if you set your Input Shadow level to 20 and your Output Shadow level to 0, anything in your clip that has a pixel brightness of 20 or less will be lowered to 0.

About levels controls

8-bit video, which describes all digital standard-definition broadcast video, is measured on a brightness scale from 0 to 255. When you adjust Input Levels or Output Levels settings, you change the relationship between the displayed levels and the original clip levels.

For example, if you set the Output white level to 255, Premiere Pro will use the maximum brightness range for the video. If you set the Input white level to 200, Premiere Pro will stretch the original clip brightness so that 200 becomes 255. The result is that your highlights will get brighter, and pixel values originally greater than 200 will clip, or become flat white, losing any detail.

The Input Levels settings have three controls: Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights. By changing these levels, you change the relationship between the original clip levels and the way those levels are displayed during playback.

• Tonal Range Definition: Use the sliders to define the range of pixels affected by the Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights color wheel controls. For example, if you drag the highlight slider left, you’ll increase the number of pixels adjusted when using Highlights controls. The triangle-shaped slider allows you to define the extent of the softening between the levels you’re adjusting.

Click the Tonal Range Definition disclosure triangle to get access to individual controls and to the Show Tonal Range check box. If you select the check box, Premiere Pro displays your image in just three gray tones so you can identify which parts of your picture will be affected when you make adjustments. Black pixels are shadows, gray pixels are midtones, and white pixels are highlights.

• Saturation: Use this to adjust the amount of color in the clip. You have a Master control that will adjust the overall clip and separate controls for Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights.

• Secondary Color Correction: This advanced color correction feature allows you to define specific pixels you would like to adjust, based on their hue, saturation, or luminance range. The Show Mask option shows you which pixels you have selected to apply the color correction adjustment to. Using this feature, you could, for example, selectively adjust pixels with a particular shade of green.

• Auto Levels: Use this feature to automatically adjust the Input Levels controls. You can click the Auto buttons or use the eyedroppers. To use the eyedroppers, select one (Black, Gray, or White) and then click a correlating part of the picture. For example, select the White Level eyedropper and then click the brightest part of the picture. Premiere Pro updates the Levels controls based on the selections you make.

• Shadows, Midtones, Highlights, Master: These controls allow you to make the same adjustments as the Shadows, Midtones, Highlights, and Master color balance controls but with more precision. When you change one, the other updates automatically.

• Master Levels: These controls allow you to make the same adjustments as the Input Levels and Output Levels graphic controls but with more precision. When you change one, the other updates automatically.

Apply the Three-Way Color corrector effect to the last clip in the Color Work sequence, and try using the controls to obtain a more nuanced result than you could with the Fast Color Corrector effect.

Balancing Lumetri color wheels

It’s up to you which tools you use to work on color. As you gain familiarity with the options, you will tend to use one set of tools for one kind of task and a different set for another.

Let’s try using the Lumetri Color panel color wheels to adjust the last shot in the sequence.

The Fast Color Corrector effect helped, and perhaps you obtained even better results using the Three-Way Color Corrector. Perhaps you can do even better using the new Lumetri Color panel.

1. Switch to the Color workspace, and reset it if necessary.

2. Right-click the last clip in the Color Work sequence and choose Remove Effects. Click OK in the confirmation dialog.

3. In the Lumetri Color panel, expand the Basic section, and click the Auto button to automatically adjust the levels.

The Tone controls change to reflect the new levels.

Premiere Pro has identified the darkest pixels and the brightest pixels and has balanced automatically.

The adjustment is tiny! Clearly, the problem is not with the range of contrast in the shot.

4. Set the Lumetri Scopes panel to display the YUV vectorscope.


It’s clear there is a reasonable range of colors in the shot, but there’s a strong bias toward the blue. In fact, this scene has mixed lighting, with more blue daylight coming from the window and warmer tungsten light coming from the interior of the room.

5. Use the Temperature slider in the Lumetri Color panel to push the colors toward the orange. You’ll need to push the adjustment all the way to 100 to see a reasonable result because the color shift is so strong in the clip.

The result is pretty good, but perhaps it could be better.

The darker pixels in this shot are generally lit by the interior, warmer room light, while the lighter pixels are generally lit by the more blue daylight. This means different color wheels will interact with different areas of the picture in convincing and natural ways.

Try using the Shadows color wheel to pull the color toward the red, while using the Highlights color wheel.

6. Expand the Color Wheels section of the Lumetri Color panel.

7. Adjust the color wheels to warm up the shadows and cool down the highlights. Experiment with the midtones to obtain the most natural result possible. Use the image as a guide.


Experiment with the other controls in the Lumetri Color panel to see whether you can improve the result further.


Using special color effects

Several special effects give you great creative control over the colors in your clips.

Here are a few effects of note.

Gaussian Blur

While not technically a color adjustment effect, adding a tiny amount of blurring can soften the results of your adjustments, making an image look more natural. Premiere Pro has a number of blur effects. The most popular is Gaussian Blur, which has a natural-looking, smoothing effect on an image.


The Stylize category of effects includes some dramatic options, some of which, like the Mosaic effect, you’ll use for more functional applications, such as hiding someone’s face.

The Solarize effect gives vivid color adjustments that can be used to create stylized back plates for graphics or intro sequences.


Lumetri looks

The Lumetri Color panel includes a list of built-in looks you experimented with earlier. There are also a number of Lumetri looks available as presets in the Effects panel.

These effects all make use of the Lumetri effect.

The Lumetri effect allows you to browse to an existing .look or .lut file to apply nuanced, subtle color adjustments to your footage. If you’re just starting out with color adjustments, you may want a quicker fix.

The Lumetri looks available in the Effects panel are a set of Lumetri effects that already have .look files associated with them. When you select a look, a Looks browser appears in the Effects panel, making it easy to select the look you want.


Lumetri looks are an excellent way of achieving a more filmic look with almost no work because they already have more nuanced color adjustments than you’re likely to achieve using regular color correction.

Creating a look

Once you’ve spent a little time with the color correction effects available in Premiere Pro, you should have a feel for the kinds of changes you can make and the impact those changes have on the overall look and feel of your footage.

You can use effect presets to create a look for your clips. You can also apply an effect to an adjustment layer to give your sequence, or part of a sequence, an overall look. Changes made using the Lumetri Color panel apply just as well when applied to an adjustment layer.

In the most common color correction scenario, you would do the following:

• Adjust each shot so that it matches the other shots in the same scene. That way, there is color continuity.

• Next, apply an overall look to your production.

Try using an adjustment layer.

1. Open the Theft Unexpected sequence.

2. In the Project panel, click the New Item menu and choose Adjustment Layer. The settings automatically match the sequence, so click OK.

3. Drag and drop the new adjustment layer onto the V2 track in the sequence.

The default duration for adjustment layers is the same as the duration of still images. It’s too short for this sequence.

4. Trim the adjustment layer until it stretches from the beginning to the end of the sequence.

Image Note

If you use adjustment layers in this way on a sequence that has graphics and titles, you may want to ensure that the adjustment layer is on a track between the graphics/titles and the video. Otherwise, you will adjust the appearance of your titles too.

5. Apply one of the Effects panel Lumetri Preset looks to the adjustment layer. The look will apply to every clip in the sequence.


You can apply any standard visual effect this way and use multiple adjustment layers to apply different looks to different scenes.

Sending sequences to Adobe SpeedGrade

Adobe SpeedGrade is a powerful color correction application included with Adobe Creative Cloud.

Premiere Pro has comprehensive color correction tools but is primarily an editing system. Adobe SpeedGrade is completely dedicated to the task of color correction, and it provides superior tools for the purpose.

You can easily share your Premiere Pro sequence with SpeedGrade, switching back and forth between the two applications in a moment.

When you do so, adjustments made in Premiere Pro are visible but not editable in SpeedGrade. In the same way, adjustments made in SpeedGrade are visible but not editable in SpeedGrade.

Let’s send the Theft Unexpected sequence to SpeedGrade.

1. Make sure the Theft Unexpected sequence is open.

2. Choose File > Direct Link to Adobe SpeedGrade and click Yes in the confirmation dialog box.

Premiere Pro saves and closes the project and hands it to SpeedGrade.


SpeedGrade is a powerful application. For more information on how to work with SpeedGrade, check out Adobe SpeedGrade CC Classroom in a Book. For now, you’ll use prebuilt looks, as you have already in Premiere Pro.

The middle of the screen shows the Timeline. This is the Theft Unexpected sequence. Notice that the first clip is highlighted, with the playhead at the beginning of the Timeline.


When you’re working in SpeedGrade, the highlighted clip is the one you are making adjustments to. As you drag the playhead through the sequence, each clip in turn will highlight.

At the bottom of the SpeedGrade interface, you’ll find a series of tabs with prebuilt SpeedLooks. These are similar to the Lumetri looks in Premiere Pro.

3. Click a look to apply it.

4. Drag the playhead through the sequence, adding different looks for each clip.

5. When you have finished, click the Direct Link to Adobe Premiere Pro button (Image) at the top of the SpeedGrade interface. Click Yes in the confirmation dialog.

SpeedGrade saves and closes the project and hands it to Premiere Pro.

6. Click one or two clips and look in the Effect Controls panel. The changes you’ve made in SpeedGrade all appear as Lumetri Color effects, in a special SpeedGrade Custom layer in Premiere Pro. This means you can turn them off and on or make an effect preset that includes them.

There’s much more you can do with SpeedGrade, but this is all you need to know to share your work between your editing and grading applications.

Review questions

1. How do you change the display in the Lumetri Scopes panel?

2. How do you access the Lumetri Scopes panel when not viewing the Color workspace?

3. Why should you use the vectorscope rather than depending on your eyes?

4. How can you apply a look to a sequence?

5. Why might you need to limit your luminance or color levels?

Review answers

1. Right-click in the panel or click the Settings menu and choose the display type you would like.

2. Access the Lumetri Scopes panel like all panels, in the Windows menu.

3. The way you perceive color is highly subjective and relative. Depending on the colors you have just seen, you will see new colors differently. The vectorscope display gives you an objective reference.

4. You can use effect presets to apply the same color correction adjustments to multiple clips, or you can add an adjustment layer and apply the effects to that. Any clips on lower tracks covered by the adjustment layer will be affected.

5. If your sequence is intended for broadcast television, you’ll need to ensure you meet the stringent requirements for maximum and minimum levels. The broadcaster you’re working with will be able to tell you their required levels.