Color correction: Color Finesse 2

ReneH wrote on 3/20/2007, 9:37 AM
There was a guy on some magazine who was quoted as saying that he has not seen any piece of software that can do color correction to the level of satisfaction that would yield professional result.

With that in mind, what is the opinion of Vegas CC in comparison to say FCP, Adobe AE, etc?
What do you guys think of Color Finesse 2 as a CC tool in comparison to Vegas? Discuss.


Jay Gladwell wrote on 3/20/2007, 10:33 AM

My opinion is that a person making such a statement has an agenda. Vegas has excellent color correction tools and are capable of delivering "professional" quality color grading.

Just ask Patrick Rebisz or Glenn Chan.

farss wrote on 3/20/2007, 5:04 PM
Well an awefull lot of CC is done in software today!
If he's talking about the differences between doing it in a DI or optically then there's certainly plenty of discussion on this very topic, one of the biggest issues is that every facility uses their own LUTs so a DP has no way of knowing for certain just what'll happen if he calls for 2 points more red.

In the realm of 8bit DV, Vegas is about as good as it gets, you can perhaps wrangle a little more out of DV in higher end systems but not much, the data simply isn't there in the first place.

Conversely a 10bit log dpx file such as was recently linked to here, well yes, there's certainly better toolsets for working with that than Vegas. Keep in mind though that serious grading tools cost very serious money.

Patryk Rebisz wrote on 3/20/2007, 7:35 PM
From my experience Color Finesse is a bit cumbersome to use. Vegas and Premiere and Avid offer outstanidng CC tools. FCP is lagging a bit behind so if i was to edit on FCP i would probably invest in Color Finesse. For any other applcation build in tools are superb. Of course my personal favorites are the ones in Vegas mostly because with layeres and masks i can simulate power windows from high end hardware based color correction packages.
ReneH wrote on 3/20/2007, 8:26 PM
The reason I brought this up is not to compare Vegas to every other app but to get a clearer understanding of CC. I see people quoted in mags every once in awhile about CC and wanted to get some more info on what is deemed the best method for getting the best results. Some people argue that there isn't any app out there that can do CC to their satisfaction, which kinda muddies the water. As for me, I'm quite impressed with Vegas all round.
Coursedesign wrote on 3/20/2007, 8:29 PM
I also found Color Finesse somewhat clunky.

Vegas color corrector is OK, but nothing special.

Colorista is a great new add-in color corrector from Magic Bullet, available for Final Cut Pro, Motion, After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Avid AVX, and it uses the traditional Lift Gamma Gain model used by DaVinci and all the high end color correction systems because this makes sense (letting you adjust highlights, midtones, and shadows separately). Support for up to 32-bit float and GPU acceleration makes even that superfast, and the equivalent of Power Windows of course. $199 at full list, Sony should make a deal to get this bundled with Vegas 8...

Other than that, you can of course do your color correction/grading/mastering today with After Effects 7 Pro (Pro because you really do need 32-bit video to get the best results, see for example this short blurb by Stu Maschwitz, famous for founding The Orphanage.

I really recommend his new book, "The DV Rebel," which is outstanding in its presentation of ways to shoot action movies on the cheap as well as covering mastering in AE Pro (could be adapted to Fusion or Combustion).

GlennChan wrote on 3/20/2007, 10:35 PM
1- Lift gamma gain can be done via the color curves or levels filter in Vegas.

The following presets might be helpful:

In Vegas, the most useful thing to do is to apply s-shaped curves to bump up contrast. Moving the control points using the arrow keys on your keyboard will be similar to adjusting lift and gain.

2- Probably the biggest pluses for a Da Vinci is:
A- Everything real-time. A lot of software systems lack in this regard. For people who don't need to impress (fickle) clients paying $1500/hr, you can likely live with a little rendering.
B- Works in existing high-end workflows. The Da Vinci can control the telecine's controls, works in real-time (no rendering is big), speaks SDI + deck control, etc. It is not ideal in that some time is spent unloading and loading film; a DDR solves this and allows 'non-linear' corrections (if they work).
C- There are a lot of talented colorists who know how to use it to its full potential.

The Da Vinci 2k (not the Resolve) can't do motion tracking and can't do spline-based windows, which is where the software-based high-end correctors have their advantage. But the software-based systems tend to have problems with A and B, which is why they tend not to be used for high-end commercial work.

The Da Vinci has its place in the industry (and those are reasons why it is so popular)... but it is mostly targetted at a market with specific needs and budgets that can pay for hundreds of dollars an hour for the suite (rates are lower outside daytime).

3- Vegas has a pretty decent set of color correction tools. An old example of what it can do can be found at

In practice, unless you want to do very detailed color corrections or things Vegas can't do, coloring in Vegas is probably your best bet. Not having to go through a tedious conform process is a big plus (i.e. this is a problem with Final Cut + Final Touch).

4- After Effects is nice in that it does motion tracked masks well, you can make really great glows (linear blending makes a big difference), and do compositing tasks in it. It does lack a little in that its saturation algorithm doesn't look that good, and its secondary CC (via hue/saturation) isn't very good at isolating color.

So there may be a reason to use it... but it's sort of two steps forward one steps backward. That being said, it would probably be my best bet if you want higher quality than Vegas and/or you're looking to do compositing tasks at the same time (object removal, stabilization, etc.).

5- Of the other packages out there:
Color Finesse: From ver1, it has a clunky interface and no masking. Secondary CC not on par with Vegas.
Final Touch: Some interesting things (i.e. faster than Vegas), but workflow/conform is tedious and feels like a beta.
FCP: You can do basic primary grading stuff in FCP, but its masking is weak (looks bad) and curves are tedious. Interface is annoying.
Coursedesign wrote on 3/21/2007, 12:42 AM

I think you'll have to admit that few people are fond of "moving control points on curves" to adjust lift and gain, because it's just not that intuitive. They would take a couple of big knobs in a heart beat.

When you use FCP, get Colorista and get happy. It even has ACL-compliant color processing on top of the "Power Windows" you were seeking, and the controls work exactly the same way as on a DaVinci.

And, since Sony bundles some Magic Bullet stuff with Vegas already, why shouldn't they talk with them about bundling Colorista as an option at least? It would really strengthen Vegas as a pro platform.
mark-woollard wrote on 3/21/2007, 7:53 AM
Colorista doesn't support Vegas so bundling would require some development. I just looked at an interesting "fix the shot" tutorial for Colorista in FCP here:

Considering just this example, it seems to me that Glenn and Spot's VASST CC DVD reveals similar capabilities in Vegas. So other than the "red mask" feature and better than 8 bit, what are we missing in Vegas CC?
BrianStanding wrote on 3/21/2007, 9:01 AM
Between the Color Correction, Secondary Color Correction, Color Curves and Levels filters, I have found very few things I cannot do with Vegas. Maybe Vegas gets short shrift here because people are only looking at the Color Correction filter, and not the others?

I do wish Vegas had a "White Balance" feature, where you could click on an area of the screen that should be white and rebalance everything. When I used Premiere, I had a plug-in called ViXen that did a really nice job of this.
Coursedesign wrote on 3/21/2007, 9:45 AM
It's not that the work can't be done in Vegas. Between all the different features in Vegas, it can do just about anything.

No, it's about doing color correction with less effort, in a simple and straightforward way.

This of course wouldn't have to be the way it's done by people who spend all day doing color correction for a living, but why reinvent the, um, wheels?

ASC is working on standardizing Lift Gamma Gain correction settings to be transported like EDLs between different color correction software, see this, which also explains why it's less work this way.

fwtep wrote on 3/21/2007, 10:50 AM
I took a look at that sample veg file and of the three, the first one has the least banding, with the last one (film style gamma) coming in second. Is that just something set wrong on my system, or is the banding really there? With live action it might not be too much of a problem, but with animation, where there are often smooth gradients, it's troublesome.

GlennChan wrote on 3/21/2007, 12:27 PM
I do wish Vegas had a "White Balance" feature, where you could click on an area of the screen that should be white and rebalance everything. When I used Premiere, I had a plug-in called ViXen that did a really nice job of this.
The 3-way color corrector mostly does this. Use its eyedroppers.

- I'm not saying that Vegas doesn't have flaws. What I was saying is that a practical thing to do is to color in Vegas if you edited in Vegas. The color correction tools are pretty good, and you don't waste time moving to another app.

- Vegas could improve its levels filter so that you don't have to "juggle" the controls (since changing input start affects your white level). Vegas could also implement lift gamma gain controls for each color channel (with an easier interface than color curves); that shouldn't be difficult.

2- Fred: If you take a 8-bit R'G'B' image, apply curves/levels to it (even if you process in 32-bit float), and the final output is a 8-bit R'G'B' image, then you may get some banding. Error occurs when you have to round numbers off. If you don't round numbers off and simply knock off everything after the decimal place, then that's worse (the levels filter does this :( ).

The advantage of using 32-bit floating point numbers is over multiple generations / operations... if you pass 32-bit floats from filter to filter, then you avoid rounding down to 8-bit integers (which Vegas has to do). Technically floating point numbers have their own rounding problems (this gets into some crazier math), although it's not an issue when you have such a huge overkill of bits (32 is a lot).

On the other hand, noise in the image will help mask banding (and generally some noise will end up in the final image). It's a rare situation where banding is really a problem. You usually just don't see it. To be over the threshold where you can just detect the banding, the (gradient or) bands have to be fairly large/big. So in the color curves .veg, you'll see banding if your eyes are close enough to the screen. But otherwise, it's rare to have big bands AND no/little noise in an image. In practice it'll be rare where banding is a very noticeable problem.

2b- When you convert between R'G'B' and Y'CbCr (used in DV, MPEG2, and other video formats), you incur some rounding. Done very well, you need to convert to 2 bits higher to avoid any rounding (according to Sheer video / synchrony). So to represent 8-bit RGB in Y'CbCr space without numerical loss, you need to convert from 8-bit R'G'B' to 10-bit Y'CbCr (or higher). Distribution tends to be limited to 8-bit Y'CbCr, so there is mathematical loss there.

Conversely, 8-bit Y'CbCr needs to be converted to 10-bit R'G'B' (or higher).

2c- Supporting >8-bit input would help things a little.

2d- Dithering/dynamic rounding would allow Vegas to squeeze a little more performance out of its 8-bit limitations.

I wouldn't worry about the math too much, visible banding (caused by Vegas) almost never occurs in real world situations. Unless you make the jump to linear light processing/compositing, in which case you really should jump to 32-bit float.

3- Fred: Are you looking at the histogram or the actual image?
using a 6-bit LCD or a 8-bit display?
Patryk Rebisz wrote on 3/21/2007, 1:03 PM
There is too many "Vegas is OK" posts here. Out of 4 editing systems (Vegas, Premiere, FCP and Avid) Vegas' color correction toots are my favorite (i'm talking about whole set CC, 2nd CC, Levels, Masks). As a set alone Avid's tootal are spectacular too (with it's levels being spread through 4 diagrams) but masking is so much more painful that i'll go with Vegas any day. Suprasingly FCP has the weakest tools.

Coursedesign, in that video anything shown there can be as easily accomplished in Vegas -- even better because you can control brightness and contrast with Levels so you can be very specific about what part if the image you are affecting (much more then simply High/Mid/Low) and you can create much more intricate masks.

In others word Vegas has spectacular CC abilities -- and yes 8-bit is a bit low...
fwtep wrote on 3/21/2007, 2:12 PM
I'm looking at it on a very high quality CRT.
Coursedesign wrote on 3/21/2007, 2:18 PM
As I said, Vegas can do just about anything in color correction by virtue of having a large tool box.

I'm just saying that doing CC with a collection of general purpose tools isn't as quick and intuitive.

I use Levels a lot, but they are not the ticket for everything I want. I bought Colorista because I like working with Lift Gamma Gain, in some cases they let me wheel in in a minute what might take 10-15 minutes of Curves fiddling (which I never liked much).

I hope Madison has had time to play with everyone else's color correctors so they can pick what's best and what's the best fit with the Vegas architecture. Certainly there were several very good suggestions in GlennChan's post above.

FCP's CC tools are infamously weak and they seem to be aware of it too, recently having bought a CC company. This probably means that they are not going to be standing still as a target come three weeks from now (at NAB), so I don't think Madison can rest on its laurels in this area.
farss wrote on 3/21/2007, 3:29 PM
It's not the CC toolset that's in Vegas that's the problem, it's Vegas itself that's the limiting factor.

mjroddy wrote on 3/21/2007, 6:15 PM
I agree, Bob.
8-Bit is, as far as my limited knowledge goes, the only bit of Vegas that is flat. It just doesn't have the depth necessary to compete with other platforms. I'm hoping this new announcement that Vegas is preparing us for will correct for this.
But I watch tutorials on CCing on those other platforms and say, I do that all the time in Vegas more quickly and more easily and, in come cases more effectively (for example, in the Colorista tute, they used a oval - I'd have used a traveling mask and been a happy pup).
ReneH wrote on 3/21/2007, 7:44 PM
I'm so glad that the discussion on CC has remained civil and the knowledge that you guys are willing to share is just great. This thread has been very informative and insightful. I just love coming here to see whats new. Thanks again guys.
MH_Stevens wrote on 3/21/2007, 8:26 PM
I think Vegas has too many tools. Many overlap and as Glenn said one tool does things better than another. I would like to see just 2 tools, Levels (maybe with some nobs as well as drag) with a true white balance eye dropper and a color corrector. I find I end up color corrected several times with different tools and trying to compare results, and I never feel I have it as good as i should have.
GlennChan wrote on 3/21/2007, 8:52 PM
I definitely agree that some of the filters are duplicates of another... the brightness and contrast plug is fairly redundant (same idea as levels, curves). The only niggle is that if you remove the brightness and contrast filter, people will wonder where it is (and old projects will lose that plug-in). On the other hand, perhaps these can be moved into a legacy plug-ins folder or something like that.

2- The curves plug-in could be revamped to roll the levels filter into there. Levels is really a subset of what the curves plug-in does. And definitely make the curves plug-in lift gamma gain style, and add support for studio RGB color space (instead of my workaround that you see in my color curves .veg file). These are fairly easy changes.
farss wrote on 3/21/2007, 9:52 PM
The curves are really great. My only dislike of them was the lack of any numerical values however a few days ago I realised it's not that hard to see what you're doing in a more scientific way.

I've been using generated media in conjunction with scopes, only eyeball accurate but I'd guess accurate enough for the task at hand.

Now if only these things used envelopes instead of keyframes. Add automation, shake lightly and that's a pretty smooth coctail. I guess it'd feak out a few watching us do grading with a Mackie HUI.

mjroddy wrote on 3/22/2007, 9:34 AM
At the risk of going slightly OT, I kind of really object to the keyframing method in Vegas.
But then, I'm based from a Boris background where you have infinite control over any and every aspect of a keyframe on any level.
I know many, many folk find Boris tough - and I still only know the basics (after so many years), but for me, it's a great tool with VERY powerful keyframing/envelope options.
I really wish Vegas gave us as much control. That would be fantastic.