By Heath McKnight (doddleNEWS)
Cinema Grade is a very powerful color grading plugin for Final Cut Pro X, DaVinci Resolve and Adobe Premiere Pro CC (Apple computers only), and at a very affordable price starting at $99. Okay, you may be asking yourself, that sounds like quite a few color grading solutions, how is this one different? Well you can grade directly inside your footage.
That’s right, you can reach into the viewer with your mouse and DIRECTLY color grade your video or film project. Adjust your Exposure, White Balance, Saturation, and Exposure much easier (in my opinion) that fiddling around with sliders, wheels and so on.
Color Grading Central is known for its terrific color grading plugin, Color Finale, and my editor friends have been using it for years. However, most major NLEs have added pretty sophisticated color grading tools, including Final Cut Pro X with the 10.4 update.
“Apple introduced their own set of grading tools, and it felt like the rug had been pulled out from under us. We had to make a decision: Do we give up, or do we innovate?” – Denver Riddle, President, Color Grading Central
Last fall, Riddle released a short series of videos teasing what was coming to email subscribers. I watched all of them daily, getting more and more intrigued. When I saw the final video, and watched as Denver graded his footage directly in the viewer with Cinema Grade, I immediately forwarded it to my friends, and even showed my wife, a Graphic Designer who lives in Photoshop and InDesign. The reply was the same: “This is unbelievable!”
This is groundbreaking, moving away from decades of how color grading has always been, with sliders and wheels, and into a new future for filmmakers and editors. And for guys like me, who depended on cinematographers dialing in the look mostly in-camera over a decade ago, and a simple filter to finish the look, this is a much easier way to learn how to color grade video and film projects. As I stated in my last review, I am new to color correction because others would handle it, and Cinema Grade helps walk me through not only grading, but this whole new concept.
Cinema Grade Features
With Cinema Grade, you can adjust with a simple drag of your cursor up or down:
- Exposure, along with Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows Adjustments.
- Contrast Adjustment, including Pivot.
- Saturation, plus Shadows, Midtones and Highlights for fine tuning.
- Vector Tools, which allows you to adjust Hue, Saturation, and Luma. Click on an area in the viewer to change or adjust the color. For example, change the color of the sky while leaving the rest of the image mostly the same.
- Match your shots to save time on color grading, which is always a cool feature. Look Transfer allows you to choose a photo whose overall image you may like, and apply it to your video footage.
- Real-time Video Scopes (!!!), including Waveform, Vectorscope, and Histogram. They are found in the Base Correction and Final Grading parts of Cinema Grade. You’ll need to upgrade to ver. 1.0.13 (302), which is easy. You launch the standalone app and upgrade from there. But you need to open your NLE to use Cinema Grade.
- Easily jump between clips while working.
- 60-plus pre-built looks you can use to help enhance your footage, giving you a head start on perfecting your project’s overall color.
- Color Management and Color Chart.
- And much more.
Pop open the Grade panel in the right side of the Cinema Grade window to see sliders for more precise color color grading, once you dial in your look in the viewer.
Riddle and his team have also provided a series of tutorial videos to help you get started with Cinema Grade, which I highly recommend. In addition, Denver offers free workshops on color grading, because it’s much more than just mastering the software. It’s an art form, and not only does practice make perfect, but so does understanding the concepts behind color grading.
It’s very easy to open Cinema Grade; in your NLE (in my case, Final Cut Pro X), drop the Cinema Grade plugin onto the footage you wish to grade. In FCP X, while the clip is highlighted, I go to the Inspector window and click Open Controls to launch Cinema Grade. Then I can make all my adjustments.
Here’s a before-and-after clip that I corrected using Cinema Grade, and it was quite easy and fast:
You get a 7-day trial to give Cinema Grade a shot, and I think it’s well worth it. For $99, you can get the Standard Version, which can be used in Final Cut Pro X (10.4.x and later), DaVinci Resolve 15, and Adobe Premiere Pro (12.1.x and later). With Standard, you get Direct Image Grading, 60 Looks, LUT Previews, and the Look Transfer Tool. You don’t get Shot Matching and Shots Grouping and White Balance in the Standard Version.
For $149 you get the Pro Version, which I highly recommend, you get everything in the Standard Version (Direct Image Grading, 60 Looks, LUT Previews, and the Look Transfer Tool), plus a Guided Workflow, Shot Matching with Groups, ACES Color Science, and X-Rite Chart Support. It’s well worth the extra $50 to get that, plus Shot Matching and Shots Grouping and White Balance.
As a guy who admittedly never did much color correction, and relied on quality filters and plugins, or the Cinematographer who shot my project (if I didn’t), or an actual Color Grading expert, Cinema Grade is well worth the price. Like I said, the Pro Version is the way to go at $149, and I think this is a next-generation color grading plugin every editor should have in his or her toolbox.
Remember, it’s for Apple computers only with Open CL 1.2, and according to the Cinema Grade site, at least a 2011 Mac. I also recommending using a Mac with quality graphics and a lot of RAM. It’s for use in Final Cut Pro X (10.4.x and later), DaVinci Resolve 15, and Adobe Premiere Pro (12.1.x and later).