Color and Brightness Correction in Final Cut Pro

Of all the skills necessary to successfully edit video, one of the most important is brightness and color correction. To understand how to adjust brightness and color optimally, you have to know how to read a waveform monitor.

In this tutorial, first we'll learn how to enter Final Cut Pro's color correction mode and read the waveform monitor. Then we'll learn how to diagnose and correct a range of brightness and color related problems Using Final cut Pro's Color Corrector effect.

Brightness and Color Correction in Final Cut Pro

Comments (22)

Said this on 12-22-2009 At 05:16 pm

Nice explanation of the waveform monitor along with using the Color Correction filter.
What do you use for screen capturing as that was nice too? Thanks for the tips.

Said this on 12-23-2009 At 11:02 am


Thanks - glad you found it useful.

I captured with SnapZ Pro. I use Camtasia on Windows, and ow there's a Mac version - wish I had thought to use it for this project. I edited in Adobe Premiere Pro on the Mac. Here's an article that I wrote on the process.

Thanks again!


Mike Grimm
Said this on 12-29-2009 At 09:42 am

To reset all the Color Corrector values Shift/Click either of the reset buttons.

You might also warn against using an object that is blown out for your white target. 

Said this on 12-30-2009 At 11:19 pm


Thanks for the tip on the reset buttons - found 'em.

You referring to the color correction aspect, where you can't click on a blown out white target because FCP sees this as white and doens't color correct? Always found this tough to explain - as you've stated, if you click a pixel that has a value of 100 IRE or higher, FCP sees this as pure white, and sees no need to color correct. you have to click a white pixel that's close to 100% IRE, but not quite there. Basically, if you see a tinge in the video, but clicking a white pixel doesn't make the color chip turn to a different color, click a slightly less bright white pixel. 

That cover it?

thanks again for writing in.


Mike Grimm
Said this on 1-7-2010 At 03:44 pm

If you hit Ctrl Z the Excess Luma function is actived in the Canvas.  Any areas that are too hot, 100 or higher, will be marked with zebras.

You don't need to select pixels close to 100, just something that should be white.  A white dress may only be 60 IRE but it is still white.


Said this on 1-7-2010 At 10:37 pm

Good stuff, thanks for weighing in.


Ken H.
Said this on 5-2-2010 At 05:55 am

Daughter is studying electronic media at Kutztown U.

Having difficulty with outdoor night footage shot with lights, but evidently not enough.

We knew that Final Cut Studio (Pro) had a facility to correct, but color generator was not intuitive.

Your tutorial seems fantastically simply to me.

Hope it is as well for my daughter - sending her a link.

Thank you so much for sharing your insights.

I think in this case, they will help a struggling student.

Said this on 5-2-2010 At 08:15 am

Hey Ken:

Thanks for your kind note; I hope your daughter finds this useful.

Thanks again.


Said this on 12-15-2010 At 11:22 pm

This is super helpful stuff. So simple to understand, yet it looked so difficult. I am also a struggling student and despite the fact that I'm at the end of the semester I'm only just starting to depart from the conceptual side of video making into the technical. Do you recommend any books that could teach final cut comprehensively?There is a wealth on online resources but holding a book in our hands increases my attention span and I think I'd comprehend it a little better. 


Thanks again, this was a life saver, or a project saver at least.

Said this on 12-16-2010 At 10:17 am


Glad to help, and glad you found the tutorial useful. Cool how the complex becomes so simple and usable once you learn a few basics. 

I'm a Peachpit author and know many of the writers/editors. I'd go with Diana Weynand's book,

Or the Visual QuickPro by Lisa Brenneis

Good luck!



Said this on 3-9-2011 At 03:18 am

got some blown out whites ,and I've been (trying!) to use the color corrector-- confusing for me. Seeing you so quickly adjust on the 2 way corrector is great. I have an answer to my problems. Thanks for your great tutorial. :)

Said this on 3-9-2011 At 07:23 am
Thanks VP, glad you found it useful, thanks for taking the time to write.

Said this on 5-17-2011 At 01:37 pm

Thanks for the awesome tutorial. Explains everything clearly and it has greatly helped me with my project :))

Said this on 5-17-2011 At 03:32 pm
Why thank you, I'm glad that you found it useful.

Jeff Marsten
Said this on 7-10-2011 At 10:17 am

Does anyone have a clue as to why, when I attempt to adjust brightness or contrast, the clip is not affected at all?

Said this on 7-10-2011 At 12:26 pm
Tough to diagnose remotely, but:

- are you sure you have the right clip selected - you have to double click the clip to make sure you do.
- is the effect toggled off?
- is it one clip or all clips?

Hope this helps.

Don McVey
Said this on 9-9-2011 At 10:00 pm

An excellent tutorial, especially for me as beginner on the use of contrast and color correction methods. 

This tutorial comes just when I have a video project that needs the application of these principles.  Good timing.  The quality of this tutorial motivates me to  look at other of your tutorials

Said this on 9-9-2011 At 10:25 pm

Glad you found it useful, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.


Said this on 11-4-2011 At 04:11 am

Wow, this tutorial was a great help to me! Thanks!

Said this on 11-4-2011 At 12:14 pm

Glad you found it useful; thanks for sharing.
Said this on 11-14-2011 At 08:24 am

Hi there,

I've found this amazingly useful but am really struggling with loss of quality.

I'm editing a clip of a lecture which is incredibly dark but back lit, when i up the mid tones and whites in color corrector, the clip appears massively grainy after exporting.


Is there anything I can do about this or should i just lose the dark intro?


Many thanks in advance

Said this on 11-14-2011 At 08:29 am
Hey Verity:

Not sure that I'm grasping your problem, but if the issue is limited to the intro, you could always split that into a separate clip and adjust separately.

Otherwise, boosting mid-tones does inject gain, which if excessive, can cause graininess. If you were doing this for the Queen (meaning, you could spend days, weeks or hours) you might check out the Neat Video filter to remove some of the noise.


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