ToneGrade is a plug-in for Final Cut Pro X that, when applied to footage, resembles the High Dynamic Range (HDR) effect somewhat. ToneGrade is especially useful for close-ups of people and objects. It creates “character” by boosting local contrast and adding depth and potentially saturation.
As with any Crumplepop plug-in for Final Cut Pro X, ToneGrade is an effect that has a simple but complete set of controls. Contrary to other Crumplepop effects I’ve discussed so far, ToneGrade requires more computing power — or time to render.
ToneGrade is great at bringing out small artefacts in someone’s face or complexion, such as a man’s beard, or a woman’s wrinkles. When applied to objects, they get slightly more grunge. Controls allow you to add or decrease details, saturation, change the colours to cooler or warmer, add depth to shadows, etc.
All these controls make details pop out more, and add contrast locally, but also increase noise if there is any of that in your footage. The skin smoothing slider lets you correct for that, but it is useful to do so in only small amounts, as it tends to blur the details you were after in the first place.
In my tests, I became convinced that to use ToneGrade well without adding too much ugly noise, your footage should be well lit in the first place. The less noise you have in the original footage, the less you can amplify it by using ToneGrade.
However, if your footage is OK, ToneGrade can make someone’s looks more interesting, more of a character with a history than without.
As with most Crumplepop plug-ins for Final Cut Pro X, the cost of ToneGrade is just 75.00 USD, or approx. €65.00.
To see the effect in this test image, pay special attention to the tea filter in the mug and the metal shine on the water cooker.