Review: Colour grading with the Irudis Tonalizer|VFX Pro plug-in

As video becomes an increasingly popular medium, with a growing number of talented video shooters capable of creating movie-quality clips using dSLRs and sub-10,000 USD camcorders, there is a growing need for accurate but user-friendly colour grading.

Video colour management traditionally involves specialist tools such as Apple’s now defunct Color and BlackMagic Design’s Da Vinci Resolve. But what if you could perform accurate colour corrections based on a ColorSync colour management workflow and a checkbox-based system? That is what Irudis claims Tonalizer|VFX Pro to be capable of.

The clip before Tonalizer was applied

This review will first discuss Tonalizer|VFX Pro by itself as tested with Final Cut Pro X (the plug-in is also compatible with Final Cut Pro 7 and with Motion 4 and 5). I will then briefly discuss the difference with results in Apple Color, Avid Media Composer with the Genarts Sapphire plug-in and Da Vinci Resolve (Light, as Blackmagic Design won’t allow me to test Da Vinci Resolve — they probably don’t need the coverage). At the end of this review, there is a short video showing the differences between Tonalizer|VFX Pro, Apple Color and Avid Media Composer 6 results. Clips appear in the video in that order.

IT Enquirer rating

10/10
URL: irudis.com

Pros
  • much faster than traditional colour grading tools
  • Highlight Rescue
  • right inside the NLE; keyframe aware
  • granular, subtle control
  • accuracy of results
Cons
  • none that I can think of
Price (approx.): €143.00

Irudis sent me a coupon for 40% off the price until May 31: MAY2012.

Tonalizer|VFX Pro: a colour correction tool

Traditionally, colour grading served technical objectives. Grading could be used to film night scenes more cheaply in daylight. Features like secondary colour correction were originally used to establish colour continuity. This concept of colour grading fits the usage scenarios of Tonalizer|VFX Pro.

Colour grading for creative goals has become mainstream in the past decade or so. It’s meant to improve the aesthetics of footage, establishing stylised looks, and setting a “mood” through colour, and this is not what Tonalizer|VFX Pro is for.

After having tested the plug-in with a variety of clips shot under all kinds of (often poor) lighting conditions, I would say Tonalizer|VFX Pro is targeted at colour/tone correcting footage in the most literal sense of the word. And it does a brilliant job at that.

Tonalizer|VFX Pro controls

I tested Tonalizer|VFX Pro using ProRes 422 HQ files from two sources. The first was a consumer type Sony video camera hooked up to a Ninja 1, and the second a GoPro action camera. The GoPro files were first converted to CineForm format (wrapped in QuickTime) using CineForm Studio Professional with no corrections in that application applied at all. All clips were then transcoded to ProRes 422 HQ using Episode Engine 6.2.2.9 ingested in Final Cut Pro X and graded using Tonalizer|VFX Pro.

Irudis itself claims the following features are not available in any other grading tool — including all the high-end professional solutions:

  • Highlight Rescue
  • Adaptation
  • Detail Sharpener

Personally, I was also very interested in how the Noise Reduction algorithm would work as I previously found noise reduction to be a bit of a problem when using Apple Color and the Genarts Sapphire plug-in in Avid Media Composer. Da Vinci Resolve Light has no denoiser.

Parameters in Tonalizer|VFX Pro

Tonalizer|VFX Pro has 20 parameters to set, and the ability to save groups of parameter settings to presets. The Final Cut Pro X version comes in two versions: the regular one for all video cameras and dSLRs, and the CineStyle one for use exclusively with footage shot using the Technicolor CineStyle profile available with Canon EOS dSLRs. I am curious as to whether it will be usable with the upcoming Technicolor/CineStyle based GoPro Protune firmware for the HD HERO 2, but I won’t be able to test it until GoPro is releasing the firmware.

Common controls available in Tonalizer|VFX Pro include Brightness, Contrast, Midtones and Shadow Boost. Related to Shadow Boost is another parameter: Shadow Details.

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