Review: Crumplepop ColorKit Suite; the creative colour grading suite for Final Cut Pro X

The ColorKit Suite is a plug-in bundle targeting video colour grading. It includes colour grading presets and tools, grain settings, an Overlight bundle and a “Halflight” transition bundle. It’s a strong offering that allows for subtle to dramatic effects.

Crumplepop’s ColorKit Suite effects all have something to do with how light in your video influences its mood. As mentioned in my review of Irudis Tonalizer|VFX Pro, you can colour grade for technical as well as for creative reasons. Crumplepop’s ColorKit belongs more in the second group of colour grading tools than it does in the first. The starting point is the ColorKit Grades group of presets.

IT Enquirer rating

7.5/10
URL: crumplepop.com

Pros
  • creative features
  • grain effects
  • transitions effects
  • grades
Cons
  • the Leveler on-screen controls aren’t really controls
  • the Patch tool is difficult to apply to an exact area and does not replace a true matte
Price (approx.): €22.50

These Grades are typical mood settings and the parameters you can change are grouped in a Primary and a Secondary group. The groups in Grades seem to refer to Primary and Secondary grading tools in Color or Red Giant’s Colorist II, but they have little or no relationship to them. Instead, they refer to a pre-defined colour effect that you can change in a limited way for the Primary group and a fully customisable effect for the Secondary group.

Grades do nothing to correct your footage, but are brilliant in quickly changing the mood of a clip exactly the way you want it. However, Grades is but one of the tools of ColorKit Suite. The plug-in has three tools that should allow you to technically correct footage: Leveler, Overlay, and Patch.

From left to right: original clip, Grade applied, Leveler

Leveler is a tonal distribution tool; it very much resembles the Curves tool in Photoshop. The shadows, midtones and highlights are represented on-screen by the addition of an overlay to your clip. When you change the numbers, the overlay marks move. Personally, I find these marks disturbingly confusing. First I thought I would be able to move them interactively by grabbing and dragging them, but that proved to be wrong — they’re simply there as a visual gimmick.

My second thought — that there was some kind of a relationship between where the Leveler’s marks are on the clip and the tonal distribution you want to correct — proved to be wrong too. Worse yet, when you forget to turn them off before rendering the clip, the marks will show up in your rendered footage.

While there is nothing wrong with Leveler by itself, I don’t see the point of having markers overlaid on top of a clip if these bear no relationship to the tonal distribution of that clip. If this is an attempt at making colour grading easier, then it fails.

If you want to see how your adjustments affect the looks of your footage, you should turn on the built-in colour/tone correction tools of Final Cut Pro X — videoscope, waveforms, histogram — and keep an eye on those. That is what you need to do anyway as you can’t rely on a computer monitor, no matter how well it’s been calibrated, for colour grading video.

The Leveler with the four dots.

Except for Leveler, ColorKit Suite has an Overlay effect that creates an overall change of your clip’s shadow or highlight areas using a subtle hint of the colour you blend with it. By changing its blend mode, the plug-in allows you to affect either shadow or highlight zones. After trying it out, I found it useful to create a subtle “Mojo” effect.

Patch is the third tool. It is a rectangular patch area with which you can play to correct for exposure, contrast, colour, etc. Patch can be resized and rotated on-screen. The patch itself can be made visible and its feathering can be changed. In theory Patch is great to apply area specific edits, but in practice it’s rather difficult to use.

That is probably due to the area being rectangular instead of freely customisable — e.g. with a Bezier curve. I found it inefficient at accurately masking areas that I did not want to include. If the area you want to affect comes and goes, it has to be used in tandem with keyframes.

ColorKit Suite’s tools are clearly aimed at creative colour grading, not technical corrections. The rest of the suite is in the same league and some effects are truly unique and brilliant.

Overlight creates light shimmering through the footage, so that it looks like you had the sun or any other light source lighting the scene in random ways. I found it great to create a lens glare effect when a scene changed dramatically from dark shadows to bright sunlight.

Halflight does the same for transitions.
Both these effects did remind me of already existing Crumplepop plug-ins and light effects such as the Irmiter Dacar lens effects, but they are unique enough to want them both.

Grain is a complete set of grain effects, both in 35mm and 16mm variants, and both based on real-world film grain. Adding Grain is what can make a digital scene look like shot with analogue film. The results are never unnatural, not even at full power, which makes this plug-in even more valuable.

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