Whenever the people at Crumplepop introduce or launch a product, the video editing community listens up. That was no different when the Koji colour grading app was released and things haven’t changed with the recent release of Koji Advance, a plug-in for FCPX and other popular NLEs. Koji is a colour grading system based on the works of Dale Grahn, a well-known colour scientist and the colour artist who graded blockbuster movies such as Saving Private Ryan and Gladiator. I tried Koji Advance in FCPX with the other colour grading plug-ins I reviewed earlier in the back of my mind.
The fact that a colour grading artist gets involved in a colour grading software product doesn’t necessarily result in you being a colour master. Grahn has “it” but can you have “it” too?
I doubt you’ll automagically have “it” simply from using the Koji Advance plug-in, but I am pretty sure the developers could not have made it any easier to develop the skill, or rather the vision, and translate it into a look, a mood. There’s no learning curve whatsoever to using Koji Advance.
Koji Advance gives you an Inspector with film stocks to choose from, a few sliders and check boxes and that’s it. The film stocks are designated by their number with a suffix that isn’t explained anywhere. Professionally curious as I am, I had to find out what they mean and they seem to define the original stock (no suffix), a neutral colour rendering (the N suffix), a saturated look (S suffix) and a low contrast rendering (the LC suffix). I also looked up the Koji film stock numbers and the ones I could find referred to Kodak motion picture film. However, those do not come with suffixes at all; hence my guess at what the suffix codes mean.
You start your grading process with Koji Advance by selecting the proper colour format of your camera. Here it becomes clear Koji Advance is really not meant to please the amateur who doesn’t know the first thing about colour spaces, gamut, etc. Supported cameras include those used by cinematographers, including Arri, BlackMagic, RED, Canon C series, Panasonic GH series, Sony, Cineon and a generic Rec.709 format. No entries for GoPro HEROs here — use the Arri Log C instead.
Once you’ve selected the correct camera format, you can start grading. Select a film stock from the popup (I counted three B&W and 21 colour film stocks), set your white balance setting to Auto or Manual and drag the sliders until you’ve found your preferred look. Colour temperature, Lift, Gain, Gamma, Density, Saturation and colour balance — all are ruled by sliders inside the Inspector. You can also set a film stock grain and of course you can mix both stock look and grain from zero to full — using another slider.
And that’s my main criticism with Koji Advance: it’s all sliders. Why not giving us the interface like the one you can use in Color Finale (Telecine)? I find with colour wheels so much more pleasurable and “intuitive”.
Right out of the box, the film stock grades from Koji Advance are absolutely gorgeous. And you can indeed create unique looks as sliders don’t hamper your ability to try out subtle changes at all. Compared to other colour grading plug-ins like FilmConvert, Magic Bullet Looks and Color Finale, I found Koji Advance to be far more flexible to the first. It has more beautiful defaults than what the second offers by default. But if I had to choose between Color Finale and Koji Advance I wouldn’t know which I’d prefer.
Color Finale is much more flexible with its ability to start from hundreds of LUTs. Perhaps — if you can afford it — you should buy both, because Koji Advance includes the film stocks as LUTs, so you can have the best of both worlds. Koji Advance costs approx. €180.00 and supports Final Cut Pro X, Premiere Pro and After Effects.