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Editor's Choice 2019 Video

Color Finale 2 turns FCP X into a colour grading powerhouse

Color Trix has just released its colour correction and grading plug-in for Final Cut Pro X, Color Finale 2.0.

Color Trix has just released its colour correction and grading plug-in for Final Cut Pro X, Color Finale 2.0. When I launched Color Finale Pro 2, the first thing that I thought was that the people at Color Trix had turned it into a simplistic adjustment panel,perhaps thrown in the towel as Apple has updated Final Cut Pro X with its own more complete colour grading module some time ago. Boy, was I wrong.

Color Finale 2 presents itself as a simpler version of the first release. Upon opening the Inspector, you’ll see a typical Final Cut Pro X Inspector panel with sections for colour management, basic corrections, image analysis, a colour chart and film emulation. The sections that point to the colour management module and colour chart matching are hinting to Color Finale 2 in no way being a simplified version 1.

I started with colour management and found support for ACES, camera input LUTs, log and simple video. The two last options carry the addition of “Assume” in front of them, which means that you’re supposed to use them only if you don’t have input LUTs or use an ACES workflow. The two others give access to more options, such as a selection of cameras and the output space.

The Corrections section of the Inspector reveals the basic colour adjustments such as exposure, contrast and contrast pivot, sharpness, colour temperature and tint and saturation. When you change any of these, you can copy their settings for future use on other clips in the timeline, for example. This was also the first feature that took me by — happy — surprise. You see, in version 1 you could copy and paste settings from one clip to another, but I didn’t particularly find that process user-friendly. Version 2 couldn’t be more user-friendly. As soon as you hit the Copy button, the Paste button gets out of its greyed winter sleep.

Now, when you drag an instance of the plug-in to another clip, the Paste button maintains the settings and you can immediately apply settings to other clips by just clicking it — or by using the Paste Special option and only selecting those settings that you’d like to duplicate across different clips.

However, Color Finale 2 lets you do more than just this simplest of pasting. It enables you to group settings, including colour wheel/curves/HSL curves/vectors adjustments — now aptly called “Layers” — by creating a Sync Group. Normally, these sync groups only contain layers adjustments, but Paste Special also has an option to paste selected basic adjustments to such a sync group.

The best is that you can even paste the basic settings to another project. And even better is that you can save layers settings as a preset that is made available across projects and libraries. In short, you can create a grading, save it and use it wherever and whenever you want. All of that can be done in a very user-friendly and efficient workflow.

The basic settings are not necessarily where you will start the grading process, though. That could well be in the second section of the Color Finale plug-in, the image analysis section, where you can overlay a false colour image to see where the contrast/lightness/exposure problems occur. This section also gives you the ability to create an ellipsis/rectangle/horizontal line that overlays the clip with one of these shapes and that you can freely move across the frame. In the frame’s lower thirds you’ll find a readout of the average RGB values.

If you have a colour chart like the X-Rite Video ColorChecker or ColorChecker Passport, Color Finale 2 will offer you the ability to use the chart to set up your colour and white balance values automatically as in version 1. It must be said that the addition of the bigger ColorChecker is a real boon and that the readout of the chart and the overlays you must create to make Color Finale recognise the colour chips accurately have been much improved, making it a lot easier to do.

Finally, the basic Inspector offers a film emulation section that allows you to change your footage to a grainier film look.

Let the fun begin with layers

Color Finale 2’s layers is where the real fun begins for colour graders. For starters, everything is much faster. It offers the same colour wheels, curves, vectors and HSL curves as Color Finale 1, but everything looks more polished and seems to give more accurate, more precise control, even when using a mouse. The layers panel itself is controllable with a Tangent Wave 2 which is also a huge benefit — but one that the first version was offering as well for some time now. Furthermore, each adjustment being a layer, it can be composited with several blending modes within the Layers panel.

The really new stuff that you will get a kick out of are the much improved combined Presets/LUTs browser and the masking capabilities. First of all, you can apply masking to only part of a clip. The masking process is entirely done within the Layers context. By that I mean that you don’t need to create sub-clips if you only want to adjust something for a short part of an existing clip. The reason is that the entire masking is managed by Color Finale itself. When you create a mask, you’ll see an overlay appear on top of the viewer with its own timeline and a bunch of mask drawing options.

The mask can be drawn with a number of tools, including B-splines. The mask tracking — because these masks are trackable! — is done the usual way, i.e. with forward and backward tracking, adjustment capabilities on a frame-by-frame basis, and more. Mask forms can be added to each other, subtracted from each other and inverted.

In one word: the tracking mask feature deserves an award for brilliant programming. And obviously, you can mask one adjustment but also a complete adjustments group — and those groups are separate from the sync groups we discussed earlier.

The Presets and LUTs browser was available in version 1, but it’s been much improved in the new version. The browsers load thumbnails much faster, making it a breeze to switch from the default preview image to a preview of your footage’s active frame in the Timeline. You can load LUTs that you already own and have stored in different folders by simply telling Color Finale 2 where to find them. And the Presets browser is brilliant as well. You can buy preset collections from within the browser and it will also load and preview your own.

When it comes to accuracy, the Color Finale 2 system has always been spot-on and that hasn’t changed. On the contrary, the chart measurement system has been improved to work with charts that aren’t held up facing the camera 100%. I managed to make it work with a chart held at an angle to avoid reflection.

Conclusion

If you think Apple’s now more-up-to-the-job built-in colour grading functionality has made Color Finale 2 a gadget for bored middle-aged men in this industry, you’d better think again. With its METAL support, new UI, HDR support and the ability to load footage that assumes log or video but supports the ACES colour management system as well as camera-based input LUTs, Color Finale 2 is much more powerful than Final Cut Pro X’s built-in colour capabilities.

Color Finale 2 offers more accuracy by taking out the guesswork when evaluating the footage with a robust image analysis module and a new colour matching algorithm that works better. It offers full support for LUTs and Presets, including search functionality. And it has a fully capable area tracker that allows you to create dynamic masks. The film grain emulator is nice to have.

Color Finale Pro is available from the Color Finale website and costs $149.

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