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Correct Color Project

Difficulty level: Intermediate

As you know, the way to get the best picture when you shoot is to start with great original footage. However, that's not always possible; maybe the white balance was set wrong, or lighting shifted while filming. Or, perhaps you just want to increase the saturation of a clip to make it pop. iMovie's color correction tools are surprisingly effective, and they can help you tweak your image in subtle or strong ways.

The program also offers several video effects for when you want to dramatically change the appearance of your clips, from making them grayscale to applying an X-ray look.

Correct a clip's color

If you've used the color correction tools in iPhoto, you'll be familiar with the controls in iMovie.

Correcting color

  1. Select a clip to edit; corrections apply to entire clips, so if you want to affect just a portion of a clip, you need to first split the section into its own clip.
  2. Open the Video inspector by double-clicking the clip and clicking the Video button in the inspector, or by just pressing the V key.
  3. I recommend letting iMovie take the first stab at fixing color: Click the Auto button. If the clip looks good to you, click the Done button to close the inspector. Or, continue to the next step.
  4. Using the controls in the inspector, make any of the following adjustments (Figure 4.31):
    Figure 4.31

    Figure 4.31 Controls in the Video inspector

    • Levels. The histogram at the top of the window represents the levels of red, blue, and green in the current frame. The sliders below the graph represent the darkest and lightest values (pure black or white).

      Drag the left slider toward the middle to darken the image; drag the right slider similarly to lighten the image. Doing so treats the furthermost colors on the outside edges as darkest or lightest.

    • Exposure. This slider brightens or darkens the video's highlights.
    • Brightness. This slider controls the overall lightness of the clip.
    • Contrast. Accentuate the differences between light and dark.
    • Saturation. Drag this slider to change the color intensity.
    • Gain sliders. Adjust these slider values to compensate for color casts (to reduce a green tint, for example). The Gain sliders appear only when Show Advanced Tools is enabled in iMovie's preferences.
    • White Point. This control tells iMovie which color value equals white; the rest of the colors are based on that value. Move the point within the color wheel to adjust the white point, which can also affect the clip's color cast. Or, click within the Viewer to specify which color should be treated as white (it also bases its settings on gray values).
    • Revert to Original. If you don't like the adjustments you made, click here to go back to the original settings.

For an example of the color adjustment controls in action, I used the settings in Figure 4.31 to bring out detail and color in an otherwise washed-out clip (Figure 4.32).

Figure 4.32

Figure 4.32 Color correction applied

Apply video effects

If you're looking for an easier way to change the appearance of a clip, choose from iMovie's collection of 19 premade video effects.

Applying video effects

  1. Select the clip you want to adjust.
  2. Double-click the clip to bring up the Clip inspector.
  3. Click the Video Effect button, which exposes a grid of the available effects.
  4. Move your mouse over each effect to preview its appearance in the Viewer before making your choice (Figure 4.33).
    Figure 4.33

    Figure 4.33 Previewing a video effect

  5. Click the effect you want to use to apply it.

To remove an effect, bring up the Choose Video Effect window again and click the None option.

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