More Color Tools and Techniques
So far, we've laid the foundation for color correction in After Effects using its most fundamental tools. Of course, there are lots of ways to adjust the color levels of an image, and new ones emerging all the time.
Color Finesse is a sophisticated color-correction system included with After Effects Professional; unfortunately, it runs as a separate application, and doesn't allow you to see your corrections in the context of a composite, making it more suitable for overall color adjustments. Furthermore, it's made up mostly of tools that resemble the ones described in the preceding section, so you'd still want to master those tools. And although I love the way that Color Finesse allows easy isolation and adjustment of specific secondary color ranges, I rarely use it for compositing because of how separate it is from the After Effects workflow.
What has been sorely missing from After Effects is a three-way color corrector, typically featuring color wheels to adjust three distinct color ranges: shadows, midtones, and highlights. Look at any contemporary feature film or major television show, and you're likely to find strong color choices that strongly deviate from how the original scene must have looked: In an ordinary day-lit scene, the shadows might be bluish, the midtones green, and the highlights orange.
A third-party tool, Magic Bullet Colorista, has recently been released by Red Giant Software to make this type of correction quick and intuitive in After Effects (see Figure 23). This type of tool can be essential to finish the color look of a project, although the more tried-and-true tools will work every time when matching colors (discussed next).
Figure 23 The hot After Effects plug-in for color work as of this writing is Colorista; its simple and intuitive color wheels make it easy to perform radical color surgery such as this day-for-night effect.