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Free Video: Quick & Easy White Balance Adjustment

Use blending modes in After Effects or Premiere Pro

By Chris and Trish Meyer | May 27, 2014

A couple of months ago, we released a video training course titled Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects: Enhancing Production Value on spinning the straw clients often give us into visual gold. One of the movies in that course demonstrated a dead-easy white balancing trick that removed color tints from footage using Blend Modes:

The movie above demonstrates this technique using Adobe Premiere Pro CC, but it is equally easy to perform in After Effects. The first part of the trick is to create a full-frame solid graphic that is the color of what should be white in your video, but isn’t. For example, in After Effects you can select the Shape tool, click on the Fill Color swatch, use the eyedropper to click on a region that is the brightest off-white, and then double-click the Rectangle Tool to create a full-frame solid shape of that color. The second part is to then set the Blending Mode of that solid graphic to Divide mode (note that not all video apps that have blending modes support Divide).

Why does this work? If you remember your elementary school math, dividing any number by itself always equals 1. On a scale of 0 to 1, setting the R, G, and B color channels all to 1 will give pure white. So if you take a slightly off-white color, and divide that color by itself, the result is pure white. This same function will also divide out any white shift from all of the other colors present in your image. You can alter the Opacity of the solid graphic to fine-tune the depth of this effect.

Of course, the better solution is to get your color temperature right when you shoot the footage – but quite often, we’re given footage someone else has shot, or a color tint has crept in anyway as a reflection of the sky or other parts of the environment. This is a quick way to fix it.

The rest of the course is on lynda.com. If you don’t already have a lynda.com subscription, click here to register and get a free all-access 7-day trial before they start charging your credit card.

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Comments

FocusPulling (.com): | May, 29, 2014

I’ve noticed this clip making its rounds in the filmmaking blogosphere lately, and it puzzles me why people are enamored of it when there’s a much simpler action, accomplishing the same thing, built into the Fast Color Corrector.  There’s a White Balance dropper that you can use to sample your best estimation in a given shot of true white/gray, and it accomplishes this same tactic in about 1/10th the amount of time.

I hate the idea of advice like that given here becoming a permanent behavior in thousands of workflows when there’s such a dramatically simpler method.

Brett Kosmider: | May, 30, 2014

I would agree with FocusPulling.  This function has been around for years in just about every video NLE and integrated into every color correction plug-in I’ve ever used.  I’m pretty sure Avid had it 12 years ago in their Symphony color corrector.  FCP7 had it in the three-way color corrector.  Premiere has it.  Magic Bullet has it.  This is interesting insight into how the effect works in a technical way, but WAY too many extra mouse clicks for any video editor to use in practical day-to-day use.  As far as truly fixing bad color balance, this method does not work - and I mean, shooting at 3200K in daylight.

Chris and Trish Meyer: | June, 03, 2014

If you are correcting just individual clips, I agree completely that a plug-in is a quicker way to go. If you have a program with multiple clips (and transitions between them), I prefer the blending mode approach as I only need to add one clip to the entire program, rather than remember to treat each clip individually.

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