Using the Tangent Ripple for Neutralization in Adobe Premiere Pro CC
What are the essential colorist/grading steps? First, neutralizing all clips, getting as close as one can quickly to a neutral white-balance and natural appearing tonal range. Second, blending them by doing "shotmatching", so they look continuous ... as if seen by one set of eyes. Third, scene-matching, so that as the video is viewed, advancing to the next scene is natural and within the feel of the previous project and normal visual expectations for things like mid-day, evening outside, in a living room with 'normal' light bulbs, or in a dark cave.Then, if time and budget allow, the fourth stage is to create and apply a "Look", sometimes by scene or even an entire project.
There's never enough time for everything we could do for every clip. So to get to as much as possible, speed of operation through the process is essential. And the Ripple is a huge boost for speed and accuracy of colorist/grading work!
"Neutralization" means getting the clips clean: no color tint in the neutral tones (whites, grays, blacks), all data from blacks to white within say 5-95 on a 0-100 scale, and a good tonality for contrast & saturation that helps the viewer see the scene easily. It looks "natural". Technically accurately. It's a totally boring job that can take way too long. But properly neutralized clips make for far less work ... and far faster work ... in all later steps. Using a well-conceived & tested workflow, centered on the Ripple, is the fastest way of getting the job done within Premiere Pro CC2017. (Unless you've got a Tangent Elements panel, of course ... )
In Lumetri, the workflow is designed with the intent that the Basic tab is used for neutralization. They took the UI concept of the Lightroom Develop module, but with tools designed for video. Before I got my Ripple, I personally found the Basic tab a total waste of my time. Using those controls one at a time with a mouse or even Wacom pen-tab took for flipping EVER to get anything done. It seemed so deadly slow.
When I got the Ripple, I thought I'd test out some mappings for the Basic tab. It was well worth the time. Wow!
After playing with various mappings of Basic tab tools to the Ripple, it's clear that it works beautifully for neutralization, and is fast and intuitive to work with. As you can see from the image below of my Basic Tab control mapping, I've got the dials set for fast work at neutralization with every tool of that tab mapped. And ... I'm normally moving at least two if not three controls at a time. Yea, this puppy is fast! It's in the combination of speed & control that the Ripple earns it's spot on your desk. Or in your traveling bag to go out with your laptop.
Here's a clip from the start of a recent vacation, taking the Amtrak Empire Builder through the Rockies & Glacier Park in late winter, plenty of daylight ... and beautiful snowy mountains to come. This clip is the start of our trip, at Union Station in Portland, Oregon, in the early evening on a cold late-winter day.
Right out of the camera, this clip is clearly ... warmer ... than it should be ... but how much, of what? And it's maybe ok but not optimal for tonal "distribution", so it will need a bit of adjusting to the relative brightness around the image. In video post, everything is relative, so always remember when you move something one way, it visually moves something else the other way.
A typical colorist approach assumes it's best to modify the luma ... the brightness values, white, black, and shadow/mids/highs tonal relationships ... first, perhaps with lowered or completely zeroed saturation, and then start on color corrections. But I've found that the initial color neutralization step changes the end points of the three channels (R-G-B) enough that I re-worked my process to start neutralization with the following fast and knowingly imperfect WB/Tint correction.
And importantly: I'm only looking at the Vectorscope when doing this step, I don't even look at the program monitor! It's fast, it's "close enough" for this part of the process, and as the whole process is iterative, this actually saves an iteration or two down the line.
Temp/Tint adjustments can take forever. And ... what's neutral, when looking at the image itself? This can be a hard decision. But I've got a couple hundred clips in this project ... no time to blow on evaluating, on thinking.
So first ... I've got a little helper I've made, that really speeds things along. I created and exported a .cube LUT from the Lumetri HSL panel (HSL settings shown on the left here) that invokes a mask allowing only the very-low saturated parts of the image to "show" through the mask, mostly in the upper-midtones. I have that saved in the Adobe/Premiere Pro 2017/Lumetri/LUTs/Technical folder, named " 1A Low SatMask uMids". This way, it's one of the first couple LUTs that appear in the Input LUT drop-down box. My first step is to apply that sat masking LUT.
Production tip: while you can do this for each clip, I prefer to do MANY clips sequentially, so I'll place an adjustment layer over a whole sequence, select it, apply this LUT in the Lumetri Basic Tab Input LUT drop-down on the adjustment layer, and then go back to the video track to do my corrections jumping clip to clip. One finger on the middle ball for temp/tint adjustment, another on the down-arrow to jump to the next clip. Bam ... bam ... bam ... wow, this is fast! Then I just delete the adjustment layer when I'm done.
Here, it's applied to a clip and ready to use in the Basic tab. The areas with color ... or some color ... showing, are the areas that the mask will allow PrPro ... and most importantly, the Vectorscope YUV to "see". The gray part will be ignored by the scopes. So while watching the scopes, I move the middle ball of the Ripple. That ball is is set for Temp (left/right) and Tint (up-down) as you can see in the mapping above.
Now, to the right, let's look at the Vectorscope of this image with the low-sat mask applied ... notice that the main overall clump of data is not quite centered? It's just a bit up and to the left ... that's what we'll deal with first. And while that really bright spot is the totally unsaturated spot, rather than placing that dead-center of the two crossing graticule lines, I've found it more visually accurate to center the entire mass. Not "fussily", but just quickly centered mostly ...
To neutralize it, I'll use the middle ball of the Ripple to move that 'ball' of data to the center of the two crossing graticules in the Vectorscope YUV. Takes just a few seconds and here's the result shown in the Vectorscope on the right side.
And now showing the controls and the clip itself below. Not startlingly difficult, but the warm tints to the pavement, the sides and snow-blade of the locomotive, and the blues of Miriam's clothing are now gone. Very neutral, in fact ... and I didn't make a visual color adjustment at all. Just a few seconds to do, without any need to scrutinize for subtle hues in the image.
For as long as this took to explain, in operation, it's only a few seconds per clip. And I LOVE using the middle ball of the Ripple for the combined Temp/Tint control. Using that mask explained above on an adjustment layer, and one hand moving the middle ball for Temp/Tint settings, the other on the down-arrow to jump to the next clip, it's just bam ... bam ... bam right down the sequence neutralizing tint.
Next post, I'll show ... tonal changes!
R. Neil Haugen