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Color correction is not the same as coloring. The former is about making the data accurate and legal (setting white balance to match reality, black points to REC709, etc.) and the latter is about creating an artistic 'look'. If you're broadcasting or burning mass-market DVDs then the legal stuff is important or the client won't take the footage, but quite frankly if it's a video for online use there's no 'wrong'. YouTube pixels can be pure white, pure black, or anything in between, and if you decide the sky is green then it's green.
Thanks Dave for the quick response,
I still wonder, shouldn't "all" movies first be accurate and legal before you start applying artistic looks? Or would that just be a waste of time then?
I think you're confusing the terms "color correction" and "color grading" which are different things. These two together take a book to explain. Huge topic. My favorite book on this is Alexis Van Hurkman's Color Correction Handbook. Highly recommended, and it's hardware / software agnositic -- uses examples from, and explains how to use, many of the popular tools.
Basicallly (very basically) use the waveform monitor to help set your black and white points, then adjust your contrast. Then use a vectorscope to help eliminate any color casts and correct for image-wide color problems. Then use a vectorscope to correct secondary problems if any (e.g. those pesky reds and blues that capture beyond broadcast legal).
I think of the above as color correction.
When you get done editing and you're in the finishing process, think about how to use color and contrast to set moods that will support the images. This is the time to shift that rainy night exterior toward higher contrast, crushed blacks, adding noise to make it more gritty, etc. Or to add that golden glow to the romantic candle-lit dinner scene.
These kinds of artistic choices usually fall under the heading of color grading, and done to set moods and shade emotions, similarly to the way music is used.
CFG is right - you are asking about something which is a very large topic - something that people spend their lives learning and perfecting. And to second the answer given, you first correct your image - white balance, levels, etc, and then apply any kind of look you are going for. In fact, a lot of color correction and grading programs utilize different "rooms" for this process - Primary to correct your image, Secondary to affect certain elements within the image, and then a Master to dial in a look.
My sugesstion is if you do not want to spend the time and energy to learn the process, you can use something like Magic Bullet Looks which will give you one-click cinematic images and options. (Within reason, and depending on your source footage) If you want to take it a step further, you can use something like Colorista to do it manually and with much more power.
Thanks a lot, that's great info. So indeed the correction (and all that comes with it first) and then the artyfarty stuff. Thanks!