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Activity Forums Adobe After Effects Filter to recover “lost” highlights

  • Filter to recover “lost” highlights

    Posted by Jim Arco on May 10, 2010 at 2:46 am

    I am sometimes asked to “improve” video shot under poor circumstances or with low-end equipment. It is not uncommon to get footage with deep shadows and blown-out highlights in the same scene. A few days ago I posted about using RAW files in AE. Converting the footage to a TIF sequence and then OPENing AS RAW gives me ACR’s ‘recovery’ slider, which can work wonders on blown-out highlights. (I think I read that it uses the channel with the most highlight-detail to generate detail in the other channels of the blown-out areas.) Since the TIF/RAW conversion is a bit cumbersome, let’s try going in a different direction:

    Anyone found a good plugin or workflow to handle this situation? I have tried AE’s shadow/highlight and Tiffen’s ultra contrast. Both of them do a pretty good job. But neither provides the improvement that I can get from the ‘recovery’ slider in the RAW interface window.

    Anyone have a good workflow to make two copies of the footage to work on the highlights and shadows separately then merge the two layers back together?

    Matt Young replied 7 years, 4 months ago 5 Members · 24 Replies
  • 24 Replies
  • Chris Wright

    May 10, 2010 at 3:46 am

    1. photoshop extended you could import as AVI
    2. build custom AE alpha mattes
    3. a free plugin for FCP, “Captain’s Blowout Fixer”
    This plugin lets you selectively substitute one channel for another in the over exposed areas and color correct it to match.

  • Chris Wright

    May 11, 2010 at 1:31 am

    If you don’t have ps extended, I made a free AE cs3 template you can use. It will automatically restore highlights and shadows by filling in available channels.

  • Jim Arco

    May 11, 2010 at 3:15 am

    WOW – Talk about answering the question!

    Many thanks, Chris, for taking the time to provide a great template. It will take me a bit to understand what is going on in this project, but I am sure it will be worth every minute.

    BTW your Technicolor projects have been very helpful to me. Even though I only occasionally need a technicolor look, I used the many ideas in your templates to develop several templates of my own/ These are used frequently for projects I am working on.

    Thanks again.


  • Chris Wright

    May 11, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    np, I also added a recovery and exposure slider. You can get amazing results in seconds.

  • Jim Arco

    May 13, 2010 at 11:42 am

    OK Chris, you’ve done it again! I just replace the ‘missing image’ file with my footage and blown-out highlight detail comes back. Sorta like creating detail from an thin air, I guess.

    Your magic is appreciated. Thanks again.


    Wanna tackle that overzealous edge-enhancement typically found on footage from consumer-grade camcorders….? 😉

  • Chris Wright

    May 14, 2010 at 7:32 am

    There are a million and one ways to blur footage but I believe you are looking for a way to reduce the edge contrast. I simply inverted an unsharp into an alpha matte. It gives you a lot of control over what are defined as edges. I also added in a edge enhancer which expands edges cartoony.

  • Jim Arco

    May 14, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I’m pretty sure you’re not sitting there waiting for my questions – but it almost seems like it.

    You are correct, by ‘edge-enhancement’ I mean the artifact that is produced by most camcorders. Edge-enhancement can be from oversharpening, or even an edge-finding algorithm that produces an outline around objects in an image. It seems the less expensive the camera, the more edge-enhancement the manufacturer wants to add (probably to make up for the lack of any real resolution.) We have been using a combination of find edges and compound blur to reduce the artifacts in footage from older/inexpensive camcorders.

    Once again, Chris, you’ve given me another way to think about solving the problem. Depending on the source material your solution seems to work better (quite a bit better in some cases.)

    Seems to also have the added bonus of reducing some of the noise and/or compression artifacts.

    Thanks for sharing.

    ColorBurst Video

  • Chris Wright

    May 18, 2010 at 5:30 am

    I made an improved edge softener that uses levels, shift, and smart blurs. It is setup with easy sliders. It should mask DCT blockiness a lot easier/faster.

  • Jim Arco

    May 18, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    …another BIG thank you….

    The addition of the “tolerance” sliders, and the “draft mode” was a great idea. Methinks you may have a marketable product here! Then again, maybe I’m the only one trying to improve video that was shot in the stone-age.


  • Chris Wright

    June 9, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    I made a free blow out update.

    1. Saturation that works like photoshop’s vibrance
    2. Local contrast that works like Topaz adjust
    3. stronger soft layers to make up for not being in 32bpc

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