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Forums Apple Final Cut Pro X Fixing heavily backlit footage with blend modes

  • Fixing heavily backlit footage with blend modes

  • Mark Suszko

    June 15, 2021 at 5:03 pm

    Recently dealt with footage of a dark-skinned person shot against a nearly blown-out, large floor to ceiling window shade, without enough key or fill on the talent. Simply raising the mids or whites on the shot won’t really help: it just blows out more detail, all over the shot, without fixing the contrast ratio. I made a fast, relatively easy and effective fix, which works in FCPX, Premiere, and probably most other NLE’s, and here’s the recipe:

    Duplicate your problem track, without audio, and stack it above the original. Add a track under these two that is a medium gray solid. I grab the gray solid out of FCP’s titling section for this, or you can pull it from anywhere.

    Change the top track’s blend mode to “add” and the original, middle track’s blending mode, to “darken”. Bam. You should see an immediate improvement in contrast ratio and detail. If you want to refine the effect, highlight the solid gray track and adjust the whites, mid, and black levels on the solid gray track to tweak some more detail in. With these simple steps I was able to bring up the talent in a natural-looking way, while preserving the detail of the bright window’s venetian blind, and not blow-out any remaining detail across the entire shot.

    While not as good as rotoscoping the talent and building a composite for levels correction, this blend mode trick is super-fast to try; takes about ten seconds.

    At this point, for extra correction work, I’d highlight all three tracks, right-click and collapse the three tracks into one composite track, then maybe bring in the “spot” filter from my FCPX effects menu, to add a controllable, virtual spotlight over the talent, but this is optional and up to individual taste. You can also fine-tune the effect further by playing with levels in the middle track of the three-part “sandwich”, and by laying in a vignette effect on the gray solid and steering/shaping it around as a mask.

    Anything to not have to do a roto job, am I right?

    If this worked for your problem shot, drop a comment.

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