Those that know me well know that I’m a huge fan of both FCP X and the Panasonic GH series of cameras. Currently, I own and shoot with the GH2, GH3, and yes, even the almighty 4K-capable Panasonic GH4. FCP X handles the different codecs, bit-rates, and frame sizes like a champ. In addition, I always have the option to transcode the footage to ensure that everything runs smoothly on, say, an older laptop.
I determined that I would keep the older cameras for a variety of reasons. The most practical of those reasons is that they are both paid off! However, choosing to shoot with all three cameras at the same time presents some problems.
Chiefly, how do I effectively balance the distinct looks of each camera when the looks are baked in to the image? Does FCP X have the tools I need to get the job done? How do I keep my workflow simple without having to do a major color correction at the end of the job? It turns out, the answers are quite simple.
My personal holy grail for camera matching comes in the form of the DSC OneShot Chart. I make absolutely sure to bring it with me on multicam shoots. I allot a few extra minutes to white balance and to shoot the chart. The back side of the chart is split between white and gray. Frankly, I wish they chose either white or gray versus splitting them up since it’s hard to fill the frame of your camera with the space given for each when performing an auto white balance.
The OneShot chart was developed by both DSC and Art Adams. Art has a blog post that fully explains the chart here. I won’t go into too much techno talk about it, but it’s a brilliant chart which has all the basics you need for proper luma and chroma balancing: true black, white, gray, skin tones, plus primary and secondary broadcast colors.
Before I got the chart, I would balance the shots manually using a waveform monitor and vectorscope. The great news is that Resolve 11 can actually understand the color information on the chart using the built-in Color Match feature. In the video below, I show you how I send the shots from FCP X to Resolve, match them, and then send the LUTs back to FCP X.
To summarize, once each camera is balanced in Resolve, I export a 3D LUT of each camera. I name the LUT based on the camera and name of the shoot. Of course, you could add any additional info that you deem necessary, such as scene number.
The next trick is getting all this back into FCP X. I purchased a great plugin from Denver Riddle’s Color Grading Central called LUTutility. This program can actually read the LUTs you export from Resolve and attach them to your shots inside of FCP X.
All you need to do is drag and drop the .cube files into LUTutility’s preference pane, located in System Preferences. The LUTs are then installed and accessible inside of FCP X.
Inside FCP X, it’s simply a matter of adding the LUTutility effect to the footage and choosing the correct LUT based on your camera from the pulldown menu in the inspector. The beauty of this workflow is that all you need to do is import the shots with the DSC One Shot chart into Resolve. There’s no need to render anything out of Resolve. All that color grading info is stored in the LUTs and read by the LUTutility effect inside FCP X. I’ll then apply the necessary LUT to all shots within a scene and perform the final grade inside of FCP X.
One side-note to all of this. After I apply the LUTs, I’ll usually add some minor color correction tweaks as nothing is ever 100% perfect. But even with the minor tweaks, this process takes so much work out of balancing different cameras, especially DSLRs where the look is baked in.
As long as the cameras are white balanced off the same source and are generally shot at the same ISO, the tweaks are very minor compared to having to entirely match by eye. Frankly, I find it amazing that this is now all possible. It speaks to the exciting development that is going on in the FCP X ecosystem.
I hope this tip helps. Now go shoot and edit something awesome!
Michael Garber is a post production professional with over 14 years of experience. He started his company, 5th Wall, in 2004 and has worked with clients such as Discovery Agency, Huell Howser Productions, Automat Pictures, FuelTV, PBS and more. In addition to editorial work, Michael produces corporate documentaries for a Fortune 500 company. When not editing or shooting, Michael is more than likely talking about editing and shooting on his blog, GARBERSHOP.