Cinematic Color Grading in Premiere Pro

THE POWERFUL LUMETRI COLOR, CURVES, AND LUMETRI SCOPES! | Learn to breeze through your color correcting and cinematic color grading in Premiere Pro CC with Lumetri Color with this tutorial!

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In this Premiere Pro tutorial, we will learn to use the Lumetri Color effect to dramatically and powerfully change the mood of a shot by learning about how Curves works, how to read the vectorscopes and why they’re helpful, and a whole lot of what, why, and how to change tone, exposure, contrast, color, and look of any video that you’re working to change or make more beautiful using Lumetri Color in Premiere Pro.

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Tutorial Recording Notes:

Disclaimer: these are the actual notes I used to record this video and are written in a language you may or may not understand. Hopefully, you find them useful or cool.

Here we are in Premiere Pro. I’ve got a beautiful piece of footage shot on a RED EPIC that we’re going to be playing with today and looking at some color grading techniques that may be helpful to you whether you’re using a $400 setup or $40,000 setup to shoot your videos. I’m going to avoid using LUTs in this tutorial because of how specific to a certain type of footage they can be. Instead, we’ll use Lumetri Color and talk about different techniques and tools I like to use in general when I begin attacking a new film project.
 
First things first. I like to jump into the very useful Color workspace in Premiere which features the Lumetri color panel over to the right for easy access. It’s also a good idea to get your Lumetri Scopes out so you can keep an eye on the visual representation of both the current state of color and luma in your film and also the changes as you make them. We’ll keep an eye on the scopes and I’ll explain as we go. You can right-click in your Lumetri Scopes panel to choose which scopes you’d like to see. I typically like to work with Waveform (RGB), Histogram, and Vectorscope YUV. One cool little trick to know is that you can double-click the Lumetri Scopes panel area to rearrange or cycle the scopes to get them placed exactly how you like.
 
Even though we’re grading a piece of footage here, I like to generally color correct my shots first so every shot from a particular scene or segment will begin at the same color baseline for when I grade. This way one shot doesn’t have an overabundance of a color which would show through our final color grade and make shots look a little different.
 
Now that I have my scopes up, it’s time to take a look at Lumetri color itself. Because of my time in Photoshop, I much prefer the Curves to make the bulk of my changes and I then cycle through to the Basic corrections and the very powerful (and useful!) Color Wheels. Those are the tools I use for nearly all grading and editing I do in Premiere.
 
Taking a peek at my Waveform RGB, I can see that this shot does not quite have the contrast applied to it that it could. We’ll flood some contrast into here by using Curves. To quickly understand how Curves works, I’ll drag the black point straight upward and we can see how the waveform responds. The blacks in the image have been boosted up way too far. Double click to reset the Curves. The point at the top of the Curve is the white point. Drag this downward to dull or flatten the image and watch how the waveform reacts to this. It is now showing that we have no bright whites in the image, everything has been made darker and less contrasty. Double click the Curve again to reset it.
 
We can add contrast to our image by adding a point to the very middle of the curve. Add one to the lower area on the curve and drag it down a little before adding another point higher on the curve and dragging upward to brighten the brights. Our waveform should be more spread out now, almost touching the 0 dark point and the 100 bright point.
 
An important thing to note here about contrast is that you don’t NEED to make your footage as contrasty as possible. This is just a tool by which we can measure the contrast and decide how much or how little we want in our shot.
 
In this waveform, we can also see that this shot has color kind of shooting all over the place with a tinge of red and a bit of extra blue running through the lower midtones and a bit of blueness in the highlights. It’s hard to see the red with the naked eye, at least my naked eye, so this is where the data that the Waveform RGB outputs to me can be so useful.
 
To work on leveling this color out, we want to use the color channels in Curves and target those parts of the film and simply try to pull them back in line with each other in the waveform. I’m going to jump into the red channel and pull up a little in the lower third of the curve line until I see the red bits disappear behind the green in my waveform. Boom!
 
Next I’ll go to the green channel because I see some magenta in the waveform and magenta is the opposite of green. By the way, cyan is the opposite of red. Here I’ll target very near the top of the curve and drag down a little to combat that magenta and watch until it disappears in the waveform as well. If it’s needed, I can jump back to the red channel and tweak and adjust it to get things just right.
 
Next I’ll go to the blue channel. Yellow is the opposite of blue so these blue/yellow swings I see in the waveform can be pushed a little closer together here in this channel. I’m going to add a point just below the middle of my curve line and drag downward. Then continue to finesse and adjust this curve until I get the colors lined up the way I want them to be. You can spend as much time as you want on this process. I might even go back and tweak some of the other settings I’ve already worked with if need be. Next I’m going to head to the Basic Correction tab and begin playing with some color settings to grade my footage a little.
 
Quick side note: I love Curves enough that sometimes I’ll add a second Lumetri Color Effect and just edit it over in the Effect Controls tab. This allows me to have two sets of Curves on my shots. One for color correction/establishing that baseline and one for actual creative color grading work.
 
Back in the Basic Correction tab, we’ll try to make this shot more like a sunset over the lake kind of vibe. I’m going to drop the exposure to about -1.5 and also reduce contrast a touch to about -15. Then I’ll drop Shadows about -20 and drop Whites by the same amount. Kick about +10 into the Blacks and boost Saturation to around 130.
 
Next, to tweak the white balance, use the sliders at the top of Lumetri Color and boost temperature to around 50 and tint to about 20. This will establish, as you see, a very vivid, deep, moody sunset feel to the shot.
 
Lastly, I’m going to head to the Color Wheels and reduce the level of the shadows to add some contrast. Boost the level of midtones a little bit and reduce the level of the highlights to flatten those brighter colors to make them moodier. Now we can use these color wheels to influence the colors in the shot.
 
Here is an important area to focus on the Vectorscope YUV which will indicate to us the level of saturation in any given direction. The Vectorscope YUV has a bunch of little squares indicating colors like Red, Magenta, Blue, Cyan, Green, and Yellow.
 
The more white scuzz there is shooting in any direction, the more saturation of THAT color there is in the shot. You can think of the secondary line encircling the white spray as the max level of saturation that can be displayed on a screen for mass broadcast. Colors within here are “Broadcast safe colors.”
 
I’ll check back in with my Color Wheels and add a little tiny bit of red/magenta to the shadows. A little tiny bit of orange in the midtones might work well too. A kiss of yellow/red in the highlights may complement the final result. Experiment with pushing massive magenta into the midtones to show the Vectorscope do its thing.
 
We can jump into the Effect Controls panel and see a true before/after of how this clip looks ungraded vs graded by toggling the effect on or off.