Even before I started working as a professional colorist, I had always loved to toy around with color settings within my editing software to enhance the look of my footage. One of the most common looks that I would implement (and still do to this day) is the low contrast look, which can be really helpful is getting digital images to look more filmic.
One of the great things about FCP X is that it allows you to save custom Color Board presets so that you can easily select from a variety of preset looks to apply to your footage. It’s quite a powerful tool as you are also able to share your custom looks with others – which is what I am doing today.
The Low Contrast Look
The three preset files that I am making available for download today are intended to subtly reduce contrast, while either increasing the warmth, increasing the coolness, or keeping the image neutral. Each of the three settings should be able to work well on any footage that is well balanced, so choosing between the three is simply a matter of taste.
One really important thing to note is that you want to balance your image properly before applying these presets (or any preset for that matter) otherwise you won’t get good results. If you haven’t already read this, I suggest you quickly read up on the best order of operations for color grading, so you know exactly when you should applying these looks. In a nutshell though, you want to do it AFTER you have already balanced your image… Imagine you are working with really low contrast footage to begin with (such as log footage from an Arri Alexa or a Blackmagic Cinema Camera set to ‘film’). If you were to apply these looks to those raw files, the image would become even flatter and wouldn’t look good at all. The better option would be to first apply contrast and white balance adjustments to the raw footage to get it looking natural, and then apply these looks to knock the contrast back down.
Here are samples of the three presets that I am making available to download today:
Low Contrast – Cool
Low Contrast – Neutral
Low Contrast – Warm
Always remember that any color correction presets should just be thought of as a starting point. You typically aren’t going to apply any preset or LUT to your footage and just leave it as is, since every shoot will need a bit of extra tweaking to get it looking just right. Also, keep in mind that you don’t want to push things too far with a low contrast look. I wrote an article a while back about how the milky black look is very overused, and there is a fine line between a low contrast image and a milky image (which in some cases can work well), so be careful about pushing things too far when dealing with this type of aesthetic.
Installing The Presets
In order to install the files, you are going to need to manually place the .cboard files in your ‘Color Preset’ folder. The easiest way to do this is to go to the finder and click on ‘Go’ in the menu bar and then ‘Go To Folder’. From there, type in this path: /users/johnsmith/library/application support/ProApps/
Please remember to change ‘johnsmith’ to whatever your Mac OS username is.
Once you are in the ProApps folder, you should see a folder that says ‘Color Presets’. If you don’t – try creating a folder and labelling it ‘Color Presets’. This is the folder where you need to drop in your .cboard files, so simply copy and paste them in there, boot up FCP X, and you should have your presets ready to go.
When adding any new plugin, effect, or setting to FCP X or any application for that matter, please know that you are doing so at your own risk. I have done this many times and had absolutely no issue at all, but again please proceed with caution as you don’t want to change any other settings that may affect the way that FCP X functions.
That’s about it! Hope you guys enjoy the presets, and feel free to let me know if there are any other looks that you might be interested in seeing in the future. I will also try to create some for Premiere Pro in the future as well.
Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!