How to colour match footage from multiple cameras and drones

Jul 25, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to colour match footage from multiple cameras and drones

Jul 25, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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There was a time when shooting with multiple cameras was a luxury. Limited to big budget TV shows, Hollywood movies and live broadcasts. These days, most of us reading this site have at least two cameras. A DSLR or mirrorless and our phone. Many of us also have a backup camera, a drone, maybe an action camera or two. Suddenly that’s 5 or 6 cameras and all of their footage is different from each other.

Editing this footage together can result in a mess of clashing colour and contrast, taking our viewer out of the experience. But it is possible to make them match, and in this video from Matti at TravelFeels, we find out how. It’s not that difficult to do, and while Matti uses Lumetri in Adobe Premiere Pro, the principles are the same regardless of what you use.

YouTube video

Having mixed colour footage is not only jarring to the viewer, but it can also make your production look quite amateurish. It feels unfinished. If you plan for it in advance, tools like the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Video will make life much easier. These easily allow you to match cameras in post with minimal fuss. It’s not impossible to do it without one, but it is a little more work.

The first step is to pick your your “Hero” shot and get it to look the way you want. This is the final look you want to achieve for your film. It’s the look that you’ll recreate in each of your other shots. Matti’s shooting Log footage with the Canon C300 II so the footage is really flat. But it is a shot from this camera that Matti picks as his hero shot, grades it.

Next it’s time to correct all of the footage that was shot with the same camera. Often you can simply copy & paste corrections from one clip to another and you’ll get a consistent look throughout. Occasionally, you might need to do a little tweaking here and there.

Matching different clips from the same sensor is fairly straightforward. They’re all interpreted by the camera the same way, even if the exposure or white balance is slightly off. So, correcting them all to match is fairly easy. Where it gets tricky is the next bit, matching up the Phantom 4 drone footage. It’s an entirely different sensor with a completely different way of seeing things.

The important things to remember when matching clips are the exposure and the colour. The exposure is the easiest to tackle, as it’s essentially just contrast adjustments, with perhaps a midtones lift or drop. This can be easily monitored using the waveform. The waveform is video’s answer to photography’s histogram, and is very easy to use once you learn how.

To fix the colour, the vectorscope becomes your primarily tool. This shows you where the colours in your shot sit on the colour wheel as well as how saturated they are. And although the UI might be slightly different, the same principles are used in other editing applications, too. DaVinci Resolve, Avid Media Composer First, and others all contain the standard scopes and colour correction tools.

Yes, it’s a lot of fiddling around with sliders and dials. It can be tedious task to get footage from multiple cameras perfectly matched, but the final result is so worth it.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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