At A glance: Pregrading

Once the shooting stops, it’s time to create your look. For many, the color-grading process is a plug-in to an editing application with an assortment of preset looks. The process also can be a full-blown color-grading application. Whatever your color-grading process, it just became more difficult if there are any problems with your original footage.

Tonalizer|VFX by Irudis is the first pregrading application that helps you get your footage into shape before you start building your look. The plug-in for Final Cut Pro (and Motion) comes in two flavors: PRO and a limited-feature LITE version. The software isn’t a blunt-force tool. It’s really a finesse application, giving you the opportunity to hone your footage to get the detail you want before you start building the look you need. However, calling it a finesse application doesn’t mean it’s difficult to use. The controls are well labeled and easy to use.

Tonalizer|VFX isn’t about vignettes or the primary and secondary color correction that you find in an external color-correction application. It doesn’t come with a series of canned settings. It’s about making sure you have all the image data that you captured. While we all strive for proper exposure and scenes that are within the dynamic range of the image sensor, Tonalizer|VFX steps in when things aren’t perfect.

If a scene lacks highlight detail, Tonalizer|VFX PRO’s Highlight Rescue adjustment does a remarkable job of bringing back those details. Likewise, there are controls to bring back details in the shadows.

In color correction, white-balance issues are sometimes ignored because it seems easier just to adjust colors. With Tonalizer|VFX PRO, you can concentrate on getting the image properly balanced rather than trying to mask a problem with a "look."

These aren’t the same controls you find in other applications. Building on Irudis’ experience in photographic imaging, Tonalizer|VFX brings true attention to image tonality into the application. Instead of just changing groups of similarly valued pixels, the software takes into account local contrast and local brightness so adjustments don’t create unnatural effects.

The software algorithms also are cognizant of time, allowing for tone adjustments that are appropriate for the changing footage. Adjustments also are color-aware so that colors are preserved as much as possible.

In addition, the software includes both noise-reduction and aliasing-reduction technology. Tonalizer|VFX is also sensitive to more compressed footage and takes them into account so that adjustments avoid emphasizing compression artifacts.

The software works with Rec. 709 video, but for those who work with DSLR footage and use Technicolor’s CineStyle Picture Style setting for Canon cameras, Tonalizer|VFX PRO’s CineStyle feature lets you work with the higher-dynamic-range footage.

Tonalizer|VFX LITE is a limited-feature version of the software that offers basic controls, but leaves out CineStyle, Adaptation and Protection (skin and edges), among other controls. However, it’s a good introduction to the software.

Both Tonalizer|VFX PRO and Tonalizer|VFX LITE require an Intel Mac running 10.6.x or later operating system. The software is designed for use with Final Cut Pro 7 (7.0.3), Final Cut Pro X (10.0.2 or later), Final Cut Pro Express (4.0.1), Motion 5 (5.0.0) and Motion 4. A graphics card that supports the Apple applications is required. The PRO version has an MSRP of $179; a trial download is available. The LITE version is free for download.

Contact: Irudis,