January 27, 2015

Exposure & Contrast Issues? Blend Modes Might Just Be Your New Best Friend

Color Correction with Blend Modes in Premiere Pro CC
There are many simple methods to perform color and exposure correction on your footage.

However, if you're a control freak (which, let's be honest, many of us are), then layering your footage and using blend modes to mesh the layers together can provide unique and visually-pleasing results that can't easily be achieved in any other way. In her fantastic recurring Lynda series, Video Post Tips Weekly, Ashley Kennedy recently shared some extremely helpful tips for using blend modes to correct exposure and contrast issues, as well as some tips for using blend modes to create color casts.

There are a few caveats to performing exposure and contrast correction using blend modes. First and foremost, it is incredibly time-consuming. Unlike other native color correction effects in Premiere Pro, you can't simply apply this effect in an adjustment layer, put it on top of your footage, and call it good. You need to duplicate each an every shot, layer them directly on top of one another, manipulate the blend mode and opacity to get the aesthetic you want, and then manipulate the color of the shot with color effects and an adjustment layer. Of course, you can always copy and paste the attributes of the opacity effect in Premiere to other clips so that you can move your exact blend settings from one clip to another, but it's time-consuming none the less.

The other issue that you would need to watch out for when using this technique comes from the fact that having so many video layers in an edited timeline can cause problems if you need to make changes by trimming clips or rearranging the order of clips in your timeline. Unless you want to trim or move each clip on its own, you can simply select all of the clips that you want to change, right click, then either link them all together or nest them in your sequence.

Have you guys used blend modes to correct exposure and contrast issues in your footage? How else have you used blend modes to solve problems or creatively enhance your work? Let us know down in the comments!     

Your Comment

18 Comments

Interesting approach, but probably not real practical for many situations, for the reasons mentioned in the article. However, it could come in handy for certain shots. For serious grading I think it's worth learning something like Davinci Resolve. The free lite version is feature rich and really doesn't lack much compared to the paid version. It's also not as hard to learn as some may think.

January 27, 2015 at 12:46PM

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I tried this recently and liked the results, but can this approach produce anything that can't be achieved in single-later grading? Genuine question...

January 27, 2015 at 1:39PM, Edited January 27, 1:39PM

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All of these effects can be achieved with a curves filter. If you look up the math behind each of these you'll see they correspond to some kind of linear, exponential or log curve. Multiply for example would just be like a shallow exponential curve.

You can recreate basically anything with curves though - I had a editor who went through a huge process to send his footage out frame by frame to get some photo filter effect he really wanted on his footage. Using curves and the color parade I remade the effect for him in premiere so he could copy and paste it to all of his other footage.

Though I may use this technique more for adding a solid color - seems to produce fast easily controllable tinting.

January 28, 2015 at 8:54AM

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Nathanael Neveux
Cinematographer, Editor
118

Why make something more complicated than it needs to be, without any real advantage?

January 27, 2015 at 4:17PM

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Josh.R
Motion Designer/Predator
1210

Genuine question...does this produce results better than using contrast sliders and curves? I fail to see what the difference is. Is she somehow achieving more detail than is easily achievable any other way?

January 27, 2015 at 6:15PM

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Jeremy Dulac
Director/Cinematographer/Editor
164

This makes no sense. She's using four layers to do color correction that could have easily been done on one. The original footage isn't overexposed, it just needs some contrast. But she uses the light gray walls to set the white point. Ridiculous!

Old-school, editors used to overlay a slightly blurred layer to reduce DV jaggies and give a little post diffusion effect but these days there are better and faster-rendering plug-ins available.

January 27, 2015 at 7:24PM, Edited January 27, 7:24PM

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I remember that trick! An up tick to you for reminding me of those heady days with Final Cut Express HD.

January 27, 2015 at 11:49PM

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Zack Wallnau
Cinematographer & Tinkerer
716

Agreed. She's using a labor intensive process to illustrate the blend mode features. Blend mode is a nice tool but there are easier ways to achieve the effects she created.

January 28, 2015 at 1:36PM

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Ivan Salinas
Filmmaker
200

If you really don't know your way around color grading/correction I could see that this could be helpfull... Other than that it's a bit of a hassle.

January 28, 2015 at 1:00AM

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Viktor Ragnemar
Director/Cinematographer
1178

You can select 4 clips on top of each other and trim them at once, btw...

January 28, 2015 at 6:03AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9278

Wonder if Lynda.com has become a sponsor of NFS...

January 28, 2015 at 10:13AM

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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
1134

Is this in the new Creative Cloud version? I'm currently stuck in CS5.5 and I didn't know if this was possible in Creative Suite...

January 28, 2015 at 10:14AM

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Torsten Pearson
Writer-Director-Editor
351

the blue accents indicate cc 2014, yes. but i also think that THIS isnt really a reason to upgrade. however premiere has gone through quite a few changes of the past 3 releases

January 29, 2015 at 7:16AM

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Paul-Louis Pietz Pröve
director / dop / editor
591

Just look at the opacity menu: the blend mode is right there in CS5.5

January 29, 2015 at 7:51AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9278

Yes it is possible in CS5.5.
Although the blend modes are more usefull for other stuff than this ;-)

January 29, 2015 at 7:52AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9278

hmm… this seems like just trying "stuff" with no real idea of what it's going to do. it's not what I want to do when I'm grading or color correcting.
I'm trying to learn SpeedGrade better - I still really like using ACR in Photoshop CC for many situations.

January 29, 2015 at 12:54PM

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Steve Ramsey
Photographer/Videographer
97

Thanks for the repost, Robert. I wanted to chime in because of some of these comments. Please know that this was not an endorsement to perform these types of adjustments for all-things-color correction. _At all_. This was merely a teaching tool to show how to use blend modes for certain shots in certain situations. The multiple layers was just to show that adding multiple layers produces different results (with different blend modes playing together to achieve each result). Sometimes when you teach, you have to set up intricate scenarios to show certain concepts. Again, this is a one-off type of thing, but it can be a very cool tool in your back pocket.

January 29, 2015 at 12:56PM

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Ashley Kennedy
Lynda.com Staff Author
81

And I'll set my white point here
*clicks grey wall*
*skin tones blow out, background flares*

February 1, 2015 at 12:12AM, Edited February 1, 12:12AM

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Tim Fay
First AC
74