EPICOLOR Uses Artificial Intelligence to Grade Your Footage Automatically
When time is tight and the budget is tighter, this AI-based color grading plugin for FCPX and Resolve may be your best option.
Whether we like it or not, robots are coming for our jobs. Self-driving cars will be the start, but rest assured, if it can be automated, it will be. Robots are even starting to edit movie trailers. As you plan out your career, it would be wise keep an eye on automation both for the ways it can speed up your own workflow and also for the ways it might make your job obsolete.
While we are nowhere near losing many jobs to automation in film yet, the new EPICOLOR plugin from Lemke Software for FCPX and Resolve gives us a hint of what is coming with its automated grading tool that can be useful for small projects with tight turnarounds where a professional colorist might not be an option.
EPICOLOR uses artificial intelligence to manipulate your raw footage into a more pleasing, broadcast legal, final image. To be clear, your computer is likely not powerful enough to run an artificial intelligence engine itself, and definitely can't do so within a plugin. What EPICOLOR is referring to when they say artificial intelligence is that AI was part of the engineering done to create the process that can be run within a plugin.
Likely, a tremendous volume of imagery was processed and analyzed in a neural network to craft a target for what a pleasing image is, and then EPICOLOR uses that processing to look at your footage and convert it into something more attractive. Considering that most "auto color" still just stretches your blacks and whites up to reference levels and balances the colors, this is a more sophisticated process, and the results are clear.
The above image is a side-by-side of the EPICOLOR auto color and the auto color from Resolve, taken from EPICOLOR's own demo imagery. To be clear, you could definitely do a better grade by hand in Resolve than the auto grade from EPICOLOR without too much effort, which is what you see in the image below. While the EPICOLOR grade looks good, it has a slightly green water that might not fit the right mood for the image. The point isn't that one is "better" than the other, it's simply to notice that automated tools are getting much, much better than before. While automated grading isn't going to come for professional color jobs just yet, there are going to be lots of applications where a quick and dirty auto grade is going to get used to keep the post workflow moving faster than it was before.
To ignore the extensive benefits of automation coming to the creative arts would be a mistake. EPICOLOR has a great demo of their process being applied to archival footage, which is a good reminder that there is a tremendous volume of footage in the world that needs restoration and cleanup, far beyond the capability or budget for humans to handle. Combine that with the number of tiny videos being made every day that could use a polish, and EPICOLOR not only gives us a hint of what is coming, it also serves as a valuable tool in certain workflows today.