October 8, 2018
Field Test

Stay Within Avid for Color with New Baselight Plugin

Filmlight recently released Baselight Editions V5 for Avid Media Composer: a powerful color tool in an AVX plugin. 

With a complete color grading suite, Baselight Editions V5 is a dynamic tool to use within Media Composer, allowing you to ditch the roundtrip for your color grade. During my time within the Baselight plugin, I mainly tested out applying base color correction for individual shots, applying LUTs to a timeline, and then customizing color per shot, custom curves, and temporal noise reduction/ degrain for dark, noisy shots.

On a recent project editing the final episode in a television series, I used the Baselight plugin from an early stage in my edit until picture lock. As the editor of the final episode of a first season, I was tasked with presenting a coherent episode that stylistically and aesthetically matched the previous episodes, which were much further along in editorial when I got started. Making color for recurring locations match (shot on different days) was a big thing for this project, so where I would normally have waited until the roundtrip into Resolve to address color issues, I instead used the Baselight color tool to do a temp grade in Avid and fix some problems early on.

Baselight was an incredibly useful tool for client screenings and test screeningsalready having a color grade smoothed out so that I was only getting editorial notes, and not questions about whether or not a sequence is working because the color difference is so drastic. Installing Baselight was extremely simple, and the Baselight tool is accessible in the Media Composer Effect Palette as a filter that you can drag and drop onto a clip like any other effect tool. In effect mode, the Baselight user interface opens up in its own window.

The Media Composer controls are not accessible at the same time, so I opened Baselight into a fullscreen window and my project lived in there while I did my grade. I was, however, still able to play, pause, and scrub through the sequence I was coloring within the Baselight interface.

I also had a full range of transform tools within Baselight so I didn’t have to leave the color suite to reframe my picture.

Inside the Baselight interface, there are 3 main panels: parameter controls, image display, and the histogram. This complete color grade suite includes primaries and secondaries, shapes, tracking, temporal noise reduction, and much more. Splitter bars in the Baselight window change the size of any of the panels, so you can easily enlarge the panel you’re using and collapse panels you aren’t.

We were able to add the Baselight effect as an adjustment layer to the timeline and apply a base grade, and then use the Baselight’s subdivide to automatically add edits in the adjustment layer to apply individual grades to each shot. We also never had to leave the Baselight window to hop from shot to shot within a timeline. I used Baselight as an adjustment layer to apply a base LUT to my entire sequence and then customized shots individually from there for quick turnarounds for test screenings.

Clicking anywhere in your image brings up a pixel display and the histogram will show you the RGB values for any given point in the image display. Controls with RGB values can be displayed as RGB sliders, or you can toggle to a hue wheel to customize your workflow. 

All grades and effects within the plugin are applied in layers, and the layer drop-down menu shows you all of the grades and effects that are layered to give you your current look in what FilmLight calls a Grade Stack. One thing I found really useful (especially since I'm used to a node based color workflow) was naming my layers to keep track of what each layer in my stack was doing for the graded image. You can add as many layers as you need to within the plugin, as it does not affect the Avid timeline.

On this specific project, we had a situation where we were in need of a dark exterior night establishing shot but had very limited coverage of it. We really only had one shot that fit what the director was looking for. However, this shot was extremely noisy; the kind of noisy that makes some clients too nervous to use.

I initially tried the Baselight Denoise tool to fix this problem, and it was definitely a powerful tool, but it didn’t do as good a job as the Temporal Degrain did for this particular shot. Below you can see the before and after of this exterior night shot. The Temporal Degrain tool made a huge visual difference and the change happened quickly without rendering, which reassured the EPs that the shot would be useable and saved us from having to think about pickups for this scene.

Overall, we found the Baselight interface easy to use and easily customizable. In my opinion, it’s not as sleek and beautiful as other color tools, but it gets the job done without having to do a roundtrip and it's better than Avid’s native color tool. I’m not sure I would use it for final color, but it was extremely useful for temp color passes for test screenings and for quick turnarounds where the option to stay in Media Composer greatly simplified our workflow.

Avid Baselight Editions V5 currently runs in Avid Media Composer and Symphony Version 6 or higher on a Mac. Version 5 is upgradable from previous versions for $300, or you can purchase for the first time for $995. For more information about Baselight Editions V5, check out the Filmlight site here.     

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