The artificial intelligence based colour grading system Colorlab Ai certainly looks like it could transform the grading process. Colorlab AI advisor and investor Steve Bayes explains why he became involved and how this technology should eventually become available to Final Cut Pro X users.
One of the benefits of the confinement of Covid-19 is that I have been working with several start ups with incredible technology. When Dado Valentic and Mark Pederson from Colourlab reached out to me through a mutual friend I was blown away by the potential of their new app, Colourlab Ai. By training Artificial Intelligence and embedding it in a color matching application, they were able to take their industry expertise and produce high quality, consistent results in a fraction of the time a human could do it.
I liked this approach for several reasons. The first is that this allows DPs, directors and professional colorists to experiment with different looks and quickly see how it would apply to an entire scene. It is easy for an experienced professional to work from reference images or create their own and then apply it to 24 hours worth of dailies in 15 minutes.
With the use of high powered Macintosh systems and accelerated with Metal, the dailies process just got a whole lot better.
The second is that, even though image matching takes considerable skill to do well, it is an inexact science and takes lots of manual labor. These days with multiple cameras running constantly throughout a day’s shooting, there is more media than ever before. At some point the tedious process of matching is the bottleneck in an otherwise streamlined, file based workflow.
And finally, I liked this approach because it helps all filmmakers. No matter what your experience level with color matching, LUTs, the technologies of HDR and ACES or the complexities of DaVinci Resolve, you can get great, consistent results. I think this appeals to everyone who wants to have better color in their projects.
Sadly, this first version does not have the level of integration with FCP X that we would all like. But we are iterating quickly and, as part of the early adopters “Factory Driver Program”, we will have 500 experienced users sending back real world feedback.
The benefit of being small is that Colourlab can move quickly and work more closely with the FCPXML, color effects and custom LUTs in the very near future.
In the meantime, I see onset workflow proxy files with a one light color grade and the new proxy functionality of the FCP X release 10.4.9 to be almost made for each other. If you change your mind and want to apply a different custom LUT or color match a different look for an entire scene, just generate the proxy media again and relink your proxy clips in the FCP Browser and Timeline.
Then, since Colourlab generates a CDL (Color Decision List), you can apply the color grade to the original media in DaVinci Resolve, saving many hour of re-grading. Send the final grade from Resolve to FCP X for the tweaks, versioning, approval and output. Sure, it’s an extra step for now, but the possibilities are amazing!
Steve Bayes was the first certified instructor and principal product designer for the Avid Media Composer for almost 10 years and senior product manager for Final Cut Pro for 13 years. You can follow him on Twitter or take a look at his excellent photography on Instagram or his website www.thestevebayes.com.
Dado Valentic, founder of Colourlab Ai, will be hosting a live stream today (registration here) in which he'll share a full sneak peek of the new color grading tools, and details on how folks can become early Colourlab Ai adopters in the Factory Driver program in which they can become the first users at a fraction of the cost (a full year subscription for the price of one month - $99).