Today I want to talk about brightening dark footage. Most of you are probably editing video from DSLR cameras, your camera phones, or some other consumer camera. Unlike the professional cameras that shoot amazing RAW footage like the RED, Arri Alexa, and Black Magic cameras, your video footage won’t have much room for improvement in terms of brightening up dark spots. Sometimes it’s hard to get great looking video. If you’re shooting indoors or don’t have lights, exposing your video properly is tough. Unlike taking photographs with the RAW settings and being able to bring out so much detail in the darks, the video that you shoot is most likely compressed H264 or another type of compressed video file, leaving little room for improvement.

All of that being said, I use the three-way color corrector to brighten up footage. It gives you more control than the Brightness and Contrast, Levels, or Curves effects.

Here is how to use the three-way color corrector effects to brighten up dark footage:

  1. Find the Three-Way Color Corrector and apply it to the video clip you need to brighten. Simply drag and drop it onto the clip.Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 5.48.17 PM
  2. Under the 3 color wheels are two sliders, input levels and output levels. First pay attention to the input levels.Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 5.48.32 PM
  3. Slide the middle notch for the midtones up. Go up as much as you want, but I usually stay around 1.2-1.8.
  4. Now slide the right notch down to brighten the highlights.
  5. The above steps will decrease the contrast. To get the contrast back, slide the left notch for the blacks up to around 5.0. This may seem counter-intuitive. But if you toggle the effect on and off at this point, you’ll realize that the clip is still brighter (even while darkening the darks), but it still retains the contrast.Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 5.49.17 PM
  6. By doing this, you may lose saturation in your clip. Twirl down the saturation option and bring up the Master Saturation. I sometimes bring it up all the way to around 150.Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 5.56.50 PM

Here’s the final look of this clip. The overall look is much better and the interviewees face is better exposed.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 5.56.59 PM

And there you have it – a brighter and better looking video clip. Another thing you can do if you aren’t as worried about how pretty the shot is but you need it to be brighter is increase the left notch (darks) of the Output Levels. This will make everything looks a little washed out, but may be useful in a pinch.

I hope you enjoyed this tip from Video School Online. Check out our video courses for more great lessons.

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Cheers!
Phil