By Brady Betzel
There are a lot of different ways to color correct an image. Typically, colorists will start by adjusting contrast and saturation followed by adjusting the lift, gamma and gain (a.k.a. shadows, midtones and highlights). For video, waveforms and vectorscopes are great ways of measuring color values and are about the only way to get the most accurate scientific facts on the colors you are manipulating.
Whether you are in Blackmagic Resolve, Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple FCP X or any other nonlinear editor or color correction app, you usually have similar color correction tools across apps — whether you color based on curves, wheels, sliders or even interactively on screen. So when I heard about the way that Picture Instruments Color Cone 2 color corrects — via a Cone (or really a bicone) — I was immediately intrigued.
Color Cone 2 is a standalone app but also, more importantly, a plugin for Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro and FCP X. In this review I am focusing on the Premiere Pro plugin, but keep in mind that the standalone version works on still images and allows you to export a 3dl or cube LUTs — a great way for a client to see what type of result you can get quickly from just a still image.
Color Cone 2 is literally a color corrector when used as a plugin for Adobe Premiere. There are no contrast and saturation adjustments, just the ability to select a color and transform it. For instance, you can select a blue sky and adjust the hue, chromanance (saturation) and/or luminance of the resulting color inside of the Color Cone plugin.
To get started you apply the Color Cone 2 plugin to your clip — the plugin is located under Picture Instruments in the Effects tab. Then you click the little square icon in the effect editor panel to open up the Color Cone 2 interface. The interface contains the bicone image representation of the color correction, presets to set up a split-tone color map or a three-point color correct, and the radius slider to adjust the effect your correction has on surrounding color.
Once you are set on a look you can jump out of the Color Cone interface and back into the effect editor inside of Premiere. There you can keyframe all of the parameters you adjusted in the Color Cone interface. This allows for a nice and easy way to transition from no color correction to color correction.
The Cone itself is the most interesting part of this plugin. Think of the bicone as the 3D side view of a vectorscope. In other words, if the vectorscope view from a traditional scope is the top view — the bicone in Color Cone would be a side view. Moving your target color from the top cone to the bottom cone will adjust your lightness to darkness (or luminance). At the intersection of the cones is the saturation (or chromanance) and when moving from the center outwards saturation is increased. When a color is selected using the eye dropper you will see a square, which represents the source color selection, a circle representing the target color and an “x” with a line for reference on the middle section.
Additionally, there is a black circle on the saturation section in the middle that shows the boundaries of how far you can push your chromanance. There is a light circle that represents the radius of how surrounding colors are affected. Each video clip can have effects layered on them and one instance of the plugin can handle five colors. If you need more than five, you can add another instance of the plugin to the same clip.
If you are looking to export 3dl and Cube LUTs of your work you will need to use the standalone Color Cone 2 app. The one caveat to using the standalone app is that you can only apply color to still images. Once you do that you can export the LUT to be used in any modern NLE/color correction app.
To be honest, working in Color Cone 2 was a little weird for me. It’s not your usual color correction workflow, so I would need to sit with the plugin for a while to get used to its setup. That being said, it has some interesting components that I wish other color correction apps would use, such as the Cone view. The bicone is a phenomenal way to visualize color correction in realtime.
In my opinion, if Picture Instruments would sell just the Cone as a color measurement tool to work in conjunction with Lumetri, they would have another solid tool. Color Cone 2 has a very unique and interesting way to color correct in Premiere that acts as an advanced secondary color correct tool to the Lumetri color correction tools.
The Color Cone 2 standalone app and plugin costs $139 when purchased together, or $88 individually. In my opinion, video people should probably just stick to the plugin version. Check out Picture Instrument’s website for more info on Color Cone 2 as well as their other products. And check them out on Twitter @Pic_instruments.
Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.