I cannot pretend to be impartial about the colors. I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns.
What is the pinnacle, the sunnum bonum, or (don't speak Latin?) the ultimate achievement for a compositor? Pulling the perfect matte? Creating a convincing effect seemingly from nothing? Leaving the last doughnut at dailies for the effects supervisor? Those are all significant, but none is as essential as the ability to authoritatively and conclusively take control of color, such that foreground and background elements seem to inhabit the same world, shots from a sequence are consistent with one another, and the overall look matches the artistic direction of the project.
Without color correction skills, you will not have earned the privilege of the compositor to be the last one to touch the shot before it goes into the edit. No matter how good your source elements are, they'll never appear to have been shot all at once by a real camera.
With this skill, however, you can begin to perform magic, injecting life, clarity, and drama into standard (or even substandard) 3D output, adequately (or even poorly) shot footage, and flat, monochromatic stills, drawing the audience's attention exactly where the director wants it to go, and seamlessly matching the other shots in the sequence.
Is this some sort of pure art, requiring that you have a "good eye" or some other capability no one can teach you? Of course not. It's a skill that you can practice and refine even if you have no feel for adjusting imagesindeed, even if you consider yourself color blind.
And what is the latest, greatest toolset for this lofty job? For the most part, it is a trio of tools that have been part of After Effects and Photoshop practically since day one: Levels, Curves, and Hue/Saturation. You will use other tools in the Color Correction category in other situations, but for basic effects composites these no frills tools endure, and with good reason: They are stable and fast, and they will get the job done every timeonce you fully understand how to use them.
If you remain skeptical, you may be asking:
This chapter holds the answers. You will begin by looking at how to effectively adjust a standalone source clip, focusing on optimizing brightness and contrast on individual color channels, as well as the more mysterious gamma. You'll then move into matching a foreground layer to the optimized background, and take your adjustment skills into all three color channels to balance color as needed.
This chapter is only the beginning of a discussion of color and light in this book. If you're curious about how color works in 32 bits per channel (bpc) mode; take a look at Chapter 11, "Film, HDR, and 32 Bit Compositing." More specialized color adjustments are in Section III, beginning with Chapter 12, "Working with Light."
Optimizing Plate Levels