How to Fix Overexposed Video in Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro 18/09/2022 5 min read

One of the most frequent and frustrating things for any editor is working with overexposed footage. There are many reasons the clips you are editing may be overexposed, but they all come down to the same essential thing: The camera wasn’t set up correctly for the light in the shot. Fortunately, you can learn how to fix overexposed video in Final Cut Pro. While the picture will never be perfect, these techniques can go a long way to saving a poorly lit shot.

Part 1: How to Determine if Your Bad-Lit footage can be saved

Sometimes a shot just can’t be saved, no matter how much time and effort you put into grading and visual effect work. In these instances, it’s probably easier to reshoot the shot or use a stock footage replacement. To figure out if a shot can be saved, it helps to understand a little about what has happened to cause the overexposure in the first place.

Overexposure happens when the camera receives too much light through the lens; adjusting your camera’s shutter speed, ISO, and aperture can help resolve this during the filming.

When too much light enters the camera, it has trouble distinguishing white areas from super bright areas, resulting in white ‘hotspots’ or ‘blown out areas.’ Shooting in natural light is fantastic for lighting your shots, but you will often find the sky gets blown out on a sunny or overcast day.

Since the camera can’t tell what is white and what is light, it can’t create the digital information needed to rebuild the shot, so you end up with significant white areas or bright highlights in the clip.

Part 2: Final Cut Pro Color Quick Fixes

Final Cut Pro has 2 quick fixes for your color correction, and while these won’t fix every shot every time, they can help determine how much can be done to save it.

Balance Color

The Balance Color tool auto-balances your shots in a single click and is fantastic when white balance is an issue. The Final Cut Pro Balance Color tool doesn’t affect the overall exposure of a shot, but it can help you separate exposure and white balance issues.

  1. Select the clip in the timeline, go to the bottom of the Media Viewer and click on the magic wand.
  2. Choose Balance from the drop-down menu and let Final Cut Pro do its thing.

Color Match

Color match is another tool primarily used for adding consistency to the color tones across shots. However, it will boost your exposure a little and, in some cases, might improve your shot enough to use. For this tool to work, you’ll need a second clip with good color and lighting to match it. This tool works best with 1 or 2 poorly lit shots, amongst other exposed footage. 

  1. Place both clips in the timeline; they don’t need to be next to one another.
  2. Select the clip with the bad exposure; go to the magic wand at the bottom of the Media Viewer.
  3. Choose Match Color from the list.
  4. Move your cursor to the well-exposed clip and scrub through until you find the frame you want to match.
  5. Click on the clip, and if you are happy with your selection, hit Match at the bottom of the viewer.

Part 3: Fix Footage with the Color Board

The Final Cut Pro Colorboard is the only panel you need in Final Cut Pro to correct and grade your video clips. Switching on the video scopes can be super helpful to see what is happening to your color as it changes. To do this, click the View drop-down at the top of the Media Viewer and choose Scopes.

  1. In the Effects Panel, search for the Color Board and add it to your clip.
  2. In the Inspector, clip the Color Board options to view the Exposure levels.
  3. Grab the white circle and drag it downwards to decrease the light levels.
  4. Next, grab the black circle and adjust the Shadows in your shot.
  5. Click on the Color Board drop-down at the top of the Inspector and choose Color Curves.
  6. For the Luma Settings, add handles to the diagonal line and drag up/down to create a slight S curve in the line.
  7. Go back to the Inspector and click on the Color Board option, followed by the Saturation tab.
  8. Adjust the Saturation settings for the Highlights, Midtones and Shadows.
  9. Play with the settings until you have created a look that works for your shot.

Part 4: Create a Look for your Video with Overlays

Overlays are fantastic for creating a stylistic look to your videos, but they can also help hide issues with the lighting of your shot. Of course, it is always good practice to do as much color correction as possible before applying the overlay, but these handy, downloadable assets come in a wide range of styles and designs. So let’s look at a few categories of overlay designs.

Film Burns, Noise and Grain

Giving your video clips a vintage look is super easy with overlays, and you can find a variety of burns, noise and grain effects to download. The point of these styles of effects is to degrade your footage, giving it an old-film look. 

Overexposure was a common problem with older cameras, as they didn’t have the advantage of digital, in-camera review. As a result, vintage film often suffers from hotspots and blown-out areas. So if your shot lighting is particularly bad, creating a vintage look can work to your advantage.

Light Leaks

Light Leaks are a lot of fun and can add movement and style to otherwise flat visuals. Light Leaks are patterns of white or colored light that streak across your image, digitally recreating the types of optical flare captured in the camera.

Light Leaks come in various styles, colors, and intensities and can also be used in layers to create new styles. As the name suggests, Light Leaks often add brightness and exposure to your shot, but they can also be used to cover large blown-out areas such as skies in a landscape shot.

Video Looks

There is also a massive variety of video looks available as overlays, such as VHS glitches, smoke, clouds, and fire. You can also find Overlay elements designed to sit on top of your videos, such as badges and stickers.

Creating a video look should extend beyond your poorly lit shot and be consistent across your entire Video. It isn’t always practical to change the look of a video to save 1 or 2 shots, but if you think creatively, there are many uses for these assets.

How to add Overlays to your Video

  1. Add your clips to the timeline and place your overlay in the track above your clip.
  2. Trim the length of the overlay to match the clip length.
  3. With the overlay selected, go to the Inspector.
  4. Go to the Blend Mode drop-down menu and browse the options to find one that works for your shot.
  5. Adjust the Opacity of your overlay until you have the intensity you like.

Overexposed video clips can be a nightmare for an editor, but after learning how to fix overexposed video in Final Cut Pro Overexposure, you can get on with your editing knowing your clips are savable. Of course, the color correction tips we’ve shown here today will never be a replacement for filming your shots correctly. If you want to learn more about video lighting, check out these 5 lighting hacks.

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