… for Visual Effects

Tip #101: What’s the Difference Between Color Grading and Color Correction?

Both involve color, but in different ways.

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The short answer is that color correction fixes problems, while color grading gives images a “look.”

Typical color correction involves:

  • Removing color casts
  • Setting proper highlight and shadow levels
  • Controlling any excessive highlights (speculars)

For example, the top image was color corrected to boost highlights and increase saturation.

Color grading, on the other hand, takes what we have done in color correction and tweaks the color and grayscale levels to match the story. For example:

  • Boosting saturation for a romantic comedy
  • Decreasing saturation for dystopian scifi
  • Removing color for a film noir

And so on.

Generally, you fix problems first, then create looks second.

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… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #223: What Do Render Bar Colors Mean

Premiere is fast, but sometimes not fast enough.

Different render bar colors in Adobe Premiere Pro CC.
Render bar colors indicate what needs to be rendered before playback.

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Most of the time, Premiere can play back your sequence in real-time displaying high-quality, full frame-rate images by harnessing the power of the Mercury Playback Engine.

However, every so often, you’ll create an effect that is so complex, it needs to render for optimum playback.

DEFINITION: Render means to calculate. But “calculate” is a very boring word. “Render” is much sexier. To render an effect means we are calculating the effect and turning it into video.

How can you tell if rendering is necessary? By the color of the render bar at the top of the Timeline.

  • No bar. Everything is playing perfectly. No rendering is necessary.
  • Yellow. An unrendered section that is complex, but may not need to be rendered in order to play back the sequence in real-time and at the full frame-rate.
  • Red. An unrendered section that needs to be rendered in order to play back the sequence in real-time and at the full frame-rate.
  • Green. A fully-rendered section of the sequence.


To render some or all of a sequence, select the clips you want to render, then choose Sequence > Render Selection. A dialog appears showing the render status.

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #222: Offline Does Not Mean Inaccessible

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Organize clips without needing media.

The Edit Offline File window
This window allows adding metadata to any offline clip.

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NOTE: This tip originated in the days of capturing media from video tape, but it can still be helpful in working with today’s huge media files.

Normally, when we think of “offline clips,” we think of media that is inaccessible. While it is true that we can’t edit or playback offline clips, we can still organize them.

For example, Control-click an offline clip and this menu appears, which allows us to add metadata (labels) to any offline clip. Then, the next time these clips are either connected or relinked, all this information remains available because it is stored in the project file, not with the clip itself.

The benefit of using this screen is that you can transfer a project to another computer – say a laptop – to add this information, without having to copy and carry all the media files as well.


The Metadata panel in Premiere (Window > Metadata) has far more fields available, which can also be used for both online and offline clips.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #108: Speed Test: i5 vs. i7 CPUs for Video Compression

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Conventional Wisdom says bet on the i7

A chart comparing i5 vs. i7 CPU speeds for video compression
Speed comparison of i5 vs. i7 CPUs running Apple Compressor.

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In a series of tests that I ran comparing the speed of Apple Compressor 4.4.5 running on a 3.8 GHz i5 vs. a 3.2 GHz i7, I discovered that you can’t predict which processor will be faster.

Testing involved XDCAM EX, ProRes 422 HQ and ProRes 4444 media and compressing it into H.264, 8-bit HEVC and 10-bit HEVC. (The three test files had different durations, so we can’t compare speed between formats.)

H.264 and HEVC 8-bit are hardware-accelerated. HEVC 10-bit is not. I used the same compression settings for each test.

  • When compressing media for H.264, the i7 is faster 33% of the time (2 out of 6).
  • When compressing media for HEVC 8-bit, the i7 is faster 66% of the time (4 out of 6).
  • Both CPUs running Apple Compressor were unable to successfully compress a ProRes 4444 file into 10-bit HEVC.

Based upon these tests with the latest version of Compressor, I would say the speed is a wash. Some tasks are faster, some are slower.

However, if you are doing any HEVC compression – 8-bit or 10-bit – based on my full suite of tests, Adobe Media Encoder is consistently and significantly faster than Apple Compressor.


Here’s the full report.

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #216: Determining “Indeterminate”

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

The unknown is not unknowable.

The Premiere Pro CC Media preference panel.
The Media preference panel sets the timebase for still images.

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“Indeterminate” sounds pretty squishy. But, when it comes to Premiere, it is a fancy word for still images, or any other file that doesn’t have a definite duration. Hence – “indeterminate.”

Go to Premiere Pro > Preferences > Media (Windows: Edit > Preferences > Media).

At the top of this panel, you can specify the timebase of all imported still images, the starting timecode for each still image clip, and whether the frame count should start at 0 or 1.

Since still images are timecode-free, my recommendations are:

  • Set the timecode to match the timecode of your sequence.
  • Set the timecode to start at 00:00:00:00
  • Set the frame count to start at 1

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #194: What is Audio Skimming?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Audio skimming provides a high-speed preview of clip audio.

Click this icon to enable audio skimming in FCP X.

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I have a love/hate relationship with skimming. I love using it in the Browser because it allows me to quickly review clips, but hate using it in the Timeline because it always seems to get in my way.

NOTE: You can toggle skimming on or off by typing S.

However, there’s a special form of skimming that you may not know about: audio skimming.

NOTE: The Blade, Trim and Range tools all act as skimmers when they are active.

By default, when you turn on skimming, you can quickly see the video, but not hear the audio. To turn on audio skimming, either click this icon so it turns blue, or type Shift + S.

Now, when you drag over audio, you’ll hear it. (And even if you drag quickly, FCP X compensates for the speed and pitch adjusts the audio so it sounds normal.)


Taking this one step further, you can turn on clip skimming, which allows you to hear the audio from one clip, but not the entire mix. For example, to hear dialog, without also hearing audio from the B-roll above it.

To enable clip skimming, first turn on audio skimming. Then, choose View > Clip Skimming (shortcut: Option + Cmd + S). Now, when you drag across a clip, you’ll just hear that clip.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #191: What’s In An FCP X Library Backup?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Backups, like saving, are automatic.

FCP X automatic library backups, stored by project.

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We all know that Final Cut Pro X automatically saves anything we do in the app the instant we do it. In fact, I’ve had beta builds of FCP X crash a fraction of a second after I made an edit, yet, when I restarted the app, everything I had done was saved.

Which is very cool.

But did you know that FCP X also saves a backup copy of your Library, just in case…?

NOTE: You can see all backups, grouped by project name, in [User Directory] > Movies > Final Cut Backups. The backup location can be changed using File > Library Properties.

To access a backup copy, for example, to go back in time to an earlier edit, open Final Cut, then choose File > Open Library > From Backup. Next, select the date and time of the version you want to open from the menu.

NOTE: Opening a backup will not affect the currently open Library. Instead, FCP X makes a copy of the backup, stores it in the Movies folder and attempts to link it with the original media.


As you can see from the file sizes in this screen shot, you need to know that these backups are ONLY of the library database. Any media stored in the library is not backed up. For this reason, while Library backups will preserve your edits, you are still responsible for backing up all your media separately; even media stored in a Library.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #193: When Can Audio Levels Exceed 0 dB?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Audio levels must NEVER exceed 0 dB, except…

Increasing clip audio levels to +12 dB in FCP X.

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When can audio levels exceed 0 dB? Smile… this is a trick question. Why? Because there are two types of audio levels: Relative and Absolute.

When we adjust the levels of a clip, we are adjusting the audio levels of the clip relative to the level at which it was recorded. Most dialog is recorded at lower levels to prevent distorting the audio during the original performance. Music, which is highly processed, is mastered within a few tenths of a dB of 0. So, we generally boost levels for dialog and reduce levels for music.

Unlike clips, the levels displayed by the audio meters are the absolute audio level of your project.

So, the answer to this question is that when we adjust audio levels on a clip, we often go far above 0 dB. However, during export, audio levels displayed on the audio meters must never exceed 0 dB, or the audio on the master file will distort.

… for Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #143: What Do These Audio Track Header Icons Do?

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

Track Headers provide more control when editing a sequence

Tip Screen Shot

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(See Tip #134 for an explanation of the video track headers.)

Looking at the audio track headers (located on the extreme left side of the timeline), here’s what each of these icons mean:

  • Blue A1 (far left). This icon indicates the “active track.” When you edit a clip into the timeline using a keyboard shortcut, the audio goes into the track at the position of the playhead with the blue highlight. (Adobe calls this “Source Patching.”)
  • Lock. This locks a track so you can’t make changes. However, be careful with this because if you lock the audio, but don’t lock the video (or vice-versa) you can easily move the unlocked track out of sync.
  • Blue V1 (middle). When you copy a clip, the clip will paste into the LOWEST NUMBERED track with a blue highlight. Drag the blue to change track location, click it to turn it on or off. (Adobe calls this “Track Targeting.”)
  • Sync lock. Normally, when doing an insert edit, you want everything to shift down with the inserted media. This is the default setting. However, turning sync locks off means that when you insert a clip, any clips on tracks where sync lock is turned off will not move. This can be a powerful feature when you want to insert a video clip, but not break the audio tracks.
  • Mute. When clicked it makes all audio clips on this track inaudible.
  • Solo. When clicked, it makes all audio clips on all non-soloed tracks inaudible.
  • Microphone (far right). This instantly enables a track for voice over recording and begins recording according to the current voice over settings. (See Tip #136).


Watch what happens when you click one of these controls while pressing Shift, Option or Cmd. These modifier keys allow you to control groups of these switches.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #107: Speed Test: Apple Compressor vs. Adobe Media Encoder

Larry Jordan – https://LarryJordan.com

You need to get work done. Which is faster?

Tip Screen Shot

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In a recent series of tests between Apple Compressor (v.4.4.5) and Adobe Media Encoder 2019 (AME), I discovered that, in almost all cases, Adobe Media Encoder is faster at compressing a file into either H.264 or HEVC. (Both these formats are commonly used for social media.)

In fact, the speed differences averaged 38% faster for AME compressing files into H.264; as you can see in this chart.

The results were even more dramatic when compressing different codecs into HEVC. Compressor was 45% faster, on average, when compressing into 8-bit HEVC, but AME was 75% faster when compressing into 10-bit HEVC. In fact, Compressor was unable to successfully compress a ProRes 4444 file into 10-bit HEVC; consistently failing during multiple tests.

If speed is your goal, AME is generally the better choice.