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Color Correction: Scopes and Balancing (One Light)

Question: What do you think this color represents? It’s a sample taken directly from a piece of footage I was given to color.

Answer: Skin tone!

After all the talk on how subjective our eyes can be, let’s talk about objective ways to measure a video signal. Scopes are visual displays of various components of an image and they are a very useful tool when it comes to color correction.

Resolve has scopes built in, and for casual use there is no problem using them, but there are a couple reasons you may benefit from using scopes outside of the color application. External scopes simply take your video signal as an input, usually via SDI or HDMI, this means there is minimal GPU strain involved on processing the scopes themselves. If you’re on an underpowered system, or need every last ounce of your GPU for computing the grade, handling the scopes’ processing externally can be a noticeable improvement, and they’ll always play realtime. There’s also typically more power in a dedicated outboard scope. Scopebox provides tools for assessing RGB gamut errors (Scopebox channel plots help these sorts of errors or if you have the money go for a Tek Double Diamond); other scopes like HML balance help you remove color casts quickly; but they’re also highly configurable in that you can enlarge the data trace and position things how you need them for your setup. Newer scopes can also chart changes over time, provide false color overlays, superimpose traces, and provide target markers. In addition to all these features, it’s always wise to let your scopes monitor the same signal chain your grading display is using. Levels issues or problematic cabling will affect what you see on your grading display, but Resolve’s software scopes won’t help you spot it.

Scopebox (Outboard Software Scopes)

ScopeBox is a piece of software that turns your computer into a very professional set of scopes. I run it on a laptop and use the small, bus-powered BlackMagic mini recorder hardware to get the video signal into the computer.

Some NLEs like Premiere and Resolve can send the video signal via software to Scopebox on the same system. This might not help you much when it comes to reducing system strain, but it’s an easy way to get the power of Scopebox on a single system. Scopebox is also a handy tool during production. It’s a very full-featured signal monitoring tool for creative work and you can even record the signal. Be aware that it can really tax your system and drain a laptop battery quickly however.

In 2019, Scopebox switching pricing strategies to more of an annual subscription approach.


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RGB Parade

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Joey D’Anna’s ScopeBox setup

There is some confusion about scopes in Resolve since it displays “code values” for 10 bit data rather than traditional “video levels”. The idea of video levels is related to voltages in the analog days and is somewhat archaic, but many traditional video professionals still relate to such levels in terms of exposure. Caucasian skin tone, in an average exposure, generally sits around code value 600 on Resolve’s scopes. This is only relatively useful information, however, as the mood of the scene can drastically alter this number.

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