Final Cut Pro Diary: Discovering that adjusting exposure & saturation is as easy as it is with photos


I mentioned in my previous Final Cut Pro Diary piece that I attended one of Apple’s free workshops, Final Cut Pro for Storytellers. There was a lot to take in, and as a complete beginner at the time, I knew I’d only really remember some percentage of it.

As the tutor had been really helpful in answering individual questions as well as covering the syllabus of the course, and I was keen to understand how to adjust exposure and boost saturation, I figured that repeating the workshop would be a good plan. This would allow me to get some one-to-one help with my specific questions, while also getting to grips with more of the core material.

As it turned out, that plan worked really well, and is one I’d recommend to any Final Cut Pro novice …

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My most recent video was for a review of the DJI Mavic Pro drone. I pieced together some of my drone footage to date, and also recorded a little home studio footage showing the portability of the device: both its compact size and speed of fold & unfold.

I did a couple of new things in this video. First, I had my first go at multiple sound tracks, as I added some background music behind my narration of the flight videos. This turned out to be simple enough: drop the music track in below, then click the audio level line and drag it down. I did this by ear, simply dragging it down to a point where it was still audible but wasn’t competing with the narration.


Second, when I shot the demonstration of the unfold, I wasn’t quite sure how wide the field of view would need to be to ensure everything was in the frame. I played safe by zooming out quite a lot. I then cropped in during the edit.

I was able to do this because I was shooting in 4K and outputting in 1080p. That gave me a lot of pixels to play with. As it happens, I managed to stay almost entirely within the orange background provided by my acrylic sheet, and cropping kept the finished clip neat.


In case you haven’t already seen the video, I’m embedding it here.

One issue with this video is that I underexposed the footage of the controller. Not enough to be a major problem, but it was something I wanted to be able to recover from in case it happened again. My first question, then, was how to adjust the exposure of a clip. As it turned out, this was as easy in a video clip as it is in a still photo.

Let’s look first at the before and after, then I’ll explain the steps I took. As you’ll see, it’s not a dramatic difference, so I felt able to live with the video at the time, but still a worthwhile thing to be able to fix.


There are two steps to any kind of video adjustment of this kind. First, drag a Color Correction effect over the top of the video. To do this, open the Effects panel by clicking on the second-to-right icon above the timeline.


The top-left effect is Color Correction, and you simply click-and-drag this box over the top of the video clip you want to change. I’d found this previously, but been puzzled by the fact that it didn’t seem to do anything. What I didn’t know then, but learned on the workshop, is that this just tells FCP that you are going to make changes – nothing happens at this stage.

Once you have this, click the movie icon next to the Inspector toward the top-right of the app. This then opens a panel with Color Correction checked – it’s checked because of the above step.


Clicking the chevron next to Color Board then allows you to actually apply the correction you want. When you click this, it opens up into a three-tab view, which the workshop instructor told me should be applied from right to left.


In this case, an exposure correction was all I wanted.

As a stills photographer, this panel immediately made sense: you can make the same adjustments to video you would to stills, either globally or by separate tweaking of the shadows, midtones and highlights. If you don’t have the same background in photography, then the slider on the left increases or decreases exposure, and much of the time that will be all you need. You can see the effect visually as you apply it, so it’s easy to judge.

In this case, an 8% increase in exposure did the trick. If you’re not familiar with the terminology, then playing with the three other sliders, just lifting them up or dropping them down, will soon give you a sense of what they do.

Color saturation is adjusted in the middle tab of the same panel. I didn’t need to do anything for this clip, but drone footage can often look a little flat due to haze in the air, so I’ll definitely be using it for the next drone video I create.


An experienced FCP user will obviously be able to use these controls in much more sophisticated ways, but I was both surprised and impressed how easy it is to make basic adjustments to both exposure and saturation. (That third tab, for Color, is a whole other ballgame! I’m staying well away from that for now …)

Finally, I noted before that I’d got an Editors Keys skin for my Magic Keyboard. The company has just launched a new one for the latest MacBook Pro models. Although I mostly aim to edit video in the office, I can see there will be times when I’ll want to do it on the move – while travelling, for example – so this will be very handy.


It already came in useful during the workshop, when the instructor was covering shortcut keys. Not all of these are intuitive, but once he’d told me what they were, I could immediately see them on the skin – and the color-coding used helped me to make sense of why they are grouped in the way they are. For example, I could see that the play controls were immediately below the In and Out keys – and above the nudge keys.

Yes, you’re going to pay almost 10% of the cost of Final Cut Pro to buy the skin ($29.85), but it really helps a lot with the shortcut keys – which in turn dramatically boosts your productivity in the app. I’d say this is a recommended purchase for anyone new to the app.

Oh, and repeating the Apple Store workshop? Also recommended. I got a different tutor the second time, and they each had their own approach, so I learned a bunch of new things – as well as a refresher on the material in common. I’m a huge fan of these workshops and will be doing the other FCP one (focusing on media management) in a couple of weeks.

My Final Cut Pro Diary series serves as a combined record of my own journey in using the app, and a how-to guide for those new to it. You can check out the first entry here.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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