Black and White isn’t so “Black and White”

Q: What do you do when you want to make a video black and white?

A: Drag saturation down to 0%

That’s my blog post. Thank you everybody for coming. Be sure to tip the waiters and waitresses on the way out.

Okay. All kidding aside, there was a time when you would  never think the topic of making a video black and white would be one worth blogging about. If you wanted a colorless video, you would just do what I said above. But lately I’ve discovered the beauty of playing with black and white in the various color levels. So it turns out, that making videos “black and white” isn’t so, well, black and white.

This was first made apparent to me while checking out Ripple Training’s FCPX plugin “RT Tools.” I have a complete review coming later, but for now let me say that RT Tools is a collection of 12 plugins for FCPX. (And at only $29, it’s a steal). One of the plugins in the collection is RT Black and White. My first thought when I saw that title was “Why in the world do you need a plugin to make a video black and white? Can’t you just drag saturation levels down to zero? What’s the big deal?” Then I checked it out and saw. You can actually change and adjust the black and white levels in the primary color spectrum (red, green, and blue). Depending on what levels you set each primary color, you’ll get a slightly different look.


Here are real world examples used on a clip of ungraded raw footage from a sci-fi satirical short film I’m currently working on.


As you can see, depending on which color is dominant in the image, adjusting the values will give you very different looks. You can even use the RT Black and White tool to adjust midtones, tints, and the amount of desaturation to create a whole ranges of various desaturated looks. (See video below).

But, you don’t need a plugin to do much of this. You can experiment with the regular color and saturation levels you may already have built into your NLE.

Here’s the same shot, with “regular” black and white (i.e. saturation all the way down to zero).


Now here’s the same shot with saturation all the way down to zero plus the global color values adjusted downward in the green spectrum


(Note: One of the new FCPX paradigms is the “Color board” vs. the traditional color wheel. It takes getting used to, but I actually like it. It’s rather intuitive. Drag a slider down to go negative in that particular area, drag it up to go positive. So if you have a lot of green in a shot, you would drag one of the appropriate sliders down in the green area to minimize the green.) 

Outside the Box

What this kind of discovery has taught me is to think outside that proverbial box when it comes to all the different plugins, filters and effects I use. Experimenting can lead to other exciting discoveries that can help take your work to a whole new level.

P.S. Don’t forget to log on to the Expert Interrogations website today at 3 pm EST. It’s a free webinar and Q&A session where I’ll answer all your questions about branding, blogging and building a team.

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6 thoughts on “Black and White isn’t so “Black and White”

  1. Hmmm…. Was this another opportunity to put up a promo shot without sharing the actual short film? Don’t answer that. I thought we talked about this?

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