Surf your film’s color waves with vectorscopes.

Vectorscopes provide powerful post-production color correction assistance. Discover how you can use these tools to adjust luminance, color grading, and more. 

Vectorscopes: From analog to digital.

Vectorscopes are important but lesser-known film tools used in video production. This powerful technology ensures that your colors are consistent so each clip can fit the tone of your film.

       

In television, a broadcast technician has two very important tools to make sure what is shot is what shows up on a viewer’s TV: a vectorscope display and a waveform monitor (or waveform display). A waveform monitor looks at the overall characteristics of the video signal, while a vectorscope allows for technicians to monitor chrominance (color information).

       

When you use multiple cameras or capture shots from different angles, you want to be sure your artistic vision remains intact. A vectorscope can help make sure that you have color consistency in the different footage used in your film. And in the digital realm, vectorscopes serve as a powerful tool for doing accurate, consistent, and beautiful color within the editing process.

 

Why vectorscopes are important and how to read them.

Using a vectorscope in your editing process will help you improve color correction results in your films and videos.

Image 1: A person carrying a surfboard with two hands on their head; Image 2: A color-corrected close-up example of a person carrying a surfboard with two hands on their head

Key terms to know.

Whether you’re using a vectorscope or another color correction tool during video editing, there are a few important terms to know. First, color correction is the process of altering the colors of an image within a film. Color correction, along with other editing choices, provides consistency and sets the tone for the film.

       

Color grading is like a supercharged version of color correction. Grading refers to altering a film to match a tone or theme. Most edits will often use a combination of both.

       

Here are a few more key terms:

 

  • Additive color: A color created by combining the primary colors of red, blue, and green.
     
  • Chroma: Also known as chrominance, this is the color information within a shot.
     
  • Color gamut: The entire range of colors and brightness that can be displayed on a device. It’s important for a colorist to stay within this scope.
     
  • Dynamic range: The range between maximum and minimum light intensity in a video image.
     
  • Luminance: Also called luma, this is the brightness of a color. 
     
  • White balance: The process of making sure whites are represented as the human eye would perceive them in context.

 

Maintain the balance.

There are two important aspects to understand when reading a vectorscope: hue and saturation. In Adobe Premiere Pro, for example, vectorscopes will give two pieces of information. 

 

1. The scope is structured like a color wheel, and the marker on the monitor will point in a specific direction that indicates the hue of the clip you’re working with. Hue is the primary color that is present within the clip.

 

2. The length of the marker indicates saturation. Saturation refers to the intensity of a given color. So, if your vectorscope shows a long marker pointing toward green, the hue and saturation of your clip are predominantly green. 

Manipulating the color of a clip of a person floating and resting on their surfboard

Keep the tone right.     

While the vectorscope gives you the information, the tool doesn’t give you the why. One of the most effective uses of a vectorscope is to capture and preserve the texture, beauty, and variance of skin tone. Keeping an eye on the orange area of the vectorscope is important to capture skin tone accurately.

       

However, toying with the color settings of an image to move the readings to different sectors of the scope can help you create different moods and tones for different scenes. For instance, many filmmakers utilize specific color palettes like magenta, green, and blue for night scenes to offer a sense of unreality or otherworldliness.

 

Keep your color correct with Premiere Pro. 

In addition to vectorscope functionality, Premiere Pro also offers several color correction tools within the Lumetri Scopes panel.

       

There are two vectorscope options available: Vectorscope HLS and Vectorscope YUV. HLS stands for hue, lightness, and saturation, and this scope will give you an easy-to-read general overview of the color information within your clip. YUV (a generic term for another color encoding system) offers a more precise view that allows you to compare your colors to various calibrated hue and saturation levels within the encoding system. 

Using the Premiere Pro Lumetri Scopes panel to review the waveform color of a video clip

Waveform monitors and tools.

The Lumetri Scopes panel gives you numerous options for examining a clip’s waveform color information. You can use any of the following features to meet the needs of your color correction tasks. 

 

  • Histograms: This feature will help you evaluate shadows, midtones, and highlights, and adjust the overall color tone of your film. Displays the statistical analysis of the pixel density of each color level.
     
  • Parade: Displays separate waveforms for different components of an image. You can compare different levels of colors side by side and spot contrasts.
      
  • Presets: At any time, you can display all the scopes in the Lumetri Scopes panel. Right-click the Lumetri Scopes panel and select Presets › All Scopes RGB or All Scopes YUV/YC.

 

Color correction skill forms an important part of any film editor’s toolkit, and you can improve your abilities with the help of Premiere Pro and expert guides and tutorials. Armed with the right knowledge, resplendent color palettes are at your fingertips. 

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