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Adjust colour in movie clips

Correct colour problems for more attractive clips, courtesy of iMovie’s colour controls

There are many reasons why you might want to adjust a clip’s colours. For starters your camera/camcorder can find it a challenge to capture a scene’s true colours. Different light sources (such as natural daylight or artificial indoor light) produce different colour temperatures. This can cause outdoor footage to look too cold (blue) or indoor clips to look too warm (orange). You can set your camera to use a suitable white balance preset setting (such as a Daylight, Cloudy etc), which will cause the camera to create white-looking whites and counteract any warm or cool colour casts.

However, due to other camera presets you may find that your footage’s colours look drab and desaturated. Thankfully iMovie can make these colours appear more vibrant as you’ll discover in our walkthrough.


1 Create an event

Go to File>New Event. Label the event ‘Colour Event’. Go to File>New Movie. In the Create window choose No Theme. Click Create. Name the movie ‘Colour Movie’. Click OK.


2 Import a warm clip

A new Project icon will appear, as well as an empty Timeline. Click the Import Media button and browse to a source clip. In our example we have a clip that looks too warm.


3 Get the balance right

Click the Color Balance icon above the viewer. You have the option to click on either the Skin Tone Balance or the White Balance buttons. The latter is more precise, so click that.


4 Cool it down

Click the eyedropper on an object that should be a neutral white. If the sampled pixels are too warm, the tool will cool them down, creating more natural colours everywhere.


5 Weak colours

You can set some cameras to use a neutral picture style that produces drab colours (such as those in our example clip). This allows you to decide how vibrant the colours will look.


6 Boost saturation

To manually boost the strength of a clip’s colours, click on the Color Correction icon above the viewer. Drag the Saturation slider to the right to boost the vibrancy of the clip’s colours.


7 Tweak tones

Brightening up underexposed areas can reveal drab colours, so a boost in saturation is a good plan in this instance. A contrast boost can create more vibrant colours, too.


8 Match Color

If you have a series of clips that suffer from an inconsistent colour balance, then they won’t cut together in the Timeline. Click the Color Balance icon and then click Match Color.


9 Consistent white balance

Use the Eyedropper tool to click on the corrected clip in the Timeline. Click to make the problem clip match the selected frame’s healthier colours and tones. Click the tick.