Color Grade Your Video Clips in Darkroom App for iPhone and iPad

April 29th, 2020
Color Grade Your Video Clips in Darkroom App for iPhone and iPad

You can now edit your video clips directly in Darkroom with the same tools and workflow you use to edit photos.

Darkroom video color editing on iPhone. Image credit: Darkroom

Darkroom is hands down my favorite photo editing app for iOS. The editing tools themselves are fantastic, and I love how it handles raw images. What’s even better is the level of integration the app has with the iOS photo library. This makes some really nice workflows possible, where edits applied to the original file using “modify original” carry through to the iOS library, and are seen by other apps. At the same time these edits can be reverted back to the unedited original, so the process is effectively non-destructive. This is made possible by the clever way the iOS photo library handles different versions of a photo or video hidden away in the background.

Same Darkroom Photo Editing Tools Now for Video with Darkroom+ Subscription

Darkroom video color editing on iPhone. Image credit: Darkroom

The video editing features come with the Darkroom+ subscription, if you’re an existing subscriber, you’ll already have the video capabilities with the app update.

Editing video clips will be a breeze for existing Darkroom users, all the same tools for tweaking the image, plus some new presets make the Darkroom app a very powerful tool for mobile videographers. These tools will definitely be more familiar to photo editors however. You won’t find your lift, gamma, gain color wheels, that you’d expect with traditional video color correction. However, you will find RGB curves, a host of sliders and can even use the histogram when making adjustments to video clips. You have exposure, color temp, and tint, which alone can get you most of the way to correcting a video clip, plus more tools to create almost any creative look you can think of. You can also inset the video to add borders and work in whatever aspect ratio you need for social media.

New looks and custom framing options for video. Image credit: Darkroom

You have complete control over metadata when exporting, and you can even add custom watermarks. Exports are simple, videos can be rendered to H.264, or H.265, in the source video clip resolution but at a percentage of its source bit rate.

Simple export options and control over metadata. Image credit: Darkroom

What’s most interesting to me is that although it’s clearly a toolset that comes from the photo editing world, much of the underlying math and operations are the same as what’s required for video, only the way it is visualized and how you interact with it is different. Sure, there may be a few tools that are either missing, or present but not quite as you’d prefer for video, but the Darkroom toolset doesn’t take much effort to learn.

For casual users and anyone who simply wants to create a cool look on a video clip and upload to social media or YouTube, Darkroom is a one stop shop.

The video editing tools are part of the new Darkroom+ subscription. For existing subscribers there will be no change, it’s just a name change, but for new subscribers this new branding better represents the value offered and will be used going forward.

Taking It Further

My first criticism of pretty much all mobile apps to date that offer any form of video color grading, is that they are based around opening, manipulating, and then rendering one single video clip, and this is essentially what Darkroom does too. This may be fine to add one set of adjustments and a single look to a whole edited video, but that’s not really how video works. We need to be able to correct and shot match individual clips in a sequence. Every clip that makes up that complete video is different, and each clip requires different adjustments to correct and match with others.

This would necessitate either a comprehensive set of color tools to be integrated into a mobile video editing app, or the ability to import a sequence of individual clips (perhaps by way of xml) into some kind of a timeline in a color editing app. So far this simply doesn’t exist on mobile, either way.

However, the way Darkroom is so tightly integrated with the iOS photo library means that it is in fact possible to shot match, color correct and grade individual clips in a cohesive way if it’s done before editing rather than afterwards.

Select Your Best Source Clips and Color Correct First

Shot matching is possible by opening two video clips on iPad. Image credit: Darkroom

Two video clips can be opened concurrently in two side by side Darkroom windows, so it is possible to work on any given video clip against a reference clip. That solves (somewhat) one of my other key criticisms of mobile video editing tools. This is where Darkroom is a little bit different. Not only can you work on a clip while having another open, Darkroom has excellent batch editing operations, which make it possible to batch paste edits onto any number of clips in the library, and to batch export.

Darkroom library. Image credit: Darkroom

Because Darkroom has a no-import workflow, and lets you modify the original video clip in the photo library while also preserving the ability to revert the changes, these adjustments carry through to the iOS photo library, and to any other application you might use to work with the clips afterwards, such as LumaFusion for instance.

What this means, is that the traditional media selection – editing – color – workflow has to be reversed. You have to select your best source clips and color correct them first, then go onto editing your video using the already color corrected clips.

Interestingly, I actually find myself naturally color grading phone video clips in Resolve before editing anything. Part of working with video that has been shot on a smartphone is having to cull shots that simply aren’t technically good enough for the edit. In fact I do this first. A huge part of deciding what shots are good enough, and which aren’t, comes down to how a shot responds to color correction, and/or a grade.

The powerful library view in Darkroom, along with its comprehensive set of color tools can be used to weed out bad shots, favorite the best takes, then filter by favorites, and color correct, shot match and grade the best clips. As long as the color edits are finally applied using “modify original”, the color corrected shots will appear in the library once you open an editing app like LumaFusion. Then you edit normally, filtering the visible selection of clips in LumaFusion to show only the clips you’ve favorited and corrected.

While it may seem backwards, I think it’s finally an end to end solution that can work for video creators who want to do everything on an iPad. I believe Darkroom’s tools are far better than any color tools that are currently directly integrated into a mobile video editing application.

Mobile “Pro” Video Post Workflow Is Still Full of Compromise

Is it a great workflow? Maybe not, and I haven’t tested it myself yet (you can be sure I will), but it might just work.

I think the traditional desktop workflow, desktop tools we are used to, and traditional video post methodology may never translate exactly or perfectly to tablets. As powerful as these platforms become, we may need entirely new ways of achieving the same end result.

The world of video post tends to be very stuck in its ways, resistant and reluctant to change, but eventually, and maybe sooner than we expect, we will see better and more comprehensive video tools come to our tablets and phones. What once seemed ridiculous will soon see even seasoned pros reaching for an iPad before opening a Macbook Pro, at least for some tasks.

I’m excited to start tweaking video clips in Darkroom using the same tools I enjoy using on photos, and I think these are the kind of developers that may well lead the charge in making whatever new set of tools we need for mobile video post work a reality.

Read more about the new video editing features in the Darkroom App here.

Are you already editing video on a phone or tablet? Are you already using Darkroom to edit your mobile photos? What do you think of being able to edit your videos the same way? Where do you think this technology is headed? Let us know in the comments below.

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Roberto Mettifogo
Roberto Mettifogo
Guest
May 8th, 2020

Why working as videomaker and editing on a tablet ? who is the target of these apps ?
Thanks

Ed Hecht
Ed Hecht
Member
April 29th, 2020

I humbly suggest mentioning SUBSCRIPTION (yes, all in caps) as a subtitle or at least in the first three sentences for any and all featured/reviewed software (desktop, mobile, plugins, etc) here (and everywhere else) that requires one. It would save many readers time and (minor) annoyance.
No thanks to an unnamed creative software company that started it all…
Edit: I see there is a forever price of $50-a tad on the high side, even for what it does. I think $25-30 would be more reasonable.

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