Visit our knowledge base to learn more or get in touch with support.
3-Way Correction: Shadow, Midtone, Highlight
The 3-Way controls let you change the color of the shadows, midtones and highlights for your image. The wheels are arranged in a triangle, with Shadow on the left, Highlight on the right and Midtone in the middle position.
The 3-Way controls for color balance and luminance
How to use 3-Way Correction
We recommend the following order of operation for adjustment.
Now let's look at the specifics of how to use these powerful 3-Way tools.
The three color wheels
The 3-Way wheels correspond to the color grading concepts of Lift, Gamma and Gain. In our wheels, Lift = Shadow, Gamma = Midtones, Gain = Highlights.
Shadow wheel Shadow lets you set the black level in the footage. You add density or darkness when you move the Shadow color. You can raise or lower the Shadow levels with its Luminance control. You can offset the color balance in the Shadow regions with the Hue Point. Moving toward any of the colored regions pushes the color balance toward that color, moving from unsaturated at the center to completely saturated color at the edge.
Midtone wheel Midtone changes the mid-tones in the footage, shifting the middle tones to be darker or brighter. For instance, to make your image more warm, just move the Midtone dot toward the yellow/red area of the wheel — the more you move to the outside of the wheel, the more 'warm' the image becomes.
Highlight wheel Highlight lets you set the white level in the footage. The Highlight wheel will brighten and tint the entire image but it mostly affects the highlights.
Anatomy of the color wheel
Each color wheel is divided into Hue, Saturation and Luminance controls. The wheel has four parts:
Hue Point control
The Hue Point control is a dot inside the wheel. The Hue Point always appears as a 100% Saturation version of whatever color is picked.
Hue Point is a two-dimensional control because it affects both Hue and Saturation. It moves along the Hue axis and Saturation axis.
Hue Shift control
The Hue Shift control is a chip on the outskirts of the wheel. Red is its default color. As you move the Hue Shift chip around the wheel, it rotates the Hue Point dot along the center of the ring. The chip always reflects the exact color that it is sitting over.
Hue Shift is a one-dimensional control because it just moves along the Hue axis. This control lets you adjust the Hue of the selected color without changing its Saturation. This gives you finer control and makes your calculations more accurate. For instance, let's say that you are working on skin tones and you know the Saturation level is correct but the Hue is wrong. You can change the Hue only, perhaps make it more yellow than orange, without touching the Saturation.
Saturation Shift control
The Saturation Shift slider is a color gradient with a white chip. Value range is 0-100%. Default value is 0%. Move the chip upwards to increase the Saturation of the color it is affecting. Move it down (towards gray) to decrease the Saturation of that color.
When its chip is in the gray area, the Saturation has gone towards white at the same Luminance level. When it's all the way towards the top, the color is at full saturation. Moving the Saturation Shift slider moves the Hue Point dot in a corresponding fashion, along the axis of most saturated to least saturated point of the same color.
Saturation Shift is a one-dimensional control because it just moves along the Saturation axis. Double-click the slider to reset its value.
Top to Bottom, the Saturation Shift set high and low.
Luminance Shift control
The Luminance Shift slider is a grayscale gradient with a black chip. Value range is 0-100%. Default value is 0%. Move the chip upwards (towards white) to increase the brightness level of the image. Move the chip down (toward black) to decrease the brightness level.
Luminance Shift is a one-dimensional control because it just moves along the Luminance axis. Double-click the slider to reset its value.
Getting around the wheels
There is a lot of power packed into the Shadow, Midtone and Lightness wheels. Let's go over the finer points of how to use them.
How Midtone/Gamma is calculated
Our Midtone, or Gamma, control works in a unique way. The Midtone calculation protects changes in the Shadows and Highlights. In many other correction tools, when you shift the midtones, you also inadvertently lift the shadows and clip the highlights at extreme values.
In our Midtone calculation, there is a little toe at each end of the gamma curve that prevents it from touching changes to the absolute white and absolute black points. The gamma does a mathematically smooth curve, so the gamma change gives you a smooth result in the shadows and highlights, and protects them from data loss and radical adjustment.
At left, a regular gamma is typically clipped at its white and black points. At right, our Midtone calculation blends at either side of the gamma.
Numeric Entry switch
Numeric Entry is an alternate way of looking at the 3-Way values. Click the switch icon to bring up an RGB display of the Shadow, Midtone and Highlight values. This view is very helpful for getting exactly the color you want. There are numeric columns for Hue, Saturation and Lightness.