With high-end color correction tools reaching the mass market, and free tools more powerful than ever, here's a linkfest outlining books, websites, plug-ins, and tutorials for color correction in After Effects and beyond.
Color memes and schemes riffs off of color theory articles by Trish and Chris Meyer
Color mnemonics notes simple rhymes to remember the color wheel
Books & Websites
For more on these authors, see the Colorist Interview Series: Hullfish & Van Hurkman on The Tao of Color, and their respective websites (links are on their names).
CML, the Cinematography Mail List, is active and unwieldy but they've rounded up useful e-mails on some general techniques
The Tao of Color Grading by Patrick Inhofer started a Colorist Interview Series, complete with discussion outlines and resource links. You'll also find notes on working with DaVinci, Apple Color, Magic Bullet Looks, etc. on the website and extras in the newsletter. The newletter is quite good if you want to follow action in the world of color correction.
Tao of Color Grading also has methodical training for users at all levels, Master The Power of Color Grading: Online Hands-On Color Correction Training using a 14-Minute Short Film. The training has modules for both Final Cut and Colorista II, with project files also available for Premiere and After Effects. There's also an hour-and-a-half video of grading fundamentals and a private forum for feedback.
Oliver Peters regularly posts on color correction on his blog Digital Films. In Demystifying Color Grading II, he shows how many different tools can be used to design interesting looks in Final Cut and Avid, and includes a ton of examples using native tools, Magic Bullet Looks, Magic Bullet Colorista II (see the review by LFHD), and filters from GenArts, Coremelt, BorisFX, and Noise Industries. Oliver also provides links to his other recent articles on color (see especially Color Correction Effects Demystified and Grading with Color Wheels).
All the people in this section compare tools on a regular basis, so look to them for coverage of high-end tools reaching the mass market, with Filmlight Baselight a FCP plug-in and DaVinci Resolve (+ DaVinci Resolve Lite for free) and Assimilate Scratch on the Mac now.
For an in-depth introduction to controlling color in AE with the standard Adobe tools, see Adobe After Effects CS5 Visual Effects and Compositing Studio Techniques by Mark Christiansen (review on Aetuts+). It's really the best place to learn how to use these tools in AE, and builds the foundations for mastering procedural mattes for compositing.
If you need a free option, happily there's videos at Lynda.com from Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced by Deke McClelland, with a whole section that covers the basics of Level, Curves, and related effects in detail. See also the free infographics Levels Quick Reference Guide (thanks for the picture) and Curves Quick Reference Guide by John Dickinson, as well as some useful tutorials at Cambridge in Colour.
You can reinforce understanding by looking similar treatments by Andrew Devis using the waveform levels monitor in Premiere), for example Color Correction 1: Brightness & Contrast.
After Effects plug-ins
Red Giant Software Colorista, Mojo, Magic Bullet Looks have certain advantages over tools built into AE. For a wealth of tutorials, see RGS and especially Color Correcting Food with Colorista II and six Colorista II Tutorials by Stu Maschwitz.
Red Giant had made 2 other plug-ins free recently: Colorista Free and LUT Budd. Stu Maschwitz explains their features in Two Free Color Correction Plug-ins from Red Giant Software. Colorista Free works with Adobe After Effects CS3, CS4 and CS5, Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 and Final Cut Pro 6 and 7. No Avid, since AVX won’t support the color wheel UI. There’s plenty of information on this older-style version of Colorista; see for example, Short primer video on Colorista and color correction and Colorista mini tips from 5tu.
DV Rebel Tools from Stu Maschwitz are also free. It's an AE script palette that includes the DV Rebel CC preset. Older versions of that preset are around for users of older versions of AE.
ft-Auto White Balance, ft-Filmic Contrast, and ft-Technicolor are easy-to-use Pixel Bender plug-ins (CS4+) from Francois Tarlier at AE Scripts.
Grayscale Shootouts collects tutorials on converting color to black & white
Color Correction Tutorial After Effects [The Right Way!] is enhancement nontheless
Tutorials on Color Finesse, a plug-in that ships free with After Effects
Andrew Devis has series of newer tutorials on color in After Effects and Premiere. Here are the ones for AE that use the Color Finesse plug-in, which ships free with After Effects...
- Primary Color Correction in After Effects
- Secondary Color Correction in After Effects
- The Vectorscope in After Effects
- Waveform Monitors in After Effects
The Synthetic Aperture training resources page lists almost every other resource available for Color Finesse. Related articles at AE Portal include: White balance + more with Color Finesse and Profiles and color management in AE.
By the way, there are 2 other 3rd party plug-ins that provide easier levels and color monitoring in AE (not in a modal dialog box): Synthetic Aperture Test Gear and Metadma ScopoGigio. An interesting free Pixel Bender filter was posted on Video Copilot last year, Waveform Monitor by Peter Werner, shown below.