NITSAN SIMANTOV. PHOTOGRAPHER. FILMMAKER.

East Grinstead photographer and filmmaker Nitsan Simantov. Wedding photography and commercial video production in London and West Sussex.

Hawaiki Color review - Sweet color grading plugin for FCPX

Hawaiki Color is a kick-ass color correction and grading plugin for FCPX. It is not a full-featured standalone color grading software like Apple Color (which is sadly discontinued), Adobe Speedgrade or Davinci Resolve but it is a lovely improvement over FCPX's own color corrector and is available at a very decent $49 (discounted to $39 at the time of writing). Unlike the other ones I mentioned, this one works inside of FCPX which is very important when you need a fast workflow. For me, exporting my footage into another program for grading is not a workable option for 99% of the work I do, especially not when I might need to make changes to the original edit after I do the color grade.

Hawaiki Color being used in "full screen" mode. I really like this. One of the optional split-screen preview options is enabled, which is very useful but I would usually turn it off as I prefer to see the entire final image when I grade my footage.

The main-screen controls are:

  • Three color wheels that control the color in the shadows (lows) the midtones (mids) and highlights (highs). 
  • Exposure (brightness), temperature (white balance) and saturation, all three with individual controls over the lows, mids and highs.
  • Four additional controls: hue, contrast, blur and sharpness.

The controls in the inspector (on the right) have everything above and also add:

  • "Mix" (overall strength) adjustments for the entire filter as well as for just the color wheels. Extremely useful.
  • Green/magenta white balance adjustment for mids, lows and highs.
  • Contrast, blur, sharpness, temperature, exposure and saturation adjustments, all of them with individual controls for mids, lows and highs. Awesome.
  • Legalize (reduce the top and bottom range of colors and tones slightly for broadcast uses).

FCPX feels and works a lot more like a professional grading application with Hawaiki Color, although as I mention below, there are still features I would like to see added.

Another example of a large-view setup (inspector hidden).

Pros:

  • A far better interface for color correction than the one included in FCPX. This is might depend on preference, but anyone who has worked with pretty much any professional color correction tool will likely prefer this. It allows me to get the results I want far more easily.
  • Well thought-out overlaid controls, with the option to display the image separately in a smaller window, similar to many pro color grading tools.
  • No need to switch between tabs like in Final Cut's own color tools.
  • Far more precise control in the color wheels compared to FCPX. Larger mouse movements are required which means fine adjustments are much easier to control. There is even an option in the inspector that allows you to fine tune this sensitivity.
  • A very decent sharpness filter is included, although you need to go to the inspector on the right to make fine adjustments to it.
  • It can be used together with plugins like LUT Utility, something you cannot do properly with FCPX's own color corrector. Very important. A full explanation of this is at the bottom of my review of VisionColor's LUT Utility.
  • Several user interface display options.
  • A free trial is available (full features but with watermark), this is always good.
  • Easily color grade multiple shots by dragging the Hawaiki Color plugin from the Titles browser rather than the effects browser and place it over any clips you want to grade together. (Tip: you can do this with other effects by using Alex4D's free Adjustment Layer plugin.) For a long time copying grades in FCPX was a bitch, but now you can also do it with the CMD+C to copy then CMD+SHIFT+V to paste a grade or other filters/adjustments.

A color grade sitting on top of two clips.

Could be improved:

Normally this section is called "cons" but I do not feel there are any actual issues with Hawaiki Color, just things I feel are missing that could really improve the software.

  • I would love to see the option for all the extra features currently hidden in the inspector to be used in the main window, possibly with the use of multiple display options you can switch between.
  • The controls within the inspector are a little too sensitive. I'm pretty sure this is a limitation of the inspector in FCPX but if this can be fixed it would be great.
  • Lacks proper distinguished separation between the brightness controls of the blacks and shadows and between the brightness controls of highlights and whites, which is also an issue with FCPX's own color corrector. Both of them only have four controls for exposure: lows, mids, highs and global (global means the overall exposure), when they really should have five: blacks, shadows, highlights, whites and global (Ideally with a "mids" control too). This is a huge oversight and something seasoned Photoshop and Lightroom users will miss. It makes a very big difference in grading almost any image. Note that I am specifically talking about brightness controls, not about the three color wheels, they work just fine.
  • It has an image blur adjustment in the interface. This is not needed in this plugin and just takes up space on the screen. A good noise cleaner would be a welcome alternative.
  • No adjustments of individual colors. For example, I can't reduce the exposure only on yellows. FCPX is also heavily lacking in this department but there are ways to do it.
  • The hue adjustment is pretty useless when you cannot choose which color you are adjusting. This should be improved or removed.
  • Additional features that would be great to have added to this are: Aliasing reduction. Good noise reduction and addition (instead of the blur filter). LUT import features. Highlight rescue. Protect skin tones / adjust skin tones. Local area adjustments / quick masking option. Preset saving and sharing (personally I don't use presets but many users will like this). Readers, feel free add your feature requests in the comments, I will send this article to the makers of this software.
  • It does have a midtone contrast adjustment which is nice but it doesn't give the same effect as the clarity adjustment found in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw (see example below) which might use more of a wide-radius sharpening filter to create the contrast in the midtones. I think that removing the radius limit from the sharpness adjustment would be a good first step. I would love to see Hawaiki create a proper clarity filter and add it to the main-screen control panel (instead of the hue adjustment) as well as add more fine adjustment options to it, such as an option for how much of the tones are affected and the ability to increase the intensity of the effect without using multiple layers. Below is an example of clarity compared to normal contrast, this example was done in Photoshop's Camera Raw filter.

Left: Original Sony A7s footage. Middle: Added clarity, raised shadows and lowered contrast. Right: Added contrast.

Conclusion:

Hawaiki Color is a fantastic color grading plugin that is simple and affordable yet surprisingly powerful.

FOR PROS? - Hell yeah! I think it will be a superb improvement for advanced users. I highly recommend getting the free trial from FxFactory and giving it a go for yourself.

FOR NEWBIES? - In my opinion, not yet. When Hawaiki add individual color controls, separate adjustments of blacks/shadows/highlights/whites and a good clarity filter it will be pretty much mandatory for every single FCPX user to get this, but right now the basics can be learned using the tools already included in FCPX, even if they are not as good as Hawaiki's offerings.