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March 28, 2013 /Tutorial /

How to do cross-processing in SpeedGrade

In our last post we told you about Alexis Van Hurkman’s new book, Adobe SpeedGrade: Getting Started. For this post we wanted to share a bit of the book with you. In this exercise, Alexis explains how to apply digital cross-processing to your images, including use of the fxLegalize effect. Please note: this exercise refers to footage that you can access when you buy the book. See the bottom of this post for a special offer from Peachpit Press.

 Cross-Processing –  by Alexis Van Hurkman

Cross-processing refers to the deliberate use of the wrong chemistry to develop film. For example, color negative film developed in a reversal film bath, or reversal film developed in a color negative bath. Typically, this produces strange and unexpected nonlinear color interactions for creating bizarre and exciting looks that are appropriate for editorial magazine shoots and music videos.

Of course, the disadvantage of cross-processing with photochemical processes is that if you don’t like the result, you’re stuck. With digital technology, however, cross-processing is simply a license to abuse the color channels of an image. If you don’t like what you’ve done, you can simply reset the layer and try again.

This simple example of a cross-processing look gives you something to think about.

1.   Move the playhead to the fifth clip in the Timeline, and click the +P button to add another primary layer.


A typical result of cross-processing is stark blue shadows and faded yellow highlights that interact across the midtones of the image. This is an easy look to create using the different tonal modes SpeedGrade offers.

2.   Click the Shadows mode button, and drag the Offset color balance control towards blue to add a distinct blue tone to the darker parts of the image.


3.   Next, click the Highlights mode button, and drag the Offset color balance control towards yellow.


At this point, you’ve got a reasonable approximation of a cross-processed look. The added bonus, here, is that because the two women’s faces fall squarely into the as-yet-untouched midtones, they remain relatively neutral and naturalistic, which clients often prefer.


4.   These adjustments have caused some really large signal excursions above 100 and below 0 in the Waveform scope. To fix this, click the + button, and choose fxLegalizeNTSC (if you’re in North America or Japan) or fxLegalizePAL (if you’re in Europe).

The overshoots and undershoots of the video signal as seen in the Waveform scope immediately compress so that the entire signal falls between 0 and 100%. However, you should notice that all the nice yellow color you added to the highlights has been desaturated.


This is a function of the fxLegalize Look layer. Since too much saturation in the highlights is a signal violation, a certain amount of desaturation occurs along with compression of the signal. This is correct, but it’s depressing. Fortunately, you can do something about this by controlling the order of operations in the Layers list.

5.   Click the +P button to add a primary layer.

The new layer appears above the fxLegalize layer you added. This is a problem because you need to use this layer to adjust the video signal before the fxLegalize filter, so you can manually adjust the highlights before they get clipped.

6.   In the Layers list, drag the top primary layer to below the fxLegalize filter. As you drag, a red line shows where the layer will go when you drop it.


7.   Now, click the eye button of the fxLegalize layer to hide it, and select the primary layer that you just moved.


8.   With the top primary layer selected, click the Highlights mode button, and then drag the Gain contrast ring to the left to lower the top of the red and green channels as seen in the Waveform until the top of the red waveform is at approximately 95%. Please note that it may require more or less adjustment then is shown in the screenshot below for the desired result.



At this point, you’ve used the restrictive Highlights mode to compress the highlights yourself, “pre-legalizing” the signal to ensure that all highlight values fall far enough under 100% so that they’ll remain saturated after you legalize the signal.

9.   Click the eye again to show the fxLegalize layer again. You should now notice that desaturation no longer occurs in the image as a result of the legalization.


It’s important to understand that the automatic legalization performed by the fxLegalize filters is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Indiscriminate clipping can cause problems, and it’s sometimes better for you to make decisions about how to compress the signal rather than use an automatic effect.

Excerpted from Adobe SpeedGrade: Getting Started. Copyright © 2013. Used with permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and Peachpit Press.

If you enjoyed this excerpt and want to read more, you can save 35% off the regular price if you buy it on the Peachpit site. Use the PPSPEED code on checkout to get the discount. Thanks to our friends at Peachpit Press for this special offer.