Selective desaturation in Adobe Premiere

If you’ve seen Sin City, Pleasantville, or Schindler’s List, you’re already familiar with this effect:

The idea is to selectively desaturate part of you scene, such that you draw focus to a particular part of the shot.

For example, let’s start with this quick video of yours truly pulling off a tricky ensemble:

Now, a big lesson, if you want to achieve this effect, is to plan it out beforehand and do your best to setup the contrast beforehand, and make sure you’re well-lit. I, of course, am sitting in the dark, and as such, the green and turquoise blend together a bit, as far as premiere is concerned.

Regardless, let’s isolate that sweet, blue shirt:
The first step is, of course, to bring up your clip in Premiere as you would any other. The particular effect we want right now is called “Leave Color,” under Video Effects->Color Correction:

Several important things to note here, as far as settings go.  Amount to decolor determines how desaturated the rest of the image becomes.  If you want a true Sin City/Pleasantville effect, you’d want to crank this up to 100.  The color to leave has an eyedropper, such that you can pick a color directly out of your video.  Try to choose a nice medium tone.  You can click the actual color and tweak it if necessary.  For tolerance, ideally you’d want to go as close to 0% as possible.  The edge softness will play with feathering around the edges of your desaturation, and is a great way to pick up the parts that may fall just outside your tolerance value.  The last setting, ‘Match colors,’ I’ve found works much better when set to ‘Using Hue’ rather than ‘Using RGB.’

With these settings, we end up with this:

Notice that several objects in my scene are also still colorized, namely a lavalamp in the back, a Spider-Man in the back (partially), and my eyes seem to have retained just a bit of their hue.  This is what I meant when I said earlier to set up your scene such that it’s as monochrome as possible.  If I were working in ideal conditions, I’d eliminate all other sources of blue from the scene, just to make this easier.

I could isolate the green as well:


If we wanted to just eliminate one color, rather than isolate one color, use the ‘change color’ effect, and change the ‘saturation transform’ option to -100, and end up with something like this:

The change color effect will also allow you to change hues. Unfortunately, I filmed with poor lighting, so this doesn’t look the best, but it does still show what’s possible:


-K Magocs


~ by kylemagocs on November 13, 2012.

One Response to “Selective desaturation in Adobe Premiere”

  1. Great tutorial, thanks!

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