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The art of color grading film or video typically involves expensive hardware out of reach to the average producer, assuming he or she could figure out how to juggle all of those buttons and trackballs to begin with. Thankfully, manipulating all the colors of the rainbow can now be done from the palm of your hands.
ColorTime 2.0 isn’t a true replacement for costly color grading hardware, but it does let iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch owners manipulate color using a gesture-based interface that deftly tackles even 1080p HD video content in real time. Videos are recompressed during import, but only to facilitate smooth playback on screen – the app always references the original file during export, and our own tests confirmed such high quality output. The free app allows up to five gratis exports, with a $4.99 in-app purchase removing that restriction.
Across the top of the screen are individual controls for Shadows, Midtones, Highlights, Contrast, Saturation, and Crop; once selected, color grading is as simple as dragging a finger, with a pop-up displaying how changes affect the respective red, green, and blue properties. It’s deceptively simple, and the results are quite remarkable on both video as well as photos up to 16.7 megapixels in size.
ColorTime offers one-tap undo, redo, and reset for a limitless, non-destructive playground of hues, which can be applied to an entire image or in a variety of brush sizes, inside and outside of user-selectable shapes. You can tap the screen at any time to see video play with real-time changes applied, but the UI could benefit from separate playback controls — particularly the ability to fast-forward or rewind through a clip.
Not sure what look you’re going for? Modulate offers inspiration by cycling real-time video through a variety of looks, while up to five saved grades can be synced between iOS devices via iCloud. ColorTime’s only real shortcoming is the inability to perform shot-by-shot color grading on already-edited video — a feature we’d love to see in a future update.
The bottom line. ColorTime is a powerful tool for color grading photos or video in real time, assuming you don’t mind doing them one clip at a time.
iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 7.0 or later
Pro-level color grading made simple. Fast, fluid real-time previews in 1080p HD. Gesture-based tools offer wide variety of selection options.
Requires in-app purchase for more than five HD video exports. Lacks shot-by-shot color grading. iCloud sync limited to only the top five color grades saved. No video playback controls.