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Rule of thumb for color correcting on one monitor?

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Seth Kopchu
Rule of thumb for color correcting on one monitor?
on May 12, 2015 at 2:35:38 pm

So my color correction process is coming along good. I'm liking the color palette that I've created and am working from. However, I always noticed that some of the darker scenes were just that - darker. Granted, they were the source footage, untouched by my yet. But then, when I saw this native footage played back on my sound designer's monitor, what used to be dark was pretty effectively seen. This confused me, and I asked him what settings his monitor was set at. Apparently, he'll have a photography friend come over and edit photos on his computer, but first, she'll change the settings on his monitor to better help her edit. I guess she had set it to be a bit more on the bluer side of things, but still - what I thought was a very darkened shot was pretty much clear as day on his screen (or as close you can get).

So then this got me thinking - I'm not a color corrector, so I apologize for my ignorance - is there a rule of thumb when it comes to setting up your monitor for color correcting? Like, a general agreement on what your balance and contrast should be set at so that you'll have a better idea of how the image will look on many different monitors and not just your own?

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Wayne Waag
Re: Rule of thumb for color correcting on one monitor?
on May 12, 2015 at 3:29:09 pm

It's best to use specifically designed monitor calibration software. I still use an older Datacolor Spyder 2 although newer versions are available. Here is a link.

There are also packages available from other developers. Just search.


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Kelly Griffin
Re: Rule of thumb for color correcting on one monitor?
on May 12, 2015 at 3:35:44 pm

Hey Seth,

I used to fret over this myself, but surrendered to the fact that no two monitors ever seem to be the same. Anymore, I just view critical footage on the monitor that most closely matches the image in my camera's viewfinder, and that becomes my frame of reference. Otherwise, I just find myself chasing my tail for hours.


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Steve Rhoden
Re: Rule of thumb for color correcting on one monitor?
on May 12, 2015 at 5:00:45 pm

A broadcast monitor is the best thing to use, but this is out of the reach for
most independent editors. Therefore Spyder that Wayne Waag recommended is the
next best thing.

Steve Rhoden (Cow Leader)
Film Maker & VFX Artist.
Owner of Filmex Creative Media.
Samples of my Work and Company can be seen here:

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Bob Peterson
Re: Rule of thumb for color correcting on one monitor?
on May 12, 2015 at 5:12:21 pm

You really should use a hardware/software combination to be sure what you are seeing is reasonably accurate. I use Spyder 4 Elite which does a fairly good job of walking you through the process. It also helps a lot to have a monitor which has some advanced controls to assist with the process. I have an Asus PA246Q (thanks to John Rofrano's recommendation) which has the controls to give the Spyder 4 a good running start. However, even with all that, when I look at a rendered video on, for example, a television, the image is noticeably different in brightness, color, contrast, etc. than what I am seeing on my monitor. Thus, I eventually wind up adjusting the video for the kind of device that I am targeting. It may take several rounds of adjustments, but I can eventually get what I want on the target device.

With all that said, a television, another computer, or some other display device is usually not calibrated. Its owner has probably adjusted brightness, color, contrast, etc., the ambient lighting will be quite different, and other factors unique to that device will affect what you see. That is something you cannot control. I adjust for my target, and hope it works reasonably well where ever it is viewed.

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