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Oliver Peters
FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 24, 2016 at 3:42:34 pm

I've been doing some comparisons lately between NLEs and with different displays, both Apple and non-Apple. What I'm seeing as a general rule, is that given the same source clip, the image in the FCPX viewer is the least correct of any of the various NLEs. Although these differences are subtle.

I compared FCPX, Avid MC, Premiere Pro, and Resolve. All are compared also via SDI out through a BMD card to a TV Logic broadcast display. They all look consistent on the SDI output, so I'm sure video processing is correct. Generally the FCPX levels look more elevated primarily due to different gamma (I think). Premiere Pro's viewer image looks closest to what I see on the SDI monitor. Avid MC (set to Rec709 full range) looks a tad more contrasty. Finally Resolve looks a bit darker than the SDI out.

Given what I see - and if I had to go strictly by the image I see in the viewer - I would say that the Premiere Pro is the more accurate and closest to matching the SDI image. The FCPX is the one farthest out on the lighter side. Resolve is also farther out than I would like, but in the darker direction.

Anyone else made these sorts of comparisons and/or seeing the same sort of differences?

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Bill Davis
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 24, 2016 at 4:31:42 pm

[Oliver Peters] "Given what I see - and if I had to go strictly by the image I see in the viewer - I would say that the Premiere Pro is the more accurate and closest to matching the SDI image. The FCPX is the one farthest out on the lighter side. Resolve is also farther out than I would like, but in the darker direction."

Kinda presumes that your rods and cones are working just like my rods and cones. Not sure if that's consistently dependable or not.

What is pretty darn dependable? Scopes.

I consider everything else a variable worth spending money to get as close to standardized as reasonable, but not to overly obsess upon.

Partly that's from walking into a sports bar years ago after a LONG editing sessions where I was trying really hard to perfect my distribution master - and on the 10 TVs in the bar - there were at least 4or 5 totally different picture looks displayed across them of the exact same signal! It's better today, but is it any more "trustworthy?" Somebody likes their home Sony on Vivid - some of the subtleties of my work might be history. And so it goes.

No excuse not to get it as close to accurate as I can. But I think there are limits to what I can reasonably spend chasing that and to have my practice to remain as profitable as I'd prefer.

Plus, with so many gamma processing "adjustment points" at play in today's digital systems, isn't it easily possible to calibrate outputs enough to compensate?

Honestly asking.

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Oliver Peters
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 24, 2016 at 6:28:23 pm

[Bill Davis] "Kinda presumes that your rods and cones are working just like my rods and cones. Not sure if that's consistently dependable or not."

Actually that has nothing to do with it. I can toggle between all NLEs on the same viewer parked on the same frame in the timeline and see differences.

[Bill Davis] "What is pretty darn dependable? Scopes. "

As I said the output is fine and matches. It's just how the image is displayed in the viewer. Tell me if you can see a few points of gamma difference in the midrange of the image and know exactly what the difference is. This is certainly something you can see by eye.

[Bill Davis] "Plus, with so many gamma processing "adjustment points" at play in today's digital systems, isn't it easily possible to calibrate outputs enough to compensate? "

Well, of these 4, only Avid and Resolve have controls that change how the timeline image looks on the viewer. So with Pr and FCPX you have no way of know what standards (Standards? You must be joking!) the software designers are using relative to each's signal to a display within the UI.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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John Davidson
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 24, 2016 at 4:48:42 pm

Are you doing this test on 5k iMacs?

John Davidson | President / Creative Director | Magic Feather Inc.


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Oliver Peters
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 24, 2016 at 6:30:51 pm

[John Davidson] "Are you doing this test on 5k iMacs?"

I don't have access to one. So far my testing has been on a Dell 27", Apple 27", MacBook Pro Retina, and older Apple 20" LCD screens. Obviously there are differences among these, but my main concern is the difference among NLEs on the same display, regardless of which one it is.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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John Davidson
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 24, 2016 at 6:38:15 pm

Probably the most accurate representation of how FCPX is designed to show video would be through the latest iMac screen. I don't have the most recent 5k iMac, but I believe it's a wide gamut display. I don't know if wide gamut has an effect on the image you see in playback, but perhaps it does.

John Davidson | President / Creative Director | Magic Feather Inc.


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Walter Soyka
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 24, 2016 at 6:45:17 pm

[John Davidson] "Probably the most accurate representation of how FCPX is designed to show video would be through the latest iMac screen. I don't have the most recent 5k iMac, but I believe it's a wide gamut display. I don't know if wide gamut has an effect on the image you see in playback, but perhaps it does."

FCPX is supposed to be color-managed, so the display shouldn't make this kind of difference (assuming they are profiled).

Wide-gamut displays are a nightmare with unmanaged applications, which greatly exaggerate the saturation of an image. Color management addresses this issue.

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]


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Oliver Peters
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 24, 2016 at 6:49:35 pm

[Walter Soyka] "Wide-gamut displays are a nightmare with unmanaged applications, which greatly exaggerate the saturation of an image"

The main difference I'm seeing looks like a gamma difference.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Oliver Peters
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 24, 2016 at 6:48:15 pm

[John Davidson] "the most accurate representation of how FCPX is designed to show video would be through the latest iMac screen. I don't have the most recent 5k iMac"

I don't have access to one, but maybe someone who has one and both FCPX and PrProCC could comment. I'd be happy to supply the test clip I've been using for comparison.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Michael Hancock
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 24, 2016 at 7:22:38 pm

I have the latest 5K iMac. I can load the clip into FCPX and Premiere CC and take screen shots for you if you want.

----------------
Michael Hancock
Editor


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Michael Gissing
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 25, 2016 at 12:24:31 am

Personally I tend to adjust both brightness, sat and contrast down on my Dell displays. I find it distracting to have bright monitors in my face when looking past to a 65" screen to grade. It is fed by a Decklink SDI and I have calibrated it so that is the only monitor that I trust or really fuss over. Also I have Daylight leds behind the main monitor shining on my grey painted walls so it locks the eye on for color and relative brightness.

I can only compare Pr & Resolve in my setup and they both look similar on the Dell. I don't expect anyone to use the computer screen to make any important judgements. VLC and Quicktime also look different on the same display so I get used to not being alarmed.

I also am used to my Dell laptop so if I am comparing my work to other internet content it does serve as a relative reference although it too is less bright and contrasty.


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Scott Witthaus
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 25, 2016 at 10:51:19 am

Eh, it's like I used to tell clients in the edit suite (before color correction). The would ask "which monitor should I look at?" and I would answer "which one do you like?".

Scott Witthaus
Senior Editor/Post Production Supervisor
1708 Inc./Editorial
Professor, VCU Brandcenter


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Oliver Peters
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 25, 2016 at 12:01:00 pm

That's all easy to say and I would agree. However, I rarely work in a suite anymore these days with proper SDI monitoring. And that includes at broadcast facilities. BTW - how many folks work in a facility where the "correct monitor" is a 50" Panasonic plasma hung on that wall? That's hardly accurate either. In any case, it doesn't address the issue of things not matching on the same desktop display.

Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Oliver Peters
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 26, 2016 at 6:26:07 pm

Here are some screen grabs for comparison pulled from two different machines. Main display on one is a Dell 27" LED. Main display on the other is an Apple 27" LCD.

You'll note the grabs from the two different displays are pretty close to each other. In both cases, the FCPX grabs are lighter than all the others, which are pretty consistent with each other. I suspect this has to do with how FCPX is handling color management of the UI. No filter, LUT or color correction has been applied to the source clip, which is a ProRes MOV.

Best to download these and compare full screen in Preview or somewhere in order to quickly toggle between them to see the differences most accurately.

- Oliver

Avid - Dell

Premiere Pro - Dell

Premiere Pro - Apple 27"

FCPX - Dell

FCPX - Apple 27"

Resolve - Dell


Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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James Culbertson
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 25, 2016 at 2:01:21 am

What are you using to calibrate your computer monitors?


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Oliver Peters
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 26, 2016 at 8:53:43 pm

I've tried various profiles, but basically these are the default monitor profiles for these models. I would note that what I'm seeing is consistent across a dual monitor set-up. For example, each of these systems has a secondary display, which is a 20" Apple. Whatever I'm seeing on the main monitor is consistent on the second (with slight color purity differences, but not levels or gamma).

While monitor calibration could explain variations between the profile and "correct", it wouldn't explain why 3 out of 4 apps match each other on 2 completely different system, while the 4th is different in the same way on both systems.

Again to reiterate, the outputs to an SDI monitor all match each other, as best as I can tell. With the exception of FCPX, the other 3 apps in the viewer display look pretty close to the way the image looks on the SDI monitor.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Oliver Peters
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 26, 2016 at 11:18:57 pm

Just to add another couple of data points. Another person on this list has tested the same clip on an iMac and I tested it on my MacBook Pro. Same results for both of us.

FCPX is shifted slightly brighter. Clearly the monitor profile is completely irrelevant, because this test have now been done on 4 machines and 6 different displays, all with the exact same results. All Premiere, Resolve and Avid grabs are nearly identical. The FCPX grabs all match each other and in all cases are brighter than the other NLEs.

In my mind, I chalk it up to Apple's low-standing issues with display gamma.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Oliver Peters
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 27, 2016 at 1:09:52 pm

One more data point. If I compare a full screen grab of the source clip in VLC, QT7 and QTX against FCPX or Premiere, here's what I see. Both QT players match FCPX, i.e. slightly brighter. VLC matches Premiere, i.e. slightly darker than FCPX/QT.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Michael Hancock
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 27, 2016 at 2:08:24 pm

Oliver sent me his test images since I have a late 2015 5K iMac at home, and I'm seeing the exact same thing he is. I opened the clip in 4 NLEs (FCPX, PremiereCC2015, Resolve 12.5.3 Beta, Media Composer 8.3), set the viewers to 100%, pulled a screen grab and layered them in Photoshop to compare.

  • FCPX appears brighter with less saturation than Media Composer, Resolve, or Premiere. It looks like a gamma shift.
  • Media Composer has slightly less contrast than Resolve and Premiere and slightly lifted blacks.
  • Premiere and Resolve appear identical.

I'm feeding the images to a Flanders monitor via SDI and that output appears identical across all NLEs.

Anyone that wants to see how they compare can download my Photoshop file.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/7sw1v6cy19i63y8/5K%20iMac%20Late%202015%20100%20p...

----------------
Michael Hancock
Editor


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 27, 2016 at 8:29:26 pm

Oliver, this is interesting and not surprising.

But I would ask, "so what?" I would never judge color on any computer display. That's what picture monitors are for. Like, Flanders or JVC or Boland or any of the other broadcast monitors (I hesitate to include Marshall or TV Logic in the list).

Or is there a large group of people color correcting on computer displays? If so, God help us all...


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James Culbertson
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 27, 2016 at 8:47:06 pm

[Jeff Markgraf] "But I would ask, "so what?" I would never judge color on any computer display."

Of course, the final CC arbiter is often a client viewing highly compressed footage on an uncalibrated 7 year old PC laptop. ;-)


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James Culbertson
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 27, 2016 at 8:51:16 pm

... I once offlined an ad spot for American and Canadian theatrical distribution. We were given approval, and were about to send out for CC and sweetening, and the client said this looks and sounds perfect (on their laptop), and said don't change a thing...


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Oliver Peters
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 27, 2016 at 10:03:13 pm

[Jeff Markgraf] "But I would ask, "so what?" I would never judge color on any computer display. That's what picture monitors are for. Like, Flanders or JVC or Boland or any of the other broadcast monitors (I hesitate to include Marshall or TV Logic in the list). "

First - the reality these days is that many suites no longer have a QC-grade external monitor connected via SDI. For many of those that still do, the monitors are old and look like crap.

Second - the majority of work done in the corporate world - which far, far exceeds entertainment and broadcast post - never ends up on broadcast TV and is only viewed via the web. Not even DVDs any longer. In that case, a properly calibrated computer display will be more accurate to what they will see than a broadcast monitor.

So for these reasons, it is valid to find value in the quality of the image of the viewer on the computer display.

My normal SOP, wherever possible, is to make sure my computer display is as close as possible to what the SDI output will be. That way what I see in the viewer will be reasonably similar to what I see on the broadcast output. Therefore, I find it important for an application to give me a proper image.

There are many times where I do have to do basic color correction on just the computer display. If every application is pretty close - given that I know the monitor's image will generally track with that of the SDI image - then I know what I'll get. If FCPX is several points too light in gamma, then I can't trust the correction to be in the ballpark.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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John Davidson
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 27, 2016 at 10:06:19 pm

Oliver, does the ProRes Quicktime export from FCPX match what you see on the screen? And is the video the same in your experience with Premiere and Avid as well compared to what they actually export?

John Davidson | President / Creative Director | Magic Feather Inc.


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Oliver Peters
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 27, 2016 at 10:31:05 pm

[John Davidson] "Oliver, does the ProRes Quicktime export from FCPX match what you see on the screen? And is the video the same in your experience with Premiere and Avid as well compared to what they actually export?"

Yes, the roundtrip back to an exported ProRes file matches. So, frame grabs from the ProRes source, FCPX viewer, and ProRes export all match each other. The limitation though is QuickTime Player X, which doesn't always look right either.

If I export from Premiere as ProRes MOV, then the frame grabs from that file in QT Player X will match FCPX and the export from FCPX.

However, I would caution, though, that I feel QT Player is also elevated gamma and a bit desaturated compared with a broadcast monitor. If I used a different codec, wrapper and player, the results would be different. For example, if you export an MP4, it's better to use a different player. At least in my experience.

I guess the bottom line is which "right" is "right"? :)

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Oliver Peters
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 27, 2016 at 11:50:46 pm

I did a round of testing of exports between Premiere and FCPX. Exported to M4V in FCPX and MP4 in Premiere. Each exported file was opened in QT Player X and Switch. I pulled screen grabs from each.

The bottomline is that all of the exported files seem to match each other and these grabs match that of the FCPX viewer. They are all brighter than the Premiere viewer image. This would make all of these files a tad brighter than how the image would look on an external SDI monitor. So it's a huge question of which gamma interpretation is correct? Who knows?

Unfortunately only Avid and Resolve offer some ability to make changes to what you see in the UI. Avid does it in the viewer. Resolve does it in timeline color management.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 28, 2016 at 12:13:21 am

Actually, my question was kinda rhetorical.

[Oliver Peters] "many suites no longer have a QC-grade external monitor"
I guess it's just the old broadcaster in my that makes me shudder at this unfortunate reality.

[Oliver Peters] "a properly calibrated computer display "
Is there such a thing in the wild? ;-) Actually, I'm shocked at how well my current LG 21:9 monitor matches the pix monitor.

Kidding aside, I understand the issues. But I hate the idea of giving in to the continuous slide in quality.

Imagine an audio mixing stage that no longer uses real reference grade speakers to mix. They just use whatever random consumer electronics big box store-bought speakers someone brings in that day. Or they use a boom box. Or the earphones that come standard with every iPhone. Because that's how most people listen any more.

There has always been the need to check a mix on Auratones or some other restricted-bandwidth speaker. But you still want a reference playback system that is genuine hi-fi. I think it's fine to see how the picture grade looks on different monitors and through different media players. But I think a video professional has to at least try to have some kind of professional reference as a baseline. I consider it the cost of doing business, even if the business is "just" corporate or YouTube.


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Oliver Peters
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 28, 2016 at 12:50:42 am

[Jeff Markgraf] "But I think a video professional has to at least try to have some kind of professional reference as a baseline. I consider it the cost of doing business, even if the business is "just" corporate or YouTube."

Tell that to the broadcasters. In my experience, they are the worst offenders.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Jeff Markgraf
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 28, 2016 at 12:58:41 am

[Oliver Peters] "they are the worst offenders."

Yes, I guess that's true. I got out of local TV years ago, but the slide into "good enough" had already started back then. Now I just stand and gape at some of the stuff I see on local.

Fortunately, because most facilities in LA still have to deal with network standards, there are minimum standards for equipment that keep things passable. But its probably just a matter of time here, too.


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Oliver Peters
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 28, 2016 at 1:14:53 am

[Jeff Markgraf] "Fortunately, because most facilities in LA still have to deal with network standards, there are minimum standards for equipment that keep things passable. But its probably just a matter of time here, too."

But is that true in all departments? For instance, a lot of stations use an Adobe-equipped graphics department for graphics, VFX, promos, etc. Typically done in After Effects. What are they monitoring on? I haven't seen these departments use real monitoring unless they used Quantel. If they use Flame, that's the UI feeding a monitor, just like After Effects.

I'd be willing to bet that they don't adhere to standards as much as you might think :) Ultimately this stuff goes as a file to a server and played to air from there. That's why you have limiters :)

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Bill Davis
Re: FCPX Viewer image non-standard
on May 28, 2016 at 3:53:16 am

Well, in this spirit, who's now going to quantify the problem Oliver is seeing?

Somebody has to have a tool that measures a monitor output (in mili-NITS?) or whatever the appropriate measurement of the number of photons being emitted off the LCD screen might be.

Shouldn't a reading off the same monitor - using the same file - gone through Premiere Pro and FCP X demonstrate a consistent variation in measurable image brightness?

Oliver expects there's a gamma shift. And he may well be totally correct. So it shouldn't be hard to display a test pattern with a fixed grey scale and measure some pixels at the top, middle and bottom of and report whether it's 5%, 1% or .1%. variation between the Apple and Adobe approach.

In the test file, wouldn't there also be a digital standard for those ACTUAL pixels? Be useful to know if the pixel is at 0 how far off zero a pixel display might actually, measurably be.

We lived for decades with Japanese NTSC black at 0ire and US black at 7.5ire and figured out how to get stuff done. Is this as big a thing? Barely noticeably bad? Inquiring minds should want to know.

Thinking about it, maybe it wasn't such a great idea to fire all the actual engineers in all the TV stations 5-10 years ago. A few actual science-based types popping up might well be useful right about now!

; )

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