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Still really struggling with AE color space.

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Colin CarverStill really struggling with AE color space.
by on Jul 14, 2012 at 11:17:23 am

I posted before about problems I'm having getting my rendered video to look like what I'm seeing in the AE project window. I've played around and tried some advice, but I'm still not getting anywhere. Why something that sounds so simple is giving me so much trouble I don't know!

I want to make sure that the colors I'm seeing in my finished video are the same as other people will see on their monitors. Simple! Just assign a working color space in AE and then output to the target device. In my case, both are the same. Here's what I'm doing:

I'm choosing to use sRGB IEC61966-2.1 as my working colour profile in AE (I'm creating video for the web). When I select this profile, the AE project colors immediately appears a little washed out. OK, no problem; I add an adjustment layer to the final project and adjust the contrast, brightness and a couple of other color teaks to make it look the way I want in After Effects. Then I render it (uncompressed AVI) Making sure that that sRGB IEC61966-2.1 is selected in the color management tab as the output color profile. Lo and behold, the resultant video looks completely wrong, with around 15% more contrast and over-saturated.



This is a screen cap from AE. Color space set to sRGB IEC61966-2.1 and no other colour/contrast/brightness adjustments have been made. This looks washed out:

http://img834.imageshack.us/img834/3990/srgbnoadjustments.jpg


Another screen cap from within AE, this time I have added an adjustment layer to increase the contrast/brightness. This is what I want my rendered video footage to look like:

http://img688.imageshack.us/img688/5176/srgbadjustmentlayer.jpg


This is a screen cap of the rendered footage. Note the increased contrast and saturation:

http://img23.imageshack.us/img23/7595/finalrendere.jpg


How can I ensure that what I'm seeing on AE is what I see in the rendered video, and more importantly, what other people will see on their monitors?

If it's any help, my monitor is an NEC 3090WQXi and I'm using the Windows ICC profile as supplied by NEC.


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Walter SoykaRe: Still really struggling with AE color space.
by on Jul 14, 2012 at 3:18:18 pm

AE is color-managed, so if your monitor is profiled well, you should be seeing accurate color. Media player software is sadly generally not color-managed, so you can't use it to evaluate color critically or display sRGB colors accurately on your profiled monitor.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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David BaudRe: Still really struggling with AE color space.
by on Jul 14, 2012 at 5:36:31 pm

Unfortunately color accuracy can be tricky because they are so many areas where things can go wrong.

First in AE, you need to tell what is the color space of your footage (video, still, graphics...): this is done in via the Interpret footage dialog box.

Then, as you already know, you need to specify the color space of your choice for your work in your composition in the Project Settings dialog box. This is where it is important to match the color space of your monitor, if you want to be accurate in your color choices and adjustment. I agree with Walter that you need to calibrate your monitor before you can make any accurate judgement.

If you work with video, ideally you want to be able to send your signal to a calibrated broadcast monitor using a third party video card.

Finally when you are ready to render, you need to make sure to specify the color space intended for your finished movie to be display on, assuming your AE render is your final step. The choice of wrapper and codec is important : you need to know how they handled color space internally. I do my work mostly with Quicktime and ProRes, so I am not sure about AVI and Uncompressed. You may want to try to render out to a different format and see what you get, like PNG.

As Walter mentioned, your also need to know how your player behave with your movie color space : some of them might completely ignore any kind of color space flag part of your movie file, some other might just assume everything feed to them is sRGB.

I hope this help,

David Baud
Editor & VFX
KOSMOS PRODUCTIONS
Denver - Paris
http://www.kosmos-productions.com



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Walter SoykaRe: Still really struggling with AE color space.
by on Jul 15, 2012 at 3:39:32 pm

[David Baud] " you need to specify the color space of your choice for your work in your composition in the Project Settings dialog box. This is where it is important to match the color space of your monitor, if you want to be accurate in your color choices and adjustment."

There's no reason to use your monitor's profile as the working space. By default, After Effects enables display color management [link] and will automatically transform colors from the working space to the monitor's space for display. To see what the colors would look like on your system without this management (in other words, as with software that doesn't support color management), you can disable display color management by tapping Shift-NumPadSlash or toggling display color management in the view menu or viewer panel's channel/color management settings.

When there's only a single deliverable, I usually recommend using the deliverable's space as your working space to simplify output. sRGB should be a fine choice for a web-delivered cartoon.

When there's more than one deliverable using different color spaces, you want to make sure your working space is large enough to cover the gamut of the largest deliverable space to avoid clipping, and that the bit depth is high enough to preserve detail. Setting the project to 32 bpc allows both over-range and detail preservation, and by mitigating the risks of too-small gamut and too-large steps between color values, makes the choice of working space immaterial.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Colin CarverRe: Still really struggling with AE color space.
by on Jul 15, 2012 at 6:18:19 pm

Thanks for both replies, I really appreciate it. So let me see if I have this right; if I disable "use display color management" in the Show Channel And Color Management Setting, the AE color space I have chosen to work in (in my case sRGB) will be the one I see in the AE project window, thus if I then render my video and choose sRGB as the output color profile, then what I see in AE and what is rendered should look the same? I'll try it when I get back home.


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Walter SoykaRe: Still really struggling with AE color space.
by on Jul 15, 2012 at 7:29:51 pm

[Colin Carver] "So let me see if I have this right; if I disable "use display color management" in the Show Channel And Color Management Setting, the AE color space I have chosen to work in (in my case sRGB) will be the one I see in the AE project window, thus if I then render my video and choose sRGB as the output color profile, then what I see in AE and what is rendered should look the same? I'll try it when I get back home."

Yes, but no.

What you will see if you disable display color management should be what you will see on your monitor when you watch the animation in a non-color managed application.

This will not get you any closer to seeing what others will see when they view it; that depends on their monitors and color management (or lack thereof).

What you see on your profiled monitor with color management on is closets to what a user with a perfect sRGB setup would see, and this is probably the way you should work. Tweaking colors to perfection without display management on your monitor will only be correct on your monitor, and may be doubly wrong on someone else's.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Darby EdelenRe: Still really struggling with AE color space.
by on Jul 15, 2012 at 10:59:13 pm

I started drafting a response while I was on the road yesterday, but I see now that Walter has beaten me to it and done his usual amazing job explaining :)

I'll just reiterate a couple of points he made and add my own.

The "Working Profile" is the color profile in which all compositing will be done and does not need to match your input, output, or display color profiles. As Walter said, if you want the most latitude with your colors you should choose a "wide gamut" color profile as the working profile and work in 32bpc. ProPhoto RGB, for example, has a much wider gamut (can represent more colors) than sRGB.

There are several places where a color managed workflow can go wrong. However, in my opinion the most important step is to assign your input profiles correctly, because if you don't do that then nothing else is going to work.

Your output profile can be chosen based on where the output is headed. sRGB is a good choice for web/computer display.

The last thing I'll mention is that you can go to the View > Simulate Output menu to see what your composition will look like in various color profiles. Note that this assumes your output profile will be set to your working profile, which is often not the case! If you are planning to set a different output profile then you can create a "Custom..." output simulation. The below settings, for example, should show you what an sRGB output profile would look like on your display.



This window also gives you a better idea of the various steps in the color managed workflow.

Last thing to remember is that different players/devices interpret colors in different ways. Most video players simply assume an input color profile, perhaps based on codec, and then may apply color "enhancements" to the output. I believe this can also be affected by graphics card control panel settings.

Bottom line: used properly the color managed workflow is the closest you can get to ensuring colors are correct in a best case scenario, but it is by no means a guarantee that the colors will appear the same in every permutation of viewing environments. That's simply not possible.

Darby Edelen


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Colin CarverRe: Still really struggling with AE color space.
by on Jul 16, 2012 at 12:40:09 am

Thank you so much to everyone here for your really helpful and excellent advice. I truly appreciate the time you've all taken to help me out.


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Andrew SomersTry 16/235 Re: Still really struggling with AE color space.
by on Jul 17, 2012 at 12:37:20 am

AE color management should be renamed "Color MANGLEment". LOL

It can be enough to make your head asplode. And at the risk of causing multiple head asplosions, I'd like to add a bit that I didn't see mentioned above.

The problem Colin is describing relates specifically to either GAMMA or BLACK/WHITE levels.

Much video is not fully "color managed" in most player applications, and despite the fact that Apple does allow for embedding ICC profiles in Quicktimes, After Effects (at least as of CS5.5) does not allow embedding the ICC profile, meaning the video clip you render out will not be color managed when played. (Not certain of CS6 will allow for embedding in QTs.)

I rarely use AVI, so I can't speak to it's specific quirks,



SCENE REFERRED vs OUTPUT REFERRED.

Charles Poynton relates the situation in detail here:

http://www.poynton.com/notes/PU-PR-IS/Poynton-PU-PR-IS.pdf


But here is a quick "nutshell" of the situation, using HDTV as the example.

HDTV tech specs define a SCENE REFERRED profile for program material. THis profile defines the primaries, and also a gamma curve that is somewhat close to 1.9. This profile is called REC709.

The Rec709 scene referred video (gamma 1.9) is pumped into a display (gamma 2.4) and you get a *system gamma boost* of roughly 1.2

The system gamma boost is there intentionally, so that a scene referred HDTV Camera, shooting a scene in daylight, will be "perceptually the same" once it is displayed on a screen in a darkened living room.


sRGB is an OUTPUT or DISPLAY REFERRED profile. It uses the same primaries as Rec709, but has a slightly different gamma curve, that is approx. 2.2.

Note that sRGB, an output referred profile, specifies a gamma of 2.2 instead of Rec709's lower 1.9, because sRGB was developed and intended for computer monitors, which are used in a brighter work environment, as opposed to a dark living room viewing environment.


BOTH sRGB and Rec709 are assumed to be displayed on a monitor with a power transfer factor of around 2.4. sRGB's transfer function in intended for brighter viewing environments.



16/235 vs 0/255

Another critical issue is the black/white levels. Does your codec expect them to be 16/235 or 0/255? Some video players may not interpret one or the other correctly. And some encoders may force the video into 16/235 even if you are sending it 0/255.

Broadcast Rec709 has the black set at 16 and the white set at 235 for both RGB and YCbCr. If you try and send 0/255 into this system, you will have your blacks clipped and too dark, and the whites clipped or too bright.


WHICH SHOULD YOU USE ?
Working Profile
As Darby indicated, your working profile is not the critical problem here. Choosing the best working profile is another topic entirely, but in a nut shell, choose a profile that contains all of your colors without clipping. Larger profiles such as ProPhoto *require* the use of high bit depths (i.e. 32 bit). If you are headed for the web or for HDTV, then sRGB is often a good choice - but only for your WORKING profile.
Output Profile
If you were going to play back your video in a COLOR MANAGED player and you had embedded your profile in the video media, then it would not matter what output profile you chose, as the player would manage it and display it appropriately.

HOWEVER, as we said at the start, video is typically not color managed for the purposes of distribution. (You may notice that "Embed Profile" is greyed out when using most output modules in AE). And besides, if you cannot control how people are viewing, you'd want your video to play correctly in non-colormanaged environments.

So, that means that we must choose an output profile in After Effects' output module that creates a video file with the kind of color/gamma that the PLAYER application EXPECTS to see.

And what would a player application usually expect? TYPICALLY A SCENE-REFERRED VIDEO STREAM.

Since sRGB is an OUTPUT referred profile, it is "generally incorrect" to use to output your video if you are sending your video someplace that is expecting a scene referred profile such as Rec709.

However, Adobe FLASH expects sRGB, so the implication there is to use sRGB as the output profile, and that is what the flash environment *expects*.

But most player apps are expecting either Rec601 OR Rec709. As a result, Rec709 is usually the choice for a video output.


And Then the 16/235 thing:

Now, as it happens, different codecs and different player apps may handle the 16/235 and 0/255 and gamma issues differently. Some do not correctly interpret the correct black/white levels.

Colin: Since I don't use the AVI container much, and don't which which variant of "uncompressed" you are using, I can't say definitively - BUT from what you describe it sounds like you are outputting to a 0/255 black/white point colorspace (sRGB), and the codec & player you are using wants to see a 16/235.

So do this: TRY USING the colorspace: Rec709 16-235 as your OUTPUT colorspace in the output module. Note that while Rec709 has a lower gamma (which increases contrast for darker environments) than sRGB, using the 16-235 variant should fix your black levels if this is what the codec you are using is expecting.



Here are some links with some discussion on scene vs output referred colorspaces, gamma, and color:

http://provideocoalition.com/index.php/cmg_keyframes/story/scene_vs_display...

http://www.poynton.com/PDFs/GammaFAQ.pdf

This little tidbit from page 6 of the gamma faq:
Ambient lighting is rarely taken into account in the exchange of computer images. If an image is created in a dark environment and transmitted to a viewer in a bright environment, the recipient will find it to have excessive contrast.


http://www.poynton.com/PDFs/ColorFAQ.pdf


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Cristian BuruRe: Still really struggling with AE color space.
by on Jul 17, 2012 at 11:58:53 pm

I'm afraid there are some mistakes in ur workflow:




1. "my monitor is an NEC 3090WQXi and I'm using the Windows ICC profile as supplied by NEC"

You paid a huge amount of money for a good wide gamut monitor but ur saying that u didn't hardware calibrated the display. First thing tommorow morning, get a i1Display Pro colorimeter or the Nec one and proceed to calibrate. Use BasicColor, I highly recommend it. If I remember correctly this is an old monitor so the colour must have shifted a lot. In any case even for a brand new monitor hardware calibration is mandatory.




2. "When I select this profile, the AE project colors immediately appears a little washed out. OK, no problem; I add an adjustment layer......"

This is totally wrong. I speculate here but u probably created the graphics on the same wide gamut monitor and u tinkered with the colours to look good on it. But u did not colour managed them for sRGB.
Of course when u import them in AE and suddenly u restrict the colour space to sRGB they will wash out.


Watch this graph for a wide gamut monitor. sRGB is a subset of what ur monitor is capable of.



3. "Then I render it (uncompressed AVI) Making sure that that sRGB IEC61966-2.1 is selected in the color management tab as the output color profile. Lo and behold, the resultant video looks completely wrong, with around 15% more contrast and over-saturated"

Well, this is totaly expected !! Welcome to the world of video players which don't have a clue about colour management but are displaying video on a wide gamut lcd. :))
On a serious note, ur video player doesn't colour manage the video and this is very problematic on a wide gamut lcd.
The solution: delete & forget :) all the video players u have installed in ur system and get MPC-HC. This is the only video player I know of that does colour management.

Look at this

My setup: Dell 2711 wide gamut profiled with i1Display Pro & BasicColor

In the image you have same frame from a MOV file originating from a 5D Mark III. (BTW, now 5D Mark III uses Rec. 709 as colour matrix).
AE is colour managed using as a workspace profile Rec.709.
MPC-HC is colour managed.Under colour maangement in MPC-HC u can specify the input type and I presume that the player assumes Rec. 709 for HDTV type. (sRGB and Rec. 709 have the same primaries and white point, btw)
VLC (or another player in ur case) is not colour managed, hence the shift in colour.

A good thing to know is that the graphic card can do very strange and undocumented things to the YUV to RGB conversion. The trick is to download the K-Lite Codec Pack (MPC-HC is included) and bypass the grapic card for this conversion.






Regards,
Cristian


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Colin CarverRe: Still really struggling with AE color space.
by on Jul 18, 2012 at 1:25:07 pm

Thanks for the reply Cristian, and I'll go through your post in more detail when I get home, but just to note; I didn't pay anything like full price for the monitor, I bought it as a refurbished model. There's no way I could have afforded it new. :)

Thanks again for your detailed advice.


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Larry BaumRe: Still really struggling with AE color space.
by on May 22, 2013 at 7:20:23 pm

Here are the nasty problem. After Effects is color managed and most video players are not AND sRGB profile actually uses an sRGB tone curve, which contrary to popular understanding, is NOT the same as gamma 2.2.

If your monitor doesn't have internal calibration things will look off to varying degrees regardless (although if the video player doesn't toss out the video card tone response curve ramp that would still be calibrated but see the next part).

Assuming that your monitor was calibrated to gamma 2.2 and not to sRGB tone response curve then:

Even if you have a monitor with internal calibration (or you are only talking about tone response curves) you will still notice a difference. All of your videos will play back looking like the darker parts have become just a bit too dark and the highlight roll off will very slightly change. Contrast and saturation will appear to have been slightly boosted.

This is because the video will have been edited while you were viewing an sRGB working space with it's sRGB TRC difference compared to the monitor's gamma 2.2 TRC compensated for. But when you play it back in most video players they won't compensate for sRGB TRC vs Gamma 2.2 TRC.

Since most HDTV or monitors are NOT calibrated to sRGB TRC it is very curious that After Effects doesn't provide for an option to maintain primary location and saturation profiling while turning off tone response curve profiling or to give a toggle to treat the sRGB working space profile as if it were Gamma 2.2-2.4 (at user option) instead of as sRGB TRC.

If you have something like a NEC PA with 14bit 3D internal LUT you could just turn off color-management in AE and internally calinrate the NEC to sRGB/REC 709 primaries but with Gamma 2.2 and then things should match in and out of AE. If you don't then I guess you should keep color-management on as you adjust color balance, etc. and then at the end turn it off and try to adjust contrast, brightness of the image a bit to try to match it closer to how it looks at gamma 2.2. Another possibility would be to try to find an .icc profile that uses sRGB/REC 709 primary locations but has gamma 2.2 set instead of sRGB TRC. I've been trying to find one, but have not so far. I might have to create one. I know that in Photoshop you can then have it convert from one profile to another. I'm not sure if AE allows that though. I think it does, but I'm not sure if it gives free reign.

Or you could calibrate your set to sRGB TRC and then it will match what AE shows (but then other video material will look a trace faded).

0-255 pc vs 16-235 video levels issue can also crop up. That is a whole long issue in itself and various video card drivers and playback software, etc.

It really is kind of silly that Adobe has AE set up so that by default most video edited with it will play back with a touch more contrast and saturation and darker shadows, etc. and not look quite like how you thought you edited it on most systems.


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Thanos KagkalosRe: Still really struggling with AE color space.
by on Sep 1, 2014 at 6:44:57 am

Hey guyz, lots of information there. So in general, since im working mostly with H.264 and web players like vimeo or youtube, should i set both my monitor to sRGB and also the AE to sRGB as working profile? what about the output? thanks


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