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Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin

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Jason Freets
Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 17, 2013 at 8:36:04 am

I am getting wrong SMPTE Color Bars in the scopes for the After Effect's Color Finesse 3 Plugin.

Out of After Effects, I have run the SMPTE Color Bars through other scopes and they appear correct.

And, I seriously have spent a few hours fiddiling with After Effects to figure out why the scope levels are so very off? I have no idea! I've given up.

Can someone please verify this for me.


Here is the output of the Color Finesse 3 Luma scope for the levels:

Color Finesse 3 SMPTE Color Bars Luma Scope

The settings I have for the Color Finesse 3 in the preferences is:

Color Finesse 3 Preferences

This is where it's wrong on the scope in Color Finesse 3:

Luma Waveform Blown Up Where Wrong


Here is the exact SMPTE Color bar I am using as my official reference in After Effects:

SMPTE Color Bar

I have no idea why I am seeing this on my scopes in After Effects! Has anyone else come across this?

Last, I was shocked to see how difficult it is to find an OFFICAL SMPTE color bar on the internet. Does anyone have a direct link to an offical SMPTE color bar that I can download? I kept thinking there was something wrong with my color bars, but I've compared it to other ones I have and it seems correct.

I'm at a loss right now.

Would be greatly appreciated!


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Jim Arco
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 17, 2013 at 2:49:52 pm

SMPTE color bars is a television test pattern used where the NTSC video standard is common. IIRC, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) refers to this test pattern as Engineering Guideline EG1-1990. Even won an Emmy back in 2000 or so.

It is a very-precisely defined standard "owned" by the SMPTE, which is one reason it may be difficult to find. (Although I did find numerous references in google just now.) Devices to generate precise color bars used to be expensive rack-mounted hardware involving temperature-controlled ovens for the internal reference clock. My guess is that it can be implemented in a small chip these days.

You didn't say where your color bars originate. AFAIK, neither After Effects nor Finesse has any provision to purposely generate color bars. You do get bars overlaid with the name of any missing footage, but I've never been sure how 'correct' they are.

So, if you are using a still image to create bars, then you might find that the original is not exact, or that whatever compression scheme used caused some variation from the standard. FYI - Premiere Pro does generate bars that look pretty accurate on my hardware scopes. Many camera manufacturers also create their own version of color bars that are very similar to SMPTE bars, but they are not called "SMPTE Color Bars" and might not exactly match the standard.

To answer you question: I'm not absolutely sure, but you may want to try setting Video Level Coding to 0 - 255 instead of 16 - 235.


Jim
Colorburst Video


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Jason Freets
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 17, 2013 at 5:13:49 pm

Hello Jim,

Thanks for the info. I suppose you are right. The color bars is owned by the SMPTE. One can forget this since it's such a helpful pattern and so useful for calibration.

However, there are only a few specific colors. What makes the SMPTE bars unique is the layout. So, it's not really that 'hard' to reproduce if you know what the colors are to be.

The one I've attached are 75% SMPTE NTSC color bars. Or, I would think.

I generated it using Vegas Pro and have used it heavily there for other work. However, now that I am doing more advanced stuff, I'm verifying things in After Effects and was surprised when my scopes weren't what I expected.

It's for this reason I also attached it. I was hoping someone could throw it up on maybe something they had briefly and verify I'm not going crazy. ;) Calibration is a pretty basic thing to do. So I figured there are others who could confirm.

Again, I think the one I attached is CORRECT.

You said, "Video Level Coding to 0 - 255 instead of 16 - 235." Where is this set in After Effects? I'll try to look for it. Will post back if I do.


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Jim Arco
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 18, 2013 at 12:00:50 am

"...Video Level Coding to 0 - 255 instead of 16 - 235...."

I was referring to a Preference > Video System in Color Finesse. You show it in your second image.

I still can't find for certain any reference about this, but it makes sense that 16-235 would change whatever video that is handled by Finesse.

Additional - the color bars generated inside of FCP are only absolutely accurate inside FCP (assuming that they are generated correctly.) So the idea is that "whatever was created on this system looked good with everything set to those color bars." When you move the material out of FCP, you would then adjust whatever environment you were in so that the bars are correct.

The sequence of the seven color bars was chosen so that it runs through all seven possible combinations that use at least one of the three basic color components of green, red, and blue, with blue cycling on and off between every bar, red cycling on and off every two bars, and green on for the leftmost four bars and off for the rightmost three. The R, G, and B here are defined as completely saturated (from an NTSC standpoint.) I'm not sure you could ever save the image as any sort of compressed file, for instance, a jpeg, and have it be absolutely accurate when displayed.

BTW - It has been said that NTSC stands for Never Twice the Same Color by those of us who worked with it in analog form on a regular basis.


JIM


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Jason Freets
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 18, 2013 at 6:02:11 am

Jim, you wrote:

"...Video Level Coding to 0 - 255 instead of 16 - 235...."

I was referring to a Preference > Video System in Color Finesse. You show it in your second image.

I still can't find for certain any reference about this, but it makes sense that 16-235 would change whatever video that is handled by Finesse."

As you wish:

Preferences with 0 to 255

Here is the resulting Luma scope:

Resulting Scope when at 0 to 255

Still wrong!

You said, "Additional - the color bars generated inside of FCP are only absolutely accurate inside FCP (assuming that they are generated correctly.) So the idea is that "whatever was created on this system looked good with everything set to those color bars." When you move the material out of FCP, you would then adjust whatever environment you were in so that the bars are correct."

Correct for the most part. Yes, the idea is I should adjust my environment to those color bars. And that is exactly what I am doing! The big exception, is that I can't seem to get my environment to like the color bars no matter what I set! Second, regardless of environment, the colorbars are ALWAYS right (as long as the colorbars themselves are correct). I should be able to use one set of colorbars for FCP, AE, Vegas Pro, ...etc and they should ALL agree (as long as I configured the environment correctly for them).

Haha Jim, this was funny, "BTW - It has been said that NTSC stands for Never Twice the Same Color by those of us who worked with it in analog form on a regular basis."

I'm sure that was frustrating in the 'analog' world at the time :). Now we are in the digital age (which you are apart of two). The NTSC color bars should ALWAYS be the same color now as long as the environment is setup correctly (and all the tools work correctly too)

Thanks for your input, I'm still investigating the issue.


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Dave LaRonde
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 17, 2013 at 4:14:25 pm
Last Edited By Dave LaRonde on Dec 17, 2013 at 5:11:43 pm

I'd be skeptical about the accuracy of that color bar image. It's possible you don't know where it's been! Thus, it could have gone through unknown level manipulations that throw everything out of whack.

ANYBODY can toss an image up on the internet and call them accurate SMPTE bars. Whether it's true or not is the issue.

Dave LaRonde
Promotion Producer
KGAN (CBS) & KFXA (Fox) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Jason Freets
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 17, 2013 at 5:21:26 pm

Hello Dave,

I appreciate your input on this! :)

You said, "I'd be skeptical about the accuracy of that color bar image. It's possible you don't know where it's been!" It's been generated by Vegas Pro where I've used a lot there. Works great for calibration in that environment. Scopes show everything as I would expect.

I put the same into After Effects, and was shocked by how I couldn't get it to show correctly on the scopes. I then spent hours re-starting my machine, trying different settings, and verifying everything I could. I attached my preferences I set in Color Finesse to help show that. Finally, I threw my hands in the air. I have no idea what the issue is. Something so simple has become quite frustrating.

So, my point was, I didn't trust anything on the internet. I trust my SMPTE calibration pattern more than what I could find. And as I said, I believe mine is correct.

I am hoping someone can verify the pattern or perhaps has dealt with this issue before in After Effects.

Thanks Dave!


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Dave LaRonde
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 17, 2013 at 5:34:23 pm
Last Edited By Dave LaRonde on Dec 17, 2013 at 5:45:03 pm

Well, I dealt with a similar situation trying to import the SMPTE bars from Final Cut Pro into AE, and they didn't work, either. They were fine in FCP, but goofy in AE.

If you have a camera that can record bars, then you can set them up so they're right, and as long as the photographer knows what's what, the subsequent footage will be right, too.

But setting up on bars from a different application? That's a crap shoot.

Dave LaRonde
Promotion Producer
KGAN (CBS) & KFXA (Fox) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Todd Kopriva
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 18, 2013 at 12:08:00 am

I've forwarded this thread to Bob from Synthetic Aperture (the makers of Color Finesse) to see what he has to say.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
After Effects quality engineering
After Effects team blog
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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Jason Freets
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 18, 2013 at 6:16:10 am

Thanks Todd! I really do appreciate that! Let me know when you hear back from them!

Meanwhile, I'll continue to investigate! :)


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Todd Kopriva
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 18, 2013 at 7:17:10 pm

> Let me know when you hear back from them!


Bob already answered on this thread several hours ago.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
After Effects quality engineering
After Effects team blog
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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Jason Freets
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 18, 2013 at 6:14:27 am
Last Edited By Jason Freets on Dec 18, 2013 at 6:15:09 am

Hello Dave,

You wrote, "Well, I dealt with a similar situation trying to import the SMPTE bars from Final Cut Pro into AE, and they didn't work, either. They were fine in FCP, but goofy in AE."

This is telling! So you have seen this issue too in AE!

"If you have a camera that can record bars, then you can set them up so they're right, and as long as the photographer knows what's what, the subsequent footage will be right, too"

Well that's the whole problem. What are you interpreting as 'right'? To me, 'right' is the colorbars that I am using which were generated via Sony Vegas Pro (which I find to work well for a lot of things). When comparing analog and digital....digital will always be spot on to analog. Therefore, you make adjustments for the analog to match those in digital.

In my case, my digital colorbars should be EXACTLY correct in my scopes in After Effects, but they are not. This is where I am having a fit and have become frustrated.

Dave, we are like friends :) But, I strongly disagree with this, "But setting up on bars from a different application? That's a crap shoot."

No, one CORRECT colorbar should be exactly the same in all applications. Remember Lord of The Rings..."One ring to rule them all". That's how it is with colorbars. One colorbar to rule all the video studio applications: one colorbar should work exactly the same in After Effects, Adobe Primier Pro, Song Vegas Pro, and others. Again, as long as my one colorbar is correct.

Like I said, these colorbars are working in all my other video applications EXCEPT for After Effects....which is why I'm pulling my hair ;)

Again, thanks for your help on this too! Always greatly appreciated!


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Bob Currier
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 18, 2013 at 2:00:16 am

Which version of Color Finesse are you running? There was a bug fixed in version 3.0.5 on Windows which could account for this. The current version for download is 3.0.8. Adobe CC 12.2 includes Color Finesse 3.0.10. My tests with the color bars you provided display everything as expected on both Windows and Mac.

(Before you upgrade, copy down your Color Finesse serial number from the dialog you get clicking CF's "About" button. You will need the serial number to install the upgrade.)


To address some of the other issues raied in this thread:

SMPTE bars were developed for an analog NTSC world, where color is encoded as YCbCr color difference signals. That's why they have a tough time making the transition to the digital, RGB, world.

The bars you posted are set up as 75% saturation, encoded into RGB in the range 16-235 (thinking of them as 8-bit). Because they are RGB, they can't encode the I and Q patches (the purplish/bluish patches in the lower left).

You can tell that they are at 75% saturation because the color bars do not ever reach 255 in any color channel. They should max out at 180 for 75% encoded 16-235. You can tell that they are 16-235 because the black bars are at a value of 16 (not 0).

If they were encoded 0-255, the color bars would have the color channels maxing out at 191 and the black bars would be at 0. But then you'd lose the "blacker-than-black" portion of the PLUGE.

Don't assume that bars you get from a (consumer/prosumer) camera are correct; there have been several cameras where the designed got confused.


For use in AE you usually want bars that are 0-255, since that is the natural range that AE works in, and you want your bars to match the rest of the footage.

In 98.3% of the cases, you want to leave the Color Finesse preference set to 0-255, and the "Blacks are at 7.5%" preference unchecked, and use 0-255 bars. The preferences are there for the other 1.7% of cases, which is compatibility with editing systems that are mostly long dead.

Bob Currier
Synthetic Aperture


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Jason Freets
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 18, 2013 at 6:29:50 am

Very good question:

"Which version of Color Finesse are you running? There was a bug fixed in version 3.0.5 on Windows which could account for this. The current version for download is 3.0.8. Adobe CC 12.2 includes Color Finesse 3.0.10. My tests with the color bars you provided display everything as expected on both Windows and Mac."

This is very telling! You also are implying my colorbars are correct, which is what I also believed!

"The bars you posted are set up as 75% saturation, encoded into RGB in the range 16-235 (thinking of them as 8-bit). Because they are RGB, they can't encode the I and Q patches (the purplish/bluish patches in the lower left)."

Correct! Though I use this for calibration, I never knew this "they can't encode the I and Q patches (the purplish/bluish patches in the lower left)" Very interesting. I'll have to read up a bit more on this :)

"You can tell that they are at 75% saturation because the color bars do not ever reach 255 in any color channel. They should max out at 180 for 75% encoded 16-235. You can tell that they are 16-235 because the black bars are at a value of 16 (not 0)."

Yes, I agree! Of course *saying with a sense of humor*, I can't tell what my colorbars are with these colorbars since I'm at the point right now where I don't trust my After Effect scopes! :)

"If they were encoded 0-255, the color bars would have the color channels maxing out at 191 and the black bars would be at 0. But then you'd lose the "blacker-than-black" portion of the PLUGE." Right! I'd have different colorbars for Rec 709. But, I'm trying to work in Rec 601 which as you rightly noted is why my colorbars are 75% saturation. You know your calibration stuff well!

"In 98.3% of the cases, you want to leave the Color Finesse preference set to 0-255, and the "Blacks are at 7.5%" preference unchecked, and use 0-255 bars. The preferences are there for the other 1.7% of cases, which is compatibility with editing systems that are mostly long dead."

I've tried it all. I'm paying careful attention to my setup...my colorspace...my setting in Color Finesse 3. It's just off! However, that said, I DO expect Color Finesse 3 to properly adjust the scopes if I specify 16-235 with a 7.5 setup (even if it's only used as the 1.7%). Still have such things as VHS videos people like to important...or other SD sources. My point is, After Effects should work for me too. Right now, it's just not.

I'll continue to investigate!


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Jason Freets
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 18, 2013 at 6:32:38 am

Forgot to add:

My version of Color Finesse 3 is Version 3.0 under Windows.

So, I'm going to go to Synthetic Aperture's website and see if I can update my Plug-In to whatever the latest version is.

I'll post back with my results once I get that together.

That's a great suggestion!


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Walter Soyka
Re: Wrong SMPTE Color Bars In After Effect Color Finesse 3 Plugin
on Dec 18, 2013 at 6:12:28 pm

How exactly are you using color bars in your workflow, and what are you hoping to accomplish by using them?

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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