Colorboration : the mission

Color management is all about collaboration: even if you’re by yourself, you want your different softwares and devices to show something consistent across. In the colorboration series of articles we will talk about the different aspects of collaboration and associated skills around color and looks. Right now I’m participating (well, mostly lurking, but anyway) several discussions between very smart people talking about color. What is very interesting is between the different forums there are very different words and completely different approaches to the problems, because of the background. Back in the days, that wasn’t much of a problem as everything was pretty much silo-ed: the cinematographer would capture an image that nobody could see and the lab-timer would enable the magic of the lab, the CG artist was producing something that would be bent by a sweating comper to fit into the live action, and the colorist would put another layer of magic to make the whole thing look decent.

These days expectations are much higher: some people think that a camera is a spectrocolorimeter, and that everything should mix perfectly using Physically Based Rendering and ACES. Well, we’re not quite there yet. Suddenly people use the same words and they think they can discuss, it’s like the Babel tower, except they’re using the same words but not talking about the same things. Let see the problems we have to tackle before we get into the technical aspects.

We’ll discuss later where the delta stand in the equation and what can made more precise for predictability of colors (like, IDTs putting the grey card at the same code value on all cameras, yeah!), there will always be some parameters difficult to align: influence of the lens, filtration, interaction of the lighting and the camera sensor… those are not easy to work on, and the fact that we now can see bigger gamuts and larger dynamic range shows better the defects and artifacts; it’s also more difficult to hide the problems in post, and they pop more and more: halos around the edges, posterization… so we’ll have to discuss and find the right words to describe those problems, the right words for each approach, and that is what Colorboration is about. It will take some time to fill the gaps, but we’ll all grow our knowledge and understand better what the others around are doing.

I was once involved in a project that was involving two of the biggest egos of french cinema: one was doing the comp and CG, the other was doing the live photography and grading supervision. The result was not really nice, and they were threatening to sue each other for ruining the project look. I was called as an expert to find out where the problem was, ended up that both had huge holes in their basket, I promised to disclose none of it, and it all ended up by the lab taking the blame and redoing much of the work for free… what I learned from this is that even though both had great experts in their respective field, there was not enough common ground to discuss the problem, and then to fix it.

Feel free to comment in the dedicated Rockflowers Q&A channel