More on Adobe’s new color managed workflow.

I’ve written about this before, but the way Adobe have changed the way they manage colourspaces has changed, it hasn’t been well documented, and it’s causing a lot of confusion.

When importing Log footage into the latest versions of Adobe Premiere instead of the log footage looking flat and washed out as it used to, now it looks contrasty and well saturated. If it has been exposed correctly (according to the manufacturers specifications) then it will look like normal Rec-709 footage rather than the flat look that most people associate with log. This is confusing people, many assume Adbe is now adding a LUT to the footage by default, it isn’t. What is happening isd a fundamental change to the way Premiere handles different colorspaces.


Premiere is NOT adding a LUT. It is transforming between the captured colorspace and the display colorspace so that the footage looks correct with the right contrast, colour and brightness on your display. Your footage remains in its native colorspace at all times (unless you force it into an alternate and possibly wrong colorspace by using the interpret footage function).

Your display could be 709, HDR10, HLG, SGamut3/S-log3 and in each case the footage would, within the limitations of the displays format have the same basic contrast and colour etc, the footage would look the same whether viewing in SDR, HDR or Log because Premiere maps it to the correct levels for the output colorspace you are using to view your content.


The issue is that previously we have been using very broken workflows  that are normally incapable of showing capture colorspaces other than Rec-709 correctly. This has made people believe that log formats are supposed to look flat – They are not! When viewed correctly they should  have the same contrast as 709 etc. Log is not flat, but we have been viewing it incorrectly because most workflows have been incapable of mapping different source colorspaces to our chosen working/viewing colorspace.


Up to now to fix these broken workflows we have added LUT’s to convert our beautiful, high dynamic range, vast colorspace source formats into restricted, reduced dynamic range display formats. Once you add that 709 LUT to you S-Log3 footage it is no longer SGamut3/Slog3 it is now Rec-709 with all the restrictions that 709 has such as limited dynamic range, limited colorspace etc and that may limit what you can do with it in the grade. Plus it limits you to only ever outputting in SDR 709.

But what we have now in a colour managed workflow is our big range log being displayed correctly on a 709 display or any other type of display, including HDR or DCI-P3 etc. Because the footage is still in its native colorspace you will have much greater grading latitude, there’s no knee added to the highlights, no shadow roll off, no artificial restriction to the source colorspace. So you can more easily push and pull the material far further during adjustment and grading (raw workflows have always been color managed out of necessity as the raw footage can’t be viewed correctly without first being converted into a viewable colorspace).


But the rub is – you are not now adding someone else’s carefully crafted LUT, which is a combination of creative and artistic corrections that give a pleasing look combined with the Log to Rec 709 conversion.

So – you’re going to have to learn how to grade for yourself – but you will have a much bigger colour and contrast range to work with as your footage will remain in it’s full native capture range.

And – if you need to deliver in multiple formats, which you will need to start doing very soon if you are not already, it is all so much easier as in a colour managed workflow all you do is switch the output format to change from 709 to HDR10 or HLG or DCI-P3 to get whatever format you want without having to re-grade everything or use different LUT’s for each format.


And when you consider that almost all new TV’s, the majority of new Phones and Tablets all have HDR screens and this is all now supported on YouTube and Vimeo etc how much longer do you think you will be able to cling on to only delivering in SDR Rec-709 using off-the-shelf SDR LUTs? If you ever want to do stuff for Netflix, Amazon etc you will need to figure out how to work in both SDR and HDR.


Adobe have done a shockingly bad job of documenting and explaining this new workflow, but it is the future and once you learn how to use it properly it should improve the quality of what you deliver and at the same time expand the range of what you can deliver.

300x250_xdcam_150dpi More on Adobe's new color managed workflow.

I have to deliver both SDR and HDR for most of my clients and I’ve been using colour managed workflows for around 6 years now (mostly ACES in Resolve). I could not go back to the restrictions of a workflow that doesn’t allow you to output in multiple colorspaces or requires you to perform completely separate grades for SDR and HDR. The great thing about ACES is that it is a standardised and well documented workflow so you can use ACES LUT’s designed for the ACES workflow if you wish. But until Adobe better document their own colour managed workflow it is difficult to design LUT’s for use in the Adobe workflow. Plus LUT’s that work with the Adobe workflow, probably won’t work elsewhere. So – it’s never been a better time to learn how to grade properly or think about what workflow you will use to do your grading.

The bottom line is the days of using LUT’s that add both an artistic look and convert your footage from its source colorspace to a single delivery colorspace are numbered.  Color managed offer far greater flexibility for multi format delivery. Plus they retain the full range and quality of your source material, no matter what colorspace you shot it in or work in.

460x150_xdcam_150dpi More on Adobe's new color managed workflow.

14 thoughts on “More on Adobe’s new color managed workflow.”

  1. Thank you for being the ONLY person to explain this. One question … The very first time I tried to use this new capability, I ran into problems exporting files for client use. Regular Windows machines can (seemingly) not play anything other than 709 files!

    Simply telling Adobe to export my existing HDR grade as 709 looked absolutely awful . I had to go back and regrade everything in 709 and re-export.

    What’s the best way to ensure backwards compatibility on export?

    1. Windows machines definitely can play HDR and other colorspaces, I frequently play back HDR on windows machines. But with any non 709 footage the file must contain the correct metadata flags and the machine must have a compatible display.

      If you HDR grade looks awful when transformed to 709 then I would suggest that your HDR grade has issues. You need to very carefully watch your HDR levels with HDR scopes to be sure that any SDR version will come out as expected, HDR whites should not exceed 300 NIT’s, skintones need to be around 70 NITs, most of your mid range will be 100 NITs or lower. All too many people grade HDR much to brightly. and it must be remembered that in SDR your maximum brightness will be 300 NITs.

  2. Hi Alister,
    When you say ‘latest version’ do you mean 22.2, which is the current ‘shipping’ version, or do you mean the version which is going to be released over the next couple of days (April 12th onwards)?
    I ask ’cause I’m not seeing this behaviour in 22.2, and wondering if it’s my settings, or if that’s ’cause this hasn’t been implemented in this version.
    Thanks a lot

  3. It’s been implemented in the shipping versions of Premiere Pro since January of this year. Where the source file contains metadata to describe it’s colorspace and gamut Premiere now automatically applies the appropriate transform to match your working and display colorspace. There are however many inconsistencies depending on the metadata in the source footage and how Premiere interprets that.

  4. But what if 99% of your business is just only delivery for social media, YouTube, Vimeo. Also most likely your clients aren’t asking for (or even aware of) different colorspaces, they just want a good looking, colorful and contrasty image. They don’t have HDR screens on their desk. I do like it the way it was (and still is because I haven’t updated for this reason). I’m just curious. Why wouldn’t they make a setting for the ones in need, saying: “Color managed for multi format delivery”.

    1. You might be 99% SDR now, bit it isn’t going to stay that way forever. Eventually HDR will be normal and SDR will become obsolete. You can leave it until the bitter end and then play catch up or learn how these new workflows work now so that the day a client asks for an HDR version you know how to do it. It’s up to you

      YT and Vimeo is fully HDR capable, you can upload to YT in HDR and it will stream in either HDR or SDR depending on the viewers device just as YT will pick the most appropriate resolution. If clients want vibrant contrasty images then they will love HDR.

      The computers on my desk are HDR, most new computers are HDR or HDR capable. All new Macbooks are HDR. This isn’t something that will happen in the future, it started happening a couple of years ago and we are a long way down the road to HDR becoming normal and SDR being old school.

      1. Alright, I haven’t looked at it but I imagine it works like Sonys catalyst browse. Right? Does it take into account and automatically adjust for +1 or +2 over exposed footage? I wouldn’t know how to adjust for that in première other then using your compensated LUTs. What do you do? Just pull the “exposure” or “whites” slider? In catalyst browse you can adjust with lift, gamma, gain. But then again Sony’s software recognizes and adjusts automatically when (for example) filmed in Base 800, Ei 400.

  5. I thought this update would fix an issue I have – particularly as it came out on my birthday – but sadly not. When I bring S-log3 footage from an A7SMK3 into Premiere Pro it thinks it’s Rec709 and so it looks flat. Why doesn’t PP recognise it as log footage and then display it properly as rec709?
    Is there something I’m doing wrong? The XML files seems to be no use to PP either…

    1. The A7S3 outputs .MP4 which doesn’t have the necessary metadata to say it is eg Slog3 and SG3.cine, unlike the FX6 with its .mfx output. It is dead easy in Resolve, just ctrl A to select all the files and then a couple of Rt clicks to select the gamma and gamut and hey presto beautiful pictures with Davinci Color Mangement and no LUTs. I don’t use Premiere, but I suspect there must be a way of doing the same.

      1. Thanks Anthony

        Unfortunately I can’t seem to find a way to tell Premiere that the footage is S-Log3 and Adobe seem clueless on the issue. There is no S-Log 3 option in the colour space override menu either which presumably would be a solution so I’m stuck with using LUTs for the time being 🙁

  6. Thank you Alister for your ace pipeline in adobe. To use correctly ace pipeline in adobe, i use OpenColorIO plugin.

  7. Hi Alister,

    Thanks for the detailed info. Does this mean we’ll see people (yourself included) re-releasing LUTS that don’t have the REC709 conversion contained inside them so we can still achieve certain looks?


    1. This issue with this is that Adobe’s workflow is unique to Adobe, so LUTs will only ever work as expected for the Adobe and specific output colourspaces. With a standardised workflow such as ACES you can make a LUT for this workflow and it will work on any edit platform that supports ACES.

  8. I have to add that Redgiant include in realtime openiocolor in their last magic bullet suite 16 for adobe product like premiere so no more problem with ace pipeline in adobe premiere. no?

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