Adobe to drop colour managament by default.

I had an interesting chat with Adobe about how they implemented the colour management of footage in Adobe Premiere at IBC. They seem to realise that the way it is implemented by default isn’t very popular, that it isn’t  well documented and not particularly well implemented.  So things will revert back to everything being handled as Rec-709 in a Rec-709 project by default in the near future. This will come very soon (it may already be in the public Beta but I haven’t checked). This does of course mean that once again your Log footage will look flat, which is actually incorrect, Log is not flat, you are just viewing it incorrectly. Those delivering in HDR will have to figure out how to best manage their footage so it isn’t unnecssarily restricted by passing through a Rec-709 project/timeline and most will end up using LUTs with all the restrictions that they impose once again. Perhaps Adobe will return to colour management in the future once they have figured out how to implement it in a more user friendly way.

14 thoughts on “Adobe to drop colour managament by default.”

  1. I thought the whole point of log was to shoot without any in camera processing such as no saturation, no contrast, no sharpening etc etc, so you could then get a better image quality by processing these things in post. I also was pretty convinced that’s what the whole world thought too, and that’s why log always looked flat because the camera did very minimal image processing in camera. So I am super confused why log is suddenly not supposed to be flat anymore, or not meant to be flat, which contradicts everything that has gone before in terms of gaining a better image quality by shooting in log. I clearly don’t understand what Log was or is anymore. If Log isn’t flat, then why do nearly all cameras keep producing it flat?

    1. Log was never, ever supposed to look flat. It has been the incorrect handling of log for over a decade that has led to the notion that log content is flat.

      Log does not lack saturation or contrast, in fact most log recordings have more contrast and colour than 709. If you view S-Log3 on an S-Log3 monitor, without performing any modifications or grading it will have amazing contrast and colour, be bright and vibrant, and that is what was recorded and that is how it actually should look.

      It is only when we crudely place S-Log3 in a Rec-709 timeline without any attempt to convert from the log files colourspace to the Rec-709 output colopurspace that it looks flat. It ends up looking flat because we are viewing it in the wrong colourspace. When you add a S-Log3 to 709 LUT what you are doing is both converting the S-Log3 to Rec-709 colourspace (which restores the colour and contrast) and including modifications to add a look. The LUT converts from the S-Log3 colourspace to Rec-709 and we view something much closer to what was actually captured and how it does actually look.

      Log only looks flat on a cameras viewfinder because the viewfinder is normally a Rec-709 device, so again we have an incorrect translation between the captured colourspace and the output colourpsace. If you have an Atomos monitor or similar and set it to S-Gamut/S-Log3 the images don’t look flat, they now look correct.

      There is an industry wide imense miss-unerstanding of how gammas and colourspaces work, most likely simply because it isn’t something anyone is ever taught and instead incorrect internet concepts such as log being flat become normalised and then it makes it harder for people to actually understand what is going on.

      The only reason Log grades well is because there are many tools available designed around grading log. The reality is that Rec-709 grades just as well as log, if Rec-709 has sufficent dynamic range to capture the scene you are shooting, then just as good an image can be gained by shooting 709 and taking the same care and time to grade the 709.

      1. I recently dropped some SLOG3 from an FX6 into Premiere and according to premiere it was completely blown out and no amount of grading would repair it, it was completely destroyed. Soon as I bypassed it via interpret footage everything was fine, I could grade as normal, and push it to the extremes if needed. Whatever Adobe is doing it’s not working, whether it’s technically correct or not, but I am all for embracing how Log should be viewed, but this can’t be right. My footage was perfectly exposed but Premiere thinks otherwise.

        1. I’m afraid to say that if it looks over exposed then it probably was over exposed. Adobe’s transforms are correct, but badly implemented. A limitation of this type of workflow is that you can’t ever correctly show all 14 stops of dynamic range in a 6 stop range system, with a 6 stop range monitor such as 709, so anything beyond 709 is compromised, often not visible at all. Adobe don’t add a significant roll-off or other highlight compression. It is important to understand that when you use interpret footage, your log which actually has 14 stops and big contrast is now being displayed within a 6 stop range (this is why it lloks flat, your 14 stops are and contrast are getting squashed together, as each stop is closer than it should be to the next, the contrast gets reduced). But because now all 14 stops are squashed into 6, your over exposure is not nearly as noticable as it will remain within the 709 range and never exceed it.

          Adobe did a terrible job of implementing colour managment, and they know this. Hence why it is going to be removed. BUT colour management is going to be an essential thing to have as just as Rec-601 is no longer used, Rec-709 is now getting very dated and more and more productions are moving to Rec-2020, Rec-2100, Dolby and other more modern standards. For the next decade it is likely that many productions will need to deliver in multiple standards and the easiest way to do this is via a colour manged workflow. The colour management tools in Resolve are wonderfully easy to use and colour managed workflows such as ACES are where the industry is heading, Adobe need to catch up, but to do it properly.

          1. Thanks, I don’t know how it could have been over-exposed though, my fx6 monitor would have been a white wash while I was filming and I wouldn’t have been able to see what I was doing. Surely the FX6 monitor isn’t compressing it into 6 stops of log? Sony’s catalyst browse isn’t showing it over-exposed either and surely catalyst is showing me the true exposure I recorded or is catalyst doing it too with only 6 stops of log? My exposure was at 71% on the histogram with ND on, I can’t see how it would have been blown out.

  2. Won’t color management be available as an option ? Seems weird to just drop it altogether. BTW Thanks for your initial heads up that it had been installed . I was able to be a hero when my client called me completely confused about what was wrong with the footage we had just shot. Your emails have been invaluable for years now. Thank you.

    1. From the conversation I had it sounded like colour management was going to be removed altogether as there are too many issues with the way it works. It is inconsistent and the inconsistency makes it hard to return to a project at a later date with later software and be sure that it will look how it did. My understanding is that they will start again and spend more time getting it right before releasing a colour manged workflow at some time in the future.

  3. Hi Alistar,

    Thanks for discussing this on your blog, I’ve found it helpful and interesting in a sea of misinformation online on this topic.

    One thing that doesn’t sit right with me though, is your repeated point on users ‘viewing’ LOG incorrectly.

    Going back to the routes of our craft, let me present this as a counterpoint:

    If I was to hold up a 35mm colour negative and view it, the colours are inverted. Am I viewing it incorrectly? Not at all, this is how the image is captured on this medium. Different film stocks will record this information differently. It just hasn’t undergone any ‘transformations’.

    Say I then have this reel scanned digitally – I now have a digital scan of my source material. Depending on the conversations with the lab, when played digitally it will likely be relatively ‘flat’ to retain dynamic range in the jump from analogue to digital. Am I viewing this image incorrectly? Of course not, it just hasn’t been graded yet.

    The LOG images that come out of the various camera manufacturers come in a variety of flavours (like film stocks), but at the end of the day, the intention is to capture as much data/dynamic range/resolution as possible and convey that digitally. It’s what we’ve come to know as our digital negative.

    To say a user is viewing this incorrectly, simply by viewing it, I think is misguided.

    What Adobe implemented was a heavy-handed colour space transformation, without the user’s control. That was a backwards step. There was no point of reference. And worse, it was often the incorrect transformation.

    In some cases with Sony footage, it was essentially reading it as HDR, when it wasn’t intended to be. That’s the same as confusing a colour-negative film stock. So in that case, Adobe was ‘viewing’ the footage incorrectly.

    In my opinion, everything should start as source material, and be transformed from there. We then have a point of reference. Even footage with only 5 stops of dynamic range could arguably be graded for HDR, but that should be the user’s choice.

    1. It was never intended for you to directly show your negatives, you would never show the negative in a cinema and the editor of a feature would be unlikely to edit the negative, it was always intended that the negative would be transferred to a positive print for viewing and that would be the correct way to view it.

      If you have a monitor with S-Log3 gamma and you view S-Log3 content on that monitor it looks correct, with great contrast, great dynamic range and an amazing colour range. Nothing has been converted, nothing transformed, you would simply be viewing the log as it was recorded. As recorded, it is not flat, nor is it washed out. But if you process it incorrectly and view log in the wrong colourspace it will look wrong, it will look flat. That’s not because it was recorded flat but because the viewing colourspace is wrong.

      Adobe’s conversions were not wrong, people just don’t understand gamma and colourspaces.

  4. A huge break in the chain is that either (A.) the LUTs and tools we are using to expose our log footage are not totally “correct” or (B.) the way Adobe is performing the transform is not totally lining up with how a lot of us are exposing our footage (or both A and B). I have had a lot of footage exposed “correctly” in camera using the s709 LUT that ships in the FX6. With the automatic transforms in Premiere the footage looks totally different.

    Hope they come back later and design a designated place to control all these options in an easy way. In theory, if this approach were working as intended it would save us a ton of time. They failed to realize that most of us are intrenched in some tried-and-true workflows. On paper, some of these workflows can be a bit convoluted but as you have said, the lack of communication about all these changes really threw us for a loop.

    Personally I shoot in the same LUT that I grade with so things are pretty darn simple. As time goes on, I’m actually opting for S-Cinetone more and more. It looks great, simplifies the workflow, and there is quite a bit of information there if you need to save shots that I botched on the day.

    1. If you are using a creative LUT such as the default s709 LUT then the brightness range of the LUT is likely to be very different to normal Rec-709 for example s709 when “correctly” exposed should be around 10% darker than 709. If you were to expose it as brightly as you would 709, then your footage will be around 1 to 1.5 stops above normal.

      What adobe converts to in most cases is vanilla Rec-709 and rec-709 has an extremely narrow dynamic range, so when shooting with a wide dynamic range source a large part of what has been recorded will be beyond the display range and will be clipped, that’s just the way it is and is not incorrect.

      1. Thank you for clearing that up. For some reason I was assuming Adobe are applying a look that is specifically for Sony, but I’m not sure where I got that notion. If we had easier control over what is being applied automatically (to large quantities of footage) it would be great. I like the idea of log footage looking just how I saw it in my monitor when I shot it, right from the get go in the edit. They have the right idea, I hope they continue to work on the implementation.

  5. Hi all,

    I’m a product manager at Adobe, on the video team. I thought I’d chime in to provide some info on what we’re doing.

    Color management is not going away – quite the opposite. As HDR-capable cameras and displays are becoming the default, and shooting in log or raw is becoming the norm, color management is critical. Gone are the days of only Rec709, the one color space to rule them all.

    You might have seen reports about HDR iPhone media not looking good in Premiere Pro. And you might have seen the great video my friend Karl made to explain the issue:

    The problem occurs when HDR media is displayed on an SDR timeline. We’re attempting to squeeze wide color range footage into a small color space. Without a manual change, either to the footage or the timeline, the results look blown-out and bad.

    Our vision for color management in Premiere Pro is simple. You can drop footage in any color space onto a sequence and we will automatically convert the colors and range with pleasing tone mapping, and provide controls to tweak the tone mapping. You don’t need a LUT, the result is likely to be more accurate than using a LUT, and there won’t be any concerns about clipping. Of course, if you’d prefer to work with a LUT, that workflow will still be supported.

    Some of this is available now, like us recognizing some (but only some) color spaces. But that’s the problem with color management: it is complicated enough without having to worry about which pieces are available and which are not.

    So, as we are adding the remaining pieces, finessing our math, and working out the user experience, we are first going to add an application preference. You’ll be able to choose whether you want Premiere Pro to automatically use the color space of your log footage or whether you’d prefer that it is treated as Rec.709. There’s more than one way to do color and by adding this preference, you’ll be in control of how you’d like Premiere Pro to work by default (a default you can easily override for specific clips).


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