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.
NOT ADDING A LUT.
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.
OLD BROKEN WORKFLOWS.
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.
LUTs ARE A QUICK FIX – WITH LIMITATIONS.
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).
HERE’s THE RUB!
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.
HOW LONG CAN YOU STAY JUST IN REC-709?
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.
IT’S HERE TO STAY
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.
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.