Did Color Get Demoted in FCP X Update 10.2?

Have you even been eating with your family at the holiday dinner table—and had the discussion turn to politics?

Most families tend to trend similar in their political orientation but you always have an outlier sibling, cousin or uncle. There’s always someone at the table ready to get offended even when you don’t think they should be.

Now, imagine eating at such a family gathering and you’ve got a comment to make that you know will tweak someone at the table. And as you’re ready to speak out loud, for a few hundred milliseconds you ask yourself:

Should I say it? Or not?

I had one of those ‘Should I? Shouldn’t I?’ moments this weekend writing about my NAB 2015 first impressions

It was about some thoughts I had regarding the FCP X 10.2 update and it didn’t take me long to decide, yes—I’m going to say it.

Why? Because I believe strongly in this opinion and I want it to be heard. Here’s the precise quote from my Sunday Newsletter article (reposted on this blog) that tweaked a few people:

Apple released Final Cut Pro X 10.2 and they reversed almost 10 years of color emphasis

The Color layer is now gone. You have to hunt for it as an effect or in a somewhat obscure pull-down menu.

I. Am. Sad.

It didn’t take long for the pushback to start. Mostly in emails. Often from professionals whom I respect and have had many dealings with. They all tended to say precisely the same thing as this comment from a reader here on the Tao:

Apple have not de-emphasized the importance of color grading – quite the contrary. As with previous releases, simply pressing Command-6 will bring you into the colorboard. After applying adjustments to the clip, the adjustment is listed in the inspector. This requires no more keystrokes than in previous releases, and there is no need to dig into the effects browser to apply the correction . . .

Also, the addition of multiple scope displays, the ability to save combinations of effects as presets and improved masking capability suggest that apple have placed a strong emphasis on color.

Everything the commenter said is true—except for the first line (it’s emphasis is mine). In this article I’m going to prove, to those willing to listen, that the FCP X 10.2 update has de-emphasized color in the FCP X workflow. And yes…

I. Am. Sad. (still)

First, let’s start with what I’m NOT saying

I am NOT saying the color correction feature set got worse in FCP X 10.2. In fact, a reading of my article shows that I sang the praises of the decision to make the Color Board an Effect layer that can be re-ordered. This is a huge upgrade. We can now build actual color pipelines, deciding when and where Effects happen in context of color manipulations. That’s terrific and removed a huge color pipeline liability.

But that’s a feature enhancement.

Along the same lines, I love the new scopes. On my outboard set of Scopebox scopes I have 10 scopes set up, because my eyes flick around depending what problem I’m solving and it’s way easier than the constant point-and-clicking to change scope views.

But that’s a feature enhancement.

FCP X 10.2 has quite a few very welcomed feature enhancements that specifically benefit anyone doing color grading. But just like I have a few concerns about what I saw with Resolve 12, I have concerns with FCP X 10.2.

I’m bothered that the redesigned User Interface removed the Color Board from direct view

It’s a concern about design philosophy, not a question if the tool itself got better (it did). To further explain, let’s let FCP X do the talking for us. Notice in this split screen, I’ve got the Inspector Before and After the 10.2. Update. Does the Color workflow gain or lose prominence in this UI redesign?

The FCP X Inspector before and after the 10.2 Update

On the left, the Inspector before the 10.2 update. On the right, after. Notice how ‘Color’ is missing?

Before the 10.2 update, a casual user would be forced to consider the color of the shot every time they went to resize, crop or add an effect. Color, as an important editorial decision, was integrated into the Inspector and it couldn’t be passively ignored. After the 10.2 update, the casual user is free to never ever think about color—or wonder: What is so important about this tool that it’s given such prominence?

The ‘color correction uninitiated’ are never given the cue that maybe they should do some research and figure out what they don’t know.

At NAB 2015, a perfect UI design contrast is what happened with Premiere Pro CC 2015

The Premiere Pro preview Adobe showed at NAB is a UI redesign that emphasizes Color—its redesign puts color where it belongs, as a key tool to enhance editorial decisions and storytelling.

First, let’s look where all prior versions of Premiere put the Color Correction tools:

Premiere Pro CC 2014 buried the Color Correction tools

In versions prior to CC 2015, notice how Premiere buries the color correction tools in the Effect palette?

In prior versions of Premiere, the User Interface relegated color correction to a filter no more important than Noise & Grain. It’s an add-on, not a key storytelling tool. What did Adobe change in the Premiere Pro CC 2015 preview? (click on the image for a full-size view)

The Premiere Pro CC 2015 Color Workspace

Notice the Workspace bar that gives visual weight to Color on par with Audio and Editing?
(click on image for full size, opens in new window)

Adobe made Color a central workspace in a running toolbar at the top of the interface. Of course, this interface may change for the final release—but I love their thought process here! A new or casual user is forced to actively ignore the Color workspace. More likely, they’ll at least explore the tools and maybe run a Google search to figure out why it’s given such prominence.

As a ‘color correction evangelist’, I couldn’t be happier!

Let’s switch back to FCP X 10.2 and see where the renamed Color Board is buried

The Final Cut X 10.2 Effects List

Similar to prior versions of Premiere Pro, the renamed Color Board is buried in a list of many ‘color effects’.

Yup. It’s buried in a long running list of other effects. The only sense you have that the Color Correction filter is different than the others is its ‘rainbow’ look. Otherwise, it’s one filter buried within many filters.

But wait, the Color Board has a dedicated keyboard shortcut and a pull-down menu—it’s just as fast as before

I know. And I knew that before I wrote my NAB 2015 recap article. But as someone who’s been teaching color correction for almost a decade—keyboard shortcuts are only learned by a small percentage of end users… and then they only learn those shortcuts they use daily. I’m not worried about those users who already know the shortcut.

I’m worried about all those users who will now assume color isn’t that important to storytelling since Apple decided to bury the interface.

Besides – FCP X screams to be driven by a mouse, not keyboard shortcuts. Although – I do have to comment that FCP X has more commands ready to be assigned to keyboard shortcuts than almost any app I’ve ever seen. It’s a keyboard shortcut powerhouse, should you choose to avail yourself. But…

Only those editors already attuned to color as a storytelling tool are likely to go hunting for the shortcut

And I do remember a pull-down menu that added the Color Board located in the Inspector. But as I was pulling screenshots for this article, I went on a click-fest trying to find that Color Board pull-down somewhere, anywhere—and I can’t find it for the life of me (if you know where to find it, please let me know in the Comments).

So, if this UI redesign doesn’t feel like a de-emphasis of Color then I don’t know what other design decisions you would make if you actually set about to intentionally de-emphasize Color. (And no! I don’t think that was Apple’s active intention.)

Frankly, the only people I’m really talking to here are the folks in Cupertino (and the people who influence them)

I hope to see them soon at FMC’s FCPX Creative Summit in June! Sure, I’m sure the Mother Ship would probably prefer I do this privately—but I’m writing about trends I saw at NAB 2015 and while the trend for most apps is a more forward-facing color workflow, this counter-trend with FCP X 10.2 couldn’t go unremarked upon.

This criticism comes from a place of love for the craft of color correction

The Tao of Color was founded to help end the scourge of terrible, uncrafted images on television and Indie films. I wasn’t happy when Apple Color was discontinued but I loved how FCP X kept the Color Board in every editors view. In earlier versions of FCP X you were at least forced to consider what you were missing by not touching the Color Board.

FCP X 10.2 makes it easier to forget about color. It makes it easier to not consider the dramatic impact that thoughtful color correction can have on your finished timeline. The new user can edit in FCP X for months and never stumble upon the Color Board.

Despite the slew of color correction feature enhancements, it’s this broader thought that I took away from the latest FCP X 10.2 update.

Luckily, as Apple has proven time and again, no User Interface is ever locked down

I encourage them to find a way to keep Color in the frontal lobe of the editor while maintaining it’s new flexibility in the Effects layer stack. I won’t advocate how they do it. I just encourage them to find a way.

– pat

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How NAB 2015 Showed Me The Future (I could see today)

Imagine you’re at your favorite restaurant

You sit at a now-familiar table. Your waitress greets you by name and, without asking, brings you your favorite drink. She has the menu in her hand but doesn’t hand it to you, “The usual?”

You almost agree—but reconsider.

You decide to look at the menu and you notice it’s changed. The entrees are all familiar but they’re cooked differently. Clearly the menu has been updated.

You order a few new items and suddenly… Familiar food tastes completely different.

Welcome to my NAB 2015 experience—where the familiar NAB suddenly tasted different

In today’s Newsletter I’ll be covering three topics:

  • My initial, unformed thoughts about the more widely used bits of post-production software
  • Congrats to a favorite sponsor of this website winning NAB’s Best of Show
  • And an in-depth discussion of the absolute highlight of any NAB I’ve attended, ever!

I’ll be covering both software and hardware features and releases that (mostly) aren’t here today but will be soon. I’m especially jazzed about the hardware I saw this week… technology that has been promised to us but has been either impossible to actually see or underwhelming in previous years.

I feel like this was the first NAB in my career where I saw the future of our technology before it’s actually arrived—and I walked away excited (but, with one technology, a tad concerned).

But let’s prologue with some fun statistics

  • Total steps walked from Friday morning through Thursday night: 89,855 (my weekly average is: 30k – 40k steps)
  • Parties attended: 5
  • Parties missed (that I know of): 4
  • Best meal: At the Team Mixing Light dinner, the Tao Treasurer and I ate the Peking Duck Tasting Menu at the first Michelin rated Chinese restaurant in the United States: ‘Wing Lei’.The meal was fantastic until the final entree, which was average and a bit dry.For the first time I also tasted Mochi Ice Cream, which I shared with our guest speaker for the next day’s training, Andrea Chlebak—the colorist of ‘Chappie’ and ‘Elysium’ out of Vancouver’s SkyLab. It has a strange texture, indeed.

Getting to business, what are my initial impressions of this week’s software updates? Let’s start with DaVinci Resolve 12

My very first reaction… Wow, lot’s of eye candy interface changes—I hope Resolve 12 is more than just pretty icons and fonts. 

Then I thought: Holy crud, I need to completely re-record our 14-hour Davinci Resolve Deep Insights training. A mere ‘What’s New’ update is fine for existing users. But all those new editor-types they’re attracting? A ‘What’s New’ title won’t cut it.

Five minutes later, after messing around on the interface, what did I think?

I like the eye candy. I like the interface changes. They are improvements and they’re not all extraneous.

BUT.

When evaluating new versions of DaVinci Resolve I always ask myself:

  • Did they remove mouse clicks (streamlining the interface)
  • Did they give me new tools enabling new creative possibilities?

My first impression: Yes on both counts (with one big concern).

Here are a few of my DaVinci Resolve 12 first impressions

  • As usual, Blackmagic Marketing emphasized everything BUT color correction (if you look at the banner outside the South Hall, color correction falls under ‘And More’). I’ve learned to stop stressing about it—it’s what they do. Besides, colorist and DaVinci Resolve Product Specialist Alexis Van Hurkman confirms that fully half the new Resolve 12 features fall within the Color tab. And the software seems it.
  • A 2-year feature request of mine was finally implemented! We now have endpoints on curves! And thanks to all of our Mixing Light members who tweeted me about this long-time complaint of mine finally being addressed :-)This means Avid Symphony colorists can now manipulate curves the way they expect… and those of us exploring the LAB colorspace can make ‘cleaner’ AB contrast adjustments. Thanks Team DaVinci Resolve!
  • Favorite new command: Node tree cleanup. FINALLY! Plus, we can now nest multiple nodes… and then color correct on top of the nest. For example, if you take a few nodes for the initial base grade, you can now nest those down to one node, then grade on top of that for your Shot Matching Pass. Very cool. But if you’re not careful you may find yourself clicking way more often than you used to.
  • 2nd favorite new command: “Append Node to Selected Clips”. This will save MANY mouse clicks.

Some other little nifty items that jumped out:

  • In Multicam sequences, you can ‘step in’ to the single track multicam and grade each camera separately in the Color Tab. For those kinds of jobs, it’s a thoughtful feature.
  • Alpha channel outputs can be fed directly into Video. Very useful if you want to clean up your key signal using your normal grading tools or pull up a clip assigned as a Matte and use it as a video source.
  • ‘Convert window to bezier shape': Select a normal pre-defined Circle Power Window and morph it into a bezier to re-shape it asymmetrically. Nice.
  • The new 3D keyer and 3D tracker look like terrific enhancements. Especially the 3D tracker.
  • The functional but non-grading Specialty Nodes (like the Keyer, Splitter, Combiner) now look different than grading nodes—which should help newbies not mistake them for color correction nodes (a problem I frequently help them correct).

Of course, I’ve got a few Resolve 12 features I’m concerned about

  • The redesigned Frame Mode in the tracker: Is it simplified or has it been dumbed down? I couldn’t tell on the show floor. I love the power user functionality of the current Frame mode. I’m nervous they made the tracker less useful on shots where tracking fails and needs human interaction.
  • The redesigned Curves interface: I get that the old Curves interface almost always required jumping into Gigantor Mode (yes, that’s the actual name of the current super-big curves display). But the Photoshop style overlapping RGB curves now requires button pushing to move between R,G,B channels. It’s impossible to directly select a curve when adding that first control point.For that reason, I don’t like that interface on Photoshop. Since I’m always looking for updates to remove mouse clicks… this interface revision has definitely added a whole bunch of new mouse clicks—and I’m not happy about that.

Moving on…

I don’t like the Big Picture color correction changes in the new release of Final Cut Pro X

Let me explain…

For years, I’ve said that Apple brought color grading as a stand-alone craft to the forefront of our industry when they bundled Apple Color with Final Cut Pro legacy. Suddenly, color correction wasn’t a teeny plug-in buried in your NLE.

Color correction gained wide-spread recognition as it’s own craft with dedicated software. It started to become something even micro-productions could do.

I then gave Apple HUGE kudos for continuing that tradition in Final Cut Pro X. No, I still don’t care for the Color Board (though I’ve finally learned how to make precise, accurate moves on it and am much more ‘at peace’ with the interface). But at least the word ‘Color’ was right there in every editor’s face and impossible to miss.

Apple released Final Cut Pro X 10.2 and they reversed almost 10 years of color emphasis

The Color layer is now gone. You have to hunt for it as an effect or in a somewhat obscure pull-down menu.

I. Am. Sad.

Color correction is such a great story-telling tool, it’s unfortunate Apple decided to de-emphasize it. And I encourage them to think about how to bring it more user-facing since I do understand why they changed the interface.

UPDATE: I’ve gotten some pushback on these comments. I’ve written a follow-up article that digs deeper into this criticsm.

This gets me to what I liked (and didn’t like) about this week’s FCPX update

  • Apple stopped showing powerful respect for the craft of color grading by hiding the toolset and burying the Color Board with dozens of other ‘Effects’. I’d like to see either a default, bypassed Color Board in the Effects stack or a more obvious button for adding the Color Board… simply because it’s a rare shot that doesn’t require some sort of tweak I’m a colorist and I think it’s too important to bury within the User Interface.
  • On the other hand… the Color Board has become 1000% times more useful because it can now be re-ordered within the Effect stack. This is a huge functional improvement that I’ve been dying to see! (now they need to let us rename those layers) I’ll be talking a lot more about this in Mixing Light for those of you FCPx devotees looking to develop a repeatable color correction workflow in FCPx.
  • Color Finale (by Color Grading Central’s Denver Riddle) is a powerful add-on for anyone looking for a set of traditional 3-Way color wheels or Curves. But FCPx’s newly designed color workflow makes Finale’s re-orderable layer stack not quite as compelling as it was before. Still, it looks like a nice plug-in and we’ll be taking a closer look at it in Mixing Light (as well as Red Giant’s Colorista 3).
  • A quick shout-out to FCPWorks for their FCPX mini-conference in the Renaissance Hotel, directly next to the South Hall. Apple’s blanket ‘no trade shows’ mantra has hurt FCPx.In the past six months FCPx has become a viable collaborative post-production tool with all the features it needed two years ago to be a true FCP 7 replacement. Kudos for FCPWorks for filling this obvious trade show gap at NAB.

Where Apple fell, Adobe picked up in Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro has long been ‘color challenged’. Over at Mixing Light, my partner Robbie Carman even did an Insight on how to adjust the default settings of Premiere’s 3-Way Color Corrector filter so it doesn’t… suck.

This week’s Preview of Premiere Pro CC 2015 shows a dramatic reversal of that app’s disappointing tradition.

While FCP X 10.2 buried its color toolset, Premiere Pro CC 2015 put color front and center! A new ‘Color’ workflow button at the top of the interface echoes the DaVinci Resolve tabs. Pressing on that button reveals a Color-oriented inspector that contains:

  • A new 3-Way color wheel interface
  • Easy to add LUTs
  • A nice Hue vs Saturation tool that’s as pretty as it is functional
  • Color manipulations are automatically added as a filter in the filter stack as a Lumetri Effect… meaning under the hood they’re using the SpeedGrade color science and render engine. And when you open your work in SpeedGrade those corrections are ready for additional manipulation by the colorist.

I also need to shout loudly about Adobe Candy—but not for the reason you think

Mostly, I’m very proud of my Mixing Light partner Robbie Carman. He was on Adobe’s main stage demoing Candy. It’s not a small thing, to be entrusted by a company like Adobe to make a tool like Candy relevant to post-production professionals.

Robbie helped explain how Adobe intends for Candy to be a collaborative tool. For more, be sure to check out this public Insight he recorded this week about Candy on MixingLight.com.

And what about Adobe SpeedGrade, you ask?

As I posted in last week’s newsletter—the big SpeedGrade news was all about Premiere Pro. If SpeedGrade was dead, I suppose Adobe would have announced it. But at this point it’s feeling a lot like Apple Color did in its final year. And yet, the two 3-hour SpeedGrade sessions at Post | Production World were close to capacity.

As interest in Premiere Pro grows, so does interest in SpeedGrade. Let’s hope that Adobe decides it’s an app worth investing in… this colorist definitely thinks so—but my reasons for not using it professionally will have to be saved for another day. This email is already long enough.

Moving away from software, let’s look at hardware

Who better to start with than Tao Colorist sponsor, Flanders Scientific? If they had shipped a 4K reference monitor, I would have been floored. They didn’t.

Instead, Flanders Scientific simply won the 2015 NAB ‘Best of Show’ award!

Congratulations to Bram, Johan and the rest of the FSI Team! They won for their new DM250 OLED, which is a field monitoring dream. If you visit this model comparison page and select the AM250, CM250 and DM250… you can clearly see they’re offering a range of OLED models to keep you from paying for features you don’t need. And offering truly unique options for on-set monitoring.

And with the AM250 you can now get an OLED this year for nearly the same price as the comparable LCD a year ago. Impressive!

Let’s move on to the final (and most exciting) section of this special Tao Colorist Newsletter…

Introducing the 1st Annual NAB ‘Monitor Crawl’

I want you to think of the Monitor Crawl like a Bar Crawl. You gather a few of your best friends, hit the road and keep drinking until you can’t drink no more. Except instead of hitting the road we hit the Central Hall. And instead of drinking we looked at reference displays.

Now—I’ve done this before, bouncing around looking at reference monitors. But always on my own. It’s almost always boring as heck and you’re never quite sure what to think about what you’re seeing.

But bring a few very experienced professional colorist friends along?

This Monitor Crawl was not just my highlight of NAB 2015. But any NAB. EVER.

How did we not do this before? I have no idea. But it was spectacular and will be repeated.

I mean, put a group of Colorists in a dark room looking at displays and the comments start flying! You’re forced to really evaluate what you’re looking at, form quick opinions and then have those opinions examined in real-time as you’re all looking at the same display with the same footage.

Our First Annual Monitor Crawl included the following colorists:

  • Alexis Van Hurkman: Author and colorist (Minneapolis)
  • Joe Owens: Prolific forum helper, technical book editor for Alexis and himself a first-class colorist—in all senses of first-class (Edmonton, Canada)
  • Myself: Colorist and Tao Newsletter publisher (Orlando)
  • Michael Sandness: I saved the best for last. Michael is a prolific colorist with a really sharp mind. He works out of Splice in Minneapolis and Michael was the key to this Monitor Crawl.He had done all the scout work early in the week. He knew where every dark room, housing every interesting must-see display was ‘hidden’. Michael led us from booth to booth. We all examined and commented until we were bored and then he had us bee-lining to the next must-see booth.

Remember how I said this was the year I saw our future?

This 2-hour Monitor Crawl is what I’m talking about… (and the following opinions are mine alone, the rest of the crew can speak for themselves)

The Monitor Crawl was filled with ‘Gear I’ve never seen before, but will see again’

It featured two things: High Dynamic Range displays and… wait for it… Rec. 2020, of all things. Let’s start with the HDR displays.

I’ve seen Dolby’s initial forays into HDR displays in prior years. They were interesting but never really impressive to me. I always shrugged and moved on.

This year, the HDR displays were full-on crazy. For us, it started at the Canon booth

Canon showed a 4K LED 30-inch High Dynamic Range prototype. It has a peak brightness of 2,000 nits… perceptually, it seemed 2x-3x brighter than today’s properly calibrated displays. And it (literally) felt like it.

Example: In the looping movie there’s an interior tracking shot of a man walking across a darkened bar. The sunlight shining in the windows glowed so realistically for a few moments it looked, well, real (in fact, several of us commented that the extreme dynamic range did almost as good a job catching the ‘real’ in ‘real life’ images as any 3D system ever has—and goes to show how important contrast is to perceived detail and depth).

But here’s the kicker…

When the scene suddenly cut to a full-on exterior with a midday sun… my eyes hurt at the sudden transition—they had to adjust just as they would in real life if I stepped out of that darkened bar at noon in the desert.

The Canon HDR was both astonishing and concerning

I can’t imagine color grading for days on end a film shot in the desert at high noon (as I did precisely, on an award-winning feature-length Indie just last year).

I have no doubt that HDR will be a serious health concern for professional colorists

Display manufacturers must address this issue. Eyes can’t be replaced—but, not jokingly, colorists can be.

If we want to ensure long, healthy careers these 2000+ nit displays must be designed to keep an accidental bump on a contrast ring from burning us out… literally. Or from the damage of sustained exposure to these super-high brightness levels.

That said… the Canon prototype was the most impactful of the HDR displays I saw during the Monitor Crawl.

The Sony BVM OLED and HDR displays were both impressive

Yes. I think it’s insane to buy a BVM at their $20K+ prices… but damn if you don’t get image for your money. In fact, their BVM OLED is so good, the HDR monitor looked just like it—only packing more punch.

The Dolby booth was super-interesting—but for a different reason

They had a darkened grading suite set-up which featured a Dolby Vision HDR display sitting directly next to a Dolby High Definition Rec 709 display. A colorist from Deluxe was driving an attached Baselight.

As he was grading the footage playing through the Baselight, both displays updated simultaneously.

Of course, that set us upon a flurry of questions—which were answered very nicely, though they were surprised by the sudden onslaught of 4 gentleman asking some very pointed colorist-type questions. Here is what we discovered:

  • When color correcting to the Dolby HDR display (rated at 4,000 nits but I don’t think any of the images got nearly that bright… not in comparison to what we saw at Canon), they simultaneously color grade to a Rec 709 display set beside the HDR display.
  • The ‘downconverted’ Rec 709 image is managed by a ‘Dolby Vision box’ attached to the Baselight (they said the box also talks to DaVinci Resolve). The image path goes from Baselight, out to the HDR display, in to the Dolby Vision box and then to the Rec 709 display.
  • A ‘Dolby Vision’ grading layer in Baselight (or Resolve) gives the colorist control over the ‘Dolby Vision box’ and how the HDR down-convert is managed. There’s basic Lift / Gamma / Gain controls plus a few others for flattening the HDR image into the narrower tonal range of a non-HDR display.
  • The ‘Dolby Vision’ grading layer then gets encoded as metadata with the final rendered output. When delivering the final master, the master is an HDR movie with metadata for normal range HD down covert. Any licensed Dolby Vision display can read the metadata and perform a real-time downconvert that the colorist specified via that Dolby Vision grading layer.
  • This means if you buy a Dolby Vision encoded movie for your normal range HD display today. In five years when you buy your HDR display… that same movie will now play back in full HDR glory.

Cool stuff, right?

Of course, it took a few of us asking the same questions over and over until we all finally ‘grokked it’ and left the poor Deluxe colorist alone. Unfortunately, the room was too dark for any of us to read name tags, so I can’t give him proper thanks.

But it was this type of tag-teaming, and a quick huddle afterwards to confirm what we all thought we heard, that made this group Monitor Crawl so exciting.

Wrapping up this Newsletter, here’s where I saw something I didn’t think I’d see for several more years

I saw Rec. 2020. For REAL. With my own eyes.

Now, to be clear, the Canon folks say their HDR prototype was showing Rec 2020. But with no before / after images, I don’t think anyone on the Crawl thought that claim didn’t have three asterisks accompanying it.

But at the Christie booth, they demo’ed their RGB Laser projector on a gigantic screen. Their booth was open air but no overheads were turned on. Still, it was in the middle of the show floor, so hardly a proper Black Box, yet the image was very bright (at half its potential brightness).

And the demo? It compared Rec 2020 to Rec 709 and DCI-P3 by freezing an image and cutting between the three color gamuts.

This was the first time in my life I actually saw the Rec. 2020 color gamut

If ever I’m bleeding Geek, right now is it and I’m happy to share!

In my recent podcast with FSI’s Bram Desmet, he mentioned that only laser projectors can hit those super-saturated R, G, B primaries specified in the Rec. 2020 gamut. And you could see the difference. Especially the reds. You don’t realize how orange’y our HD reds are until you see them cut into the Rec 2020 color space. Rich. Vibrant. Real reds. Real greens.

Plus… lasers! Now, I’m just waiting for my hover board.

On a side-note, I asked the Christie rep about the FDA certifications required for laser projector installations. He said they’ve worked out the specification… and as long as no one can look directly into the projector from closer than 13 feet, laser projector installations are considered safe to the public.

There it is. My report on the year I saw The Future at NAB

I could (but won’t) go on. However, I do need to send a Special Thanks…

Thank you to my wife, the Tao Treasurer—you’re amazing! Not only would the hugely successful (and sold out) Colorist Mixer not have happened without her (we had 225 people this year) but she was a total trooper.

As we went to parties and networking events, she was patient as I spent time networking (instead of focusing on her). She even had a good time during the Monitor Crawl, offering her thoughts on what she saw. Thank you, Pam—you’re my Rock.

– pat

Feel free to leave your comments below.


This blog post was originally published in Tao of Color’s weekly Sunday Color Correction Newsletter. To subscribe, please visit the Newsletter homepage.
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CineGrain: A Film Grain ‘Plug-In’ In Your Pocket

A Video Review and Tutorial

What is Cinegrain?

Product Website: www.CineGrain.com

If you want to add film grain or mimik certain types of film looks (Super 8mm, Silent Film, film flashes, lens flares) then the Cinegrain package of film footage may be right up your alley. It’s not a plug-in – but actual scanned film. Since it’s not a plug-in it’s very easy on the CPU. But – it is a little heavy on your wallet… which is why I dig in so deep and show several different ways of customizing the footage for your projects.

The Cinegrain package includes 1080p and 2k ProRes video clips ranging in length from a few frames (film splices) up to 45 seconds (film grain). Packages range from 50 clips to 400 clips clearly organized by category:

  • Film Grain: 35mm, 35mm Dirt Fixed, 16mm, 8mm
  • Dirt Scratches: Heavy dirt, light dirt, heavy scratches, light scratches
  • Heads & Tails: Leader, Tails, Countdowns, Title Cards
  • Optical Filters: Straw, Sunset, Grads, etc
  • Looks: Wookstock, Silent Film, Roswell, Full Gate with Keycode, etc
  • Flash Frames: Flash Frames, Light Leaks, Strobes, etc
  • Specialty Lens Flares: Telephoto, Wide Lens, Vintage, Rotating Lens, etc

A Plug-In In Your Pocket?

Yup. These are ProRes movies on a hard drive… a small hard drive that fits in your pocket.

And in the Tutorial section of this review I’ll be showing you how you can use this footage (in Final Cut 10 and DaVinci Resolve) to gain as much flexibility with this footage as most plug-ins… and with much quicker render times.

That’s why I call CineGrain, ‘A Plug-in In Your Pocket'; you can carry around with you, use it when you need and enjoy all the advantages of most film grain Plug-ins without the usual worrying if the plug-in is installed. Just hook up the drive, import your clips, and you’re good to go.

Using & Evaluating Cinegrain

I’ve recorded an extensive Video Review and Tutorial on Cinegrain. I’ll show you what they’re selling and then take you through how to use it in Final Cut 10 (using Overlay Modes and manipulating the Color Board to customize the ‘Look’ of the grain)… and then I’ll do the same thing in DaVinci Resolve (using the footage both with Composite Modes and as an External Key). At the end of the video I’ll let you know if I think this product is a good buy for the money.

Since this is a rather long Review / Tutorial, I’ve included a Chapter List (scroll down) in case you want to skip ahead to a specific section of this video.

If you enjoy this tutorial be sure to Sign Up for my free weekly color grading email newsletter, The Tao Colorist. I feature these types of tutorials plus tons of other color grading, industry and career news from all over the ‘Net. I curate the ‘best of the best’ and deliver it to your ‘virtual doorstep’ in time for your Sunday Morning Coffee.

Full Disclosure

The product I’m reviewing was sent to me – at no cost – by Cinegrain for the purposes of this review. Other than my original request for review I’ve had so subsequent contact with them and received no other renumeration or special considerations for creating this review. All opinions and mistakes are mine and mine alone.

Enjoy!

The Video Review

Update: At 5:17 I state that the Dirt-Fixed 35mm footage is only available in the Professional package. This is incorrect. Many Dirt-Fixed clips are available in several of their packages.

Update 2: I’ve updated the video, watermarking the CineGrain footage. I expect to do a more graceful job of it in the future – but for now, understand that the big ol’ cinegrain.com text and gray box behind it does NOT appear on the footage when you buy it!

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Table of Contents

Play along by downloading these elements:

  • Sign Up to Receive free Cinegrain Footage:
    htpp://cinegrain.com

Start: Cinegrain: What Is It?

3:41 Types of Footage Provided by Cinegrain

5:17 The Different Packages Cinegrain Is Selling (Note: the Dirt Fixed versions of their 35mm grain is available in several packages besides the Professional Package)

6:22 Full Disclosure: Cinegrain sent me their footage at my request for this review

7:14 Download the Footage I’m using and follow along!

7:56 Cinegrain System Requirements

8:27 Begin: Using Cinegrain in FCPx

9:43 Prepping the Alexa Footage with Pomfort’s ‘Alexa Look2Video’ FCPx Plug-in

10:52 Examing FCPx’s Built-In ‘8mm’ Effect

11:55 Plug-Ins vs Cinegrain

12:47 Cinegrain: How to Use It in FCPx

13:53 How to Customize ‘The Look’ of Cinegrain

16:39 FCPx Example #2 – 16mm_500T

18:46 Tinting Cinegrain using the FCPx Color Board

19:28 FCPx Example #3 – Heavy Dirt & Scratch

20:29 More on Manipulating Contrast & Color

21:08 Using Transforms on ‘Heavy Dirt & Scratch’

21:58 FCPx Example #4 – Cinegrain’s ‘Looks’

23:25 FCPx Wrap Up

24:04 Using Cinegrain in DaVinci Resolve

24:18 Resolve: The Initial Grade

25:58 Begin Method 1: Using Resolve’s Timeline

26:20 Adding Cinegrain to a Video Track

27:08 Customizing the Cinegrain Footage

28:36 Example #2: Woodstock Look

29:22 Begin Method 2: Using Cinegrain As An External Key

29:42 Setting up External Keys

30:53 Adding an External Key in the Node Tree

31:15 Doing an Overlay inside a Layer Node

35:26 Example #3: 35mm Grain as an External Key

35:58 Manipulating the External Key

37:06 Adjusting the ‘Under Image’

37:50 Cinegrain In Resolve Wrap Up

38:04 How much is Cinegrain?

38:58 Sidebar: System Requirements

39:31 Cinegrain Licensing: The Not-So-Fine Print

40:43 Why Budget-Based Licensing Doesn’t Work for Me

41:30 The Missing License

42:24 Final Recommendation

43:07 Goodbye & Visit the TaoOfColor.com

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Apple Color 1.5: A Requiem

From Merriam-Webster:

re·qui·em

noun ˈre-kwē-əm also ˈrā- or ˈrē-

1: a mass for the dead

2a : a solemn chant (as a dirge) for the repose of the dead

Color 1.5 Is Dead

Last Call: Apple Color

Lost among the clamor over the past week of FCPx is that Final Cut Studio’s stand-alone color correction software, Color 1.5 – is now End-Of-Life.

There will be no more updates, no features added, and should some future Mac OS update break Color – Apple will not come to its rescue. In other words, the final, official stable release of Color is: Color v1.5.3 running on Mac OS X 10.6.7.

Is there a Color X?

Based on conversations I’ve had, reputable blog posts I’ve seen, and this ornery little tag line from the FCP X website:

“[FCPx is] Editing, sound and color. Together in one app.”

I’ve got to conclude that Apple is done with this market segment.

And my conclusion about Color X is based ENTIRELY on inference. There is no confirmation from Apple one way or another.

Here’s RED’s Jim Jannard’s statement, commenting generically, about the FCPx platform and product rollout:

Apple can fix this situation very easily… all they have to do is communicate what they are going to do with this app. If they don’t, many will jump ship. Once they do, it will be hard to get them back. I am the ultimate Apple fan. But this app signals a big change in philosophy. It doesn’t have to be that way… but somebody better say something pretty quickly.

Here’s what Graeme Nattress (the only plug-in developer for Apple Color) has posted on his homepage regarding support for his fantastic “Advanced Plug-Ins for Color”:

Apple have finally released their total re-write of FCP called FCPX. No Nattress plugin currently works with FCPX. When we know more, we’ll tell you. It also appears that Apple have abandoned their “Color” app – consequently, our Color Plugins are end of line.

UPDATE: I emailed Larry Jordan, who has had direct contact with Apple’s Pro Apps division (and people, he is absolutely, positively NOT an Apple employee). Here’s what he said:

I have not been explicitly told by Apple that Color is dead; I have no “smoking email.”  However, I have been implicitly led to believe that Color, as we know it, is not part of the future. Whether there is a “New Color” in Apple’s labs is something I don’t know.  What I said at the [London] SuperMeet was that Color was dead.  This is bit less nuanced, but gets to the same conclusion.

Why Color Mattered

Why should we care that Color is gone?

Normally, I’d mention how Apple Color (and before it, Final Touch) completely rejuvenated my career and my passion for working in this industry. But let’s disregard my emotional attachement to Apple Color.

Let’s also disregard how Apple Color is a FANTASTIC stepping stone for those who want to move their careers forward into tools like Resolve or Baselight (or even to deepen a person’s understanding of how to approach color grading in an NLE using filters and plug-ins).

Here is why Apple Color really truly mattered to those of us who make our livings color grading:

Apple Color, being bundled with Final Cut Pro, revealed to 2 million professional and prosumer content creators that color correction isn’t just a plug-in… color correction is a craft with its own unique toolset. And there exist artisans who practice it.

Or to put it in the lexicon of Apple, Inc.:

You mean there’s an app for that?

Yes people… there’s an app for color grading.

Final Cut Studio probably did more to raise the awareness of the craft of color grading than all the trade magazines and all the advertising campaigns by color correction vendors… combined.

That’s now gone. We are all going to have to carry that burden going forward if we want craftsman who can build and maintain a color grading career outside the handful of world-wide Hollywood-supported post-production conglomerates (not to say I wouldn’t mind working for one of them!).

Where Do Color Users Go From Here?

We move on.

This release of FCPx, as advanced as it is, clearly marks the main audience Apple is targeting. And they’re most emphatically NOT Apple Color users.

And I think it’s career suicide to optimistically hope that Apple will eventually ship Apple Color X.

My advice:

  1. If you’re already using Color. Keep using it – but flash your current install and keep it safe. As new OS updates roll out – and as long as Color stays stable -flash those installs as well. One day, Color will stop working and you’ll want to regress to that last stable configuration.
  2. Recognize that Apple Color was End – of -Life’d in 2007, when Apple initially released it. Other than RED support (which I understand was almost wholly developed by RED) and support for Tangent Wave, not a single new feature was rolled out for Apple Color… EVER. Want proof? When FCP went from v.6 to v.7, Color went from v1 to v1.5. If whole new features were added, Color would have gone to 2.0. What about those other ‘New Features’ touted by Apple in 2009? They were Studio-wide features – ProRes 4444 and 4k support. Sure, over the years Apple did a great job fixing problems, making interface tweaks, and did an amazing job on shoring up XML roundtrips… but major new features? Zip.
  3. For Apple Color users – in many ways, declaring Color 1.5 as End-of-Life is merely making official what many of us had inferred from Apple’s actions.
  4. It’s time to cross-train yourself: This is going to sound self-aggrandizing since The Tao Of Color will be offering Resolve 8 training in the next few weeks (and I’ve got a coupon code for the current training at the end of this post)… but if you’re using Apple Color today – you need to prepare yourself for the future. You could be learning Resolve 8 (a free, Resolve Lite version will be coming in July 2011), or waiting for the Baselight plug-in for FCP to be released and mastering that, or learning to use Color Finesse in After Effects, or becoming a color correction expert on Avid Media Composer, Symphony, DS, and then there’s the outstanding finishing tool (that has a good color grading toolset) AutoDesk Smoke. Whatever you ultimately decide, now’s the time to start thinking about it.
  5. Don’t do anything rash. Color works today as it did yesterday. You have time to decide on a game plan and then execute on it.
  6. Apple Color is STILL a GREAT tool to learn color grading. It’s a terrific platform from which to learn advanced skills that can be transferred to almost any other grading platform on the market (including Resolve 8). Use it while you can.
  7. Hmmm… Have I missed any other sage advice for Apple Color graders? Leave a comment below.

In Memoriam: Save $20 on Tao Of Color’s Training
To commemorate the untimely passing of a tool that did so much for me and many of my colleagues, I’ve just decided – literally, while writing this – to lower the price of Tao of Color’s “In Tent’s” MasterClass by offering anyone reading this with a $20 discount code:

$20 Off: Tao Of Color’s MasterClass Training with this coupon code:

ColorRocked

This coupon expires Midnight Eastern, July 3, 2011.

The Sales and Ordering page is here: http://MasterClass.TaoOfColor.com

What did Apple Color Mean To YOUR Career?

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