Common question regarding ARRI's Color Management
Common question regarding ARRI's Color Management
Material recorded in Rec 709 (short for ITU-Recommendation BT.709) has a display specific encoding or a, in other words, "what you see is what you get" characteristic. The purpose of a display specific encoding is to immediately provide a visually correct representation of the camera material, when it is screened on a certain display device. This is achieved by mapping the actual contrast range of the scene into the contrast range that a display device can reproduce. Examples of display specific encodings are Rec 709 for HDTV screens or DCI P3 for Digital Cinema Projectors. On the downside, a display specific encoding puts some limits on the options for a colorist.
Rec 2020 is a wider color space than Rec 709, which is the current industry standard for HD. Rec 2020 promises more brilliant images, though only new display technology is able to show these. Traditional Rec 709 displays (like TVs or ordinary computer displays) can’t display Rec 2020.
While Rec 709 (short for Recommendation ITU-R BT.709) is the encoding color space for HDTV, Rec 2020 is the encoding color space for UHD. The primary colors lie on the spectral locus and it is thus possible to have more saturated colors in images. (It does not mean, however, that all colors look more saturated. When properly converted, a Rec 709 image will look exactly the same when displayed on a Rec 2020 display.)
Rec 2020 is an encoding standard. A TV or display may not support the full gamut. Nevertheless, it will correctly display the colors within its physical gamut. To get the “Premium” logo of the UHD Alliance, for example, a TV needs to support a minimum of 90% of the P3 gamut.
A color gamut is the range of reproducible colors available on a certain device such as a display for example. A display may have a color gamut that exceeds a certain color space which itself is a subset of the visible spectrum of the human eye.
The color gamut is described by its three primary color values (red, green and blue), which define all possible colors for a color gamut inside of a triangle spanned between these primary colors. The primary colors therefore also define the outer boundaries of the gamut of the specific device. A display cannot produce colors that are outside of its gamut.
In an image that is delivered from the sensor of a digital camera, the values of the
primaries relate to the amount of light seen through red, green and blue color filters. There are no colors a camera can’t see, so it does not really make sense to talk about the gamut of a camera. It is, however, necessary to describe the color space used to encode the colors, which in case of the ALEXA camera is called the ALEXA wide gamut color space.
ARRI always strives to deliver the best overall image quality. As part of that we’re continuously improving our color science. Besides minor changes and improvements within the ALEXA series the introduction of AMIRA came with a new so called “Color Core” enabling a broad feature set for users. Not only is it possible to import a 3D Look-Up-Table (3D LUTs) using the ARRI Look File 2, but furthermore there are “Video Look Parameters” which allow to work with controls known from ENG/video cameras.
ARRI Look File 2 is available in ALEXA SXT, ALEXA Mini and AMIRA.
Following with SUP 5.0 and higher we will introduce the Camera Access Protocol (CAP) to ALEXA Mini, which allows for live-grade functionality as it is implemented in ALEXA SXT already.
ALEXA Classic and ALEXA XT cameras on the other hand are not able to process a 3D-LUT in its Color Core: the ARRI Look File 1 offers look creation “similar to CDL”. If a 3D LUT-color-preview is demanded an external LUT-box has to be utilized to alter the image on the fly.
This is not an error! You have chosen to record in “Log C” – ARRI’s native color encoding. Opposed to a straight encoding to a “video” image (in REC 709 color space) Log C maintains more details in the lowlight as well as in the highlight areas. Log C is also referred to as the camera negative as it is unprocessed footage.
That being said, Log C does not help to accelerate your production. If you’re on a tight schedule keep in mind that an additional rendering step has to take place before the footage can be delivered to a customer. In that case we recommend to shoot in REC 709. Color correction can be skipped in that case, but is still possible although in a limited way.
ARRI Look File 1 offers CDL-like controls as well as printer lights, saturation and a user-definable tone mapping curve. The ALF-1 does not apply LIFT/Gamma/Gain before but after the conversion to REC 709. Usually CDL is done in Log C because there’s more image information in Log C (low- and highlights) still there to work with.
ARRI Look File 2 offers full CDL and 3D LUT or Video Look Parameters. Look files in the file header can be utilized in post. The ALF2 enables support for REC 2020 (please see second question: "What is Rec 2020") and provides the option for live grading.
ARRI Look File 2 – Using the ALF2
ARRI Look File 2 - Looks in Editorial
Use the ARRI Color Tool (ACT) to create ARRI’s Look File 2 to use in ALEXA SXT, ALEXA Mini and AMIRA. Based on a Log C-clip or a *.dpx still frame you can create looks using Color Decision List (CDL) parameters, “Video Look Parameters” (VLP) or import 3D LUTs created in a grading session.
ACT is a free application for Mac and Windows computers.
ARRI Color Tool
Import the clip into the ARRI Color Tool by browsing to its location in the file browser. Double-click its name/thumbnail to load the clip into the viewer.
To export a ALF-2 choose FILE > SAVE LOOK (CMD + S)
For a 3D LUT choose FILE > EXPORT > 3D LUT (CMD + L)
A look can be used in a destructive and a non-destructive way. Destructive equals “quick” – no further color-postproduction will take place. Whereas non-destructive means the look is used as a tool on set but a grading session is usually scheduled later in production.
For grading and mastering the original camera negatives can be used to extract the look from the file header (please see previous question). That means as long as the originals exist, the look can’t get lost. It can be used as a reference for grading or to create “burnt-in” clips (dailies) for editorial and director’s review.
We’ve created two white papers with in-depth guides on the ARRI Look File 2:
This is an encoding where the digital values are proportional to the relative brightness in the scene. In more technical terms it’s said that the digital values are radiometrically linear.
Wide gamut is a generic term for color gamuts that are larger than Rec. 709, i.e. P3 or Rec. 2020. ALEXA Wide gamut is the name of the color encoding space used in combination with Log C.
A 1D LUT describes a transformation applied to each of the red, green and blue (RGB) channels independently. A 1D LUT contains an input value for each of the three colors and a corresponding output value. So for a given value of R, G, or B input, there is a given value of R, G, and B output.
3D LUTs are more powerful than 1D LUTs as they can cross-convert colors between channels and independently control saturation, brightness and contrast. However, they are significantly larger than 1D LUTs and require some computation, since they only store some key values and any in-between values are interpolated.
Yes, some 3rd party applications can read the ALF-2 information directly out of the ProRes clip or ARRIRAW file header (e.g. Blackmagic Design’s “DaVinci Resolve Studio”).
If your software doesn’t support the ALF-2 directly, and the content was captured as a ProRes clip, you can still access the embedded look by exporting the corresponding look by reading the content into the ARRI Color Tool as 3D-LUT and import it back to your color grading system.
For exporting all shot & frame based metadata, you can use our ARRI Meta Extract (AME) application. With the ARRI Meta Extract (AME) application it’s possible to extract all metadata, including the ALF-2 (*.aml) and 3D-LUTs that were stored in each clip file header.
For scripting and batch exporting we refer to our ARRI Meta Extract (Command Line Tool). With ARRI Meta Extract (Command Line Tool) it’s similarly possible to extract all metadata, including the ALF-2 (*.aml) and 3D-LUTs in different formats and Colorspaces (e.g. Rec 709, Rec 2020, P3-DCI).
Export the 3D-LUT in your color grading tool’s native format, import it in our ARRI Color Tool, export an ARRI Look File 2 (*.aml), and finally either load it into the camera or use the look in third-party live grading applications such as Filmlight’s “Pre-Light” or Pomfort’s “Livegrade”.
The in-camera ARRI Look Library files are protected. You have to rename your exported look name before loading it back to the camera. Rename the exported “1110-1.aml” file to a different filename, such as “1110-1_v2.aml” on the system to which the Look was exported.Then import the renamed look back into the camera.
There are different parameters for sharpness, detail and the ARRI noise redcution and in what way it will affect the final image. A more detailed explanation regarding all settings you will find in our ARRI Texture Control Whitepaper.
To get a good, correct color representation, you typically want to adjust the white balance of the camera to the lighting of your scene. As a result, the live output and recorded image of a neutral grey target should not exhibit a color cast (at least while no artistic look is applied). Since it may be difficult to see a color cast depending on the viewing environment, the best way is to look for a color shift with an RGB waveform display or a vecorscope display.
The camera offers two dials that allow you to set the white balance:
- the color temperature [K] will move the white point between blue and red, or "colder and warmer".
- the tint or color cast [CC] will move the white point between green and magenta or "plus and minus green".
You can either set these values manually or have the camera calculate an automated white balance while it is looking at the neutral grey target.