The Color Conundrum

It’s been commented to me that my opening line, “Color is broken” is a bit extreme. I’d agree – if you work in a purely progressive frame workflow or a purely interlaced workflow that involves no resizing, distorts, or anamorphic flags – Color is fine. For the rest of us… I think it’s broken. (In fact, I had a meeting this afternoon where I made clear my preference for progressive with no mixed formats in a single timeline)

But absolutely – decide for yourself if this bug breaks Color for you.


UPDATE 1: More on the Geometry Room issue I mention in the original posting – A posting on the Apple message board mentioned that he uses the Geometry Room to zoom in on skin tones to check them in the scopes to see that they properly lay on the skin tone line (something I first saw suggested in the Ripple Training Color tutorials ). He’d then click the reset button in the Geometry and move on to his next task. In my own testing I’ve confirmed that this is enough to force Color into flame blending mode of interlaced footage. Pressing reset doesn’t help. Once a shot is flagged as having touched the Geometry Room – that shot is toast.

If you have an external CRT hooked up to your system (you do, don’t you?) it’s easy to confirm that this is happening. Just park on a frame that exhibits the typical jitter of interlaced footage (most evident when there’s lots of motion on the screen). Go into the Geometry Room and change a setting. The jitter disappears. Color has suddenly decided to frame-blend this shot. Click Reset. The jitter doesn’t re-appear (like it would in previous versions of Color). The shot is still flagged for flame-blending. Switch to a new grade. Still no jitter. Whatever else is happening, switching grades doesn’t fix the problem.

I haven’t found a workaround to this particular problem.


Color is broken.

But before I get to the specifics, some quick background.

There’s an old problem that dates back to Color’s Final Touch days, before the Apple purchase. In those days (and to a certain extent, these days as well) you had to be very very careful how you handled interlaced footage. Color was originally designed for high-end Digital Intermediate work – which means it was optimized to for a film-based progressive RGB workflow.

It wasn’t until after development was well under way before the original management team decided to open up the software to High Def and Standard Def formats. In doing so, they never really solved how to get Color to handle interlaced footage if that footage had to be blown up, shrunk down, or repositioned. If you “repo’ed” a shot and that shot was recorded on an interlaced codec, all you got back was mush. That “mush” ranged from slightly softening the image to horribly destroying the image, depending on the nature of the content.

To get semi-technical: The problem exhibits itself as really bad frame blending.

When Color was released, Apple decided to avoid the whole “mushy image” problem by having Color ignore all Motion Tab effects and let FCP handle that portion of the job. It was a smart way to address the issue. And it worked. With emphasis on the past tense.

Interlace footage is broken again in Color 1.0.2.

In my testing last week I found that when it comes to handling Standard def footage there was only one way to avoid the “mushy image syndrome”. That’s by being sure both these are true for any project I send to Color:

1. No repo’s, distorts, or anamorphic flags on the footage.

2. The FCP timeline frame size must be a preset that exists in Color. For instance, 960×720 always renders with frame blending – no matter what and regardless of the previous Condition #1.

(Note: A recent posting on the Apple Discussion Board suggests that even doing a “repo” in the Geometry Room and then canceling it out is enough for Color to frame blend its renders)

What does this mean to those of us still working in the SD world?

It means we now have to go through our timelines and strip all motion effects from our timelines before color correcting. And then add them back one-by-one after color correcting.

This is NOT progress. It’s been a year since I’ve had to do this and I had hoped we had put this behind us.

For all the nifty improvements in Color 1.0.2 – for me and my clients – this workflow is not worth the pain. But there’s a question that, after a weekend of pondering, I haven’t found an answer:

Is it safe to reinstall just Color and upgrade it only to Color 1.0.1?

The Color 1.0.2 upgrade happened in conjunction with the entire Final Cut Studio 6.0.2 upgrade. And that upgrade contain some very important bug fixes within Final Cut Pro.

So do I add a half day to every job to handle the new bugs in Color 1.0.2? Or do I add a half day to every job because Final Cut Pro 6.0.1 loses my renders and I have spend 4 hours re-rendering?

My head’s spinning here. And my favorite people in the world who’ve I’ve never met (the entire FCP and Color teams) are responsible for it.

Is this the perfect Monday morning blog post, or what?

 Subscribe in a reader
– pi

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.