Does anyone know how adjust color within the NLE to match a color chart?

I am creating a series of clips for my test rendering video. My rendering video will be used a ton of times to find the perfect encoding settings for publishing on the web.

One of the encoding clips is on color (inspired by the Zacuto Great Shootout of 2010). But I am having a hard time figuring out how to best match the color card to what I see on the monitor.

While I have not finished gathering up all the video clips I want to use for my tests, if you guys have any suggestions on what you would want to see in it let me know.

Make sure to watch all the way to the end where I compare all the color Canon Picture Styles and how they affect the skin tones and the color of the flowers.


Screen Shot From The Video

Canon T2i 550D Color Chart Test


  • i honestly cant see why you spend sooooo much time with white balance and color. I know there will be people who hate on me for saying it, but all the effort you put into getting “perfect” color is kind of a waste of time. Unless you are doing somthing were perfect color is key. but in most cases of hobbiest enthusiests it is not as important. All the time you have spent into this kind have gone into writing filming and editing a short film. so why waste time on the little things that people wont notice, especially if you want to color correct afterwards. Just shoot in flat and fix it latter. thats how i think it should be done.

    So end this with a question, Why do you spend so much time researching and testing this stuff? is it because you really do need perfect colors or what? i personally even in professional work that i have done with dslr’s dont see there being much benifit. white balance yes, perfect color no, because half of us dont even see colors the exact same anyways? not hating, just questions.

    Thanks for all the time you put into this free website, really appreciated

  • @George my thought is I need to learn how to accurately adjust color before I can learn how to use something like Magic Bullet Looks. To me if I can master this simple step how am I going to get the color I want using a 3rd party plugin?

    Also, I am going to be selling my rendering tests, so I know if I don’t have it accurate I am sure I will hear about it over and over again that I didn’t color the clips properly. Just trying to save me some headache in the long run.

  • If your intention is to create video for the web – you need to

    1. Calibrate you monitor using hardware calibration. Reset to factory settings – and (crucially) if you have a wide gamut monitor, make sure you set it’s colour profile setting to sRGB (before you calibrate).

    If you either dont calibrate, or calibrate using a super wide gamut (adobe rgb), anything you look at in unmanaged editing software like Premier (or even after effects) will look oversaturated – especially reds). Then when you see the fimal quicktime output, you think it is washed out. It isn’t: it’s just that you are seeing the colours clamp to the sRGB profile that QT assigns to it, rather than the full gamut your montior is capabale of showing.

    2. Premier is not colour managed, and uses standard sRGB space. If you calibrate your monitor to restrict what is displayed to sRGB, the quicktime H264s you finally pop out for the web out will match the colours as they appeared in the colour editing plugins you use.

    The 550d video is sRGB, and web browsers & quicktime & flash use sRGB, so the rule is: grade and edit in the colour space you intend to deliver to.

    I think I may have repeated myself a few times!

  • Very nicely done Dave and thank you for crediting our Shootout 2010. I’m glad that we were a help to you. Stay tuned for the Shootout 2011 which premieres in April 2011

  • George

    I am with you 100% on your thoughts.

    I look at it this way: when Martin Scorsese edits his work before wide release the only reason he manipulates color (in post) is to add and/or create drama/effect.

    No one will ever notice the endless quest for tweaking color unless it is deliberately for the purpose of ‘jumping out’ at the viewer.

    Go back to the Hollywood days of ‘black and white’ movies. Somehow they were loved (then and now) for the “color” they lacked.


  • @dan and George

    Perhaps for enthusiasts or hobbyist getting perfect color might not be necessary, but for a professional accurate color can be crucial. The attitude of shoot it flat and fix it later is a slightly flawed one, and possibly lazy, which doesn’t fly in the professional realm. You should capture the image as close to the way the final product will look in camera while maintaining enough latitude with your color and contrast to still do what you need with it.

    Now I’m not saying don’t shoot flat, but I am saying get your color and lighting correct while shooting, don’t rely on fixing issues after the fact. your final product will look better because of it. I will say though, in many conditions shooting flat can mess with your colors hardcore and you actually loose more data than you gain in latitude. color wise you can usually tell when something was shot too flat and ‘fixed’ later, there are often strange color issues and a weird orange tones with skin.

    take a look at many of the indy films and shorts shot with these new DSLRs. Many of them have very poor color correction. Too many of them just slap a magic bullet preset on and call it a day. Not enough of them spend the time necessary to understand color or their equipments handling of it. You are correct however, in saying that the average joe may never consciously realize the poor color, but he will subconsciously. His mind will see enough of them and start categorizing anything that looks like that in the same indy amateur category. The same way average joe doesn’t understand why home video looks like home video, he just knows it is, and his mind categorizes it as such. Good color will greatly influence the way people perceive and categorize your films. There is a reason professional colorists get paid so much.

    It’s never a bad thing to understand color and exactly how your tools render them. When it comes to matching footage from different cameras for instance. Even the subtle differences in the same model of camera can be frustrating. Knowing you equipment allows you to compensate for any situation.

    If you are doing stock work, color is important. If you are doing keying or special effects, color is important. if your doing tv work, color is very important.

  • oryan

    Much appreciate your in depth response. Quite ‘illuminating’ on your part (poor pun, intended). And your point to the viewers “subconscious” is indeed telling as to why colorists are deserving of their work.

    I will continue to offer that the human brain can only absorb so much visual color finesse before it all becomes….mute.

    Color on the screen is an effect to show mood. And every viewer will see and feel that mood with no uncertainty…..consciously. Audio, on the other hand, has the unique power to literally make or break a mood and the entire project with it.

    Hobbyists can tweak their color clips (ad infinitum) only for their own amusement. Their slight of hand will seldom if ever be noticed.

    I would devote my attention to my audio: given the hope that my video/film is working.


  • Dave

    Since I mostly photograph and video houses I need to have the most accurate colors possible. Therefore, I am obsessed with accurate colors and this is my current routine for still photography. It seems to work well. I will also include how I am experimenting with this routine in video.

    1) Shoot at least 1 image(raw) in the scene with a whibal card or other accurate white balance card. Make sure the card is in the main light of your subject. Shoot all of your other images in that light. If the light changes shoot another whibal reference.

    2) In post open raw images in ACR, select all the images from that scene including the reference shot. Use the set white balance dropper and click it on the whibal card. All the selected images will be reset to that card.

    3) Custom adjust to your taste. If you monitor is not calibrated it may be worth using a spider or other calibrator so you can trust your monitor. I use an Apple cinema display and a Spider 3, and it usually looks great after the whibal card reset.

    I tried the same process with video. I shot a reference clip with the whibal card, then shot my scene, then placed the reference clip and the scene clips on the time line in Premiere CS5.
    Then I used the white balance dropper in the fast color corrector to reset the WB of the reference clip. Then I right clicked on the reference clip, hit copy, then selected my other clips and used paste attributes to paste the color correction to those clips.
    It worked pretty well the first time I tried it but I am looking forward to see if you come up with something better.

  • +1 on the Spyder.

    I have 2 monitors (same brand, same model) but couldn’t get to display the same colors. Bought a Spyder3 Pro and what a difference. Both monitors now display the same colors.
    I did also wonders for my laptop that has an overall blue cast by default (terrible for pictures).

  • Okay, the first thing is to find out if your camera is shooting accurate colour for video. For that you’ll need a chart like the DSC Labs Chroma DuMonde and a vectorscope so that you can see if the colours are aligning into the correct boxes. There is an article elsewhere on the web which shows the picture style setting that is closest to being accurate.

    If you don’t have a vectorscope yourself you will need to shoot the chart and look at it in the scopes built into the NLE. This is more time consuming, but doable. Though I wouldn’t recommend it due to the time it takes.

    Another way is to shoot the chart as you have. If you look on the vectorscope (either a hardware scope or the ones in your NLE) you will notice that there is an overlay line the goes from the centre of the scope outwards to the left up at 45 degrees. This is the skin tone line. This line represents good skin tone no matter what colour of skin the subject has.

    If you zoom into the skin tone section on your MacBeth chart, or on your subject and then look at it on the vectorscope you will be able to see if your camera is reproducing accurate skin tone by the way is aligns along the skin tone line. You will also notice that the vectorscope has little boxes that represent the main primary colours. Again you could zoom into your MacBeth chart on the corresponding primaries and see how they align on the vectorscope (make sure you have accurate white balance before beginning).

    This is all a pretty agricultural way of doing things though, but could help you get into the ball park. Please also note that accurate colour reproduction rarely translates into a nice looking picture. Things can look bit dull and flat if reproduced accurately, so accurate colour should only really be a starting point, unless it is critical that things are totally accurate. The DSLRs do not have the needed controls to fine tune the colour anyway.

    Once your camera is aligned, you will need to set up your monitor. This will involve calibrating it to bars. The SMPTE bars in the NLE do not have any correlation to the MacBeth chart. The SMPTE bars are there purely to set your monitor up to, and there are many articles online that show how to do this. It is a simple thing to do though as long as your monitor has the necessary controls.

  • I found real life colors are not compatible with color charts.
    For my personal taste, take it or leave it,
    Portrait studio color profile, contrast down to two, custom white balance always
    gray card 18 % = real color

  • woah, thanks @ryan, dan, dave, steve for all your responses greatly helpful.

    I never considerd to much that the mind might categories subconsiously the different categories of things shot, home video, indie video, professional video, cinema footage.

    As i said earlier, i am completly a begginer in this world, and boy there is alot to learn. I am sorry if i was ignorant, but i tried to be as honest as possible.

    Thanks for all the people that explained their reasons for perfect color. and such like that. I guess if i ever film weddings or things like that, people like the bride, are going to notice if the whites, in her dress are a little off, or the colors of her flowers arent exactly as she rememberd them, as we all know she will remember them.

    And i as i think most of us indie filmers strive for that “film look” i think that helps this all make alot more sense. If someone could make a tutorial on how to set up there monitors to perfect color and such like @steve talked about that would be great. And i am asking this without actually looking around the web so i am sure there are probably tones of videos, so if you guys know of a good, one for just color correction, camera calibration, and monitor settings, post a link bellow!!

    thanks so much again dave and your right i am sure you would never here the end of it if you sold footage that was off in color, i might not notice just by looking at it, but i am sure it makes a big difference.


  • @oryan
    The purpose of shooting “flat” is not about color correction, it’s about recording the most dynamic range possible. Sort of like aquiring a “digital negative” that has DETAIL in the shadows and highlights. The GRADING done in post is not meant to be confused with color correction, which is just that…correction.
    Grading is a way to deliver the mood of the film using effects other than just “color”.

  • The footage of that young model is really pretty. What did you use for a background, makes the subjects model and flower really stand out? Pardon me, I have a tendency to go off topic.