Color Grading Success 101 – Displays, Colorimeters, and Waveforms

January 10, 2020

In Part 2 of this foundational series, learn about the physical considerations of a color grading suite that impact taking paying work.

Day 10: 24 Insights In 24 Days – 2020 New Year Marathon!

How To Color Grade Like A Professional: Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, you learned how the physical setup of a room can have serious negative effects on your color grading decisions. But there are three additional considerations every professional has at the top of their mind when setting up their suite:

  • The Reference Display: What are the different tiers in the quality of reference displays?
  • Calibration: What’s the point of calibration? What’s the basic gear you need to get started?
  • Waveforms: How do you know if you’re using your waveform displays in a productive manner?

Some of these have been covered in a few series here on Mixing Light. Others, not at all. If after watching this Insight you want to dig deeper into these topics here are a few good starting points:

Introduction to Reference Display Calibration: Series Overview
This 11-part series digs into an array of Calibration questions and answers. It demonstrates both Lightspace and Calman.

What to Do If Your Client Doesn’t Trust Any Of Your Reference Displays?
This podcast gets into the psychology of reference displays and client relations.

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Homepage Forums Color Grading Success 101 – Displays, Colorimeters, and Waveforms

  • Alexander S

    Hello Patric. In your Insights you mention CR-100 and CR-250 sensors. CR-100 is much slower than Klein K10A and has about the same price. 3D LUT building with CR-100 probably takes much more time than with Klein K10A What is the reason to use CR-100? Is it better compatible with FSI?

  • Shaun T

    Hey Pat, really interesting about the calibration tools. You mention they loose their calibration over time. Is the calibration lost through regular use over time or do the electronics just “loose it” so to speak even if unused? I’m more thinking of the lower end i1 Display Pro type products. Thanks!

  • Pat Inhofer

    Hi Alexander – I missed your question when you first asked it… The Klein K10A has come down in price but is still a 30% premium over the CR-100. When it comes to speed – at some point you get diminishing returns because you need to panel to settle for a moment before taking your next measurement. In my mind, that extra speed isn’t worth the extra cost. But that is something to keep in mind, for sure.

    In terms of compatibility – both options work equally well… but really you’re looking for compatibility with the calibration software that takes the readings (it’s less about compatibility with the brand of display).

  • Pat Inhofer

    Even if unused you get this problem. It’s mostly about oxidation – which forces drift. The color filters get oxidized and shift. You can compensate for this drift for a few years (by pairing it with a spectro to measure the drift) – until you can’t and then you need to buy a new one. On the higher end colorimeters, they tend to be sealed (which reduces the effect of oxidation). But the funny thing is, the more you’re willing to pay the less you’re willing to tolerate drift so even the higher end colorimeters get re-certified on an annual basis.

  • Shaun T

    Great Pat thanks for the insight. So Im thinking that even having the device sitting in the box for say a year on the shelf or with supplier could effect calibration even before purchase?. Oxidation would be less of an issue in a box or case of course but in saying that at what level can we trust these devices if they weren’t re-calibrated the day before use. But I guess that’s the rub when it comes to wanting the accuracy this work requires and using higher end devices to achieve it.

  • Alex K

    With the old insights on Calibration, it goes over using CalMan which is now a paid software system. I wanted to reach out and see if there was another piece of software for accurate display calibration, such as DisplayCal. I am having a tough time getting an accurate calibration with my ASUS PB278Q monitor with a mini monitor hookup from my macbook.

  • Pat Inhofer

    DisplayCal is good once you figure out how to use and then gain confidence in it. Personally, I don’t have that kind of time to skill up in DisplayCal. I prefer the paid packages since the learning curve is much less steep and the chances for a ‘bad’ calibration due to user error are much lower with the Calman or Lightspace. In my search of your display, an accurate calibration is likely to never happen – since the hardware just can’t support it. The best you can probably hope for is: More accurate than it was.

  • Greg Greenhaw

    DisplayCal is so simple and a good graphics interface

  • Rupert M

    Hi Pat, thanks for that insight. I choose to have my displays calibrated with a professional service who has the expensive tools. I think you really have to calibrate a lot until buying that stuff is paying out. What do you think about it?
    Is there part 3 to find somwhere?

  • Eduardo P

    Hi, Pat! As you say, “we all want to get better results for less money”. That said, I would like to know if it is an absolute must to have a video interface in order to be able to get a decent clean signal to the display. In other words: how bad is it to just plug a HDMI from my Windows notebook to my 4k LG C1 OLED? Because, for example, a blackmagic UltraStudio 4K Mini costs $995, that is pretty much the price of my display. A UltraStudio Monitor 3G is cheaper, around $115, but it says it can only support up to 1080p. What would happen if I was to put a 4k media through the UltraStudio Monitor 3G (1080p) and plugged it into my 4k OLED screen? Sorry for the low budget technical questions, but I just want to invest in what is really essencial. What are your suggestions? Where can I get more information about this? Is there any other external video card that is cheaper than the blackmagic ones? Thank you so much!

  • Pat Inhofer

    Eduardo – IF you want your display to be an accurate representation of the image as recorded on the hard drive, then based on how computer operating systems actively manage their HDMI outputs – you need to bypass that HDMI image management. And based on discussions I’ve had with professional calibrators, there changes to the image applied by the Operating System is non-linear in nature and almost impossible to accurately fix with calibration or color profiles.

    In terms of your options, if you’re using DaVinci Resolve then your only hardware interface options are the BMD options: Decklink and Ultrastudio options. Happily, this does include the mini Convertors – some of which are VERY inexpensive. BUT – you need to carefully read the specifications of Frame Rates, Frame Sizes, and color spaces that the hardware supports. You need to be sure you buy the one that suits all of your workflows.

    If you want flexibility then you’re going to have to go with the bigger/more expensive versions of those hardware solutions.

  • Pat Inhofer

    Rupert – I missed your comment! Sorry about that. Certainly, this can get expensive. And definitely, the more you do it the better you get at it and if you can afford it then bringing in a professional gives great peace of mind.

    RE: Part 3 – I seem to have dropped this series! I’ll put it back into rotation. I remember having a clear idea where I wanted to go with this series, but seem to have gotten sidetracked.

  • Eduardo P

    Thank you for your answer, Patrick! I will look into the UltraStudio 3G video interface and check its specs.

    Patrick, one more question, this time about colorimeters. You gave some low budget options here in the video: buy the cheap xrite one (which is now called ColorChecker Display Plus, from what I’ve seen) or go mid-tear with the c6 and rectify anually. But I also understood that, if you have a FSI monitor, you can ask them to give you the offset matrices even for the entry level xrite, which will make it “as good as new”. Is this correct? So what’s the difference between the c6 rectification and the cheap xrite adjustment with offset matrices?

    One more thing, just to be sure: you said that the cheap xrite is pretty much good out of the box, the problem with it is that its accuracy decays after about 12-18 months (as the majority of the colorimeters). When you say it is good out of the box, does it mean I’ll have a good calibration even without pairing it with a very expensive 8 thousand dollars calibrator? I ask this because I live in Brazil, and I’ll hardly find a service like FSI to pair it with an extremely fancy spectroradiometer. So I’m inclined to buy a new xrite every 12-18 months, but only if it’s going to give me a decent result without pairing. If not, I will have to find another solution,

    Thank you very much! Sorry for the long questions. I’m new to mixinglight and I’m loving it.

  • Pat Inhofer

    Eduardo, I think your proposed solution is a good idea. I also think 12-18 months is a good timeline. I’ve owned a few of these over the years, and in my testing at 24 months they definitely need to use offset matrices. At 18 months, I find their calibrations are still good enough for reference work for most colorists – but I wouldn’t go any longer than 18 months.

    RE: FSI – If you go the route of buying their display and the i1D3 OEM Colorimeter, then they’ll provide the offsets for you on request. My preferred route in this instance, is to ship them your actual Colorimeter and they’ll test against the model of your display and the end result is an excellent matrix that extends the life of your colorimeter to about 3-4 years (after 4 years, I’ve never had one that could be made useful with offsets – the filters have degraded too much).

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