Colorist Inspiration – ACES In May

May 5, 2017

Dan is committing to doing work only in ACES in May. It's time to get out of the comfort zone & stop testing. Changing our technique is scary but also fun!


Colorist Inspiration – ACES In May

I’ve landed back in sunny sunny London (It’s actually 9°C/ 49°F) after my favourite NAB ever.

I think the reason for this is I went there with the mission of asking every colorist I met the same couple of questions.

I don’t care about software/monitor/hardware or even their choice of mouse.

I wanted to know how they were feeling about grading at the moment and what was inspiring them visually.

I had the pleasure of hanging out with many colorists for a couple of hours and especially picked the brains of Mark Todd Osbourne for the whole of the focus on color day that Team Mixing Light did at NAB.

2017 Colorist Mixer

What I Learned

I think my main take away is that no matter how big or small the job we are working on, we all feel the same way.

We all love getting the absolute most out of our images and strive to find the best way to do that.

I heard so many different approaches that I know there is no “secret sauce” but find a way that feels most comfortable to us.

Many colorists (like my self) opt for the Printer Lights way of working and use printer lights only for the first pass to the image.

Other colorists say things like you should never adjust the midtone color balance as it adds muddiness to the image.

There are many more little ideas like that but I think we all need to remember that we can only grade with our own brains and our own eyes.

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16 thoughts on “Colorist Inspiration – ACES In May”

  1. Hi Dan,

    Quick question and i think i know the answer but just to be sure ow you see this. Once in an ACES workflow , using LUTS is sort of out of the question right ? As most if not all LUTS assume a different non linear colorspace like REC709 as input. (and often unknown to begin with if you have a big collection)
    Does it make sense in case you “do” want to play with some LUTS to get some ideas flowing to use the colorspace transform node in a pair around the lut to go into the luts colorspace and then back to ACEScc/cct ? Or does it completely defeat the whole idea or worse.
    Again this is more from the standpoint of creative posibilities rather then what makes sense. Sometime the best results come from stuff that is not “supposed” to be used in a specific workflow. Something you always propagate as well btw 😉

    1. DR14 supports Common LUT Format (CLF). This is going to make easer to deal with the creative choice in ACES workflow, different from LMT.

      Here is a quote from ACES Central related to the subject:
      Steve Shaw wrote:
      There are often needs to adapt ACES for use in workflows that require the use of LUTs, or even convert LUTs into ctl files (but beware ‘undoing a complex LUT is like unbaking a cake…).

      To assist with such workflows, LightSpace CMS provides a selection of tools that enables the conversion of any .ctl (ACES based or otherwise) files (IDT/RRT/ODT, etc.) into LUTs, as well as the conversion of LUTs into .ctl files (IDT/RRT/ODT, etc.), enabling the simple generation of user designed Look workflows.



      There is also an example of Look LUT generation based on ACES data here:

    2. Using a LUT in ACES is more complicated than just transforming to the LUT’s input colour space, applying the LUT and then transforming back from its output colour space to ACES. This is because of the RRT and the tone-mapping now included in the ODTs. So you need to invert those as well. So you will end up creating a modified LUT which includes an inversion of a bunch of stuff which happens after the LUT, and which you don’t want (the RRT applies a “look” and you want the look to come from the LUT). So when you combine the inaccuracies inherent in any LUT with the push/pull of countering the look of the RRT, you risk damaging the image.

      Also if you are doing all this, you have to ask yourself whether you should be using ACES in the first place.

  2. Hey Dan,
    Great idea and interesting timing. I thought of testing it out (aces) and now convinced with your article to do so.
    i did try it once and it was successful experience, wonder why I didn’t explore more after.. but I will now 🙂

  3. Color management is the real deal and I can’t argue with that. I think the “Look LUTs” are a crock for the most part. DCTLs also have some intriguing potential. And I have no problem with technical LUTs, especially for dailies and VFX previews. So… LUTs have their use. I just think they get in the way of final color a lot of the time. I haven’t had a chance to play with Common LUT Format yet, but I’ll try to keep an open mind. And I’m a huge fan of PowerGrades… since those can be customized and tweaked and bent in ways you can’t adjust LUTs.

    1. Looooove powergrades. Specialy as it is open box instead of closed box LUT. You can analyse, learn hwo stuff is done and take just part of it. Tweak it etc.

      p.s Marc, i remember you once posted your technique/workflow (i thougth it was you but could be mistaken) , to build a powergrade from a LUT using ramps / colors etc and the scopes. Google did not help me find it.
      How was that again ? Like first a grayscale ramp matching/neutralize then color ramps (match/neutralize)? Or some other split combine stuff.

  4. My good friend, Margus, is a big fan of ACES. I had a few hours free one day and, with his encouragement, started an ACES project. My panel controls acted sooo differently, that I reverted in a near panic 🙂 However, I am up for giving it another go. Thanks for a great Insight.

  5. Slight tangent that came out of a discussion over on LGG and levels. After reading this article in May I have used ACES on several projects and generally prefer it, but as noted here the footage tends to come in quite hot after the IDT (slog3 in my case), much more so than applying traditional slog3 grading LUT.

    In the LGG thread it was mentioned that Resolve does get it wrong at times in ‘auto’ and will interpret slog3 footage as ‘video’ instead of ‘full’. After going back to some of my clips and manually overriding the levels based on the presumably correct setting, you have to fight the highlights less in ACES.

    Not really an ACES problem, it just exaggerates a different problem that stayed below the surface.

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