Custom ACES Part 1: Building An ACES Workflow In A Resolve Node Tree

May 9, 2020

Learn how to leverage a powerful ACES workflow without any limitations, by customizing it a DaVinci Resolve node tree.


Customizing ACES

Here at MixingLight – we’re all big fans of the ACES. We’ve covered it extensively in the past, from an introduction series, to case studies. Dan even spent an entire month in ACES. Most recently – Peder Morgenthaler did an excellent webinar on ACES.

Personally – I’ve worked a good bit in ACES – and I absolutely love the workflow. I love the way the controls feel, I love how log footage just comes in at a fantastic starting point for grading, and I love the ability to apply ODTs for different deliverable formats. Most of all? I love that it maintains floating point precision from input to output.

However, I have run into some stumbling blocks along the way – and in this Insight – I’m going to show you a workflow that I think solves them.

The Problem

So what exactly is the problem I’m trying to solve? Well, if you’ve worked in ACES – you know that it isn’t all roses and rainbows.

The experience can vary greatly depending on how deeply your grading software has integrated ACES color management. In Resolve, a lot of things like Fusion, some OFX plugins, text/graphics, and more – aren’t always ACES-aware.

In addition – for some mixed format projects like documentaries – where you may be mixing and matching quality log footage with Rec709 archive footage – dealing with Rec709 can be a challenge, as the grading controls just don’t react the same way as they do natively.

The Solution

With the above problems in mind – in the past I have always decided that ACES may not be for every project. Some projects just didn’t seem suited to it – but I found myself missing the look and feel of working in ACES.

So in pursuit of a more flexible solution – I moved away from using the builtin ACES project level color management, to building the same color pipeline inside the Resolve node tree. Basically – I’m keeping my project set to color management disabled – and implementing ACES with nodes.

In this Insight – I’ll walk you through:

  • Potential problems with ACES in Resolve
  • Why you can’t built your own ACES workflow with only color space transform nodes
  • The ACES transform node which makes this workflow possible
  • Clipping considerations with render caching
  • How to use adjustment clips and timeline nodes as color management devices to set ODTs and render ACES linear (AP0) graded archive masters if needed

I’m going to show you a starting point for building your own custom ACES workflow – but the entire point of this is that it is customizable. You can tailor your needs to that of your project – so the steps here may not be the exact method you would use for every project.

Also – this is going to be a series of Insights. This one will lay the foundation for how and why I build my own ACES pipeline. In part 2 – I’ll be digging deeper into advanced grading with a much bigger and more powerful node tree.

“The Rescue” images courtesy The Film Bakery.

As always – leave any questions or comments below


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Homepage Forums Custom ACES Part 1: Building An ACES Workflow In A Resolve Node Tree

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  • Marc Bach

    That’s really cool. Question:

    Could you put the ODT in a shared node? That way you could place it anywhere (clips and groups) and change the ODT at once.

  • Joey D’Anna

    I’ve had some issues with saving shared nodes in powergrades, which is why I personally haven’t done it with shared nodes – but yea a shared node would work perfectly for this,.

  • Krischan R

    Thanks for beeing precise, on point and focused in your presentation 😉 very good.

  • charles w rodriguez

    I just made a rather interesting discovery. Perhaps this is a known fact, but, I never realized it before that shows my ignorance. First, I just discovered that by clicking on the 3 dots in the upper right hand corner of the Curves window(I’m using resolve v16.3 beta2), one can select “VIDEO” or “DATA”. By selecting “VIDEO”, the Curves display is remapped to show 16/235 IRE as an identifiable limit. The next discovery, made by showing “VIDEO” in Curves, is that ACES, when the ODT is set to REC709, will delimit all output to 16-235 IRE. Selecting sRGB, for example, in the ODT, will allow data display at 0-255 IRE. That is to say, it will clip the output at REC709 ranges, when the ODT is set to REC709..If one is grading “properly”, I suppose this is of little consequence. However, I was unaware that the ODT in REC709 mode, will clip all data outside of the spec range. This, of course, makes perfect sense. And it’s consistent with the “DATA” setting which shows 0-100% IRE. The only downside is that the waveform and histogram will not show how much data is exceeding the REC709 range limits.

  • Simon Rabeder

    I have been doing and recommending this workflow for a while now but recently decided to go back to ACEScc because I use my panels OFFSET mode a lot. Color balance and tint controls won’t work with custom aces as in YRGB those controls effect the gain and not the offset.
    About the filmconvert and OFX stuff, I find that setting the nodes to a different gamma/gamut will mostly fix this for me. On the other hand, the node gamma/gamut won’t work in YRGB at all.
    I would totally go back to custom ACES if it weren’t for those things. Have you found issues with this or maybe even a fix?

  • Joey D’Anna

    Hey Simon! Offset as in printer lights works great, but yea I can see how temp/tint wouldn’t work well.

    Personally I never use those controls – I greatly prefer the chromatic adaptation OFX. I feel like it yields a much cleaner result, and you can specify the colorspace so it works both before the IDT in camera space, or after in ACES

  • Simon Rabeder

    I hadn’t even known about it. These days I went back to custom ACES and IDT to linear at first and use the new HDR tool to change WB in linear AP0 before CSTing to ACEScc for the rest of my workflow. No Offset wheels either but good results. I have yet to compare it to the Chromatic Adaption OFX.

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