Custom ACES: SDR To HDR – Part 1

October 19, 2021

In this Insight, Colorist Joey D’Anna shows you how to move an SDR grade into HDR using a Custom ACES fixed node structure.


Taking An SDR Grade To HDR

One of the best uses for color-managed grading is the flexibility it offers for final deliverables. Making the creative grade inside a wide gamut intermediate space, then transforming into the desired display space allows for easier changes from one output format to another.

My custom ACES fixed node structure makes an SDR to HDR workflow much easier.

Notice I said easier, not easy. Taking a project from an original SDR only grade into HDR still requires both creative and technical work. The advantage color management provides is re-using as much of your original work as possible.

A Solid Foundation

I’ve often said that good post-production workflow is like painting a car. No, I’m not just a crazy gearhead! The idea is that the more detailed prep work you do before painting – the easier and better the final product will be.

The perfect paint job and the perfect grade have one thing in common: preparation.

The same applies to grading. Building, testing, and utilizing a good workflow can save you a lot of effort, all while increasing the quality of your end product. This is especially true when you get into more advanced color management – such as moving an SDR grade into HDR.

It isn’t just color management that makes this possible. The advantages of a fixed node structure and Resolve’s ripple tools make trimming up to HDR a lot easier. If you’ve never used ripple – it’s worth checking out my fixed node structure Insights before this one.

The Process – From SDR Grade To Dolby Vision Master

In this Insight I’m going to start a bit of a series within a series. I’ll take a short film I graded using the Custom ACES Workflow that I’ve shown in previous Insights, and move it into HDR. I’ll explain the problems, pitfalls, and process. Later, I’ll finish it in Dolby Vision – utilizing the original, SDR grade as a creative reference. In this first part, I’ll walk you through:

  • Changing ODTs and setting up node caching for smoother playback.
  • Setting up separate monitoring parameters per-timeline
  • Watching the HDR version with an eye for the work that needs to be done
  • Making both technical and creative adjustments to shots and scenes

Next time, I’ll talk about dealing with graphics and preparing the timeline for Dolby Vision. In the meantime, leave me any comments or questions below.



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Homepage Forums Custom ACES: SDR To HDR – Part 1

  • R Neil Haugen

    First time I’ve heard anyone note that when lifting an SDR to HDR, you may find bright elements that become a problem. That weren’t a problem for the original SDR grade. That’s a good thing to be aware of as more of us are looking at trying our hands in the bigger “pond”. One of many things …

  • Joey D’Anna

    I think if there’s one thing every colorist working in HDR has in common – they ALL have a story of going *too* bright. especially early into the process.

    Exploring those creative possibilities and implications is one of the things I really enjoy about working in HDR though!

  • Evan A

    Great insight!

  • Clement B

    This is amazing. Thank you Sir!

  • Francesco D

    Amazing tutorial, Joey! I love all your insights about ACES. I’ve got a question: is it possible to build a color management in node structure for a true ACES show, as it could be for Netflix? Or should you have to set color science to Aces in Resolve settings? Thanks!

  • Robbie Carman

    Francesco node based aces would work just fine to be netflix compliant. you can still create graded/ungraded archive masters in node based ACES. i’m sure you already have watched these but Joey talks a bit about this earlier the series. Start here for part 1 –

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

  • Francesco D

    Thanks Robbie! Yes I’ve watched all the series! I read post production guidelines on Netflix site and the suggested workflow seems to be mandatory. Maybe it’s only my impression. I’ll grade a show for them, so I think to propose a node level color management.

  • Ken S

    What’s the point of the P3 D65 limited vs just REC2020 st2084 (not limited)?

  • Aaron H

    Great insight, Joey! Quick question: How important is it to monitor your HDR grade with Full data levels? Like, hypothetically, if I were a novice with regards to HDR and happened to have already graded an entire film with that radio button set to Video, am I totally screwed? 🙈

  • Aaron H

    Great insight, @tao-ml-d98c1545b7619bd99b817cb3169cdfde:disqus! Quick question: How important is it to monitor your HDR grade with Full data levels? Like, hypothetically, if I were a novice with regards to HDR and happened to have already graded an entire film with that radio button set to Video, am I totally screwed? 🙈

  • Joey D’Anna

    Nope – it doesn’t particularly matter. what matters is that it *matches*. Resolve is always processing at full range levels internally. The output is scaled according to the setting in project settings. So that setting and your monitor have to match, but it doesnt particularly matter if you do video or data as long as your monitor is set to whatever you are using.

    Full range does give you a few more code values of precision – but its pretty imperceptible.

    now lets say you had it set to video, and your monitor set to full, or vice versa? you could still fix that with a levels conversion by making a LUT to scale from full to legal or legal to full.

  • Joey D’Anna

    It’s a deliverable requirement for a lot of OTT services. They ask for Rec2020 – but require it to be limited to P3 as no consumer displays can show all of Rec2020 yet.

  • Aaron H

    Got it. Thanks, Joey!

  • Stefano M

    Amazing insight!
    Suppose I do not have mastering monitor HDR for some reason, but i have client monitor like LG CX, C1, etc.
    How must be setting Davinci to output HDR signal, Full or Video Range? obviously I must activate metadata.over HDMI.

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