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.


Series

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

-Joey

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