How to use ARRI’s ACES test images (and where to download them)
I’ve recently had several jobs flow through my grading suite that were shot on the ARRI Alexa Mini. The clients all wanted to go with a classic cinematic feel and I found that working with the ACES color space provided the look they wanted from that camera. The images turned out gorgeous (I’m trying to get permission to show a few shots here on Mixing Light and share the breakdown).
Like Dan, I’m still getting used to working in ACES and the biggest problem is having the internal confidence that my color pipeline is solid. If you’ve read Robbie’s ACES series (and you should) then you know you’ve got to keep track of your IDTs and ODTs. And then there’s those pesky LMTs and RRT, which we can’t really control in DaVinci Resolve – but as I set up DaVinci Resolve for ACES, those acronyms keep rattling around in my brain.
Here’s the thing: When you start working in different color spaces you MUST have confidence in your workflow. If you don’t have confidence then when mistakes happen you’ll start to question every choice you’ve made – including those IDT decisions… which sets you up on a wild goose chase. In the end, you’ll chase yourself back into your trusty YRGB color science and have wasted precious time without fully understanding what went wrong.
ARRI has resources to help you build confidence in your ACES workflow
Once I decided to commit to ACES for these several jobs, I jumped to ARRI’s website to see what guidance they offered – to make sure I wasn’t making mistakes. What I found was a trove of information – both about ARRI’s general color science and specifically about ARRI in ACES. They also provide images to help us test our workflow.
ARRI’s Alexa Mini ACES resources:
- Alexa Mini Worfklow Page: At the bottom of this page is the download for the ALEXA Mini Recording Areas, Surround Views and Framelines PDF. This document lists all the various frame sizes, codecs, and pixel counts. I found it invaluable in helping deconstruct what the DP shot on-set to make sure I set up my Resolve projects properly.
- Working With ACES Page: Get ARRI’s explanation of ACES and how they engineer the Alexa Mini to work within the ACES framework. But most importantly for this Insight, click on FAQ tab, scroll to the bottom and download the ACES Pipeline Test Pictures zip. You need to register with a User account – but it’s free and ARRI doesn’t spam. Once downloaded, you’ll be able to follow along with this Insight.While you’re on the FAQ, take a closer look at the ARRI Alexa vs. ACES Tonal Response discussion. I’ll look at this in a later Insight, because they demonstrate precisely what I experience when grading the Alexa in ACES – namely, those highlights can get away from you if you don’t keep an eye on them.
- Alexa Mini Sample Footage: I won’t be dealing with it here in this Insight, but we’ll be looking at this footage to help us understand some of the stranger things when working at some of the Mini’s odd frame sizes and pixel counts.