SpectraCal VirtualForge

Robbie Carman C.S.I.
You know you’re a geek, when you get excited about a new video calibration tool! But this week, the fine folks over at SpectraCal introduced a product that Team Mixing Light thinks is fantastic, and will help any colorist with a Mac laptop (or Mac desktop with a PCIe slot) running AJA hardware to calibrate their displays to the exacting color science that SpectraCal uses to conform to Rec 709, P3 and even custom color spaces.For a long time, to properly calibrate a display you’ve had to rely on a professional Signal (Pattern) Generator. These boxes, which often cost $3k + for HDMI equipped units and $5k plus for HD-SDI equipped ones where often out of the reach of many small shops and independent colorists.I know what you’re thinking – why do I need a signal generator? Can’t I generate grayscale and color patterns easily on my computer with say Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro or any other graphics or vfx app? Sure, but the problem with that approach is two fold: 1. Creating patterns that are actually accurate is harder than it sounds. 2. Providing a calibration probe control of the generation and frequency of those patterns is not something you can do just running patterns out of your NLE.

This is where a signal or pattern generator comes in. Traditionally, the pattern generator would be hooked up with the calibration probe, and a computer running calibration software. The software would “talk” to the probe (also called a meter) and the signal or pattern generator. For example, the software would request a pure 100% red pattern – the signal generator would produce that and then the probe would take a reading. Once the reading was done, the software would request the next pattern and so on. The entire time the software would be recording calibration readings. This type of calibration is known as a “closed loop” calibration where the software, signal generator and meter are all talking to each other and can then upload calibration data to a monitor automatically. The beauty of this type of calibration is that you can essentially “set it and forget it” making for straight forward easy calibrations.

The folks at SpectrCal have come out with a product called Virtual Forge that allows you to use a software app downloaded to your Mac and a supported hardware device like those from AJA (BMD support coming) to generate calibration patterns to a monitor connected via HDMI or HD-SDI. The cool part is that Calman (SpectraCal’s calibration software) can then from another computer (currently a Windows machine) “talk” to the pattern generator via a wired or wireless network – essentially allowing Calman to control the Mac for purposes of calibration and generating any necessary patterns for a successful calibration. In some cases Calman generated calibration data can even be uploaded directly to a supported monitor, or LUT box.

We’re really excited about Virtual Forge. At $395 software only (thru the end of July then $495) and also available with an AJA T-Tap Thunderbolt interface for $695 you can get a professional signal generator for literally a fraction of the price of traditional hardware unit.

SpectraCal Virtual Forge Product Page

Virtual Forge Press Release

Virtual Forge QuickStart Guide