Color in the Digital Environment
Are you a photographer?
Are you a Director of Photography?
If you answered yes to either of these questions then you are in the business of Color. (I'll use the American spelling of color throughout this article).
Often we say that color is subjective, that it affects moods and tones, and we can even
try to suggest that we see colors exactly as other people do, but this is not always the
In our professional life as photographers, designers, cinematographers and filmmakers,
there exists a need to be able to agree on color. To do this we need a point of
reference, we need to have a series of colors laid out, in a consistent fashion to be able
to determine what color is what, and so assign a name a value to a representation of
color. In the business of creating images, color is critical. Let's take a moment just to
realize that color imaging (while it has appeared in painting and other forms) has not
been part of the modern "photographic" landscape for very long.
The first color images were created less than one-hundred years ago, and the first color
motion films are also a relatively new concept. Initially with film, eventually with
television and now with CCD's, CMOS sensors and digital imaging devices, computer
screens, LCD panels, printed paper, modern film and transparency technologies, color
has never been so important for the professional imager. It's imperative to begin with
the intended colors before the images are redisplayed in all of these other media.
With Digital technology and differing mediums, color across platforms is more
important now than it has ever been. The RED CamBook from DSC Labs addresses
this. RED is a digital equivalent to film and I mean this in the sense that, like motion
picture film, the quality of the frames being recorded can go across many platforms.
Click on image for larger view.
Digital photography and cinematography is reaching further into the digital media
landscape. The images you capture with a digital RAW workflow can be and are used
quite easily in anything from motion picture film release, HD broadcast, standard
definition, web, print, magazine or billboard. We can agree that this is a wide ranging
spectrum of potential media.
It also means that the end consumers will be viewing the same image from paper,
projected film, projected video, LCD, PLASMA screen and a variety of color and gamma
ranges throughout the vast digital media landscape.
Imagine trying to get a consistent hue of green or blue or teal across all of these
platforms. Add to this that every set-up has a slight variation in color temperature and
tint. All of these scenes need to first be brought into a "look" for a specific scene and
then a specific program altogether.
So, it becomes easy to understand why it's important to have a color reference chart for
each new scenes' lighting conditions. All of the formats carry specific gamma and color
spaces to reproduce color. The chart is the point of agreement.
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