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How Gamma Issues Can Change the Look of Your DSLR Footage in Different Players

06.27.12 @ 6:34PM Tags : , , ,

Gamma issues are the bane of any filmmaker’s existence. It’s difficult to keep everything consistent when different editors and even different video players decode gamma and affect the brightness/contrast of the video you’re trying to play. We’ve talked a little bit about these issues before, and Apple has been one the biggest offenders in terms of inconsistent gamma, from Quicktime 7, to Quicktime 10, to Final Cut Pro 7. Tony Reale, over at NextWaveDV, takes a look at these issues within the Windows platform.

Here is the photo Tony used on the site comparing Quicktime, Windows Media Player, and VLC player to the original media on the camera:


As you can see, none of them are perfect. This is the issue that we face not only as filmmakers, but as contractors who are hired by clients. If they see a video in Windows Media player, but you’ve been working in Final Cut on a Mac, it’s possible there might be some discrepancy between what you’re seeing and what they’re seeing. The only way to avoid this problem is to use a service that should be consistent across platforms, such as YouTube or Vimeo. While the final product on these sites will still be different based on how the host computer has set up their color profile, as you long as you think the result looks right, it shouldn’t vary too much when it’s seen on a different computer.

Head on over to NextWaveDV to read Tony’s thoughts on the matter.

Have any of you had to deal with this with clients? If so, did you explain to them that what they were seeing would be different in the final product, or did you change it to their wishes?

[via NextWaveDV]

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  • Luke Neumann on 06.27.12 @ 6:43PM

    I have found VLC to be the closest player. Windows Media Player is just horrid. It shifts the colors as well as the gamma. I find that previewing in VLC gives the best representation to what you will see on Youtube. If I have time I do a test upload to Vimeo or YouTube and make changes accordingly.

    • VLC works best well for .mov files directly off of a DSLR, because it’s “black” is actually in the correct place, whereas Windows Media player clips the darker colors. For H.264 and lots of other formats, though, the opposite is true: VLC renders blacks as not-quite black which crushes the contrast, and Windows Media Player has the correct black.

      • Something really important I recently found out: if you have an nVidia card, lifted blacks are often due to GPU settings, NOT the player. It appears the GPU is doing the decoding, and the various players are, albeit with slightly different gammas, playing what the GPU is spewing out.

        The default setting in the GPU control panel is for a luma range of 16-235 rather than the full 0-255. To change this, go to nvidia control panel -> adjust video colour settings -> advanced tab. With VLC you can even see it change the image immediately.

        I’ve posted this on NextWaveDV as well, hopefully it’s helpful for you guys.

        • I think that just overrides whatever settings the video player tries to use. If I select “with NVIDIA settings” then both VLC and Windows Media player do the same thing, but I think at least some players attempt to set the color range based on what type of file they’re reading, etc. and the NVIDIA settings will ignore that.

          • For me, the default is that the GPU sets this; it’s certainly not something I’ve turned on. So I think this may be causing problems for a significant number of people.

      • But isn’t h.264 the same codec as that in the dslr’s, the .mov is just the wrapper for h.264. Gamma shifts are quiet a pain. I have found the biggest difference in gamma jumping from FCP to AE/Prem Pro. The luminance in FCP is def brighter sometimes even quiet “milkly” looking, compared to AE/Pro.

        I feel the AE/Pro renders the colors better

  • john jeffreys on 06.27.12 @ 7:34PM

    I don’t even bother with local video players, I upload everything as private youtube links and the person can see it from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Then the final version goes up as a public link.

  • I also think that having a standard display calibration may help. in that way it may be something that you can set up on your system or pre-installed by manufacturers. I know there are some display calibration online, but they just don’t match, especially when you are moving a video from windows to mac

  • It’s funny that this is just one more reason, amongst many, to use Vimeo and YouTube as delivery. The thing that really bothers me isn’t so much with gamma at delivery, but when you’re interchanging between apps and converters. My biggest beef is with the H264 to ProRes conversion that seems to yield a different gamma in every single app that can do the conversion. Granted it’s a subtle difference, but I hate that Compressor, Squeeze, Magic Bullet Grinder, FCPX, and everything else out there gives a different result. So annoying.

    • I would trust 5DtoRGB above any of the others. That’s the only thing I use for serious projects, and if I’m not as concerned, I stick to MPEG Streamclip, which also seems to do a decent job.

  • Very important topic, this issues are really annoying. In my experience, relying on vimeo or youtube is problematic aswell. Even if the gamma is more consistent, the actual playback considering smooth motion and sound sync is not good enough for best possible playback in my experience. Might be me using the wrong export settings. I tend to use VLC.

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