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A Complete Guide to Setting Up a Home Color Grading Suite

This is a guest post by Cinematographer Ryan E. Walters.

As Moore’s Law continues to make technology more accessible to the masses, it is time to start exploring what it takes to build your own grading suite at home or in your office. Before reading the rest of this post, I recommend that you check out How To Get The Most Out Of CS6, DaVinci, & Your Mac Pro, as this article continues to build on what I’ve outlined. So let’s get started shall we?

First off, I think it is important to acknowledge that this grading suite does not replace a high end professional suite. Having spent time in those suites, nothing replaces the opportunity to work with an experienced and talented colorist - they are worth every penny. And while I would LOVE to be able to work side by side with a colorist to finish every project, the reality is that the budget just doesn’t exist for every single project.  More and more these days, I find the need to be grading the footage myself, so that I can be sure that the end results are not screwed up by someone in the production office who thinks they know what they are doing. They may grade an image using default presets and call it good enough. My solution will get you 80% of the way there, for about 20% of the cost (minus the years of grading experience).

The Goals:

The first thing to do when designing the layout out of any room is to clearly define the goals you want to accomplish. In the room I have dubbed “The Viewing Room” in my house, my goals were threefold: 1. Have a tightly controlled room that I could grade my work in, 2. Be able to view 10-bit content as I grade, and 3. Be able to watch blu-ray’s and content from my computer (web pages, photoshop, etc.) directly on my 50″ Plasma.

The Environment:

- Control The Light.
This is the first and most important thing that you need to take care of when setting up your suite. If you have stray light hitting your screens, or the wrong color temperature light lighting the room, it will hamper your ability to properly grade and view your content. To help control the light in my room, I placed the darkest window tinting I could buy from Home Depot on the windows (which are behind me in the picture above). I then hung a black curtain over the window, and on top of that I hung black blackout curtains. When I close the curtains in this room it is pitch black even in the late afternoon when the sun shines directly in the windows. Step one complete. :)

- Make Everything Neutral In Color.
The worst thing you can do in your grading suite is to have colored walls. Our optical system is amazing adaptive- it has been designed so that when we walk from the outside 5600k color temperature light into the 3200k light of most interiors we never notice the color shift- everything retains its proper color. This ability is not so great when it comes time to grade footage in a colored room. If your walls are yellow, for example, your eyes will adjust to the abundance of yellow, and you’ll be adding in extra yellow to your graded image to compensate. So unless you want people to look jaundice in appearance, it is best to go completely neutral.

The color of your walls is going to depend on your viewing system- if you are using a projector, then you are going to want to keep your walls black. If you are using a Plasma or an LCD, then you are going to need to use 18% Neutral Gray. Now you may be thinking to yourself, I can just go down to Home Depot (or somewhere similar) and have them mix up some gray paint for me. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to work. The problem with Home Depot paint all comes down to quality control. No matter how hard they try they will not be able to get you the correct 18% gray color. Batch to batch the colors can shift, and even if you do get a large enough batch it will have a strong color cast to it. I have seen 18% gray paint made by Home Depot by taking a sample of the real stuff and it failed – it had a blue cast to it. So unless you want your footage to have an extra amount of blue in the grade, just get the real stuff. eCinema Systems is where I bought my paint from.

When it comes time to furnish the room, keep it neutral/desaturated, and keep it simple. I’ve gone with all black furniture.

- Use The Correct Light & Light Levels.
It is just as important to control the kind of light you bring in to your suite as it is to keep unwanted light out. NEVER under any circumstance have mixed color temperature light while grading. Any fixture that you bring in to the room should conform to the D65 standard. Or, in other words, it should be 6500k in color temperature. And they should have an CRI of 90 or higher. Sylvania offers a line of florescent bulbs perfect for general room ambience. Any ambient light that you place in the room, should not produce glare on the screen, or wash it out, as that defeats the whole purpose of a grading suite. :) The light levels of the client area should be 2 – 10 ft-L as recommended by SMPTE.

If you are using a Plasma or LCD for your client/viewing monitor, it needs to have the appropriate amount of back light. I recommend buying the Ideal-Lume lights from CinemaQuest. They are easy to install behind the screen, and when you buy the optional power strip, you can have the back lights turn on and off with the TV. (This is VERY convenient, as you don’t have to fuss with turning the lights on and off separately). To conform to the SMPTE standards for a grading suite, the monitor should be calibrated to 35 ft-L of light output. At this level, the surround light should put out 3.5 ft-L. (10%, or less, of the light output). Another way to approach this is to make sure that the light level is not greater than 10-25% of the  brightness of the monitor displaying pure white. (You can use a light meter, like the Sekonic 758 to help you dial in these values).

The SMPTE recommendations for the workspace of the colorist are that it should be lit to 3-4 ft-L, which will be just enough to see your control surface. And remember to keep the light off of the monitors. :)

- Viewing Distance.
It is also important to place the monitor at the correct viewing distance in order to allow yourself the ability to see every nuance in the image as you grade. The SMPTE recommendations for viewing distance is 4-6 times the vertical height of the monitors viewable screen. Sony has updated this recommendation for HD images to 3 times the vertical height. So for your typical 24″ monitor you should be 3′ away, and for your 50″ plasma you should be about 6.25′ away.

- Calibration
Calibrating all of your monitors will be one of the most challenging tasks. At least it has been for me … The first approach I took was using a Spyder Elite system. Unfortunately, I was never able to get all of my monitors to match, which was frustrating and disappointing as I had paid for the higher end model. I have since gone back to calibrating by eye using charts and filters provided in HD Basics. While this is a much more crude method, I have been able to get my screens to match. (Not perfectly, but a lot closer than with the Spyder). I’m still looking into more accurate ways to calibrate my monitors. My research has lead me to the X-rite i1Display Pro. If it works, I’ll be sure to post here on my blog about it. :)

The Gear:

50″ Panasonic Plasma
Plasma is the only way to go, in my opinion, when it comes to large screens that faithfully reproduce black. And for a consumer product, the Panasonic line has the best color reproduction of them all. So while this does not replace a professional quality screen, I think it is the best bang for the buck currently out there.

24″ ASUS ProArt LCD (10-bit)
This is the most affordable 10 bit monitor I have found to date, and it is what I recommend getting if you don’t have the coin for the more accurate DreamColor. So if your dollar is stretched thin, get the ASUS, but if you have the money, go with the DreamColor. (I’m currently saving my pennies to get the DreamColor, and I’m using the ASUS).

20″ Apple Cinema Display
Down and dirty and cheap – that’s how I like my GUI monitors. :) Nothing special here- just something that works.

iPad 3
Reports suggest that the iPad 3′s screen is pretty close to being accurately calibrated, which excites me. :) Regardless of if it is 100% true or not, I have found myself using it more and more and an additional screen to throw Vector Scopes, Waveforms, and other miscellaneous windows on to using AirDisplay. I also view my final grade on the iPad before sending it off, as even though it may not be 100% correct, more and more content gets viewed on devices like these, so checking it on the iPad gives me that extra confidence boost.

Mac Pro
Pick the flavor that fits your budget and processing needs. I’m currently running a 2008 model with 2x 2.8 GHz Quad Cores and 12GB of RAM. And with my setup, I’m able to get real time playback of 5k and 4k Red Footage at 1/2 debayer in Premiere- which is more then adequate for my editing needs.

Nvidia GT 120 & GTX 570 Package from MacVidCards
This is the graphics card package that I detailed in this post on how to get more out of your system while spending less.1 As you’ll see in the diagram below, I have not connected the GTX to any monitors. If I wanted to, I could add more to this card, but at this point, I don’t have the need. I am purely using this card for its horse power.

Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro
As of this writing, this card is the only affordable way to get a 10 bit signal out of the Mac. To get this signal, you have to use HDMI, as the DVI spec does not support 10 bit. This card has worked great with DaVinci, Premiere, Final Cut, & Color. Unfortunately, it does not act like a graphics card in that it does not send out a desktop feed. It only sends out a monitor feed when using one of the aforementioned applications.

Sonnet Temp eSATA Card
When I bought this, eSATA III was the fastest thing out there. It is what I have been using to archive my footage with. (More on archiving in a future post). Now that Thunderbolt has come out, as well as 6G eSATA, I’ll be exploring my options to replace this card. But to date, it has been the fastest and most reliable card I have used.

Powered HDMI Splitter
This splitter allows me to get my 10 bit signal to both my ProArt display and to my Plasma. While I seriously doubt that my consumer plasma sees the 10-bit signal as 10-bit, at least I can see the output of the Intensity card on the big screen. :)

Tripp Lite DVI Splitter
I tried several of these out, and this one has worked the best for me. Every once in a while when the system starts up, it will default to 720p instead of 1080p, and I haven’t figured out why. So I have to restart to fix the problem. But in a years time, this has only happened twice.

DVI to HDMI Cable
Do I really need to explain this? ;)

HDMI Switcher
This controls whether I see my computer screen or the feed from my Intensity Pro card on my plasma. My wife and I watch all of our TV from the internet via the networks sites. (We canceled our TV service over 7 years ago). So it was important to me to be able to view this content on the plasma. :)

Sony Receiver
This is where I have all of my media devices routed through- Mac Mini, AppleTV, Blu-Ray, and my MacPro. It is my central hub for controlling the video and audio path of all of my devices. :)

IR Repeater
Hidden just above the Plasma is this little IR repeater. This repeater allows me to hide everything (AppleTV, Mac Mini, Blu-Ray, etc) in the closet so that the viewing area is clean and clutter free. (And even more importantly, free from blinking lights.)

The Setup:

Here is how I have my system configured and routed. This system has been working for me for the past year with great results. But I’m sure it will continue to evolve as technology changes. (Click to see the original).

The Experience:

No matter how good or affordable the technology is, it is only as good as the people running it. And unfortunately there is no way to shortcut the process of gaining experience – that just takes time. However, I have come across several helpful tools that have really helped me increase my skills in color grading. So while I wouldn’t dare to call myself a colorist, I do have a lot more skill and experience now to tackle the projects that can’t afford a legitimate colorist. If you want to increase your skill set, I HIGHLY recommend checking out the resources below.

Off To The Races:

Hopefully this has given you good footing to jump off from as you set out to create your own grading suite. This setup should allow you to get the most out of whatever camera system’s footage you end up grading. :)


This post originally appeared on Ryan’s Blog.

Ryan E. Walters is an award-winning Oregon-based cinematographer. His work has allowed him the opportunity to travel worldwide in the pursuit of telling stories that are visually compelling. His experience includes feature films, documentaries, commercials, and shooting for Comcast, TLC, Oxygen, and the Discovery Channel.

  1. Editor’s note: this is an excellent solution for Apple Mac Pros, but if you are running a Hackintosh there are newer cards that offer more CUDA cores for cheaper. Stay tuned to the Hackintosh guide as there’s a Mountain Lion update (with the latest nVidia offerings) on the way. []


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • The Asus PA238Q is an 8-bit panel with AFRC. While AFRC effectively simulates 10-bit, it’s not a native 10-bit panel like the Dream Color. The Dream Color also uses RGB LEDs for backlight, which produces a more accurate white than CFL (which produces a more accurate white than white LED).

    • Thanks for the clarification. :) I love the Dream Color. :)

    • Additional notes: A CCFL will produce a more yellowish white where a W-LED, for example, will produce a truer to a sheet of paper white. I know this is the case as I have an NEC EA232WMI-BK (W-LED) and two older NEC EA231WMI-BKs (CCFLs) and side by side to the W-LED you can easily see that CCFLs puts out a warmer white (slightly yellow) vs. the cooler more accurate white of the W-LED. Also a CCFL will turn even more yellowish over time.

  • This was a great tutorial. I’m grateful to see how this gets done on a budget. Thanks.

  • The lumincance of a monitor should not be given in a unit of illuminance but in a unit of luminance – it’s a light source after all. The recommended value for colour grading seems to be 120 cd/m2.

    Also I recommend the open source Argyllcms in connection with Dispcalgui to calibrate with a spyder – the results are much better than with the stock software (it also takes a lot longer but the difference in profile quality is clearly worth it). While an exact match between two different monitors is still not guaranteed, the likelyhood of achieving it with the Spyder stock software are near nil.

    • I’ll have to look into that- although that option sound a lot more cumbersome / tech based. It might be out of my league … I definitely agree that the stock software of the Spyder is next to useless …

    • trackofalljades on 09.5.12 @ 9:03PM

      Thanks for the suggestion! I’ve also noticed, to much frustration, that Spyder software is basically worthless with multiple displays (even when they’re the same model from the same production run). Next time I bang my head against that particular wall, I’ll try that out instead.

    • “The recommended value for colour grading seems to be 120 cd/m2.”

      120 cd/md2 is pretty bright for a room shielded from direct sunlight. The sRGB specs call for 80 cd/md2, but I think 100 cd/md2 is a reasonable compromise.

  • Amazing that a $260.00 monitor can be considered a good grading monitor. And this Air Display thing… didn’t even know that existed so, thanks for this post! Very informative and since it’s here, are we allowed to ask some technical questions and maybe get an evaluation of our systems? (Not to try and turn this into a technical forum. My questions may be better asked elsewhere like the COW but, this seems a good spot since we’re on the subject.) Hopefully, someone more experienced than myself will respond.

    Sounds like I’m running, essentially, the same machine as Mr. Walters, an ’08 MacPro but, with a few differences…
    I have 2 of the older plastic 23″ cinema displays sitting side by side. Not using them for grading… just my setup, mainly for editing in FCP and Photoshop stuff. My grading monitor is a Flanders Scientific LM 2140W being fed from the MacPro via an AJA LHi video card (SDI and HDMI in and out). Main video card for the MacPro is an NVidia GeForce 8800 GT. The Flanders is 8bit but, as the manufacturer states, it has some circuitry that does some special mojo that emulates 10bit, for what it’s worth. (Couldn’t afford the 10bit one they make for $5K.) Anyways, here’s the Q’s…

    Do I have holes or otherwise weak spots in my setup that needs filling or fixing for the visuals?
    I.E., any reason I have a better graphics card for my cinema displays?

    Since he mentioned audio, I have issues with lag times depending if I’m coming out of the headphone jack to my Sony receiver or via firewire to my M-Audio Firewire 410 i/o box out to some self-powered RKR spekers. Always had audio problems and I’ve never known exactly how audio should be routed for accurate audio syncing with my system. Can anybody elaborate?

    As Color is now defunct (but, I have it), is it still a viable grading software? I know it’s not DaVinci or Baselight but, it still seems workable to me for most projects but, am I doing myself a disservice by using it?

    Guess that’s it. Hope it’s OK to ask these questions. Thanks.

    • Like Ryan, I use a computer display for grading, but typically they are not considered good grading monitors. Your 8-bit Flanders Scientific is going to be more accurate (even more than the Dream Color, depending who you ask) for pretty much everything.

      Regarding graphics cards, unless you need more GPU acceleration, it’s a definite no. Although 10-bit graphics cards are sold for Mac (FirePro/Quadro), OSX does NOT support 10-bit over GDI. You can monitor 10-bit using AJA, Matrox, Blackmagic, etc IO cards, but the Mac desktop maxes out at 8-bit color depth. You even need an external IO to get 10-bit in Photoshop. Surprisingly, Windows 7 does support 10-bit in its GDI.

    • The ASUS is a good BUDGET priced monitor. It does not replace the Dream Color. For the money, I’ve liked what I have as I continue to save for the real thing. :)

      It is also why I check my deliverable on three different screens- the Plasma, the ASUS, and the iPad3. Those three give me a good idea of how people might be viewing the end video.

      I’m not sure I can answer all of your questions- but I’ll attempt anyway-
      - Graphics cards are all about horse power. Both Premiere and DaVinci take advantage of the CUDA cores, so the more you have the better you’ll be. For DaVinci, it is also a good idea to have a separate card to run the GUI. (They have documented it well in the PDF’s that come with the software.)

      - I’m not having any audio lag issues with my system. (That would drive me nuts!) I have the headphone out of the tower, and the audio outs from the Intensity card connected to my reciever and I just switch inputs on the reciever depending on what i need to hear.

      - Color is awesome. That is what I cut my teeth on, and I still use it. :) The only problem is that it is dead, so it isn’t getting the updates that the othersoftware is getting. If it is working for you- use it. No one really cares what you grade with- they care about the end result. The benifit of going with something like DaVinci is twofold- it is updated to work with the latest hardware / technology, and it offers a lot more control. There is a learning curve- so be prepared. But it is worth it in my opinion anyway. :)

    • What I do for audio lag on my plasma is send the audio out the HDMI from the computer and take an optical out from the plasma into a DAC and monitor from that. Failing that, you can get a cheap programmable digital delay box to delay the audio if it is playing too early.

      • wtx, Peter and Ryan E. Walters… Thanks so much for the replies!!

        Ryan, I appreciate your personal attention on it very much!

        Great to have this post as it’s addressing issues I’ve wondered about for a long time.
        Guess I’ll use Color till my system goes belly up, then.
        Still not sure what’s causing my audio sync problems (I have a syncing feeling about it. Sorry, that just popped into my head :P) but, I’ll keep chasing it.

        On the subject of monitors… and not an attempt to plug as I have no affiliation with Flanders Scientific other than owning one but, they are a great company with fantastic customer support. They, actually, answer their telephone! If you’re in the market for a great monitor, check them out. I don’t think you would be disappointed.

        Thanks again all!

        • Anytime. :) Always glad to help. :)

          That is VERY encouraging news abotu teh customer support from Flanders. One of the draw backs to teh Dream Color is customer support. With HP being so big, many, if not all of the customer support people know next to nothing about it, other then reading off of the spec sheet, which is what I can do online. Thanks for teh recommend. :)

  • Hey! Thanks for this great post. I just have a few questions:

    -What do you think about using a MacBook Pro with Retina Display and nVidia instead of the Mac Pro?
    -How come you find the plasma better than LED or LCD displays?
    -Wouldn’t it be better to get a 1080p projector instead of the 50″ plasma?

    Thanks again and greetings from Bogotá, Colombia.

    • - It all comes down to horse power and connectivity. I have seen some impressive breakout boxes for the MacBookPro using thuinderbolt, etc. But by the time they are built up, they look more like a desktop, and less like a laptop. If that is your preference, great! Personally, I like my laptops small and light.

      If you are asking about just using the default configuration of the MacBook Pro, it will work with those apps, but then it all comes down to processing time and rendering speeds … YMMV

      - It is all about the Blacks. I haven’t been happy with the blacks in LED, or LCD technology. (Except for teh Dream Color, or some of the other professional high end screens.) Especially in the consumer market, the LED and LCD’s have been milky. Plasma- the Panasonics specifically, have been the best in my opinion. OLED looks promising- as I’ve seen some great things from TV Logic. But then we’re back in the realm of professional gear and professional prices- which is great when you have the money. But I’m interested in find solutions that I can work with now in my budget range …

      - A projector may or may not be a good solution. It all depends on the room, and the quality of the projector. Consumer projectors have the same problem that consumer TV’s have- color fidelity. I haven’t been impressed by most of the consumer projectors out there, and I am in a smaller room, so I went with a 50″ Plasma. As the correct viewing distance is 6.25′ away for my setup, it fits the room nicely. That may not work well for your setup …

  • It should also be noted that there are a number of hoops you need to jump through to get the Dreamcolor to display an accurate RGB signal. Flanders Scientific makes color accurate 10 bit monitors, some of which are cheaper than dreamcolor.

    • Great point- I have read a lot of comments about the difficultity getting them setup correctly. But once they are, they work well. I haven’t explored the offerings from Flanders- great to know that they are more accurate and cheaper. :) Thanks!

  • Nice post! Im ordering the Asus tonight.

  • I can’t tell you how perfect the timing of this is. I’m just now discussing options for adding a color-grading suite to my office. Thanks for the info!

  • Awesome stuff as always Ryan. Is there anyway we can we get a picture of your set up?

    • I’m glad this was useful to you. :) As far as the picture goes, I’m not sure what more you want? The picture at the start of the article is my setup (the screens), and the diagram is how I have my computer wired. I could take a picture of the computer- but I don’t think the mess of cables would be that helpful …

  • Ryan, Would any of those Panasonic Plasma TV’s do a good enough job? Im considering getting the 42in if my budget cant stretch to the 50, and secondly is it recommended to paint the whole room neutral grey or just the wall from where you’ll be working?


    • I would stick to the same line / series as the one that I got. It seems to be the best (in my opinion, anyway). But in general, I have liked the colors and the blacks of the Panasonic better then the other consumer TV’s, so you should be fine. But as always YMMV with consumer products. :)

    • On the issue of the room color- if you don’t paint the whole room grey, then the rest should be flat black. (But neutral grey is better for a TV. It all has to do with your eyes adjusting to the color biases in the room. Yellow walls equal yellow people … :(

  • you mention using the Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro for Davinci(resolve). thought only the Extreme 3D was the only supported card for playback.

    does anyone know?


    • I can say for 100% the Intensity Pro works- it is what I’m using on my system, and in the top picture, it is what you see feeding the 50″ monitor in the background … :)

  • The ASUS is crap. it has given me no end of fits to try and get accurate color from it. see here

    the spdyer3 is not great, but some OS revisions have it sort of working. the problem is the people writing the software for the spyder just don’t get that people don’t work in black rooms and that 100nits is a good monitor level ( roughly 25-30% of the monitors normal white level ). eventually if you disable most of the stuff you think should be on, you’ll get somewhat close results. however, it simply does not remove base color casts across monitors.

    if you want my ASUS, I’ll sell it to you right now.

    as for my main monitor, I got a 42″ LG LED that has very accurate color as measured by a real color probe. it needs VERY minor tweaks to be “perfect”. the next step up from this screen is to add a zero onto the price and get a flanders scientific.

    when running resolve, you want the real 3D extreme card. the intensity is a basic I/O card and lacks some of the hardware abilites of the more expensive card. the 3D is also a fast display card in how it interacts with CPU. so while the intensity works, its far from the ideal card to run resolve.

    • Bummer to hear about your ASUS. I wasn’t able to use the spyder to calibrate it. The spyder can’t seem to get anything right. WHen I used the HD Basic’s DVD and did it by eye, I got good enough for now results. I’m instreested to try out the i1Display probe to see if that is any better. Great to hear about the LG. Care to share the model number?

      Flanders seems to continually pop-up here. I’m going to have to see one of those in the real world and check it out. All I have seen, that I know of, in real life have been the dream colors …

      In regards to the 3D card- it all depends on your setup, and I/O needs. The Intensity is basic, but with my other graphics cards, it gets the job done well. It may not suite everyones needs, but it is affordable. :)

      • I have the Spyder3, Spyder4, and i1 Display Pro III. I am very disappointed with all of them.

        However, I was with great effort able to wring decent profiles out of the Spyder 3 which was the first one I got. it was better than doing it by hand. I did not put as much effort into the newer devices, I tested to see if they would suddenly work, and they didn’t, so I stuck with the better profile I had built.

        The iPad colors are surprisingly good and I too always check on them. Mr. Jobs we should remember knew a thing or two about film.

        • Ugh- I’m disapointed that you had a bad experience with the i1Display. I’m still going to test it out for myself. How did you get good profiles out of the Spyder 3? I’ve done it 10 times so far, and NONE of them are remotely close to correct, or even close to matching each other … I’m impressed that you got it to work! :)

          • I don’t really remember what I did but it was certainly not according to Hoyle. I had to lie about the gamma and color temperature and miraculously it worked. I have learned to have a lot of faith in the YCbCr parade scope.

            BTW I looked at your reel and the stuff you’ve got out of the Alexa is just jaw dropping good. Major Kudos!

          • I’ll have to try that out- I never thought about trying to trick the probe …

            Thanks for checking out my reel. I’m glad you liked what you saw. :)

  • Currently I’m not aware of any HDMI display device that can output or identify 10bit signal. Although HDMI spec supports 10bit but it’s not been implemented at all. As far as I know, only Nvidia Quadro cards can ouput true 10bit signal via DisplayPort or DVI (10bit grayscale only), and the monitor has to be able to identify that 10bit signal as well, which I believe only DreamColor and a few EIZO products that are capable of displaying 10bit signal via DisplayPort. The Asus monitor you mentioned uses dithering to emulate 10bit.

  • A word of causion to everyone going the Diy road. You have to examine your pipeline, converters and splitters can seriously alter your signal. Put a ramp into your grading suite and se if it comes out correctly on your gradingmonitor. I just threw out a hdlink that not only crushed my shadows but also introduced magenta in in the shadows.
    The cheapest grading monitor sollution that would get you 90% of the way is to buy a second hand highend panasonic consumer plasma like the vt30 and have it calibrated by a professional with a quality probe.
    The spyder is crap. Of the cheap ones the colormunki photo is the best.

    People say It all the time but believe me there is no cheating when it comes to serious colorgrading( I know the article isn’t about this just want to say that so people don’t fool themselves). Since you don’t see a proper picture there will always be that element of luck when you succed and bevilderness when stuff doesen’t look like you remember it.

  • Hi. I have also a MacPro 2×2.8GHz Xeon 2008.
    Which graphics card can I use to upgrade the existing Radeon 2600XT that will allow me to run Final Cut X and Resolve?

  • I’m running a 2008 model 2 x 2.8 Quad Core with 10gb of Ram and I cannot even play GH2 files that smoothly. It is 1/4 playback resolution and its a bit choppy at certain points.

    I have a Gt120 and GTX285 as my graphics card.

    How can your setup run Red files smoothly?

    • The GTX 570 I have is the 2.5GB version. I’m not very familiar with the GTX 285, but from my quick google search, it appears that the card I have is faster. Which is probably what accounts for the difference. I open up Premiere CS6 and it works- that is all I care about. :)

      It may also have to do with how you have your drives setup, and what the disk speed is- that would be my only other guess …

  • @Nathan, just thought I would throw this out there. Yes, could be a drive issue as some aren’t fast enough to keep up but, let me ask you, what are you displaying your video on? If it’s purely a visual thing as opposed to dropped frames or something like that on the timeline, read on.

    As I had mentioned previously, I have pretty much the same setup as you and Ryan plus a few more gigs of ram and I was seeing jerky playback on my older plastic cinema displays. I have fast internal drives in my tower so, it was driving me nuts.Turns out that jerky motion is the way those monitors display video… not smoothly at all. Now, I don’t know if that’s a problem with my graphics card or the monitor itself (need an expert here) but, as soon as I routed out of my computer to my Samsung TV (I have an AJA LHi card in my machine), problem disappeared. Everything got smooth again. I have since purchased a good production monitor (I won’t mention the name again as it’s been mentioned here several times now :) and same thing. smooth running.

    At least in my experience and setup, it was the fault of my displays more than anything else.

    • I’m displaying my work on a 27.5 Hannspree HD 1980 x 1200.;jsessionid=26853B248F1BEA22EF691F10267F179E.bstby1?cmd=catProductDetail&productID=BB10860453&operation=Overview

      I’m pretty sure it should be fast enough. I was thinking of getting a whole new machine, but seeing that Mr. Walters edits through Red footage on basically the same machine, then I have reconsidered this choice.

      And what drives should I get that are faster? I just assume that all the drives were similar so I bought 7200 rpm hard drives.

      • I’m not familiar with the Hannspree but, I just wanted to point out that, in my case, the monitor was the problem so, just a suggestion to consider. If you are able to output to a tv via hdmi, that might tell you.

        Without wading in deeper than I should, I think most 7200rpm drives should be able to output the data quick enough to provide smooth playback but, the idea that some drives (7200rpm included) are ‘too slow’ or inadequate for HD video has been the subject of discussion for years on the issue of jerky playback. All my internal drives are Western Digital Caviar Blacks and I know a lot of post guys use G-Raid externals. I, also, use the Caviar Blacks in an external eSata multiple drive bay. I’ve heard de-fragmenting the drives might help, too.

        Just one more thought, I use FCP7 and, if I start getting dropped frames during playback or any other anomalies or weirdness, I shut everything down and reboot. That, usually, clears everything up again. Good luck.

        • Great suggestions. :)

          In addition to the speed of the drives, is how they are configured. a RAID 0 will get you more speed, with no protection, and there are some other RAID configs that will get you the same speed (RAID 6?) while some RAID configs (RAID 5?) will hamper your speed.

          And then if you are on a Windows machine there is the issue of disk fragmentation. And if you are on a Mac, there is the issue of free drive space on your OS drive. If you do not have enough free space on your OS drive, I’ve noticed poor performance when running my apps even when all of the other drives have plenty of space on them …

          Ah, technology. Isn’t it fun! ;)

  • Hey there,
    What version of Resolve are you running. Does the Lite version support video out through the Intensity Pro or any others?


    • The picture at the top of the article was taken with Version 8 (Lite) running. I have since upgraded to the lite version of 9. (I’m waiting for the full version to arrive with my Blackmagic camera). So yes, the lite version supports video out. :)

  • A word of warning about the intensity pro if you’re planning on upgrading to the dreamcolor. The HDMI output of the Intensity is YUV and not RGB. The dreamcolor requires an RGB input for the dreamcolor engine (ie calibration) to work. You need to use a box like the HD Link Pro (display port version) and ideally go display port from there into the dreamcolor. You also need a deck link card to go SDI out from the computer into your HD Link Pro. To any considering adding a dreamcolor factor in a minimum of $1000 plus the cost of the monitor.

  • I just bought the Asus PA 238Q. What are your color settings for the menu system on the monitor itself? And does the sRGB selection selectable on your system if you’re using an Intensity Pro card with Davinci?

  • Hi there.
    Thanks for this post. Im looking at setting up something similar here.
    I want to set up davinci in one screen the scopes in the second screen and the preview in the third one.
    so if i understand this properly! can i use the main graphics card for the 1st and 2nd screens and the second graphics card to preview the video? or do i have to use the intensity pro to preview the video in full screen.
    (Im not worried about the 10 bit because my preview monitor is 8 bit)

  • If not using the Apple cinema display, is it fine to bypass getting the Gt 120 and the Tripp Lite DVI splitter and go with two ProArts?

    Thank you!

  • Ryan, thank you for the great article. May I ask you what specific Panasonic Model you’re using. My research comes to the VT or GT series. 30(2012) or 50(2012), I’m not shure about those. The STW Series also seems to share good Picture Quality .Whats your experience?
    Also did Steve Oakley provide you the Model Number of his LG Display?
    Thank you very much.

  • “Any fixture that you bring in to the room should conform to the D65 standard. Or, in other words, it should be 6500k in color temperature.”

    Although the sRGB specification calibrates the monitor’s white point at D65, 6500K, it expects room lighting to be at D50, 5000K. In practice, wide-spectrum fluorescents anywhere from 5000-5600K work fine. I would definitely not use 6500K lighting in an editing environment – it’s far too blue.

  • Hi Ryan, thanks for the great article.
    I now have built my own color grading suite!
    Now I have two questions:
    Which monitor would you recommend?
    I also would like to show my clients the Preview Monitor on a TV Screen. But I use an iMac for color grading with davinci resolve. Is there any way to display the preview window on a second monitor? So i would share my second monitor via apple tv.
    Thanks for your help,

  • Hello! So, I’m very excited that I’ve gotten this far. I have a blazing 6core Hack Pro, 32gb Ram, gt640 for GUI and gtx580 GPU, Dell U24M12 monitor for GUI and today, just picked up a gently used Dreamcolor from a colorist/new best friend in the world for just $700! The new BMD Mini Monitor is on the way from B&H, and I’ve also got a Panasonic VT25 on the wall behind it all. Stoked. Ready to grade! (I also do a lot of MoGraph and VFX, so kickin arse there too!)

    NOW. How to make sure it’s all looking right. Obviously, having someone come in to calibrate it all is primo option. However, given the very large chunk of money I’ve recently invested here over the last few months, I wanna give my wallet a break.

    Figure you guys could maybe answer a question or two I just haven’t been able to find a straight concise answer for. COLORS. I’m using the technique outlined above for getting signal to the DreamColor and the Plasma (DVI for now until the MiniMonitor arrives, then HDMI splitter when doing color work). I found some very nice custom settings for the Panny to mimic rec709, and interestingly, when I fired up the HP today and put it in 709 mode, they look virtually indistinguishable.

    The only two things I haven’t been able to figure out or find documentation on are these:
    1) Since the HP and Plasma will be sharing a video signal which is outputted by my computer, which color profile do I use in the OSX System Display Settings to ensure that they’re getting the right data?
    2) My panasonic has the option for full range (0-255) or standard (16-235) (is that it’s rec709 mode?) in its picture settings….which of these ranges do I want selected if I am wanting it to match the HP and it is being fed the same signal as the HP?

    Hope these aren’t elementary questions. Maybe it’s obvious and I’m just dizzy from reading in so many directions. By the way, this guide has been VERY HELPFUL. Thank you for being awesome.

  • Hi, im using pretty much the same the same monitors, Asus Pro Art , and a Panasonic plasma 42, but im using yjr decklink mini monitor, and i have problems with my Plasma, video go and comeback, do i need another video card?



  • I built a Hackintosh and love the speed performance but I’ve been trying to figure out how to video color grade using the correct setup. Im confused because I just found out that Adobe Speedgrade needs to be running on PC to work with a calibrated NTSC monitor. So is there any hope for trying out any NTSC color calibrated monitors like the DreamColor?
    FCPX seems to be the only way to color grade now because it shows color somewhat accurately. Everything else like premiere pro, davinci, and After Effects (which can be color managed) is off when it comes to color.
    Any suggestions?

  • Hey,

    Great post Ryan!

    I was just wondering what the model of Sylvania Flo Tubes you’re referring to are? I am having trouble finding any 6500k bulbs over 90 CRI