December 12, 2017

Can a Color Blind Filmmaker Become a Colorist?

Enchroma
Can Enchroma's full spectrum color glasses help the color blind work as colorists?

Enchroma glasses have been in the news this year for the exciting fact that they claim to offer increased color spectrum visibility to people with mild forms of color blindness. We decided to put them to the test to see if an editor we know, Ryan Charles, who himself suffers from color blindness, would be able to more effectively color grade projects after using the glasses.

Of course, we know that a final color grade should likely be left to someone with full spectrum color vision, but many editors like to balance a shot here or there when the native balance being off might affect the perception of an editing choice. We also assumed many color blind filmmakers (such as Christopher Nolan, among many others) would be curious about the glasses.

Credit: Enchroma

We started by giving Mr. Charles the standard Ishihara test for color blindness, which gave us the result that he is a "weak deutan."  Since he already knew he was color blind, this came as no surprise. We then gave him a demo reel of clips (from the old Apple Color training series) to practice matching in Resolve. First, he tried matching them without the glasses, then with the glasses.

First attempt from a color blind colorist to match two shots.Credit: Apple Color

Enchroma promotes videos across its social platform that show filmmakers being amazed at how effective their glasses are when put on for the first time, with videos of people being truly shocked to see the world in color like they never have before. While Charles didn't have that experience, he did notice a difference, and the Enchroma instructions did say to wear them full-time and improved color vision could take awhile.

We retook the Ishihara test and gave Charles time to match the shots in Resolve again, but the results didn't change with glasses or without. We decided to give the Enchroma glasses time to work, and Ryan agreed to wear them full-time for a week to see if he experienced improvement. At the end of two weeks of wearing the Enchroma glasses full time, we sat down with Charles again to identify how the glasses might have affected his vision. His results on the Color Blindness test were identical: he is definitely color blind, and the Enchroma glasses didn't change his results at all; they stayed precisely the same.

After a week of EnchromaCredit: Color

The surprise, however, came from the color grading session. Despite promising to not practice Resolve at all in the intervening time, his matching of shots was significantly better than it had been two weeks earlier. Although the Ishihara test didn't show it, Ryan could see color somewhat better. Maybe not enough to become a colorist, but certainly enough to take a shot from pickups and match it to the look of the original footage so that he can evaluate whether or not it will edit together properly.

Final pass on the left, first try on the rightCredit: Apple Color

Enchroma glasses probably can't make you a colorist if you're color blind. But, if you are a color blind filmmaker who wants to get a little closer to color accuracy in your evaluation of images, you might consider giving Enchroma glasses a look.      

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