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Perspectives of color correction

It does not imply that even if the software is free, setting up a color room is economical, since the costs of the equipment necessary for its use add up to considerable value.

By Diego Yhamá*

Historically, color correction has been a little explored field in the post-production of  the audiovisual industry in Colombia; its exclusivity as an heir theme of the cinematographic has distanced it from being an accessible knowledge to the world of video; the places where this process has been carried out have been few, its users counted and the education to learn about this subject has been so scarce that they have led to placing this specialization of post-production on a pedestal difficult to reach; but every day this gap has been closing.

A few years ago, specialized video color correction systems were not so necessary  ; many of the programs on television were recorded in controlled environments in studios, a balance of cameras and color between shots, was sufficient for  television formats; the cameras did not provide the range or capability for specialized color work; the standard television "SD", did not provide enough detail of the image and the high structural and technological prices of a color room made having these facilities a privilege of few.

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However, some factors in recent years have changed this situation. The distance between film and television has been closing due to the appearance of digital film cameras, these have made new filmmakers experiment with aesthetics of the big screen, not only on television but also on digital platforms for video; the high resolution and its subsequent evolution (UHD), have allowed to notice and see the difference in the image when working color; software manufacturers have seen the evolution of the business in the popularization of their tools; the democratization and technological advancement of computers have made it common to work an editing program on a home computer and education without being specialized, has been made accessible to all audiences through the Internet. To this we must add that the reduction in technological acquisition costs has been substantial.

Currently specific software manufacturers have been the protagonists of this change: first of all, the non-linear editing software popular in the general public, such as Premiere, Final cut, Media composer (Symphony option), have improved their tools to perform color correction, although not specialized, but generate a first approach to this discipline. Secondly, those color correction systems, also known as "digital intermediate, DI" exclusively from the world of cinema a few years ago, have evolved into the world of video, from its interface, performance, education and prices; every day programs such as Lustre, Baselight, Scratch, Davinci Resolve, Mistika, Nucoda Film master and Pablo Rio, are more publicized and their solutions have become popular in the world market. 

Next, we will analyze some of these solutions from the perspective of technological innovations, cost-accessibility and education.

Scratch: He was one of the pioneers in breaking the tradition that a color correction software had to be on a hardware assembled by the manufacturer, to work on a standard computer; it also reduced the costs of its perpetual license for a color correction program in the price range of 10 years ago and its basic data management, color and vfx solution was widely accepted by post-production houses and television channels. Its educational dissemination system has been mainly for video tutorials and for the Latin American public for the user certification obtained at the School of San Antonio de Los Baños (Cuba). A few years ago, the software has ceased to be present in the color correction market, its number of users and stations has been considerably reduced and the company has currently directed its technological developments to the field of VIRTUAL REALITY "VR" and the monthly license rental model at $ 75 *, annual at $ 650 from Scratch 8.1 and Scratch VR at $ 995.

Baselight: Filmlight, its owner company, has been concerned with presenting constant innovations regarding color workflows, through the exchange of "Grades" between its platforms with the archive". BLG" and with the improvement of the "Truelight" as a color space to cover and facilitate the work with the different color spaces that the cameras currently present; it has also included VFX tools on its platform. Baselight is a system with hardware included whose cheapest solution does not fall below $ 70,000, but they have made a strategy of popularizing their software in the market through plug-ins of the program for Media Composer, Nuke, Final cut at a cost of $ 975, attracting new users and making their workflow very accepted by television channels with offline postproduction based on AVID. Filmlight, has diversified its color technology into SET work software such as Daylight in the creation of dailies, Prelight, for color work on set and in the development of FLUX, a shared storage storage for post-production. However, its use has been mainly in post-production companies that can access to pay this value and its popularity is not so high, so from April, they have launched a free version for MAC-OS, "Baselight Student", which allows to work maximum at an HD resolution and with export only to H264. With this product they seek to popularize and educate new users in the use of their tool.

Mistika Ultima: The popularity of this system (hardware + software), arose when films such as The Hobbit or Tintin generated technological challenges in the workflow at high number of frames per second "HFR" and stereoscopy processes "S3D". Its prestige has continued over the years, but the high price of its solution has prevented its accessibility. SGO the Spanish company that owns Mistika has been developing its technology to create the concept of ALL IN ONE that allows to conform, color, VFX, master everything in the same software and has currently increased its developments to the theme of VR, with Mistika VR at a value of € 69 per month. Like Filmlight, SGO, has created "Mistika Insight", a free software with educational interest to attract new users to know its tool. "Mistika Insight" allows you to work at maximum HD resolution and with export only to H264.

Flame Premium: Autodesk, the manufacturer of Flame Premium with software such as Flame, Smoke, Lustre among others, was the first to propose the concept of ALL IN ONE in the market. The popularity of its products mainly due to the VFX theme has been quite accepted in Colombia, and Lustre, its "color" correction system has quite a few users in the world for the effectiveness-precision of its tools. Many of his efforts today have been devoted to the subject of VFX and the integration of flame with Lustre into their LINUX systems. The company has also released its software from manufacturer-specific hardware, launching a few years ago Smoke on Mac and Flame on Mac with monthly, quarterly or annual licenses.  In the educational field, they have launched free 3-year licenses for students and have strengthened the issue of online education with a channel specialized in youtube.

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Davinci Resolve: Without a doubt, one of the biggest protagonists of these changes in the great color correction systems is the company Blackmagic Design. Since BMD bought Davinci Resolve Systems in 2009, it has reduced the prices of its stations from thousands of dollars of the Davinci at that time, to a free version and one with all the options at a cost of $ 300 currently, maintaining the same features of a high-priced software that can be used in a standard hardware configuration on both Linux, MAC-OS or Windows. Its strategy has positioned it as the most popular color correction software and with more users in the world both in large post-production houses, boutique studios, freelancers and universities. Their developments in the NAB, surprise by the amount of improvements they launch in each edition; currently they have focused on the creation of new color panels and closing the gap between data in SET, OFFLINE and ONLINE postproduction, offering in its version "14" more than 300 improvements so that multiple talents, allow to perform in their interface: data management work, editing, audio mixing (fairlight), conformation, basic vfx, color correction, completion and mastering, all tasks at the highest level and in collaborative work environments. By having a large number of users, Davinci has achieved a democratization in education, as many of these users have created exclusive channels to learn the software and there are countless tutorials from the most basic level to the most advanced in the tool. As for formal education, starting with the NAB, Blackmagic has launched user certification plans and official training books.

The previous review of the main software, shows a clear vision of their action plans in specific niches; some offering a complete solution, others virtual reality and some improvements in their VFX tools. There is a general phenomenon about the price reduction of their licenses and many of them have left their free tools to attract more users to handle their interfaces. 

This evolution has led to an increase in educational resources in the discipline and to the fact that there are more and more color correction rooms in large companies and the number of boutique studios or freelancers in New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City and Bogotá that in small facilities carry out different types of projects satisfactorily multiplied. This does not imply that even if the software is free, setting up a color room is economical, since the costs of the equipment necessary for its use add up to considerable value. Thus, the cost gap has been considerably reduced by thousands of dollars in a few years as well as its accessibility and possibility of exercising this discipline. 

Given this panorama it is important to note that all the software mentioned present solutions suitable for any type of "work", however the client is finally the one who determines the result and the talent of the colorist, regardless of the software is the only one capable of achieving this task.

*Diego Yhamá is a social communicator from the Javeriana University, He is a certified trainer by Blackmagic Design en Davinci Resolve and by Autodesk in Flame Premium products. He is currently a Partner-Colorist of the company Estudio Roco, professor of SAE Institute and the Javeriana University, has been an advisor in post-production processes in the district cinematheque and consultant in workflows at the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University.

Richard Santa, RAVT
Author: Richard Santa, RAVT
Periodista de la Universidad de Antioquia (2010), con experiencia en temas sobre tecnología y economía. Editor de las revistas TVyVideo+Radio y AVI Latinoamérica. Coordinador académico de TecnoTelevisión&Radio.

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