Should You Use the ACES Workflow for Color? – Interview with Colorist Jeremy Stuart
Professional colorist Jeremy Stuart enlightens us on the world of color, as the team learns all about the entire ACES workflow and what that means for 3D artists.
In this episode, the team invites professional colorist Jeremy Stuart into the studio to discuss all thing ACES. ACES is a color workflow system that was developed for the motion picture industry that is being widely adopted by production houses all over the world. It’s the future or working with color.
Does that mean it’s time for you to start learning ACES color in Cinema 4D? We discuss all things color, and take a deep dive into the technical details behind this revolutionary color space.
Want to learn more about ACES? Check out our latest tutorial down below, or hop into the pro training series Getting to Know ACES streaming now in Greyscalegorilla Plus.
- Getting to Know Aces Training Series – Greyscalegorilla Plus
- Color Grading – What is ACES? – Michael Maher
- CG Cinematography by Chris Brejon
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Michael Maher (00:00):
Hey everyone. Michael here with another Greyscalegorilla podcast. In today’s episode, we are joined by professional colorist, Jeremy Stuart. We are going to take a deep dive technical nerdery here where we talk about all things ACES. We’re going to get into color workflows and how that works through the entire pipeline, not just 3D. Now, if you don’t know anything about ACES, I highly recommend checking out our Why Cinema 4D artists should care about ACES YouTube video that we just released. It’s a super helpful video that gives you an overview of the entire process and honestly, it’s a little easier to understand than just an audio only podcast. So links to that video below and let’s get on with the episode.
Nick Campbell (00:41):
Hey, render friends. Before we jump into today’s episode, if you are a freelancer or working in Cinema 4D for a living and you’re feeling stuck, maybe you want to make better renders and not quite sure what’s missing or if you can’t quite get what’s in your head out into your renders, we can help. We have created the vast pro training series and handcrafted material collections for cinema 4d redshift, Arnold octane and more over at Greyscalegorilla Plus just head on over to greyscalegorilla.com/plus to learn more. And if you use the special offer code, RENDERTIME during checkout, you get one month free off your first annual membership to plus that’s the code, R E N D E R T I M E during checkout to get your first month free on us. Go check it out today and now on with today’s show.
Chad Ashley (01:30):
Welcome to the podcast Michael Maher. How are you doing buddy?
Michael Maher (01:34):
I am doing swell.
Chad Ashley (01:36):
We’ve got another special guest, a good friend of mine, uh, known him for ever and he is a fantastic artist and a fantastic colorist. Jeremy Stuart. How are you doing buddy?
Jeremy Stuart (01:48):
I’m doing real well. Thanks for bringing me on.
Chad Ashley (01:50):
Yeah man, I’ve been wanting to get you on the show for a long time and I think we finally have a subject that makes perfect sense to bring us together and, and talk about color. And specifically we’re going to talk a lot about ACEs because I don’t know, it was about maybe two weeks ago, I was on my a YouTube feed and I came across, um, some stuff on ACEs, particularly a video by a Andrew Lebrov talking about ACEs as it re re, you know, kind of regards to like fusion and resolve in a, not necessarily a lot of 3d explanation in there, but it kinda got my brain going pretty hardcore about what it was.
Chad Ashley (02:36):
And I went on a solid week and a half bender, I would say. I was like trying to figure out what the hell it is and how it works and what’s it about and should I care and, and all these things. So I thought it’d be fun to get the three of us together, um, and discuss this. And, and Mike, you, you have a unique perspective on it too. Because in my research when I was looking up ACES and trying to figure out what it was and whatnot, I came across an article that came after a Google search and I was looking at this article and a name caught my eye in the byline and it was your name. That’s right. You wrote this article on ACEs and you’re sitting under my nose the whole time.
Michael Maher (03:21):
You know, I’m just, I’m that secret weapon nobody knows about.
Chad Ashley (03:24):
Yeah, dude. I was like, wait, I know this guy. I can ask him some questions, although I knew that name. I know that’s guy sounds familiar. Oh, well we’ll just file it away.
Michael Maher (03:33):
I think that’s kind of become my de facto internet profile picture too. So people tend to tend to hunt me down pretty easily across sites now.
Chad Ashley (03:41):
Oh yeah. Yeah. It’s the same one I think you use on, on our site too, right?
Michael Maher (03:45):
Yeah. I mean, you get married one time, you got a good photographer, you really kind of milk that photo.
Jeremy Stuart (03:51):
The only time you pay for your photo to be taken, right. Get you, get your money’s worth anyway.
Chad Ashley (03:57):
So, um, I, I’ve assembled this group to talk about ACEs and how it relates to motion design and we’re going to be putting out some ACEs content, uh, on Greyscalegorilla plus and hopefully shed some light on this crazy subject that is very complicated. But I think at its core it’s, it’s doing some really S I can’t even say it’s doing simple things. It’s doing things that aren’t complicated to you but are complicated underneath the surface. Does that sound right? I had making some complicated things less complicated. Exactly. See, I’m making it more complicated right now just by like, it’s just a standardization. Like that’s really what it is. Okay. So rewind. Tell us, tell us what it is Mike. Like tell everybody the, the, the Wikipedia definition of ACES.
Michael Maher (04:48):
Uh, sure. So ACESactually stands for Academy Color Encoding System and it’s essentially built by the Academy of motion pictures, arts and sciences. AMPAS. They’re the ones who do the Oscars and all that kind of stuff. So essentially there were enough major motion pictures being produced where you know when you have massive films, you have all sorts of different footage going to different places. You’ve got the effects houses, you’ve got editing houses, you’ve got production houses, all sorts of stuff, all sending data back and forth to each other. And essentially there was never an established like standard for color. And so whether people are shooting and logs or you know, using Luts on set to preview stuff, it might look one way on set and then they send log footage to an editor and they might throw a lot on it and it looks different and then they send it to a colorist and then a colorist change it.
Michael Maher (05:45):
And so like essentially is always changing. And this is really prevalent to anyone. If you ever watch old movies on DVD and blu Ray and VHS, you’ll always notice that color’s always been changing. So like it’s, it’s been an issue for a long time. What ACEs was built for was to streamline the entire process to set standards from everything from capture all the way to archiving, remastering all sorts of stuff. Uh, it’s like, it’s a full future proof process. Right. Um, and so what you guys are specifically talking about, uh, with, with Greyscalegorilla is ACEScg, which is kind of like how VFX artists and motion designers and essentially three D artists, it’s the color space that they’re kind of working in. And what’s nice is that you can now create, uh, in your world and share that information with somebody else and all the data is there. So no matter what extremes you want to take the color to or the exposure or anything like that, all the data is there for you to manipulate. And so it just gives you a really big working area, I think. I think that kind of covers it.
Chad Ashley (07:02):
Yeah. That, that pretty much covers it. And I feel like I need to call out, um, a specific resource that really enlightened me on the subject. Uh, it’s an online book by a gentleman by the name of Chris Brianne, I hope. I’m saying that right. He’s got a whole book on CG cinematography that he uh, put out for free. Uh, which is crazy cause there’s a little, it’s just a lot of info here. He’s got a whole chapter on ACEs, which helped me tremendously. But yeah, getting back to what you’re saying, like it, it, what it is is it’s us, it’s a way to work in color, in different color spaces and manage all these different resources, these different spaces, these different colors captures also, it’s a very wide color gamut, right?
Jeremy Stuart (07:52):
Yeah. It’s designed to represent all of the colors that the human eye can see, which is intended to make it future-proof essentially as color spaces improve and gamuts widen HDR and all of that going into the future.
Chad Ashley (08:06):
So my question when I started working with this was like, well I don’t understand like, cause everything that I was looking at was like, well sRGB is very limited. And as 3d artists were taught like, well you’re rendering out a linear EXR, all the data is there. So why would this matter? And, and I got that question a lot as I started like tweeting out stuff and like showing people my befores and afters and all that sort of thing. And tell me if I’m wrong, but so when you’re, when you’re rendering in, let’s say a cinema 40, you’re, you’re working and you’re rendering in sRGB color space,
Jeremy Stuart (08:44):
you’re working in a limited palette.
Chad Ashley (08:46):
That’s exactly it. That’s my point. It’s like I think most people don’t understand that that underlying palette is limited.
Jeremy Stuart (08:53):
It’s based on what was displayable by a CRT monitor and correct whatever.
Michael Maher (08:58):
Chad Ashley (08:59):
Yeah. Yeah. And I think that’s the thing like, okay cause everybody, I think when people think of like, Oh, it’s floating point, it’s, it’s like all the data’s there. I’m writing out an EXR. It’s like,
Jeremy Stuart (09:12):
yeah, you are maintaining all of the latitude, but correct. The colors that you allowed it to calculate in your scene were handicapped at the range of sRGB.
Chad Ashley (09:23):
Perfectly way to put that. Thank you very much. That’s exactly what I was trying to convey to the people. And I think that’s, that’s the thing that they come away from. Uh, from a learning about ACEs is that it’s not that you can’t make good looking stuff in sRGB people have been doing it for a really long time and there’s plenty of stuff out there that, I mean it’s totally fine. Like if that’s, if you don’t think ACES is going to help your work at all, then feel free to ignore it even though I truly believe that everybody should be working in ACEs, especially after playing with it for awhile. But okay, so we’ve, we’ve sort of established that ACEs is an ultra wide gamut. It’s also linear, it’s also high dynamic range. Uh, it’s also a standardization so that you can input and output and get sort of predictable results.
Chad Ashley (10:16):
And the question that I have for you, Jeremy, is like, okay, I understand the benefits of working in ACEs from a CG perspective because what this is going to give me is a wider color gamut, which in turn the results are, uh, my stuff just looks more realistic and we’ll get into the ins and outs of it in a minute. But the bottom line differences that I’m going to get more predictable film like response, I’m going to get better looking color. I’m going to get a little bit more realism in, in the way that light bounces around. I would say a lot more realism. I can crank my light values up into like real world type settings and it’s going to react more favorably. Like if you have an indoor shot, you’re pushing the light, the sunlight through your, your office window and CG and you know, you can just crank that sun up and it’s gonna send that bounce lights going to just really shine off the walls and whatnot. So I understand the benefits of, uh, of working in this wide gamut in CG, but when you’re working, you do, you’re a colorist, you’re doing a lot of like color work on commercial work, on like commercials and short films and docs and things like that. What, what’s the benefit of ACEs to that sort of workflow?
Jeremy Stuart (11:32):
Uh, there’s a few, it’s sort of complicated because it’s not widely adopted outside of like the film and TV industry. Like you have to transform things to go into ACEs. So there’s not a transform for everything yet. But for most main major like camera manufacturers there are, right. So previously it’s just been kind of the wild West in our industry and you know, different shops have their way of working and there’s all these different formats and if you shoot ARRI Alexa, they have their lit that’s like the manufacturers engineers transform to get to rec 709 and RED has its own like a bunch of different flavors and ways to work with it. And it’s just, you know, there’s a lot of different ways to do things.
Chad Ashley (12:20):
Yeah. I think that’s what’s crazy to me is like how now that I understand how ACEs works and I’m sort of like I’ve wrapped my head around it not only from like the CD standpoint but from like just a color video standpoint. I’m wondering how the heck you did heck you handled multiple formats before. Like were you just doing everything by hand or how did that work?
Jeremy Stuart (12:44):
Brute force. Oh my God. But that’s also kind of like the art of being a colorist is, is kind of is doing that. Like most of this stuff that people might think the lot that is from the manufacturer is the way that you should use the footage. But that’s just kind of like a recommended transform to get there. Wide capture format into a viewable space, right? Many colorists like professional colorists wouldn’t use that transform. They would do it by hand because you, you’re locking yourself in. If you use the preset transform, it’s a fine way to go and there’s a lot you can do, but if you’re just kind of sculpting the signal by hand, uh, you might want to start with, just log in, adjust it just with your curves to begin with or whatever and get it into a, you know, a nice looking viewable space by hand.
Chad Ashley (13:28):
So you, but you’ve started playing around in ACEs and how do you, how do you like that compared to doing it that way where you were like pushing and pulling it by hand from log.
Jeremy Stuart (13:37):
It’s really cool if you have a bunch of different formats because there’s a transform been designed to move them all into the ACEs world. And so suddenly things kind of automatically all look more alike. Their starting point is like standardized and so you have to spend less time up front like massaging things and part of it’s just the difference of working scene, referred versus display referred meaning your environment that you’re working in is converting the image versus you manually doing it essentially.
Chad Ashley (14:08):
Yeah. Let’s rewind that back cause I feel like that’s something that I think is gonna be hard to understand, especially on a podcast without visual aid. But sure.
Chad Ashley (14:19):
So what you’re talking about essentially is like when you’re working in a program, that program could have a lot on top of the, the view, right? So you’re looking at it, uh, through a viewer that has a output device transforming. I’m going to get into what those things mean in a second cause I think that’s important to talk about. Or you’re out, you’re basically applying that output at the end of your comp or at the end of your grade. Is that sort of what you mean?
Jeremy Stuart (14:47):
Yeah, essentially it’s partly just whether you are doing that on every piece of the thing you’re working on or if your program is just kind of doing it for you and that’s what resolve does, right. It can you, it’s up to you how you want to work, so working in a color managed environment is ACEs. That’s what ACEs is in resolve versus like if you just open up resolve in default mode, it’s just in it’s, it’s not doing color management for you. You do everything individually. You can put a LUT on or a color transform or whatever. They have their own color managed space to Vinci, Y, RGB, and then they also have ACES, which now is a thing that makes a lot of sense to work in. Not necessarily for every job, but it gives you automatically sort of a more filmic space to work in. It’s kind of a joy to move the image around in a high dynamic range. Linear space.
Chad Ashley (15:39):
Yeah. Yeah, it is.
Jeremy Stuart (15:41):
It behaves more filmically.
Chad Ashley (15:43):
Yeah. That’s one thing I noticed. Mike, did you, did you play with it? In a, what were you testing it or where did you just do the research and write the article? Or did you actually fool around with it?
Michael Maher (15:54):
Uh, I fooled around with that just a little bit. Like, uh, the, the original piece I wrote was more of like a research, uh, to help people get into it. Like, uh, I won’t pretend that I’m a colorist or anything like that. Um, but for me, the, the, the thing that really got me into learning ACEs, um, wasn’t really the, uh, post production stuff. It was the, uh, actual production because what, what an entice me to learn this was, uh, all the different image captures. So I think what’s cool about ACEs that is that it really helps blend the live action and VFX worlds, um, pretty seamlessly now because a lot of the stuff that’s being captured are shot on completely different cameras. And like Jeremy said, they all have their different logs. They have their own proprietary software. And so my challenge is not a colorist was always just trying to match footage when I was editing. And so when you’re moving into learning ACEs, you’re essentially trying to put all of your imagery, everything into the same space. So it all just works together and you’re not having to like do a ton of prep work in advance where it’s like, well first I got to match the looks at these cameras and do all this. You’re now in the same space so you can move from software to software. And that’s kinda really what, what first got me into ACEs.
Chad Ashley (17:16):
Yeah, that’s why. That’s one of the coolest parts about it I think. And I think I just wanted to break down for the audience really quickly. Sort of like a high level idea of how it works. So you have what’s called a IDTs and ODTS, which IDT stands for input device transform and the ODT stands for output device transform. So the whole idea behind ACEs is to get things in and out of ACEs. And the beauty of it is once you’re in it, you’re in a, an environment that is completely predictable and you can bring in any of these formats from a camera, from a CG render. And they’re all going to sit in the right space and then you can just choose, okay, well where are we going out to? Are we going out to film? Okay. Whether we’re going to use our output device transform for film, we’re going to go out to the internet. Okay, we’re going to use an output device transform for sRGB. And it’s, it’s sort of this like great workflow and what I’ve really enjoyed about it is that it’s, you know, it’s complicated, but once you see it in practice, it’s really not that complicated.
Michael Maher (18:27):
It’s one of those things, it’s like it’s a scary word and then you kind of get into it. You’re like, Oh no, this just, this makes total sense.
Jeremy Stuart (18:33):
Yeah. I think it helps me kind of understand it to know about things more historically, like ACEs is really intended to be the future digital replacement of film. Right? I don’t even have to think about all this stuff because it was just, film was the format and you had to know how to like invert stuff from film to make it a negative or to go to a print. And you had in the early days, you know, doing CG stuff, you’d like film luts were needed because you needed to see how it was going to react when it hit the film curve. Right. Not, not to try and make something look filmic for a digital release.
Chad Ashley (19:12):
Yeah. That’s an important distinction to make. Everything was going back to film and it was being projected and film has a natural response curve and when you’re working in a digital medium, I think a lot of people’s thoughts are, will, Oh, you know, I, I, I want to put a filmic response curve on it so that it looks like it’s shot on film. Well, those were actually created so that you could see what it was going to look like when it went back to film.
Jeremy Stuart (19:36):
Exactly. Yeah. And the Sydney on in log, this was all stuff to deal with film. Right. And scanning and digitizing film to work with it for the visual effects industry.
Chad Ashley (19:47):
Yep. Uh, I think it’s, it’s probably a good idea to mention that for those of you out there that, um, maybe this is your first time listening to the show. We are not visual effects artists and we, uh, at least I’m speaking for myself. I’ve never worked on, uh, anything that went back to film. I’ve always worked as a commercial artist doing three D animation. So a lot of stuff that I’m going to talk about is kind of from that perspective and from like a motion design perspective,
Michael Maher (20:14):
The reason we’re talking about it now is it, this is still something very new to this industry, specifically motion design. Because even like, uh, the ACEs workflow, you know, most of the popular third party renderers aren’t even really supporting ACEs yet. Like you can’t really use, uh, like an ACES color space in octane or redshift or anything like that. Yet. I think Arnold Arnold does, but I’m not sure about the other.
Chad Ashley (20:42):
Yeah. In my research, I, I found that, um, Arnold, and I think it’s predominantly, it’s probably because they just do a lot of feature film work. So imagine it was something that they had to figure out. Um, I th redshift supports the output device transforms through open color IO, but that’s not really ACEs. That’s just applying what as it’s like applying a, um, an ACES tone map to your, your render. It’s not really, you’re not working in a wide color gamut and octane, actually what’s interesting about octane is it’s a spectral render, so it doesn’t have a lot of the same, uh, restrictions as a non spectral renderer does. So it naturally already does some of the things that ACES does, uh, just given the fact that, that it’s a spectral render and it sees color as wavelengths and not as RGB values. So it’s, it’s definitely, um, I think they, they are probably gonna support it as well, but I’m not sure when, but yeah, I’ve been playing with it in Arnold and I’ve noticed a significant difference, uh, from what I, how I worked before and how I’m working now in ACEs.
Chad Ashley (21:53):
It looks better. It reacts more like film. I feel like I’m getting a good looking image much faster. Not the S, not the renders, not faster, but, um, I’m getting something that I like faster. And when I started messing with it, I’ve sending it out on, uh, sending some before and afters on Twitter and I sent some over, uh, to you Mike and, and you, Jeremy and I started like getting excited and um, quite a few people were getting kind of defensive on Twitter and I want to talk about that because I think there’s this, I think there’s this like attitude around things that like people are, uh, this is a strange subject. So I had a few people say, well, you know, you’re not thinking about this, right or this is just tone mapping or you could do this with tone mapping. And you know, I was doing the research, I wanted to find out if I was, maybe I was just thinking about this wrong or maybe it is just like tone mapping.
Chad Ashley (22:57):
So I reached out to Chris Brejon, I reached out to the folks at Arnold and I asked him these questions and I said, you know, is this just, is this just basically tell mapping or what is this? And they explained it to me exactly like, uh, like we’ve been talking about in, in it’s not tone mapping. And I think it’s important to mention that tone napping is good. Like at the end of the day, an sRGB render without any tone mapping is probably not going to be great. Um, so tone mapping is definitely a good thing to do. It’s just difficult to recreate a that tone mapping when you’re bringing it into a comp or you’re passing it off to a colorist or another compositor if that tone mapping, uh, isn’t something that they can recreate and it’s into your render and you’re trying to put that into a background plate, well now you’ve got this difference because the color is stir. The compositor isn’t going to know what that tone mapping was doing to your 3d render that you’re trying to comp into the shot. So that’s good in some situations. The tone mapping idea is good, but in practice it gets a little less standard. Yeah, it’s not a standard. Very thank you.
Jeremy Stuart (24:09):
Basically tone mapping is about dynamic range and extended range of exposure. Essentially in the highlights, like if you’re working in a linear space, it’s you have massive dynamic range far beyond what your delivery format or your display can see. And tone mapping is about how you fit that image into your display. So it has to be scaled down. And so the nice expensive look of like an ARRI camera or film or something like that is because it has extended highlight, dynamic range, not clipping cheapo cameras, clip everything in the highlights and it looks cheap and videoy and that’s like your eyes don’t work that way. Your eyes have the widest dynamic range. Even my eyes me. Wow, you’re right. Now I’ll just close my laptop, but so tone mapping is great. Aesthetically it’s just there’s, there’s a bunch of different ways to do it. ACEs just does it the ACEs way. And so if you work in ACEs, it will just be, it’ll look the same for everyone and work the same. Yeah. So you can do tone mapping and you know, whatever way you want, but it’s just doesn’t translate. And if you’re handing the footage someone else or moving into a different program, it’s going to be up to you to figure out and make that work. Whereas if you work in ACEs, it just, it’s just there everywhere.
Chad Ashley (25:33):
Yeah, it works. Yeah. And it works man. Let me tell ya, I’ve been playing around with it and uh, I was taking some log, see footage that that Todd shot and, and like basically seeing if I could bring this, this log footage into Arnold as a background plate and put like a three D object in there and then render that out and then composite it in fusion in ACEs and have everything just work. And it did, it was like, it was pretty painless. I think I may be screwed up a couple output transform settings, but then I figured it out and it made perfect sense. Like once you see it in like it’s, it’s working, you immediately get the benefits of just the workflow side of ACEs. Not even just like the look, but like how, how easy it is to like, okay, what’s, it’s basically like a, those chambers, you know when, when somebody like in a movie and they’re like infected and they’ve, they’re, they’ve got them in quarantine and there’s like that little hallway where you walk in and the door shuts and then all the air gets sucked out and they like get deloused and then they walk out the other side.
Chad Ashley (26:43):
I don’t know why, but I think of ACEs is like that hallway like, yeah, I like you’re bringing in whatever stuff and you like there in that little air lock and they’re in ACEs and then it goes out and it’s in the world. Right, right. I don’t know, maybe that’s just my strange way of thinking about it.
Jeremy Stuart (27:01):
I, I get that. I think, yeah, it makes it like it’s harder to break stuff once you’re in the ACEs workflow.
Chad Ashley (27:07):
Right, right. Yeah. I was noticing that too. Like I was bringing the exposure up on, on the HTRI that was feeding into this, into this a Arnold render and it was like, look, like I was blowing out, you know, my, my, uh, like I was looking through a camera and just like bringing the exposure way up. Right. It’s crazy. There was, uh, in this, in this, um, Chris Bree Han, uh, online book, I guess you’d call it. He has a section in here that I wanted to talk about because I think it’s, it’s really, it’s gonna people will be able to visualize this very well, I think. So. I’m going to just read a passage from this. He writes something that really hit me when I arrived at animal logic in 2016 was their range of colors. The artists were working on a beautiful and very saturated movie called Lego Batman. It was my first day and I saw the shot on a screen. He has, he shows the shot, some really saturated red shot of a Lego monster, like coming at the screen. It’s like beautiful colors. He goes on. I really thought to myself, wow, this looks good. How did they get these crazy colors? The range really seemed wider than illumination. And I realized later it was due to ACEs. So if you’ve seen the Lego movies, then you know what he’s talking about here. This the movie, the movies are like wildly saturated and just look so vibrant that they almost like hurt your eyes. Right. And I never thought about it like, did you guys ever think, I mean that’s just not something that you think about. You’re just like, Oh, that’s something.
Michael Maher (28:49):
I think it’s something that didn’t really translate to me in the film until um, you start, uh, interacting with the real characters and then you’re kind of that it’s kind of what animal logic has done with the Lego movies is really kind of changed the whole animation world and the way they use ACEs cause they’ve standardized it for animation. But if you think of it, it’s the same standards are used in all of the Marvel movies where you’re doing heavy VFX, comping real characters, things like that. There’s, there’s a few scenes at the end of the first Lego movie when like, will Pharaoh and all of them start coming into the world and you’re looking around and then you realize like, Oh yeah, I forgot, like Legos are really colorful. Like I forgot, this is what it really looked like. And what they were able to do is really translate that so well of bringing that real world into the animated portions of the film. And when you look at things like the highlights on the characters or the sun and all that stuff, like it, it really just, it brings such life to the entire environment.
Chad Ashley (29:56):
Yeah. And I started pushing colors when, as soon as I started messing around with ACEs, like the first thing I did was like make a foggy red light and a foggy blue light and like cranked them up as high as I could. Well, not as high as it could, but pretty fricking high. And it’s crazy how you’re able to get it to look like that. This still from, uh, from the side of this Lego movie still. And I would flip it back tosRGB and it would completely fall apart. Like it could not handle, um, handle it at all. The uh, the colors didn’t bleed properly. You get like a haloing effect around the intense parts of the light and it sort of like flips a switch in your brain and you’re like, Oh, I’ve been looking at everything raw. And uh, I mean, Jeremy, do you think that everybody should be using ACEs or do you think that, what’s your take on, on, on that, on this idea of like, have we been looking at it? Right.
Jeremy Stuart (30:53):
I would say everyone should give it a try. I w I think that it’s a little complicated, at least in CG. I imagine, you know, you have to, you have change your workflow a bit. So I think it’s, you know, there’s a couple of hurdles basically just to begin working in ACEs, but you literally mathematically have a larger color space to work with and a team of people have worked on how to intelligently translate that into your view space, which is just going to give you better results. Right. You can definitely make stuff look great in sRGB, it’s been done a million times, but I think you probably have to work a little harder in some situations like you saw on some of your tasks that you were shared with me and it really basic like neutral colors seen with not a lot of color going on. It’s not immediately obvious the benefits of bases.
Chad Ashley (31:43):
Right. That’s a good point. That’s a really good point.
Jeremy Stuart (31:45):
So I think you in a lot of situations you’re not like, you’re not going to see a massive difference, but on once you start working near the edges of your, particularly your color space, that’s where you realize that what you’ve been working in, it’s very limited and it will fall apart in the edges. And that’s this. The places in the past where you are fixing it in the comp and doing a lot more stuff to like make it look good manually by hand at the end of the line. Whereas ACES is just like you’re unrestricted.
Chad Ashley (32:13):
That’s a great point. So my question to both of you is like, do you think that artists, I’m speaking specifically about three D renders in, um, do you think that, uh, because we, we work or we have been working in a limited color space, we’d, you don’t see a lot of people pushing those boundaries because it wasn’t anything that ever looked good or it required a of work, like you said at the end of the line. Um, do you think that I’m, I’m just trying to wrap my head around do people, did they just not go that far with the saturation and the intensity and all that sort of thing because it just, it couldn’t do it and now cause it looks bad. Yeah, because now I feel like you sort of, do you like work with this like restriction that you don’t even know you have, you just think that that’s the limit. You’re like, Oh, I just can’t go this saturated. I can’t go this bright or because it’s going to, and I guess that’s the limit. So I guess I’ll just tone it down. But creatively, I feel like now if you open up this gamut and you give people the opportunity to do really crazy saturated bright stuff, and it’s not just, that’s not the only benefits by the way, but it is, is it’s the most apparent, I guess. I bet we’re going to see a lot more crazy saturated stuff. Right?
Jeremy Stuart (33:34):
Yeah. I would think you just kind of have more freedom and it will just work as opposed to if you’re like, well, I’m doing this scene and it needs to be like super red, where in the past you might’ve been like, all right, well it’s, we go to red on this light and it starts to look crappy and it breaks here on this highlight and you’re like, all right, well I’m going to do this and this and the comp and then get it there. Right. But an ACES is gonna be like, well, let’s crank crank the red in the lights and it looks good.
Michael Maher (34:01):
You also have to take into account, and this is something that, you know, each artist’s considering a move to ACEs, it, it may or may not be worth it for you based on where your deliverables are going. So essentially if you’re just building 3d renders for Instagram or like web stuff, is this probably the right thing for you? No, probably not. Like it’s,
Chad Ashley (34:23):
I dunno, I might argue against that.
Michael Maher (34:25):
You think so?
Jeremy Stuart (34:27):
I would say you don’t need it, but yeah, it might help you like creatively, but I feel like the thing about it is it’s the future, like ACEs is coming and it’s gonna roll you over. HDR is the future and ACEs has been working to be the standard and everything. It’s being created on a very large scale. Today is pretty much now happening in phases, right? Movies and things for Netflix, everything. It’s going, it’s like the archival format for the future where it makes it easy. If you’re going to different formats you’re working in, your view space is for broadcast rec 709 and they’re like, well, we all seem to do for the theater. You just change your output to P three and you’re done.
Michael Maher (35:13):
Yeah, that’s, that was what I was going to recommend. Those are if you are working where you have to send deliverables for for television, for theaters, for print or wherever, like it’s nice to have that range and you can optimize your renders for whatever medium. But it is nice to have that, but you know it’s definitely worth learning. It’s worth at least diving in and experimenting with.
Chad Ashley (35:41):
I would say that everybody listening that’s using a render that that doesn’t fully support it. Go and hassle your render manufacturer for them to support it so that you can play with it and see, see if it’s something that would benefit you for getting back to like the Instagram sort of like person that’s outputting that way. I would say that, you know, if you’re getting what you like now, that’s totally fine. But I, I do think that this is going to be something that, like Jeremy said, it’s coming and it’s going to be the new standard, so you might as well try to figure it out. And I think you can benefit from it creatively. I think you’re going to be able to get more out of your render with less work. Uh, you’re going to be able to use more realistic light settings intensities that you wouldn’t use before. You’re able to crank that light way brighter than you used to and it’s not going to fall apart. Um, and I think that once you use it, you can’t like sort of unsee it in like, it’s hard for me to now go back and do like a strictly SRDB workflow and not feel somewhat restricted. But you, like everybody said, you know, we’ve been saying it for this entire podcast, you can still make good stuff. Like, obviously like it’s not like everything sucks now, you know, like it’s still, but yeah, I do think that, uh, uh, the bare minimum tone mapping is, is, is something that I think a lot of people already do. And if you don’t, at the bare minimum, if your render doesn’t support, if your renderer doesn’t support ACEs yet, the least you can do is figure out a tone mapping solution to get a a more, um, how do I put this Jeremy?
Jeremy Stuart (37:26):
Uh, you put it more dynamic range,
Chad Ashley (37:27):
like a, a better, a better transformation of dynamic range than just strictly sRGB two points. Clean,
Jeremy Stuart (37:35):
tasty, your highlights.
Chad Ashley (37:36):
Right, right. Yeah, I think a lot of the tone mapper is just basically remap the highlights and de saturate them and sometimes that works, but you find in a can, and I’m going to show in my video that I’m making for, for Greyscalegorilla plus how tone mapping works and on this footage that I made and it looks good, but if you push it, it just can’t handle it. Cause ultimately you’re still pushing a, a sRGB gamut around and it just can’t, it just can’t maintain the vibrancy. It starts to de saturate pretty aggressively. The highlights.
Jeremy Stuart (38:13):
Are there other larger college spaces to work in CG outside of sRGB?
Chad Ashley (38:18):
You know, I don’t know. Um, that’s a great question. I, this is the first one that I’ve sort of even heard about. Um, typically, uh, the way that Arnold works is, well, first of all, let’s start way back in the, in the, the base application. Cinema 40 a is an sRGB. It’s an sRGB, right? There’s no open color IO supported at the native level of cinema, which I hope hope will change. So Arnold does it through their color management where you, uh, use open color IO, which is an open color standard for I guess dealing with different color spaces. I needed probably do more research on that, but yeah. And so through open color IO, you can actually load ACEs configuration files and work in ACEs. In Arnold, a Redshift does not support open color IO, uh, color spaces. It supports only open color IO output device transforms. And, uh, as far as I know at the time of making this podcast octane doesn’t do, do either of those things I don’t believe.
Chad Ashley (39:24):
But yeah, those are the only ones that I know of. But who knows. Maybe there’s ones out there that I don’t know.
Jeremy Stuart (39:30):
It’s interesting. I think so. I mean it seems like you can’t work in AC everywhere yet. No. It’s being increasingly adopted. Yeah.
Chad Ashley (39:39):
From what I understand, uh, it’s really hard to work in ACEs with like after effects or even Photoshop. Right. Just because their whole color management thing is already super confusing. Um, but in nuke and in fusion it’s pretty easy because those programs don’t really care about the programs. What did you call it when a pro, uh, it’s like a view space. Is that where you’re saying I’ve.
Jeremy Stuart (40:06):
scene refers, referred versus display referred?
Chad Ashley (40:09):
Yes. They don’t care about seen referred. I think I’m saying this right and I apologize if I’m not, but because they’re just like, Oh, your footage is here and then you just throw in an open color IO transform and there you go.
Jeremy Stuart (40:23):
That I believe is working display referred. Right. Whereas working seen, referred to mean you changed the counter space for the whole application then.
Chad Ashley (40:32):
Okay, so we’re after effects and Photoshop would be called.
Jeremy Stuart (40:35):
display refer display referred to leave. Okay. So if it’s like, Hey, here’s the footage you brought in and they’re like, how do you want to display it? And then you have to like figure it out. So that’s display referred. Yeah. Okay. So you’re like,
Chad Ashley (40:48):
okay, I need to see, it’s complicated, but we’re working through it. Yeah. I mean it’s, Mike’s already lost interest. He’s already checking his email.
Jeremy Stuart (40:58):
We’ve made this a love letter to ACEs, but it’s definitely, you know, it takes some, some learning and reading to dive into.
Chad Ashley (41:07):
Yeah. And ultimately I want, I don’t want people to think that it’s, you know, you don’t have to be a scientist to understand it. You don’t have to be a scientist to use it. I’m not a scientist. I don’t consider myself to be, uh, the most technically, uh, I’m not a super technical person as much as you know, I’d like to think I am. Sometimes I’m not. So for me, learning this was pretty difficult and didn’t even get into the science, the color science behind it, cause that’s like way over my head. But from a use case, I wanted to see if it was useful for me as an artist to use it or understand it. And the answer for me was yes. On both of those things. So do you think that you’re, you, now that you’ve played with it and you’ve seen the benefits of it, uh, Jeremy, will you recommend it to your clients? Will you work in it? Will you try to be a, uh, uh, an evangelist of ACEs?
Jeremy Stuart (42:05):
Uh, in general, yes. I, for me, I can, being sort of an Island as the colorist, I can often, if I want to work in it, I could, and it doesn’t matter if the people delivering to me did work in it. Right. Particularly if it’s just, if I’m just receiving footage and, and it, uh, then it’s, then it’s up to me if I want to work in it. And there’s a number of jobs where it could be beneficial if I’m getting a bunch of different formats that all have transforms are already ready for them.
Chad Ashley (42:36):
Yeah. Let me put a for instance. Yeah. So what if you got, okay, let’s just let me put together some crazy stuff. Well, I don’t know much about these formats so it won’t be too crazy a, somebody shot something on let’s say red. So it’s like a red log and um, let’s say you got an Ari log C piece of footage, then you got like a Canon five D a piece of footage and um, you’re gonna you, you need to grade this entire sequence is like all intercut different formats and it’s a mess. Is this, is this the ultimate time to use ACEs?
Jeremy Stuart (43:18):
Uh, it could definitely be handy, especially on a longer format piece if like, if I’m getting the ARRI and the RED stuff, if it’s raw than resolve over it, he knows what it, where it’s coming from. It’s got the metadata in it. So if I just turn on ACEs, it, it, it comes in looking very similar.
Chad Ashley (43:38):
Oh, that’s nice. What if you need to go out to like three different places, like let’s say your delivery, you got a delivery that’s going to go any they need. It’s a, let’s say it’s an Instagram story and then they’re going to also push it to HDR TV and then they may even use it in a feature film.
Jeremy Stuart (43:57):
You would have a huge benefit in being in ACEs because you could essentially all you’d have to change is your output device transform,
Chad Ashley (44:07):
right? That’s the point I was trying to get to and I think that’s really cool and but from a composite thing of like CG elements perspective, feel free either of you chime in on this one. The, I saw a big benefit in working in ACEs when you are working with a CG element with live action that needs to go back into a comp pipeline, a color pipeline. Because what, at least in my experience like that without ACEs is always kind of a crapshoot. Like you’re, you’re converting log to linear or you’re going linear to sRGB or sorry, logged sRGB or rec 709. Then you’re bringing it in and like doing all of your CG on it and then it’s sort of like, it’s not a very efficient or uh, what’s the word I’m looking for? It works. I mean we’ve been doing it for years, but it pretty much falls in the lap of the compositor right. Figure everything out. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s like, tell me more about that.
Jeremy Stuart (45:12):
I mean, that’s the commercial workflow I feel like for the most part, unless you’re a giant shop, it’s like how, how’s the plate being transformed to view the plates going to most likely come from somewhere where it’s in some sort of log space. It’s just, I mean that’s kind of the whole reason for ACEs. Like for example, if you were doing a job with red footage, it’s often difficult to know unless someone has decided. We’re like, how are we viewing this? There’s two different color sciences currently for red, uh, before getting red. Ronnie too. Which is it? [inaudible] is it dragon color?
Chad Ashley (45:48):
I, I P. P there’s all these, unless I go to the bathroom, I believe that’s what it stands for. I have to go pee is the format we’re shooting in.
Jeremy Stuart (46:01):
I don’t know what the acronym stands for, but point being like it’ll look some way. However the editor brought it in, in, in the rough cut. That’s like, I don’t know what they’ve been looking at. Then if you’re going to do CG on top of that, it’s like you have to decide what your footage looks like right before you start doing that. Or you try and work over log. I don’t know. You work in log maybe, but that’s not normally a thing that happens is commercial workflow. Yeah.
Chad Ashley (46:29):
No, I’ve never had, I’ve never done 3d in log. I’ve always had to like actually if you go way, way back before really knew much about any of the stuff, we would be like, Oh, can you just like color it first? Exactly. And then give us the footage and then you know, you’re trying to match it. And who knows what they did to the image in color. Like they could have completely changed the, uh, the entire, uh, how light works and I crushed the shadows and these lights over here. This Highland is going to be green, but the light over there was red and it becomes really hard to figure out what the hell you’re doing.
Jeremy Stuart (47:01):
Exactly. Whoever is at the end of the line, it rolls downhill.
Chad Ashley (47:05):
It sure does. The com the composite or always gets stuck. Yeah. They’re like, okay, I’ve got this plate and I’ve got to finish this thing. Here’s my render, here’s the plate, make it work.
Chad Ashley (47:18):
And you know, that’s the art of compositing and stuff can look great. So it was ACES going to put compositors out of business.
Jeremy Stuart (47:25):
Chad Ashley (47:26):
I just want to recap how you guys are use ACEs or not using, so it sounds like Jeremy, you’re into it if the job benefits from it, but you’re probably gonna run into more people not understanding what it is then. Then the inverse of that.
Jeremy Stuart (47:41):
Pretty much, I don’t think I’ve worked with one client who knows anything about it. And am I the first person to bring it up to you? Um, I’ve read a lot about it. You’re supposed to speak. Uh, but, uh, you’re the first person who has like shown me renders done in ACEs.
Chad Ashley (47:59):
Jeremy Stuart (48:00):
Uh, I’ve talked to a couple of places I’ve worked with like grading elements that are going into like more motion graphics, job with D and stuff like that. Uh, none of them are talking about any size currently, but I’ve seen a few cases where I think it could be handy for them. For me, I kind of, I have the luxury of being like, I’m going to do this job. And he says, right. And you know, no one will know, but it might make my life easier.
Chad Ashley (48:30):
All right, so let’s just do a quick summary here. Cause I, I know we talked about a lot of stuff and um, I really, you know, listening to a podcast is really probably not the best way to learn about ACEs because it’s really not something that you can fully grasp purely by audio. So I highly recommend checking out all of the notes that we’re going to put, uh, in this podcast with links to all these articles we’ve talked about and videos and whatnot. And really go on a little journey for yourself and see if it’s something that your work would benefit from. And if it is, great, uh, if your renderer doesn’t support it, make sure you let them know that you wish it did. And hopefully we can get the ACEs standard implemented everywhere so that everybody can benefit from all the awesome things that it has to offer. Um, yeah, I mean, I’m excited. I’m excited to play around more with it and put out this, this video over on grace. Go girl plus and hopefully shed some light on this, uh, kind of weird subject.
Jeremy Stuart (49:37):
Yeah, I would say it’s easy to be, you know, if you’re busy in production post production, it’s easy to stay on the treadmill and work the way you’ve been working. But if you were interested in the future of post-production, you should, you should read up on ACES.
Michael Maher (49:54):
Chad Ashley (49:57):
There you have it folks. With that, we’re gonna wrap things up. Thank you so much Jeremy, for joining us on the show today.
Jeremy Stuart (50:05):
Thank you for having me,
Chad Ashley (50:07):
Mike. I always love talking to you.
Michael Maher (50:09):
I love talking to you too, buddy up. I’ll start typing up all those show notes.
Chad Ashley (50:15):
Perfect. All right, everybody remember to leave us a comment and a review. Um, if you feel so inclined, if there’s a topic that you think we should be covering that we haven’t yet, reach out to us and we will try our best to put a show together around that topic. All right. That about wraps it up. Everybody have a great day and we will see you on the next Greyscalegorilla podcast.
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