A Tale Of Two-Colored Pants | Why Color Is Important To Your Business & End Product
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If “images” hold the key to our memories… “color” is the fondness in which they are painted. No truer words have been spoken. Color, tonality, and accuracy are crucial to the image pipeline of the products we generate at Capion Studio. Unlike many of our competitors that rely solely on in-camera profiles, we painstakingly process our images in post-production editing to give the unique look & feel that is deserving of your brand, service, or product. That’s why I’d like to take the time to bring to light the importance of color, what it means, and it’s effects on your end product. We will look at why color is important, when to custom color grade, why our competitors might be disserving you, and when it’s appropriate to use these different modes of capture & processing. I know this topic may get a bit technical, but I assure you this content is purposed for business owners, product managers, art directors, and marketing executives. Stick with me here, I promise you this information will pay off in the end!
Our editing bay at Capion Studio where we utilize scopes and Color Finale 2 Pro.
Let me be clear, there is a time for in-camera profiles, and there is a time for custom coloring your footage in post-production. Not every video product needs to be colored by hand, but there are a lot of specific instances where it is detrimental to the end result. In order to illustrate this concept further, perhaps we should take a step back to understand exactly to which I am referring. Without diving in too deep, I’ll attempt to keep this as simple as possible. Modern digital cameras have what we refer to as photodiodes. These photodiodes are located on a piece of silicon called a sensor inside of a camera. The camera captures and absorbs the light photons striking through the lens to converge on the camera’s sensor, absorbed by the photodiodes. Those values are converted from an analog process to a digital form in what we like to label as “pixels” representing red, green and blue (RGB) values. These camera manufactures designate the values of the color spectrum in what is known as “color science”. This corresponds directly to how that specific color value and color combination is interpreted, and what color equals what level of brightness, hue, tint, and saturation. It’s worth noting at this point in time, each camera manufacturer interprets and represents the color spectrum differently in their color science, and there is no true standard to how this is processed, despite the industry at large attempting to wrangle this together in post-production software.
Bayer Sensor diagram and its capture of allocated RGB spectrum in direct correspondence to color and resolution.
So when we capture an image, we mainly have three image processing choices to pick from. These three choices are raw (as the name implies), logarithmic (essentially colorless), and in-camera (REC709 / BT2020 / HLG). The go-to choice for most is to select an in-camera profile, where our camera is primary dictating the value and interpreting the colors for us. These values are more or less “baked” into the file, and traditionally they have little flexibility to adjust them in post production without the deterioration of the image. Of course, these colors can be pushed and pulled to correct small divergences in terms of accuracy, but it’s absolutely crucial to nail your camera’s white balance, to which all of the other colors are aligned. With in-camera color profiling, we are accelerating the post production process, and in most cases the color can look fantastic, so long as we are exposing and balancing our whites correctly per the scene.
Sony Full Frame Bayer Sensor
Where this option shines the best is for quick turn arounds, small budgets, or live broadcasting scenarios where an image has to be delivered immediately. Where this choice is not appropriate is when the accuracy of a scene, person, or most specifically a product needs to be represented with the utmost fidelity. There is a caveat to this however. I'd like to convey a scenario where this option was a double-edged sword for us with one of our clients. While the client had a modest budget, the sheer volume of video products generated on a weekly / monthly basis could not call for custom color grading. It just was not possible to crank out the total volume of videos they were requesting with that level of nuance in the post production process. So in an effort to adhere to budgetary constraints, workload demands, and fast turn-arounds, we needed to rely on in-camera profiling to widely dictate our colors for us. This client in particular designs and sells product sports apparel, so the color representation of their clothing has to be as accurate as possible within the scope of work.
While we always attempt to maintain accurate white balancing, and would often use a color checker in unison with accurate rated lighting, there is the off chance that the product could not be accurately represented. This is not due to a misbalance in our whites, but rather how the in-camera profile interprets select color combinations. In one instance, the client kindly brought to our attention that a select pair of leggings was being misrepresented in the final output as a “little too blue”. Oddly enough our scopes were inline, and everything checked out okay, so what gave? This boiled down to how the camera was interpreting the teal color and it’s hue. The client revealed that the product has had difficulty in the past being photographed, and that it takes a level of finesse to bring it back to an accurate depiction.
XRite Color Checker laid along side the pants to confirm color in post to correct the issue. Photo taken in Pro Mode with Samsung Note 9. True color.
Since I couldn’t remember what the product looked like in my mind, I went back into their facility and laid a color checker alongside the clothing on the floor with even lighting. I snapped a few manually balanced photos in the pro mode with my cellphone, and brought them back into our editing bay. Sure enough, the images from the video shoot were reading the leggings as blue, yet the image was perfectly balanced. Now I could see and remember that the leggings were a seafoam teal, so I was able to go in with a selector and make some modifications with the Hue Vs. Hue tools. Since the color was baked from the in-camera profiling it wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot closer to the original color I saw in person. So why did this happen? If it wasn’t an unbalanced image, why would the product render blue instead of teal? This widely has to do with “color science”.
Color Science at work here. Note how the whites of her shoes, and skin tones are correct in both the original & corrected versions, but the in-camera profile is interpreting the hue of the leggings incorrectly in the "original". The corrected versions is less than perfect as the image deteriorated due to baked colors, but its correction is closer to the true color.
You see, this is a prime example of when an in-camera profiling might not be appropriate to use. While this specific example might be far and few between, there is the off chance that your camera could be interpreting your color combination incorrectly. This scenario can be true of any camera. This also isn’t to say that this cannot happen in a raw or logarithmic color space as the color science of the camera manufacturer still pertains, but that level of forgiveness, and ability to shift that color science is greatly increased. That’s because when you shoot in a raw, or in a log capture workflow, you can convert your color science to other camera manufacturers color sciences that might have a more accurate, and repeatable result. You can also color balance, and grade an image with a greater level of accuracy without the image falling apart.
When there is a lack of brand cohesion in your imagery, especially in product photography / videography, there can be a real chance for brand or product damage.
Color accuracy aside, there are other benefits to capturing in a raw, or logarithmic workflow. A brand “look” and “feel” is very important in the post production process. Have you ever hired a photographer that creates stellar images with vibrance or grittiness that coincides with your brand, only to have your videos feeling lackluster and “off brand”? That’s because there’s a strong chance your video agency is using in-camera profiling to cut corners, they do not know what they’re doing, there’s a lack of communication in a style guide, or they simply do not have a strong hand in the color grading process. That’s why it’s crucial as an agency to ingest previous media, and have a strong understanding of what the brand is after in the discovery process. When there is a lack of brand cohesion in your imagery, especially in product photography / videography, there can be a real chance for brand or product damage.
These are all dead give-a-ways of the color science at work here, it’s effect on your final image, and / or the lack of service being provided by your agency to correct these issues.
Sometimes it’s okay to let the camera dictate the color for you. Sometimes you’re forced to utilize in-camera profiling due to logistical, or budgetary constraints. God know’s we’ve had our fair share when our back is against a wall. That said, it’s important to know when, and how to utilize color to your full advantage. While we do not necessarily label ourselves as full blown colorists, we do take some pride in the fact that we offer custom color grading with the majority of our video marketing products. Truthfully, that’s a major portion of what differentiates ourselves from our competitors that widely rely on in-camera profiling. With a trained eye, you can usually spot this immediately as the camera is not optimizing it’s skintones with a lot of pre-baked color profiles, offering waxy, or blown highlights, and sometimes oversaturated, or contrasty images. Certain camera’s color science can lean predominantly green, magenta, or even have a reddish-brown must across the entire image rendering their greens with a minty pallet. These are all dead give-a-ways of the color science at work here, it’s effect on your final image, and / or the lack of service being provided by your agency to correct these issues.
Logarithmic capture and custom color grading example. Note the tonality, soft highlights, and soft colors all contributing to the look, feel, and accuracy.
So while raw, or logarithmic capture and color workflows might be more labor intensive, in the proper hands they can yield a higher quality result, in turn bolstering the accuracy & fidelity of your brand. No one size fits all, and each color look is different per the given brand. I would strongly suggest taking color into consideration when approaching a video production agency, as it’s worth having a conversation about their process, and how that might align with your own scope of work. While their past work & style may, or may not be indicative of your own end result, I think it’s important at a minimum you can have a mutual understanding of how they color so expectations are set, and technical requirements are met.
At Capion Studio, we love color!
As we started this article, “color” is the "fondness" in which our images are painted. A great level of attention and technical knowledge needs to be applied here. The same captured image can have two wildly different end results per the coloring process. The hands in which you’ve entrusted ultimately can make, or break your image. At Capion Studio we have a strong understanding on color grading our images so we may better service you. If you want to harness the full potential of your images, make sure to visit us on our main page found at www.capionstudio.com. So as always thank you for tuning, until the next article, take care and stay creative!