Caution: Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X and QuickTime Player Don’t Show the Same Color the Same Way

Posted on by Larry


Recently, I was re-reading an excellent blog from Caroline Sears, at Adobe, about why the same video looks darker when played in Premiere than when played in QuickTime Player or Final Cut Pro X.

Color management – especially on hardware – has improved a great deal since the “early days,” but applications still have a ways to go.

The problem is the gamma curve, as this chart illustrates. Gamma describes how different shades of gray will be displayed. Premiere uses a gamma setting of 2.4, which matches the standard for broadcast television.

Final Cut and QuickTime Player use a gamma setting of 1.96, which more closely matches how the eye sees real life. The difference is lighter shadows and software whites.

Carolyn writes: “This gamma shift is completely dependent on what app you play your video back in, as most users have figured out on their own. FCP X, QuickTime, and certain web browsers all play video back in the same way, so people assume that they’re displaying the video “correctly” when in reality, it’s just that they’re displaying the video under similar standards. Your video files are fine! The actual color codes within the pixels of your video are not changing in between apps. The miscommunication is happening between the apps and the monitor they’re being displayed on.”

The problem is worse with newer Mac monitors that use the Display P3 color space. This displays more vibrant colors than traditional Rec. 709 video. This means that videos will appear more saturated than they were intended.

Premiere has added a color management setting to map Rec. 709 colors to a P3 display. Go to Preferences > General and enable Display Color Management. (This requires a relatively modern GPU with at least 1 GB of VRAM.)


(Click to see a larger image.)

This table explains when to enable the Display Color Management option and what the results are.

SUMMARY

Consistent color across all devices is very, very hard to achieve. Take a few minutes and read the blogs below to learn more – because we all want our projects to look as good as they can.

Keep in mind that this is a display issue. The underlying colors in the media files are not changing. Which, when you think about it, is the same issue we’ve been wrestling with since the dawn of color TV – how to get colors to look consistent across all platforms.

EXTRA CREDIT


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7 Responses to Caution: Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X and QuickTime Player Don’t Show the Same Color the Same Way

  1. David vogt says:

    The issue of getting correct color to a viewer is complex, as Larry Suggests. From capture to viewer needs to all be calibrated and in sync. In most situations there is at least 1piece is not properly aligned. In addition to color and gamma calibration, the editing monitor and end display monitor need to be set to the same luminosity. It is only when all this is in place that judgements should be made.

  2. Thanks for the article Larry. I discovered this issue a few months ago while working on a project in both Premiere Pro and FCP X. I found that Premiere Pro and Resolve were more alike in color and FCP X was different than the two; being slightly brighter.

  3. I think the last point to be made is: if you’re working for broadcast, referencing the waveform monitor before exportis more important than ever.

  4. Adding this to the list of resources to consult a webinar by FilmLight on mastering for sRGB screens:
    https://www.filmlight.ltd.uk/store/events/live-webinar-srgb-we-need-to-talk/

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