One of the key new features in both Adobe Premiere and Apple Final Cut Pro X is support for some form of HDR video. While full support of the Rec. 2020 spec is still a long ways away, many of the latest hardware releases from Apple – both mobile devices and computers – now support an interim color space called “P3.”
NOTE: Here are two articles that help explain what HDR video is and how it applies to video shooting and editing.
Traditionally, the folks that cared the most about extended color spaces were professional still photographers. This is because, in the past, HD video created the significantly lower resolution images where a 1080p frame contained 2.1 million pixels at 8-bit depth, while a 4×5 inch digital negative could contain up to 40 million pixels at 16-bit depth.
In the world of still photos, Adobe RGB (and its close cousin sRGB) reigned supreme as the color space of choice because of its color range and dynamics.
From what I read, the DCI P3 color space is optimized for projection systems, not for monitors. Why? Because P3 was the color space designed for use by digital cinema projectors in theaters.
This means that many photographers are puzzled about why Apple chose a video standard for its monitors, rather than a stills standards. Apple hasn’t responded to these questions, but my guess it that consumers are embracing video in all aspects of their life – both socially and professionally – and it makes sense to support them with greater video quality. Also, the P3 spec has more reds and warmer colors than Adobe RGB.
It may be that the professional photography market is bigger than professional video, but consumers are bigger than both of them. Hence, P3.
NOTE: Here is a good article on color management in the iPhone 7
SO, WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO TO DISPLAY P3 IN THE MACBOOK PRO?
In a word? Nothing.
The default color space for the new MacBook Pro is Display P3, which is the correct setting for P3 video to be displayed on computer monitors.
To view or change the color space setting for your monitor, open System Preferences > Display and click the Color tab.
The top option – Color LCD – isn’t labeled “P3,” but it is. When you compare the Color LCD setting with the Display P3 setting, you’ll see they are essentially identical.
WHAT IS DCI P3?
HDR (High Dynamic Range) video describes pixels using three different criteria:
DCI P3 (Digital Cinema Initiative P3) falls into the “greater color saturation” section. It sets the white point at 6500° Kelvin and is more saturated than traditional HD video, but not as deeply saturated as the ultimate goal of Rec. 2020. Apple calls this “wide color,” or “wide color gamut,” media.
EXPLORING P3 COLOR SPACE
There’s a great way to explore the differences between Adobe RGB, HD (Rec. 709), P3, and HDR (Rec. 2020) color spaces. It’s called ColorSync and its already installed in the Utility folder on your system.
Open the Utility folder inside Applications (shortcut: Shift + Cmd + U), then open the ColorSync Utility. This program allows you to view and modify color profiles.
NOTE: Unless you REALLY know what you are doing, I strongly recommend that you not modify any color profile. If you follow the steps I outline below, you won’t run the risk of changing anything.
At the top of the ColorSync window, click Profiles.
This displays all the different color profile categories installed on your system. Click the twirl-down arrow next to System to see all the color profiles installed on your computer.
NOTE: This list varies by Mac OS version – this list is from Mac OS 10.11.6, which includes a number of new profiles.
Click the Display P3 profile and, on the right, is a visual representation of the colors that can be displayed in the P3 color space; illustrated above.
One of the hidden features of ColorSync is the ability to compare color spaces, so you can easily see the differences between them.
In the top left corner of the illustration, next to the words “Lab Plot,” click the triangle and select Hold for Comparison.
Then, in the Profiles list on the left, click Rec. ITU-R BT.709-5. This superimposes the color space for HD (Rec. 709) on top of the color space for P3. As you can see, P3 provides extended values, especially in the reds and greens.
NOTE: You can compare any two profiles using this technique.
[ Image courtesy: Conrad Chavez ]
In this screen shot, we are comparing four different color spaces:
The issue photographers have is that the P3 color space does not map perfectly with the Adobe RGB color space. This means that, under ideal conditions, the most saturated colors in a high-quality still won’t match the same colors shot by a high-quality video camera.
NOTE: Conrad Chavez has written an excellent blog detailing the P3 color gamut in iMacs from the point of view of a professional still photographer. Read it here.
MORE COOL OPTIONS
Click anywhere inside the color space image and drag to rotate the shape in three dimensions.
The more I read about color spaces and extended range video, the more complex it gets. Also, we are nowhere close to achieving monitors that can display the full range of colors described by the Rec. 2020 spec.
However, as an interim step, P3 is a good start. And with recent iPhone, iPads, iMacs and, now, the new MacBook Pro supporting this format out of the box, exploring this new capability is easier than ever.
NOTE: You won’t see any difference when viewing an existing image in P3 space, unless you shot using a RAW format. This is a feature best used “going forward.”
Even better, if you are still working in HD – and almost all of us are – we don’t need to change anything. ColorSync, the color management system built into the Mac OS and iOS, automatically and correctly maps between Rec. 709 and P3 color spaces so that your images are displayed properly.
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