The Law of Unintended Consequences - 6500k Wrap-up

What happens when a finishing room with 6500k bulbs has light spilling in from the hallway because the door is mostly a large pane of frosted glass? Do you cover the inside of the glass with black fabric?

Not me.

No, no, no.

I decide to change the hallway light bulb to 6500k. What happens next falls directly under the header of "The Law of Unintended Consequences"...

You see, my room is at the end of a hallway - so changing the bulb outside the door solves the problem of mixed light temperatures filtering into the edit room. But when you walk down the hallway, suddenly that one light fixture stuck out like a sore thumb. It's a lone brand-new bulb shining in its glory - a full 3000 degrees hotter than any other light in the hallway.

In a world of dull orange lighting, the bright blue bulb became an eyesore. The next step?

That's right, I changed all the bulbs in the hallway to 6500k. The hallway brightened considerably (I figure the previous bulbs were at least 3 years old and were quite tired).

And then came my co-workers headaches. It seems the new bright blue light filtering out of the hallway and into their offices was mixing color temperatures with their 3000k orange overhead fluorescent lights. I'm guessing the constant white balance adjustments their brains were forced into executing tired people out.

So, what's a geeky finisher to do? That's right...

We installed a total of 25 6500k fluorescent lights!

All this because I wanted a properly lit edit suite and didn't want to close in my already small-ish space by covering the door with black fabric...

- pi

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Color Correction Masterclass - Nov. 3, 2007

Saturday, November 3, NYC - Color Correction Masterclass

I'm teaching a color correction class in a few weeks. If you're interested I suggest you sign up now - it's a small class size (20 enrollees, max).

I kind'a hate the name of this class, since I don't consider myself a Master - just someone who has taken a keen interest in the topic and pursues it professionally. This class is a full day seminar covering the theory behind video-based color correction techniques and then the application of those techniques to Final Cut Studio 2.

This seminar is a collaboration between myself, Mopictive (a 501(c)3 non-profit (I'm a board member)), and Manhattan Edit Workshop (Jamie Hitchings, who is an Apple-Certified instructor and will cover material contained in the Apple Pro Series book Advanced Techniques and Color Correction in Final Cut Pro). It's a jam packed day. I last did this class in the Spring and it was pretty well received. This time around I'm going to add more material on properly setting up lighting as well as providing a list of online retailers to help you execute a lighting plan.

Cost: $300 with 50% of the proceeds going to Mopictive (the NY Final Cut Pro User Group) and the remaining split between the facility providing the equipment (every enrollee gets their own workstation) and the instructors. You can sign up over at Manhattan Edit Workshop's website.

Sign-up: Call Amber 212-414-9570

Place: MEWShop, November 03, 10a - 5p

- pi

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6500k & the REAL point of Industry Standards

Following up my previous post on implementing 6500k lighting in the edit room...

I did a search in the TIG (Telecine Internet Group) mailing list on this issue. Bob Currier of Synthetic Apeture (and creator of the very good Color Finesse color correction plug-in and software) had the discussion-ending post on why colorists follow the SMPTE standard for using D65 light in their suites:

"There is a standard and it's 6500K.

This has nothing to do with making the image in the grading suite match the image at home.

Instead, it has to do with consistency so that all our 6500K standards-based grading will appear compatible when shown on Aunt Millie's badly mis-adjusted 9300K TV. If some of us are grading on 6500K monitors and some on 9300K monitors, things will look rather poor indeed when they air back-to-back. Not only will commercials not match the programming, but commercials won't match each other.

Besides, Aunt Millie likes her over-saturated, blue look. If you start making that look "normal" she'll think you broke her TV."

'Nuff said. Final word. I'm satisfied.

Thanks Bob.

On a related note, I also found a link from a TIG posting showing the difference in spectral output from a blackbody radiator (the Sun) and a human device attempting to imitate that black body radiator. If you go to the link, click on the "Back to the calculator" button, then select D65 and then enter 6500 for Blackbody. D65 would be your TV set or your room's 6500k ambient lighting. Blackbody would be the sun.

Try punching in other values - a typical incandescent emits at around D35 (click on the graph to update). Notice how much more red it emits. If your camera was white balanced for daylite (D65) while shooting an interior under an incandescent light, what do you think would be the predominate color?

- pi

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Dr. Daylight - Or How I Learned to Love 6500k

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2 things have happened in the past 3 weeks that led to my decision to upgrade the lighting in my Finishing Room:
  1. I put money down on a JL Cooper Eclipse CX (at a very good price). More commentary on that device can be found here and here and expect a full review once it's in-house.
  2. I visited the color correction room of a new colleague, Alexis Van Hurkman.
Inspired by both events happening in close proximity and because Alexis turned me on how to do it cost-effectively (a necessary pre-condition); this week the lighting at Fini is going 6500k.

Why 6500k? You'd have to ask SMPTE, the folks who handle television signal standards and decided that the proper white point for television sets is 6500 degrees Kelvin (the equivalent color temperature of daylight at noon in North America (if you have to ask, I suspect they took their temperature readings in Las Vegas)). In theory, the most neutral environment for color correcting video is with ambient lighting that has the same color temperature (white point) of video. 6500k. Or, technically, D65. This way we're not trying to compensate our color correction for the light surrounding us - which, if you're using a normal bulb, is much more red/orange.

One might then ask: Why'd I wait until now to make the change to 6500k lighting? Good question... Thanks for asking. Two reasons, actually:

  1. First, I don't know a single person who lights their living room / home theater with 6500k lighting. And since nearly 100% of my work has been for home viewing - I didn't worry about my room not meeting some industry specification which was designed by soulless engineers in a vacuum (so to speak). I mean, these are the same geniuses that gave us non-drop and drop-frame timecode (not to mention the idiotic array of HD formats and frame rates).
  2. Second, even in the heyday of post-production Standards & Practices (pre-miniDV) - only Film-to-Tape guys ever bothered to meet these specs. Yes, us video folks took our specs seriously back then (how many editors reading this post can figure out if their blanking is too wide?) but the general industry attitude didn't extend to 6500k lighting. Why? Probably because our stuff looked the same at home as it did in the edit room (see the preceding paragraph).

One might then follow up: Why are you doing this now? If the status quo has been good enough for the past 17 years, why bother implementing the change now? Another excellent question. There are several reasons:

  1. Fini started out focusing on providing an array of post-production services, of which color-correction was only one. Providing other more traditional online services was my bread-and-butter. But with the change of focus last year color-correction moved front and center. (Similarly - that's also why Fini is investing in a JL Cooper control surface. Not because it's necessary to create great pictures, but it dramatically increases productivity).
  2. Part of the reason why Online rooms didn't implement 6500k lighting is because, except for sports, almost all our footage came to us color corrected. Either from a film-to-tape session or "shaded" by an engineer in a studio. And outside of specialty tape-to-tape rooms, we had very crude controls over our images. Today, it's almost exactly the reverse. Not only do we have sophisticated color correction tools, 80% of the our work hasn't been color corrected - in fact, it's why clients are coming to Fini in the first place! That shift in client needs has shifted our need for the type of controlled lighting specified by SMPTE, previously the domain of telecine and tape-to-tape rooms.
  3. A recent posting by Martin Euredjian of E-Cinema on the FCP-L mailing list put this perfectly (though he was specifically speaking of color-critical monitors):

    "Audio seems to be easy for people to use as an analogy. I don't think that professionals would propose doing serious mastering work using an iPod. Or an iPod with headphones. And, even if you did connect great speakers to an iPod...would anyone propose doing so without at least attempting to calibrate the thing to reasonable professional-level standards? Would we want to know if we can achieve the frequency response and harmonic distortion targets that are deemed as minimum-acceptable for professsional work? Probably. And, then, would anyone propose to use such a system in a listening enviroment that was devoid of proper acoustic treatment in order to ensure that what was coming out of the speakers was being perceived correctly? Probably not."

Probably not. And that's why I've gone 6500k in the Finishing Room. As I've made the decision to provide more color-critical services to my clients I've got a responsibility to know what the signals I'm creating actually look like. I've got to know that anyone who keeps to professional specs will see what I see. And given that it's no longer hard to find 6500k lighting for your media room, the average viewer has an above-average chance of seeing the image as its meant to be seen.

- pi

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