Press releases flew fast and furious a week or so ago as the Pixel Farm released AirGrade for your iPhone (iTunes link). AirGrade a color grading app for your iPhone that connects to a companion application on your Mac to allow you to use the iPhone as a control surface for grading still images on your Macintosh. I hadn’t played with it until a discussion of AirGrade went around Twitter the other day so I decided to try it out. It’s fun and it works well but as it says on the Pixel Farm’s AirGrade website: “please remember it’s primarily intended as a learning tool” which, at this point, it’s probably not much of practical application except as an easy way to get graded photos from your Mac to your iPhone without the use of iTunes or any other application or service.
AirGrade is free, just download the app on your iPhone and then download the AirGrade engine on your Macintosh. Once launched you’ll see an AirGrade folder located in your Home folder. Load images into the AirGrade folder and then once you’re connected with your iPhone you can then browse those images and proceed to grade the one at a time.
I loaded in a few images including JPEGs, TIFFs and raw files but the app doesn’t work with QuickTime movies so at this point it’s limited only to still images. The iPhone interface has traditional lift, gamma and gain controls as well as a screen for saturation. If you’re familiar with any kind of control surface then you’ll see what AirGrade is trying to do with an outer ring for brightness as well as the middle trackball to change the tint. Once the AirGrade engine is on your Mac you then connect by the IP address to the iPhone. Load the images into your phone and then you can begin grading. When the air grade engine is running it takes over your entire Macintosh screen and you get a full-screen view of the chosen photo. In the right hand corner there’s a little curve graph that shows just what corrections have been made:
You flick through the screens on the iPhone app and use your fingers to roll around the trackball or the outer rings. You can toggle the grade on and off by toggling the bypass button on the iPhone. There are reset buttons for each parameter as well as an overall reset done just by shaking the iPhone. While the 8-ball like trackballs are cool looking and smooth to operate it woudl be nice if there was a little tic mark on the iPhone screen so you could easily see exactly what direction and how far you have applied tint to a particular parameter.
Individual parameters can be reset with the reset buttons at the top corners of the screen. Shake the iPhone to reset all.
When you’re happy with the grade hit the Menu button on the iPhone and you can store a grade. This sends a copy of the graded photo to your iPhone. To me, at this point, that’s the most useful part of the application itself. You can load up some photos on your Mac use AirGrade to grade them and then send those over to the iPhone wirelessly. This is way to get photos from your Mac to your iPhone without having to connect it through iTunes. It’s also touted as being American Society of Cinematographers compliant in that you can use the ASC format for grading as well. Just flip the switch on the iPhone from linear to ASC and your lift, gamma, gain controls change to slope, offset and power. It also says that you can save the grades in the ASC standard CCC format. But on my installation there was only a single CCC file stored in the AirGrade folder and I didn’t see it actually saving individual CCC files for each of the grades that I saved.
Grades can be saved via Menu > Store. You name the grade and the image is then sent to the iPhone.
At this point it really is just more fun than being truly practical. It is a cool technology demo and yet another example of the iPhone interacting with the Macintosh to make life a little bit easier / better / different / cooler for post production tasks (opinions on these touch screen interactive devices seem to vary from person to person). My guess would be that the Pixel Farm might be developing an iPad app as well. For this technology to seriously work in a real production environment as it’s got to move off of the iPhone screen and get us to a little bit bigger screen real estate like the iPad to be really useful. Either way AirGrade is free to download and try so what have you got to loose?