Stickman Straightens Out…Color Management

A solid explanation of modern color management workflow.

Color management is one of the biggest sources of confusion in modern digital video workflow. It doesn’t need to be. In this month’s Stickman Straightens Out… the stickman explains the basic principles behind color management in a clear, concise manner.

Too many half-truths

Let’s face it: most editors, colorists, and mograph folks are artists, not color scientists. So they often grab hold of a layman’s explanation of technical matters and cling to it for dear life. Then they’ll speak authoritatively on the subject to other artists desperate for a handle on the subject. This leads to an industry-wide sea of misinformation from the combination of over-simplification and a game of “Telephone” (“Chinese whispers” for the Anglo crowd).

LUTs are Look Up Tables, not creative filters

One of the root problems with our understanding of color management theory is the abuse of LUTs. LUTs are literally “look up tables,” a quick way for the computer to compensate for contrast biases in an image without having to interpolate actual contrast curves. Like any color correction though, they can be used to create “looks.” This has resulted in many digital artists considering them as a kind of color filter or plug-in. Their principle purpose is actually to interpret the color bias in a given image format and process it correctly so that multiple images from different sources can be manipulated together in post.

Log-based correction should probably die

Many colorists will swear until they’re blue in the face that log space color correction is the superior way to color correct. And that was true…in 2002. In modern digital workflows full-time 32 bit float processing means that DI workflows don’t need to resort to log compression to get high dynamic range image data to fit into RAM and be crunched through the CPU and GPUs. Now, if you’re a colorist who has built up muscle memory using control surfaces operating in log space, by all means continue to work in the color space you know. If you’re starting the deep dive into color correction in 2019 though, you should be doing it using a linear color timeline for the greatest precision in data and for the sake of the color math behind the scenes.

Give the stick a chance to straighten it out

Confused yet? Well, give the video below a try and see if we can’t get you up to speed on modern color correction workflow. Time to throw off the half-truths and misconceptions and embrace the reality of 32-bit float, linear color management.

Click below to watch Stickman explain the key concepts of color management. As usual the training is completely free, courtesy of the good people at


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