Color consistency has always been a problem for film and video. Thankfully we’ve graduated from the analog days of playing with a genlock, waveform and vectorscope to dial in color bars. But it’s still a challenge to ensure that what you see in post is what the DP was looking at on set.
The “traditional” method for matching color is to shoot a Gretag-Macbeth chart on set, then adjust the image in post to match known values for the various color swatches on the chart. It’s a good
workflow, but one of the deficiencies of the approach has been the chart itself.
The standard Gretag-Macbeth color chart has been around since 1976. It’s now owned by X-Rite and is officially called the X-Rite ColorChecker card, though most of the industry still calls it the Gretag-Macbeth chart. At its conception, the color swatches were chosen based on naturally occurring colors, such as skin tones, sky and greenery. It serves its purpose, but it’s by no means optimized for the gamut of modern digital filmmaking.
Enter the new X-Rite ColorChecker Video, a new chart specifically designed for modern digital gamuts and general usage. Most notable is the prominence given to the grayscale swatches at center. This avoids the potential color spill of the former swatches at low resolution.
The new chart increases the number of skin tones represented from two swatches to a full column of swatches. In addition, it includes supporting chromatic colors evenly distributed across the vectorscope spectrum, instead of the current random cluster generated by the traditional Gretag-Macbeth chart.
And why waste the back? The chart includes a nice, full white card for white balancing on the flip-side.
All this is of diminished value if you’re eyeballing everything in post. Fortunately X-Rite has been working with third party vendors to support the new chart. DaVinci Resolve has announced native support (early 2016), and the Color Finale plug-in for Final Cut Pro will also support the new chart.
But that’s not all! X-Rite has also released a ColorChecker Passport Video chart system. A handheld kit that looks a little like a portable make-up palette, the Passport Video also includes systematically chosen swatches for skintone, vectorscope chromatics, grayscale and a white balance card. But it adds to this a focus target to check your center and edge focusing. And the size means it can fit snuggly into even the most modest filmmaker backpack.