Color Management in After Effects

    Introduction

    Knowing how to manage color in After Effects ensures that your color choices are being interpreted and translated properly across various deliverable formats. Depending on your settings you can achieve more realistic results with less artifacting and ensure that color is being consistently represented.

    Project Settings

    To change your project settings, select the Bits Per Channel button in the Project tab or go to File>Project Settings.

    Depth Setting

    This determines how many values are assigned per color channel. There are three options:

        • 8bpc: 0-255
        • 16bpc: 0-32,768
        • 32bpc: 0 -1 (pixels are mapped to values that can range below black and above white)

    Color depth is the number of bits per channel (bpc) used to represent the color of a pixel.  The more bits for each RGB channel, the more colors each pixel can represent. Working in 8 bpc can be limiting when doing major compositing work.

    Choose either 16 bpc or 32 bpc when compositing to reduce artifacts and image degradation when pixels are altered in the project.

    Working in 32 bpc, you are not limited to a fixed number of values like you are in 8bpc (0-255) and you can store and have access to values below black and over white. Note: if you work in 32 bpc some effects will not work and render time will increase.  

     

    Working Space Setting

    Converts colors of imported assets to common color space for compositing.  This is determined by your deliverable. The two common settings are:

        • HDTV Rec709: For Broadcast and projection
        • sRGB: For Web

    In order to properly manage color in your project you need to know where your assets originated from and what your deliverables are. It’s also important to make sure that the monitor you are using as a reference is properly calibrated. If you plan on sending your work to festivals to be projected or out to broadcast, you should choose HDTV (Rec709). If you plan to show your work on the web or a computer monitor, choose sRGB. 

    Linearize Working Space Option

    Linearizing your workspace removes the gamma correction from the working color profile. Computer monitors alter the gamma, also called luminance, of an image, affecting how we see a final render.

    • The lower curve  shows how your computer monitor displays an image.
    • The center curve is a mathematically true, linear gamma curve.
    • The upper curve shows an inverse gamma correction that compensates for the monitor’s gamma distortion.

    By linearizing the space you allow for better image resampling, blending and more life-like motion blur. If you choose to work in a linearized space, make sure to set this at the beginning of the project as colors chosen in the color picker after the fact can shift.

    Note that computer generated assets from programs such as Maya can also be rendered out as either linear or non-linear and your color management workflow will need to take this into consideration. You would only want to place assets rendered out in a linear space into a linearized After Effect composition.