Is QuickTime Broken?

Whether editing in Final Cut Pro or viewing clips in QuickTime, my videos appear washed out and greenish-tinged, whereas watching with VLC player, they look pretty much like what I’m seeing when using my LG OLED television as a grading monitor. It should be noted I’m looking at the screenshots full size in a completely darkened room, similar to how I watch movies. If I compare the two in a bright room without clicking on them to enlarge, for sure the VLC looks dark and oversaturated. The screen grabs below are from a project I’m working on, exported to ProRes HQ.

It wasn’t difficult to find others online with similar experiences, in particular, someone editing in Premiere who shared screen grabs from QuickTime, VLC, YouTube and Vimeo (both Safari), with Firefox thrown in for good measure. Premiere and VLC were both warm and saturated, while QuickTime, YouTube and Vimeo were cool and desaturated. Firefox was excessively warm and oversaturated. What to do?

I reached out to two people I consider to be experts in their respective fields – one, a YouTuber with vast technical expertise, the other, a director who I think it’s fair to say is fanatical about color reproduction. The former acknowledged that he and many others had had similar issues with Quicktime and that he’d even heard of situations where Chrome, Firefox, Opera, etc. will all look fine, but Safari will be troublesome. He added that he preferred the richer look of the VLC version and advised me that as long as I’m using the scopes and the picture looks good in VLC and on YouTube (Chrome), I should be fine.

This reassured me no end – that is, until the following day, when I received contradictory input from my director friend, who uploaded sample grabs from both Resolve and MPC-BE decoded via madVR (a really high quality decoder for Windows), noting that since his display is calibrated and both Resolve and madVR decode the images with the more ‘washed out’ look, he’d be inclined to call the ‘washed out’ ones correct. He went on to remark that he actually preferred the softer, desaturated version with its more pleasing highlight rolloff.

Below are screenshots of the Resolve and madVR versions.

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