So Long, Washed-Out YouTube Videos! (DaVinci Resolve)

Update 2022.01: Cullen Kelly just released a free LUT created to counteract the washed-out look when uploading SDR videos to YouTube and We haven’t used it yet ourselves, but you might want to give it a try and let others in the community know if it works for you.

If you’re still trying to grade using your Mac’s display, then this article isn’t for you. This is strictly for those using DaVinci Resolve on a Mac and grading rec. 709 footage at 2.4 gamma using a calibrated external display for delivery to YouTube. We aren’t interested in emulating Final Cut Pro’s 1.96 gamma with Rec. 709-A or forcing the timeline viewer in DaVinci to use Mac’s display color profiles. We aren’t interested in Safari, either, for that matter. If you use the settings below, you’ll get consistently pleasing results uploading to YouTube for 2.2 or 2.4 gamma displays and your QuickTime movies will look proper when viewed with VLC. The information contained in this tutorial assumes you are using macOS Catalina version 10.15.5 or later and DaVinci Resolve 16.2.2 or later.

The first thing you’ll want to do is calibrate your Mac’s display. Even though you’ll just be using it as a GUI display, it’d be nice if your Mac’s colors didn’t deviate wildly from those of your reference monitor. I recommend using the X-Rite i1Display Pro. Next, go to System Preferences > Displays > Color and be sure to select the correct .icc.

Next, go to Preferences in Resolve and uncheck ‘Use Mac Display Color Profiles’ and ‘Rec. 709-A’ options.

The screenshots below illustrate the difference between using Rec. 709-A with a timeline color space of Rec. 709 (scene) and a proper Rec. 709 2.4 gamma timeline. We’ll be using the industry standard Rec. 709 2.4 gamma for our grading.

The Color Management tab in project settings should look like this:

And here’s a grab of the clip from the timeline viewer that we’ll be uploading. It is not an accurate representation but unfortunately, I’m unable to make screen shots of my 55″ LG OLED!

After finishing grading your project, you’ll be adding a Color Space Transform (CST) node to the timeline. Select ‘Output Gamma 2.2’ for viewing on 2.2 gamma displays. If you intend to watch your videos on a 2.4 gamma display (such as on a television in a darkened room), ignore this step.

These are your render settings. 150,000 kb/s or so should be good enough for 4K.

Once again, the screenshots above are not representative of what our video actually looks like in Chrome or VLC! Now let’s have a look at our clip with no CST (for 2.4 gamma displays).

I’ll leave you with a few seconds each of two clips uploaded to YouTube, one for 2.2 gamma displays, the other for 2.4.

With CST

10 thoughts on “So Long, Washed-Out YouTube Videos! (DaVinci Resolve)

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  1. Very interesting as I struggle to get the same result in Resolve, QuickTime after export, browsers, the file read on my Samsung S8 and the Youtube app on my Samsung S8.

    After trying that
    without any success, I remembered that you had posted an article about this.

    Well, the thing is I don’t have an external grading monitor. My grading monitor is also my GUI monitor (calibrated however). I should try your explanation but I’m feared that it has sens only if I grade on a different monitor, isn’t it?

    What I also noticed is that setting “Davinci YRGB Color Managed” instead of the default “Davinci YRGB” makes the playback not smooth even on the M1 (whereas no problem with Davinci YRGB”).

    1. There have been millions of words written about the issue in the Blackmagic forums, but I didn’t find any of the suggestions useful, which is why I posted my own solution here. Sorry, but I don’t know about using the Mac display as a grading monitor.

  2. I watched again your latest video and the result is different between Firefox and Chrome for example (and maybe again different in Safari). I tend to prefer your video in Firefox on my side (I think my monitor calibration is applied).

    Each part of the chain can create big differences and whatever we do, browsers have different behaviour (that can change at any time!) and the Youtube file processing can also change at any time.

    – Right now, I found VLC to be the closer to what I grade in Resolve (no color shift and the brightness/contrast is the same at 98%), at least on Mac (I must still check it on Windows).
    – For Internet, that’s in Firefox that my Youtube uploads are the closer to what I see in Resolve (VLC is even closer but the Firefox display is really acceptable).
    – External grading monitor or not, differences will still exist, especially for Internet (but I understand that grading in a dedicated monitor would be better).

    Conclusion for today:
    I will directly upload my video file without any transformation on a server and advise people to watch it on VLC on their computer or to copy the file on a USB stick and plug it on their TV if they want to watch it on a large screen.
    – No more file transformation done by Youtube (or Vimeo)
    – Quicker publication.

    – Less people will find the video? No, if I just upload a Youtube “image video” to give the download link.
    – Less people will watch it? Maybe.

  3. Other advantages: no more possibilities that the people watch the video in a default 720p quality (or even in a not so good Youtube 1080p).

      1. Just few people can watch HDR right now I think.
        In my case, around me, most people have a Full HD or 4K TV but not an HDR model. Only one person close to me has a 4K HDR TV.
        None has HDR computer screen.

  4. Hi Jon,

    I just tried your settings and have the following problems:
    If timeline, output, and reference monitor are set to Rec.709 either gamma 2.2 OR 2.4
    → File is tagged as 1-4-1 in Quicktime and contrast is off
    → Upload is tagged as bt709 / bt709 by YouTube and contrast is blown

    So far I got the closest match between the MacBook XDR, Eizo, Quicktime, and YouTube with the following settings (but the YouTube upload looks a bit washed out):

    Check „Use Mac display color profiles for viewers“
    Eizo white point, gamma, and gamut set to BT.709
    Timeline and output color space: Rec.709-A
    Color space and gamma tag: same as timeline

    Is there anything that speaks against doing it like that?
    Thanks for your help!

    1. I don’t see why not. As long as that works for you. There’s also Cullen Kelly’s free IO LUT designed specifically for uploading REC709 videos to YT, which I put a link to at the top of the blog post. Thank you for the feedback, Michael!

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