Working Color Space: REDWideGamutRGB/Log3G10, ACES or DaVinci Wide Gamut?

When it comes to post-processing, using the fewest number of transforms and working at the highest available bit depth in a native color space greater than the display color space are key to preserving the greatest image quality. So, should you be changing your timeline color space to DaVinci Wide Gamut Intermediate or not? 

To begin with, presumably you’ve chosen a camera for its particular look and changing the working color space in post will inevitably result in deviating from that look, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly, and often in ways that aren’t always apparent until your favorite creative LUT developed specifically for that camera is applied. What selecting DaVinci Wide Gamut Intermediate or ACES as the working color space is not going to do is magically improve image quality, reveal colors that weren’t already captured at the outset, or make the picture any more cinematic looking. That being the case, why would anyone choose, say, DaVinci Wide Gamut rather than REDWideGamutRGB/Log3G10 for their timeline color space?

If you’re a professional colorist handling footage from a number of different cameras on the same timeline with deliverables targeting everything from social media and streaming networks to broadcast and theatrical release, mapping everything into a unified color space makes perfect sense. It elegantly solves the problem of mismatched color spaces, simplifies VFX round-tripping, enables using the same LUTs across all shots and ensures that NLE controls behave consistently across all of the clips on the timeline. If we were working on a multi-camera shoot however, we prefer Walter Volpatto’s approach:

“Unless you’re doing a documentary or a show that has way too many cameras you have a hero camera: can be an Alexa, can be a Sony, can be a Red, a Blackmagic, a Canon, you name it. You have a hero camera, and usually you have a hero logarithmic color space. So the idea is that that is the color space that I use for all the color corrections. If a shot belonged to a different camera then I do a color space transform to bring that specific shot to the logarithmic”.

Walter Volpatto
Comparison between three different timeline color spaces

So, if you’re dealing with a single-camera project, simply choosing the camera’s own native color space for the timeline and adding an output transform to the display color space as the very last operation is entirely adequate, avoiding unnecessary complexity and image manipulations that could even degrade the image.  If anything other than the log of the hero camera is going to be your working color space, it’s essential that you’re taking that into account on set, as it could very well change how you end up lighting your scenes. Do note that if you’re using a plugin like Dehancer or if you want to use any of Cullen Kelly’s LUTs, you’ve got no choice but to select DaVinci Wide Gamut Intermediate as the working color space.

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