If you’re a colorist with an interest in color checking or calibrating all the displays in your studio — including your reference monitor, client displays, projectors, and periodically updating those 3D display correction LUTs — then you’re going to want to know that CalMAN 5.3 now provides a way to use DaVinci Resolve as a pattern generator. In fact, there is a dedicated version of CalMAN just for Resolve users. When you use a WiFi connection with Calman 5.3 interfacing to Resolve, the patterns that Resolve generates come up on all the displays you have video connections to in your studio.
Here’s a quick picture I took in my studio. It’s not a beauty shot but you get the idea. I get a kind of smug satisfaction knowing I can put up the same pattern on all displays and then check or calibrate each one directly from SpectraCal’s CalMAN software anytime I want.
So back to the podcast topics:
I invited Derek Smith back from SpectraCal to talk about the Resolve/CalMAN interface and explain how it works, especially with plasma displays and projectors.
In addition, Derek and I talk about some long-awaited developments with display vendors like EIZO, TVLogic and Panasonic providing 3D LUT capability built right into their displays with direct interfaces to CalMAN. This will reduce the need to purchase an external LUT box to correct nonlinearities in displays. I am excited to see this finally occurring with display vendors. I hope we see more of this technology in consumer TVs.
But there’s more than what is covered in the podcast. This idea of using Resolve as a display generator got me thinking. What if we could have, for manual testing and verification purposes, the actual test patterns in video form already pre-built into a Resolve project? You would not need CalMAN for that. Of course you could not run an automated test process but that’s what the CalMAN/Resolve software is all about. I had a hankering to just load up pre-built test patterns like the ones in CalMAN to just do a manual spot check – visually. What I have done is add in a variety of 10-bit videos of faces with different skin complexions and other videos that I have graded, where I know how the blacks should look and the highlights should look. Images I am intimately familiar with. I have a projector in my studio, and that bulb clearly drifts over time, causing slight changes in color balance.
So I took the idea to SpectraCal, and they said OK and allowed me to use a Resolve project file with their pre-built testing patterns: grayscale patterns at 10% increments, brightness and contrast patterns, and CalMAN ColorChecker values. Now you can bring these patterns up in Resolve to do a bit of manual testing yourself, or manual verification of the calibration process, or 3D LUT creation for display correction. Or add in your own images for testing purposes.
In fact, I took this all a step further. You can add this other test pattern to your collection of test patterns in the Resolve project, and you can use it as I do as a desktop image. This image is what I keep on all my desktops to make sure nothing has shifted and to give me a feel for how my display is working with near-black levels and the transition to black. Same with whites. This desktop display graphic* has 21 levels of gray from black to white in 5% increments. When you load it, take a careful look. Can you clearly see the transitions on all steps?
When you put it on your desktop, it will give you a visual clue as to how well your display is handling black-to-gray transitions and gray-to-white transitions. In addition, if you just let your eyes relax while looking at the gradation of grays, you may start noticing some increments showing a tinge of red or green. If they do, then your display is not calibrated properly for that level of gray. You may want to look at getting the CalMAN RGB package from SpectraCal to make your attached monitor be more Rec.709 compliant. Once you start noticing things like this, you simply have to start finding ways to fix them. Oh, the bane of being a colorist! You see the slightest issue that come up with grays not being balanced and colors being off and you just start to worry. OK, let’s leave in this on a positive note. Enjoy yourself and your practice. Display calibration is always there when you need it. You are welcome to download this desktop image in TIFF and JPG format here.
* I got this graphical desktop test pattern idea from Kevin Shaw, the cofounder of the International Colorist Academy. I’ve attended a couple of Kevin’s classes over the years, and he’s a brilliant teacher. If you’re wanting to advance your knowledge of color grading, look at attending one of the iColorist.com trainings.