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NAB: The Academy and ACES


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#1 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
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Posted 15 April 2012 - 11:44 AM

Yesterday we heard from LED manufacturer Cree, who haven't ever sent anyone to NAB before. The other, much better known organisation that has never previously attended is, unbelievably, the Academy, as in Academy Ratio, Academy Soundtrack, and, er, some sort of award thing they also do. It's surprising because their first technical paper was published in 1928 and was, coincidentally, on the effects of the then-new tungsten light sources on luminance rendering of colours in black and white photography.

The purpose of the AMPAS delegation was to discuss the ACES system, something which originally stood for Academy Color Encoding System, but is now used to refer to the whole project, which is... well, it's not that clear what it is, but they said it isn't a workflow but instead "supports workflows". The actual work that's been done concerns not only colour encoding, but also a file format, a tristimulus gamut specification, and various transforms to get pictures into and out of the ACES system.

This is all great in essence, since they're proposing 16-bit linear light image files in a gamut that uses virtual primaries to cover the entire human visual range. This is a very capable specification, and things like openEXR and DNG don't go as far, but eloquent as AMPAS are on this point it's hard to shift the idea that a lot of the colour transform stuff has been done before in things like Filmlight's Truelight calibration system. This isn't to criticise it technically, but the big problem really is one of persuading enough people to use the standard, rather than developing it in the first place. Unless it's widely adopted, a standard is just a piece of paper. They also didn't propose a solution to the ever present issue of workflow standardisation in digital production, post, and especially archiving, which is an area that ACES doesn't seem to attempt to cover, although it's nice to hear these very broad issues at least being talked about.

Later, we get to hear about what the big companies are doing. Will Panasonic bring out a worthy competitor to the Canon C300? Will Sony usurp themselves again with a successor to the F65, as they are wont to do every eight months or so? I'm sure every F65 owner is hoping not.

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