At some point, you’re going to run into this situation:
You’ve created a graphic or toned/edited a photo inside of Photoshop, and now it’s time to bring the image into video editing or motion graphics software, like Final Cut Pro, AVID, Motion, After Effects, etc.
The problem is, once the graphic or photo arrives, the colors are off and/or the image looks like crap.
That’s because (obviously) the color spaces/profiles for images and video are very different.
This can have real world consequences. For example, in the motion graphics I’ve built for Newsy.com and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the colors of the logos for those two organizations (red and blue, respectively) look different in the motion graphics than they do on the websites.
Before, I could see the difference myself and — not understanding color management — I tried a work-around like applying a color correction, gamma, or colorize filter onto the image from inside the video program. I would use my eye to try to gauge how close I was to the original. However, this is sloppy and inexact.
So, for the last few weeks I have been studying color management (not the most fascinating of subjects, but an essential one) and here’s the fix.
If you’re bringing the image into FCP or wherever, you need to convert the profile of the image. It doesn’t matter what the image’s color space of the image you’re working is already in or what your default color space is.
All you have to do is go to Edit>Convert to Profile and select a proper color space for video from the big list. For HD projects, that’s HDTV (Rec. 709). You can toggle the options in the “intent” drop-down menu if you like but “relative colorimetric” and “perceptual” are the only one’s you’ll need most of the time.
Once you’ve done that, save the image and import into your video software. Voila, it looks the same there as it did in Photoshop.
(Note that “converting” the profile is not the same as “assigning a profile.” Assigning a profile will actually change the way the colors look, so avoid that for these purposes).
Sometimes, you will want to take a still frame from video and pull it into Photoshop or Illustrator (like I do for some of the graphics for this site). In that case, if you export a frame straight out of your video software or just do a screen capture, Photoshop may not know what color profile to assign to the image or it may assign a default color space. Either way, the image may not look right (mine always look washed out).
In this case, once again go to convert profile and change it to SMPTE-C, which is the current color standard for broadcast in the U.S. Save and import into your video editing program and you’re all set.
There’s lots more to go over about color mangement, like setting up your camera, video camera, monitors, laptop screens, printers, etc., but I thought this info would be immediately applicable to you multimedia producers.