What color is this dress? Why you need a good colorist…

Color Correction Training & Techniques

One of my first lessons as a colorist was that our eyes lie to us. Sometimes very aggressively. Where is the truth then? It is found in the various scopes that a colorist has at his disposal. For this short blog I’ll be using the vectorscope, which shows color hues and saturation plotted on a circular reference. Click on the images for more detail. As you can see from the first image below, there are boxes on the vectorscope indicating the locations of red, green, blue, yellow, cyan and magenta.

color correction training tips tools techniquesThe white blobby stuff branching out from the middle of the scope represents all of the colors in the image and what the various saturations and hues are. The center of the scope where the two yellow lines form a cross represents where pure black and pure white would be – i.e., no hue and no saturation.

If I sample the white/blue area of the dress and highlight just that area, the vectorscope reveals the true color…photo color correction and video grading tools

Since the vectorscope is showing a significant line branching away from the center and about 1/4 of the way between the blue box and the cyan box, it is clear that this part or the dress is not white.

Similarly, selecting the area that is black/gold reveals something interesting. It is certainly more gold than black. I think the initial question of “white and gold or black and blue” is part of why there is such debate over the color of the dress. Shown in isolation, the colors are clearly blue and gold!color correction training color grading techniques methods

The real question of course, is what color is the dress in the real world, regardless of what the camera white balance and our eyes may tell us from the photo. To find out, I’ve isolated an overexposed area in the background of the photo that should be white, and another area in the background of the photo that is likely black. I’m disregarding the dress for the moment and adjusting the highlights of the image to place the values of the upper circle to be in the center of the vectorscope. Likewise, I’ll adjust the blacks of the image to put the values of the lower circle also in the center of the scope.WhiteBalance-Correction

Removing the isolations and applying that correction to the entire image reveals that the dress is actually blue and black (or dark gray). CorrectedDressColor

This conclusion has been reached by others on the interwebs so this may not be news to you. My point however is specific to color correction and the importance of choosing a colorist that is comfortable using more than his (lying) eyes to color correct and grade your images!

-Chris Tomberlin


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