Forty years ago, the Macbeth Division of the Kollmorgen Corporation introduced the Macbeth ColorChecker Color Rendition Chart, which became an international standard to evaluate color-imaging systems. Through company mergers the name changed to the X-Rite ColorChecker and to the average user the product seems unchanged.
But secretly, in the background, modifications were continuously being made to keep up with changes in capture systems, from the films of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s to the digital sensors of today. A few years ago X-Rite undertook the task of analyzing and making the changes necessary to provide a new kind of target for the video world.
Today the X-Rite ColorChecker Video and it’s more portable, self-contained little brother, the ColorChecker Video Passport ,bring us a new standard of 32 precisely matched paint samples mounted in either a double sided 8.25 x 11-inch frame or housed in a protective 3 oz hard shell plastic case that’s 3.54 x 4.92 x .35 inches, is free standing and actually holds four sets of targets.
While a ColorChecker provides a nice reference that anyone, anywhere can use to make a visual comparison, now that we have measuring capabilities built into our hardware and software it has become a much more powerful tool.
What We Liked
Each ColorChecker Video includes a full size totally neutral white target, and a more traditional multi-step grey scale which are both great for still and video. But this newly redesigned reference now includes a series of six saturated and six desaturated color chips which align with the axis of a vectorscope for an accurate look at the chroma values of each camera as well as better color matching throughout the editing process.
In addition, new larger gray level chips can be utilized to better align the exposure and contrast of each camera. A mid-tone 40IRE gray provides something like the video equivalent of a photographer’s 18 percent gray card and really simplifies exposure. This also gives us a better look at the dynamic range of the system so we can adjust lighting.
And it is great having both a full size ColorChecker to shoot on set as well as the compact Passport version for use in the field (NOTE: the Passport also includes a focus target).
What We Didn’t
While we appreciate the intent of including six skin tone chips, in use they were of little practical value – especially since they can’t account for makeup. But these were inherited from the existing Photo version of the Passport so some shooters might disagree.
And as cool as it is to have a reference like this, it would be great to have more industry support. We know Color Finale has a plug-in for Final Cut Pro X which matches and compares targets to provide a level of automatic color correction. We don’t use Final Cut Pro so were not able to test this and hope that a number of the other 3rd party software developers working with X-Rite can ship their Premier Pro, Avid and Vegas plug-ins soon.
X-Rite delivers on their promise to help filmmakers obtain accurate exposure. Our friends who spend their days working on post production were also equally happy to share their observations that use of a ColorChecker Video helps them match multiple cameras and hit proper color balance faster in post, resulting in an overall reduction of editing time.