Gamma Gamma Gamma


Lately, the numbers 0.82, 0.84, 0.88, 1.0, 1.24, 1.3, and 1.4 have been foremost on my mind. These are the gamma correction values that I find myself frequently applying to video clips coming into and out of Apple’s Final Cut Pro, Color, Compressor and DVD Studio Pro software. Although I’ve read numerous articles on the handling of gamma on Mac OS X, I don’t find myself anywhere closer to understanding the whole picture.


Exports from Final Cut using QuickTime Conversion and the ProRes 422 codec look great on my Mac in QuickTime Player. The same sequence exported using QuickTime Movie looks washed out in QuickTime Player unless I have the Enable Final Cut Studio Color Compatibility preference enabled. When I export the film using Compressor, I have to enter at least 1.24 in the Gamma Correction filter. This is done so the colors on the DVD, burned using DVD Studio Pro, don’t look washed out.


This has got to be a common problem for filmmakers using Apple’s professional products. Trial and error seems to be what most people do to get something acceptable across all broadcast medium.

When the final cut of Autumn Gem is complete next month, I’m sure I’m going to revisit this problem again when we transfer the movie to HDCAM and other festival screening formats.


6 thoughts on “Gamma Gamma Gamma

  1. A huge part of this problem for me is that Final Cut assumes you are working in a 1.8 gamma and boosts the display gamma of the Viewer and Canvas to 2.2 in order to approximate a broadcast monitor. This was causing a lot of grief for me since I was calibrating my displays to 2.2 already; so it was boosting it well past 2.2. That’s what the QuickTime Final Cut Compatibility preference does, boost it to 2.2 gamma…

    And yes, you’re right. It has been a lot of trial and error for me. I re-calibrated our Final Cut workstation to 1.8 last week and things have been looking better when output to DVD so far.

  2. Thanks for the response and for posting your article. Like you, I have my computers set to 2.2 gamma. The thing is, I prefer the look of the film at the boosted gamma in Final Cut. Wouldn’t setting my monitor to 1.8 and running Final Cut make the resulting DVD look washed out still? Looks like I’ll create a custom display profile using the 1.8 gamma and see what happens.

  3. Yes, your video will look lighter and have less contrast. But, I have found it looks closer to what was being displayed on our capture devices – and ultimately has been leading to a more natural tonal range and easier color grading.

    In my opinion, you still have to make a judgment call when you output to DVD. I think you will have an easier time getting there this way, though…

  4. So, I calibrated my monitors to 1.8 and I see what Final Cut has been doing to “adjust” the gamma in the canvas view. I find myself enjoying the look of the film at the darker 2.2+ gamma, so what I’m doing now is applying a 1.3 Gamma Correction filter (along with a boost in red midtones) to Compressor when it makes the MPEG-2 for DVD Studio Pro. This is the closest that I can get to make the DVD look acceptable.

    When I get around to doing the transfer to HDCAM, I’m sure we’ll have even more fun. Thanks for the help, Maze.

  5. We ended up purchasing a Matrox MXO scan conversion device. The MXO turns out 23-inch Apple Cinema Display into an accurate HD broadcast monitor. To get the look we want, we are going through each clip in each scene and applying gamma correction where necessary. Once we get things looking right on the MXO-ADC combination, we’ll work to get the right conversion to DVD.

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