HOW DO I WORK WITH ACES CG RENDERS IN ADOBE AFTER EFFECTS?
Steve Garda, London
Mike Griggs replies
ACES, otherwise known as the ‘Academy Color Encoding System’, is the current cool kid in the world of CG content creation. This is with good reason as ACES has the power to standardise and revolutionise how we manage colour in digital content.
Up until now, colour has been a confusing minefield for artists. It can be hard to know SRGB from 32-bit HDR; these colour formats are about how little or much can be displayed on a final output screen. For example, SRGB is commonly used for screen-based work only, whereas Rec.709 is more widely used for broadcast as it has a slightly larger colour gamut (amount of colour that can be displayed). ACES has a colour gamut that is much, much larger, and is potentially future-proofed for the next few decades and beyond. What this means is that working in ACES allows more colour to be ‘stored’, creating more vivid and life-like imagery.
Although ACES is now becoming more commonly adopted in digital content creation software, 3D render engines and editing tools, it still requires a fair amount of research to find a workflow
that works best for individual artists. One of the best ways to think of ACES is as a unified workflow from creation to delivery. When elements from CG or camera are recorded or rendered with an ACES colour space, this can be viewed in software via an ACES ‘input transform’ that converts the necessary colour info needed by the artist when working with a shot. This input transform allows the artist to use the full range of embedded colour info within an ACES file, which is potentially far greater than if the file had been stored in a legacy colour format. When the shot is ready, an ACES ‘output transform’ converts the footage into the desired format for display, for example, the aforementioned SRGB and Rec.709.
While this may sound complicated, in use it is (reasonably) straightforward. Adobe After Effects now has native tools for working with ACES encoded image files. In this tutorial, I will demonstrate how to create an ACES render in Cinema 4D with Redshift, and then how to work with it in After Effects.