Even though camera technology keeps growing by leaps and bounds each year, a lot of cinematographers have been disappointed in seeing the end result of the HD broadcast of their shows. Because of the limitations of the HDTV broadcasting video color space known as Rec. 709, for projects that are shot with high-end digital cameras, cinematographers often are unable to see the entire dynamic range and color space that the camera's sensor is capable of capturing. So with this in mind, what's the point of using a camera like the Sony F35 or ARRI ALEXA if the end result isn't up to par? Enter the IIF-ACES postproduction process.
"When things are ingested into a Rec. 709 workflow, you're constrained by the color gamut of Rec. 709, as well as by the dynamic range," explains cinematographer Curtis Clark, ASC. "With the ACES workflow, it enables the full dynamic range and full color space to be faithfully maintained within the post finishing process."
The ACES workflow was the genesis of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences back in 2008, and it since has been embraced by the ASC Technology Committee, which is headed by Clark. The first production to use the ACES workflow is FX Networks' hit show Justified, starring Timothy Olyphant as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and shot by cinematographer Francis Kenny, ASC, with Sony SRW-9000PL cameras. Kenny shot the first season of Justified with the Sony F35, but switched to the 9000PL due to its lighter weight. In the first season, Kenny was shooting in Sony's S-Log, S-Gamut format, but started seeing discrepancies between what he was seeing in his RAW image compared to the end result that was coming out of his coloring sessions at Encore Hollywood. To their credit, Encore was very open to using the ACES workflow.
Along with the Academy and Clark's ASC Technology Committee, Bajpai explains that Doug Walker, head color scientist for Autodesk, became an integral part of Encore's adoption of ACES, as well as Sony, Fujifilm, Baselight and Colorworks.
"When I started to explore what IIF-ACES was doing, I immediately saw that you could get out of the bottleneck of the Rec. 709 limitations," says Bajpai. "A significant improvement in dynamic range, you actually see the range that people only talk about because the camera manufacturers are saying S-Log, S-Gamut can record X number of stops."