All Things Color for Film and Digital Cinema
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Film Processing and Recording

iRiS – Photochemical Color Timing Reference Image

Here is a color reference image I generated for quickly visualising Color Density Readings. You should ask your lab to write down their density readings of the LAD / 445 CV grey patch at the head of each Roll on each Box/Can of print film you receive. With this information you can immediately determine if the print is a “little magenta” or a “little dark” and pre warn clients before a screening that the neg is OK but this particular print out of that particular days processing bath is a biased in that direction.  

Click the LINK HERE for a downloadable version.


iRiS - Lab timing reference

iRiS - Photochemical Lab Timing Reference Image



The printer light settings on the rotary dials are arbitary 25-25-25 settings. More than likely each lab changes these settings each day after calibrating themselves to the processing bath using a sensitometric wedge. I have personally found it is better to talk to your Lab consultant in terms of printer point changes      IE +1 red -2 Green +1 Blue      rather than actual printer lights, 26 23 26, as this can cause confusion. 

For example if your print had a LAD density reading of 1.03 1.06 1.03 you could deduct that the print was a little Red and a bit lighter. IF though the print LAD was “on AIM” ie 1.09 1.06 1.03 but you still thought the print was a little red you could ask in subsequent prints for a trim of -1 Cyan (the complimentary opposite of RED) which would result in a print that was less red and a fraction darker. The numbering seems a little counter intuitive but referencing the numerics on the RGB rotary wheels you can see that subtracting one point on the red ‘wheel’ you would be pushing it up (making 25 become 24) which in turn is letting less red light through. This in turn makes the Green and Blue ‘lights’ more visually dominant, hence Cyan. 


 Coming very soon is my visualization Application for MacOSX that is pretty much the above user interface but provides realtime color feedback to the image of your selection with adjusted printer lights using your preferred input 3DLUT. Very useful for dealing with your film LAB of Choice when making and timing Answer Prints.

If you would like to know any more about this application please feel free to email me.





Adrian Hauser

Densitometry for Lookup Tables Pt.1

A densitometer is a device that measures the optical density of an image on any printed medium, be that celluloid print film, paper, photographic film negative or any other medium. If the image is printed on paper we could read its optical reflectance, if printed on 35mm print film we would be reading its optical transmission qualities.

As human vision is measured in logarithmic values so too are the results of the densitometer. When taking readings of a Motion Picture print over a densitomter we are reading the prints transmissive qualities of light. In Status A densitometry (more on that in the next post) the lighter the patch the more it transmits light. The denser the image the less transmission of light. Density is defined as  

Optical Density = log10(1/transmittance)

I have a X-Rite310 densitometer which is common to most Film Labs around the world. It reads, for any given reference, the Red, Green and Blue optical transmission values which is imperative in creating RGB Color profiles or 3D lookup tables (3D LUT’s) for film.

Fig:A a 4x4x4 example target

Fig:A 4x4x4 example unity target or Identity LUT


Printing a set of specific color and grey scale patches to the desired medium, like the ones in figure A, an operator can read and translate the optical transmission characteristics of each individual patch and create a ‘lookup table’ . This profile can then be used to visualize on a monitor what the image will look like when printed to film. It is also profiling the characteristics of the imaging device which recorded the patch to film. In our case an Arri Laser film recorder. The more colors sampled the more accurate the representation will be. (The example used is extremely ‘low res’ and is only used for demonstration purposes.) To achieve an accurate representation we tend to use a ‘matrix’ of 4096 color patches!

 Lets look at those color patches from Fig:A mapped into an RGB cube to see just how these work. (See Fig:B)

Fig:B Representation of the 4x4x4 Color Cube

Fig:B Representation of the 4x4x4 Color Cube


If you compare the image in Fig:A and the Color Lattice to the left you can see each of the 64 patches are represented in a 3 dimensional cube which we can call the RGB Color Cube. The extreme corners represent %100 code values for all the primary colors of the cube, and Black. If you were to only look at the points down the diagonal axis from Black to White you would be looking at a grey scale.   From this would could create an identity LUT which would read something like Fig:C in ASCII text. Being an identity LUt it would have no optical effect to the original image.




ASCII 3DLut 4x4x4 identity matrix


         Starting at Black and reading the 4 points across to red expressing them as RGB Triplets. (I am assuming a an 8 bit scale which doesnt divide very well in 3 from 256 code values so excuse the rounded math)


        We then move up one row towards Green and read out the next row of 4 points.



         Until we read the top at which point we move in one row towards Blue and then begin reading the rows on that plane in the same way. Eventually after 64 entries of RGB triplets we have successfully mapped the cube.




In the photographic desktop publishing world images like the one in FIg.D are used. These are called Targets. The most used one is the Kodak IT8 Target.


Fig:D Kodak IT8 Target








Fig:B 4x4x4 identity LUT

Fig:E 4x4x4 identity LUT

Due to the different optical characteristics of different papers, films and imaging devices the original image will never look the same when printed, unless, through software we mimic those qualities on the monitor we are referencing the digital image on.

When printed to the desired medium and each of the patches are measured on a densitometer we remake the cube and will notice that the points are slightly deformed taking on and showing us the optical properties of the medium.We then transpose those results to represent the films qualities in to a new ASCii LUT

Fig:C transformed LUT

Fig:F transformed LUT


We then transpose those results to represent the films optical qualities in to a new ASCii LUT that can be fed into the monitoring device.



What I have just described is the most rudimentary basics of color management and 3D color Lookup’s. The Following Posts will go deeper into real world color calibration also touching on, using Marcie,monitor characteristics, viewing environments, film projection characteristics, different recording and printing stocks.




Image References: – Graphics GPU technology examples  - IT8 printing Targets.


Protected: Excel application for visualizing Print Densitometry readings

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Lab Aim Density

Lab Aim Density / China Girl

Lab Aim Density / China Girl

China Girls are used to adjust and check printer density.

They provide subjective and objective colour and gray scale patches.

These patches can be read on Densitometers to confirm the process. They are a standard laboratory test film usually incoporating a face and a greyscale; used for printer line-up.

See the post on China Girls for a look at some of the older examples of these majestic images.

Photochemical Color Timing


Colormaster Color Analyzer for Photochemical Color Timing

Colormaster Color Analyzer for Photochemical Color Timing


When it come to the ‘dark arts’ photochemical color timing and film processing has to be up there in the TOP TEN. Understanding the film lab and its physical tolerances in achieving AIM Density is as critical as having your internal color management/LUT’s spot on. (you can have the most precise Print emulation LUT in the universe, but if you are unaware of your Film Labs characteristics you could still be in for a surprise. WYSIWYG should really be What You See Is Pretty Much What You Get in the perfect world. The colors and density may be great but both digital and Film projection technologies and their visual characteristics through different light sources in different cinemas are still very …… different. )


 Here is a link to a pdf file that shows the effect of printer light adjustments on a print.

Adrian Hauser


Film Processing





Colormaster Color Analyzer for Photochemical Color Timing

Colormaster Color Analyzer for Photochemical Color Timing

A reference of Film Processing workflows and helpful guides to help and guide you with processing Digital Negatives and creating the primo Answer Print/ InterPos/ InterNeg and Release Prints at the Film Lab. 

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Film Processing