All Things Color for Film and Digital Cinema
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Posts Tagged ‘optical density’

Happy Feet Two – 3D

Happy Feet Two


Director: George Miller

Studio: Warner Brothers

Senior Digital Intermediate Colorist : Adrian Hauser

Graded Stills from the Teaser Trailer

Density and the Film Lab – Density Pt.4


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.

Log encoding for the Cineon/DPX file format – Density Pt.3


  As outlined in the original Kodak Reference Pages for the Cineon file format standard,   the Cineon or DPX file format is the world standard digital imaging format for digital motion picture images. Any DPX or Cineon frame can be opened by any film vendors’ hardware and be displayed in the correct format with the correct gamma encoding. (unlike formats such as quicktime!).

The Cineon file essentially is a digital replica of a motion picture negative (a digital negative). It is imaged and encoded such that it retains all the color and exposure information expressed in the negative and as such is encoded in a logarithmic manner. 

The Cineon format was primarily designed for Digital VFX and Animation artists to be able to work on film acquired sequences that could, when finished, be written back to film and intercut seamlessly with camera original negative. With the boost in enhanced graphics processors, the ever increasing capacity and speed of hard drives and some clever Code Boffins, entire films can now be digitally enhanced in the realm of the Digital Intermediate.

Film has traditionally been represented by a characteristic curve which plots density vs. log exposure. This is a log/log representation. In defining the calibration for the Cineon digital film system, Eastman Kodak Co. talked to many experts in the film industry to determine the best data metric to use for digitizing film. The consensus was to use the familiar density metric and to store the film as logarithmic data.” Kodak Reference.


Optical Density Explained. Density Pt 2.

As mentioned in Part 1, optical density or ‘log density’ is the scale used for measuring photographic optical ‘lightness’. 

In describing densitometry, three main terms are used. Transmission(T), Opacity(O) and Density(D).

Transmission (T) is a measure of the light passing ability of a material expressed as a percentage. It is calculated by taking the measured transmitted light and dividing it by the incidental light(the light source).                T= transmitted light/incident light

Opacity (O) is the ability of a medium to absorb light. Opacity is measured as     O= 1/transmitted light 

Optical Density (D) is the l                                                                                                  D=Log(O)

                                                               or                  D= (LOG10(1/T) 

Using the basic principles above we can best show the relationship between Transmission, Opacity and Density using a graph mapping out a black to white scale over a number of steps.



To the Left you can see how as the ‘linear’ transmittance of light increases the measured “optical density” of the image decreases. Obviously the more light being allowed through a medium the less ‘dense’ it becomes. 





Protected: Densitometry Pt2 “the 21 step test strip”

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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.