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FAQ: How to choose "Viewing Gamma" in Premiere's Preferences

LEGEND ,
Apr 23, 2024 Apr 23, 2024

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Premiere's Viewing Gamma option should be set to match the grading environment.

 

This confuses most people. Why? Because it is so easy to mistake viewing gamma while working, which is the gamma used to view the image while doing the correction, with applied gamma, meaning a change to the actual file by the program. Please understand, Premiere does not change the file gamma on export!

 

So how do you know how to set Premiere's Viewing Gamma option?

 

As someone who works for/with/teaches pro colorists, I have dealt with this for a decade now. It's actually pretty simple to figure out! I'll give full explanations below, but here's the key:

 

You should set the "Viewing Gamma" in Premiere's Preferences according to the brightness of the room environment you are working in! That is the normal and "correct" colorist's practice. So the real question is the following:

 

What is your VIEWING environment while grading, that is, doing tonal or color corrections to the image?

 

If you are in a professional colorist-style "semi-darkened room" with all very low and controlled light sources, then ... for Rec.709 work, you should use Premiere's viewing gamma setting of "2.4 (Broadcast)".

 

If you are in a 'normal' moderately bright room with light all around you, then ... for Rec.709 work, you should use Premiere's viewing gamma setting of "2.2 (Web)".

 

If you are on a Mac, and wish to match QuickTime player outside of Premiere on Macs without Reference modes* then you should use a viewing gamma setting of "1.96 (QuickTime)" **

 

This is not what you see all the time, and well ... I've even been sloppy about explaining this on this forum! So I'm correcting myself right here.

 

So you're saying there is a difference between the "proper" viewing gamma while working, and the display gamma for those viewing the files we produce?

 

Yes.

 

Again, for example, you should not grade for "web 2.2" in a darkened room. The file you produce won't 'view' correctly in a bright room. So if in a moderate to bright room, set the Premiere viewing gamma option to 2.2.

 

What about monitor or GPU settings? Gamma, and Full/Legal (limited)?

 

This one is easy!

 

Do NOT set your camera, monitor, or GPU to "Full" data range!

 

A common misconception is that you "lose" dynamic range for Rec.709 video files, with 'limited 16-235' settings in the camera, monitor, or GPU settings. Wrong!

 

The standards for Rec.709 specify that all YUV (Y-Cb/Cr) video files shall be encoded as "limited/16-235", and all RGB Rec.709 video files shall be encoded as "Full/0-255".

 

Those are encoding settings! They have nothing to do with the file dynamic range encoded in that file! And all screens properly display both YUV and RGB files correctly, as 0-255. IF the system settings are correct.

 

And if you set your camera, monitor, or GPU to "Full" for all Rec.709 media, you break the system. Which will be most notable when you display any RGB "full" media, which will have completely crushed blacks and blown out whites.

 

Isn't the web always gamma 2.2?

 

There is another common misconception, that all images on the web, still or video, are "sRGB/gamma 2.2". That applies generally to still images, but not to video. Rec.709 video is generally accepted by most players as gamma 2.4. Also, Nvidia GPUs "out of the box" are set to pass gamma 2.4 to the monitor for Rec.709 video.

 

* Macs with Reference Modes .. when using the HDTV option ... will show a different image for Rec.709 than Mac screens without reference modes. As the HDTV option applies the 'correct' professional display transform function for Rec.709 image display of gamma 2.4.So Mac users with Reference mode set to HDTV see the same on-screen image as full broadcast spec gamma 2.4 and Android/PC users.

 

** Macs without Reference Modes ... the ColorSync color management utility on Macs applies the camera transform gamma of 1.96 to the display image. Which will give an image lighter in the shadows and lower in apparent saturation than if displayed using the correct gamma 2.4 for Rec.709 video display.

 

Why does my "viewing environment"matter for grading video images?

 

Two reasons apply. First, because our eyes are always adapting to our complete surroundings. If you are in a dark room, they will 'close down' some. And second, the "ambient" light around the display actually affects how you perceive the image on the display.

 

Why does the standard for colorists specify a semi darkened room with a very low max Lux figure? Isn't that an unreal viewing condition?

 

It's because of a vast amount of very rigorous scientific testing. Having a darkened (though not black!) room while using gamma 2.4, and having a controlled " neutral surround" behind the monitor, means the image of the final file will appear 'correct' for both tonality (brightness levels) and chrominance (hue and saturation levels) when displayed on "normal" screens in typically brighter rooms.

 

It is especially easier to get the color ... both hue and saturation ... to best levels in a darkened room with that neutral gray, dim area behind the monitor.

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Editing , Export , FAQ , Formats , Hardware or GPU , How to , User interface or workspaces

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