Okay I'm gonna be honest. I don't know what the hell is going on. I'm serious, I have no idea what most of these export settings mean and I am just desperate for someone to tell me what to do in the simplest fool-proof way possible. I don't know why but the colors are always washed out after I export. Also, any text I write with the Title box gets SOOO pixelated. Please help I literally don't know what to do. I'm also on a mac, if that helps.
First, understand that color management is a morass. It's bad enough everywhere, as most browsers and players and even operating systems try to "enhance the viewing experience" doing things you really don't want them to. But then Apple didn't help when they went to the Retina screens with the P3 color primaries ... and created some odd choices in their ColorSync color management utility.
Premiere Pro works properly in a solid pro standard broadcast Rec.709, which is still the basic standard for nearly all video made. sRGB color primaries, Rec.709 "profile" including both the camera and display transform functions, D65 white point, gamma 2.4 (2.2 for "bright viewing conditions") and a screen white brightness of 100 nits.
Apple chose to do things uniquely Apple. So ... ColorSync applies the sRGB primaries, what they call "sRGB gamma" which by reverse engineering seems to be sorta between 1.95 and 1.96 kinda mostly; then they only apply the camera transform but not the also-required display transfrom ... and run at full screen brightness.
(Oddly enough, some iPads have some of the most correct color management out there ... huh.)
When they came out with this intriguing uniqueness, the Adobe engineers came up with the "Display color management" option, which tells Premiere to look at the monitor's ICC profile, and re-map the internally displayed images in an attempt to show a correct Rec.709 image. It works decently within Premiere. And most people, especially on a Mac, should have that Preferences option checked.
But ... after exporting the file and viewing it outside of Premiere, of course ... that file is now displayed according to whatever system it's on ... and the predilections of those browsers and players all trying to "enhance the viewing experience" by doing things you don't really want them to. That's a problem for everyone in video.
And ... on a Mac particularly ... it means it looks typically lighter, especially in the shadows; the highlights are shown so bright they may look washed out also; the colors may or may not be remapped to closely match the hues seen within Premiere; and because of the generally brighter tonality from the lifted gamma, apparent saturation will be less.
So Adobe also produced that "gamma correction" export LUT so that you can mod the image on export so it looks mostly the same outside of Premiere on your Mac as it does inside Premiere. Depending on the viewing app ... browser ... whatever.
However ... on any say PC, Android or other system not running the Mac ColorSync utility, it will be dark and over-saturated.
Davinci Resolve tried a different approach ... they have an export option called "Rec,709-A", and yes, the A is specifically for Apple. This adds a different NLC "tag" in the file header, so the Mac Colorsync utility actually applies both transforms and correct gamma. Wonderful!
But ... on many non-Mac systems, that still causes color management to apply things to ... make the file too dark and over-saturated.
This general color management mess may be the heart of the issue you are having ... and there ain't no perfect solution. I don't know how many colorists have struggled to find a way to create or 'tag' a file that would play correctly in Macs and everything else out there. No one has.
But then ... no matter what you create that file on, no one on the planet will ever see it exactly as it was on your screen. Not even if you're a top colorist with their setups. And understand, they spend more on calibration hardware/software than you've probably spend total. A proper "grade 1 reference monitor" starts around $5,000USD for SDR work, and if you're producing for b-cast/streamed HDR, that monitor is upwards of $17,000, probably around $30,000. And yea, I know a few people with those things.
Doesn't matter ... they produce to the standards, and then ... every screen out there shows it differently than what it was on their screen. But by producing it to the standards, they know ... that in relative terms, their material will look like all other pro produced material as it displays on any one screen.
That's about all you can do. Master your color managment, produce accordingly, and let it go out Into The Wild.
Neil, you take my breath away. you put it as clearly as possible. I remember we used to tell clients to take a dvd of our output and go to bestbuy and watch it and shudder... It's a nightmare out there and apple isn't helping. You would think with the sophisticated technology available this nonsense wouldn't be necessary... probably not in my lifetime....
With all the time I spend with colorists, this is a HUGE pain point for them. As one near screamed in an online zoom-style discussion not long ago, "It shouldn't be this FREAKIN' hard!"
Because if the main vendors ... both the Windows & Mac folk, and the browser folk all just picked ONE freaking standard and ran with it, we could all have a much easier time of things.
There's the massively used Rec.709 ... for SDR work. "Just follow the rules, you bunch of idiots!" ... um, yea.
Even for HDR, though it's a bit more fluid, there's still only a couple different things to choose from.
It should simply not be the mess we are all stuck with.
Not sure if your's is a gamma shift but it can happen. The video link below might be helpful.