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View Color Space

Color Space refers to the actual color space that your project is working within, as well as the color spaces from which your contributing assets have been created.  Typically, the color space you will see is RGB if your work originates on video or film, or CMYK if your color space is targeted to print.  Color space describes the components that are used to specify a color.  That is, the R defines the red color, B defines the blue, G defines the green, and so on.  Color space does NOT refer to the color capacity, or color depth. 

There are many different color spaces in use in DCC apps today.  Adobe Photoshop has a fairly complete list of color spaces in that application’s color system.  Not all color spaces are created equal; in fact, the reason that we have so many color spaces is due to the fact that there is no single color space that addresses all of the needs of those using computer imaging.  Some color spaces are very similar, if not identical, such as Hue, Saturation and Luminance (HSL) and Hue, Saturation and Value (HSV).  Incidentally, if you are working with lighting values, and you wish to animate them (like nightclub lighting), use HSV or HSL, as you can change color by animating the Hue—otherwise the color luminance and saturation will change, which is not typically something you want.  And herein lies a good example of why you would want a color space other than RGB.

Typically, synthetic imaging like 3D rendering applications, tend to favor RGB, HSV/HSL and to a lesser degree, CMYK.  Renderers always render in linear space. 

Some color spaces favor certain colors or values over others.  RGB favors brighter colors, and as a result, darker colors will show banding, requiring you to use dithering options if available.  You can see how color systems favor colors in a curve plot.  Further, were you to overlay different curve plots for different color systems on top of each other, you would clearly see that some colors in some systems are not even available in others.  RGB and CMYK are examples of this, as are color spaces operating within different bit depths.  Prior to the transition to digital television, the NTSC color space was shifted from the RGB spectrum. This was clear whenever the color orange was present, as orange is very strong as a color in the NTSC color space, while strong oranges in RGB are harder to achieve.

Fortunately, most of those problems are a thing of the past now.  Digital displays are displacing analog tube-displays (CRTs), even though the analog displays can offer truer color rendering than liquid crystal displays (LCD).  Fortunately, display manufacturers are adressing these issues.  This discussion has long term impact, since theatrical projection is now digital in many markets, and will be in all markets soon.  Digital projection systems have different color characteristics than your typical computer monitor (and they are much more expensive), so its wise to have a color check in a facility with the proper equipment if you are doing feature film work.  If not, you might end up with some very upset clients on your hands.