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Forums Apple Final Cut Pro Legacy Quicktime gamma issues: Users Revolt!

  • Quicktime gamma issues: Users Revolt!

  • Alan Okey

    March 16, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    I’ve read that once upon a time, Apple chose a system gamma of 1.8 because they dominated the early graphic design/prepress market, and that a gamma of 1.8 was somehow better for designers working on projects for print.

    Years later, this legacy choice is still in effect. Although Apple allows you to change your monitor gamma to 2.2 in Display Preferences, unfortunately there is no intelligence on the part of Quicktime to recognize this. Quicktime assumes that your system gamma is 1.8, and acts accordingly. Just Google “Quicktime gamma” for a brief sampling of the frustration that so many people have experienced.

    How is it that angry mobs of video professionals carrying torches have not yet burned Apple to the ground for this transgression? For a company that prides itself on serving the professional video market, Apple has a long way to go before they are truly able to be called “professional” in the way that they serve our industry.

    Apple’s notorious secrecy doesn’t help matters, either. There is no open dialogue between Apple and its professional customers. Are they even aware of how big of a problem this is for so many professional film and video artists? Do they even care? I know that people will make flip comments about how they only care about the iPhone/iPod, etc. but seriously – if they’re bothering to even continue to sell and update/improve Final Cut Studio, why don’t they address the major Quicktime issues that we’ve all come to know and hate? Granted, Quicktime is far ahead of any Windows file wrappers, but that’s not saying much.

    What can be done to impress upon Apple the seriousness of this situation? Petitions? Email campaigns? Angry mobs with burning torches? Packs of rabid weasels? What?!!!?

  • walter biscardi

    March 16, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    What exactly is the issue here that you are having a problem with. Videos playing too dark on Windows machines? You compensate for that when you compress for the Web, though lately I have not even been doing that.

    I have yet to have any Windows based clients complain about the quality of their Quicktimes, if that’s what you’re driving at.

    Walter Biscardi, Jr.
    Biscardi Creative Media
    HD and SD Production for Broadcast and Independent Productions.

    Read my Blog!


  • Alan Okey

    March 16, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    No Walter, I’m talking about Quicktime changing the clip gamma when exporting/importing clips to and from other applications from Final Cut.

    Depending on the codec (DVCPRO HD is notorious for this), clip gamma can change when exporting clips from FCP and importing them into compositing applications, then rendering them and importing back into FCP. Sometimes this can be avoided by using image sequences, but not always. I’ve experienced this issue with Combustion, and many others have experienced it with After Effects.

    It’s not simply a matter of YUV>RGB conversion, there’s something else going on. I’m aware that any YUV clips with superwhites will be clipped upon conversion to RGB, but that’s not the problem here. I always export clips from FCP after any superwhites have been brought down to under 100 IRE using the 3-way CC.

    Let’s not even get started on web codecs… Trying to get an h.264 Quicktime to look correct (and look the same) on both Macs and PCs is enough to drive one to drink.

    Oddly enough, h.264 clips usually look too bright when I check them on a PC. I’ve taken to applying a gamma reduction in Compressor to correct for this.

  • Alan Okey

    March 16, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    More craziness:

    Final Cut Pro assumes that all RGB image files are created with a gamma of 1.8. When RGB image files are imported into Final Cut Pro and edited into a sequence set to 8- or 10-bit YUV rendering, the gamma is automatically boosted to 2.2 in an attempt to match the other video files in your project. This boosted gamma is then used when the sequence is output to video or rendered as a QuickTime movie.

    During playback on your computer’s monitor, Final Cut Pro lowers the gamma of the sequence playing in the Canvas to 1.8 for display purposes. This is to approximate the way it will look when displayed on a broadcast monitor. The still image clips in your sequence are still boosted when the sequence is output to video or rendered as a QuickTime movie.

    Important: QuickTime movies compressed using the Animation codec (which only supports the RGB color space) are also assumed to have been created with a gamma of 1.8. As a result, these clips are also boosted to 2.2 when edited into a sequence set to 8- or 10-bit YUV rendering.

    Remember folks, what happens when we assume?

  • Alan Okey

    March 16, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    There’s also this gem:

    My point is not that these various issues don’t have workarounds, my point is that you shouldn’t need them. It shouldn’t be necessary to jump through hoops like this just to get Quicktime to work the way it should by default.

  • Alan Okey

    March 17, 2009 at 12:10 am

    And don’t just take my word for it:

    Pro Living in a Consumer Quicktime World

    These are just a few of the MANY caveats for working with QuickTime in production. We find QuickTime and FCP to be so great and wonderful….yet at the same time are shocked at the hoops we must jump around at times to make things work.


  • Aaron Neitz

    March 17, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Amen. This is a plague that has come and gone for years. I know the After Effects forum has gone up in flames before with people beating their heads against the gamma wall. And there’s NO REAL SOLUTION.

    I personally try to work in only codecs that don’t get hammered by gamma changes. Uncompressed or ProRes have been good. DVCPRO-50 and HD are just unbearable. Frankly I gave up because it’s been an issue for what, 6 years now? Funny enough something they AREN’T a problem for months on end… and then one day you render and everything’s off again.

  • Attila Kovarcsik

    August 7, 2009 at 1:31 am

    I just ran into this problem 6 days ago, but makes me crazy. Plus In Color I have to switch my monitor to 2.2 to see the “end” result correctly. I hoped FCP 7 solves this, but it did not.

  • ben rollason

    March 12, 2010 at 7:53 am

    This issue has existed for years and it is a problem regardless of how many million of satisfied iPhone customers there are. As a video professional, this problem has cost me weeks and months of time.

    I assume Apple is trying to compensate for some legacy gamma issue. Or that it assumes that everything Quicktime was originated on a PC and played back on a Mac. It is color management that simply doesn’t work.

    When I compress a piece of footage into a Quicktime format, I don’t expect it to raise the gamma to 1.2. The original and compressed file look completely different side by side on the same desktop. Different original codecs come out differently although the original files look identical.

    I stopped delivering QTs to facilities for laying off to tape years ago, because it’s too risky.

    Quicktime X is much better. I haven’t fully crash tested it yet, but I haven’t noticed the gamma problem nearly so much. Quicktime X and Quicktime 7 actually display the same video differently, but I don’t think it’s available for PC yet.


  • robert coulin

    December 2, 2010 at 8:00 am


    ” … Apple and its professional customers. Are they even aware of how big of a problem this is for so many professional film and video artists? Do they even care? …”

    dont know, what the percentage is at apple of the “professional division” – but i would bet, they dont care – not enough money –
    for professional applications id rather trust more dedicated manufacturers – or just accept, what apple is giving me.

    not really satisfying –


    robert coulin

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