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ProRes 422 colors in After Effects

[For After Effects CS5, see “ProRes 4444 and ProRes 422 in After Effects CS5″.]


UPDATE
See “ProRes 4444 colors and gamma shift when working with After Effects and Final Cut Pro” for information about gamma shifts with ProRes4444 media.

If you’re working with Apple ProRes 422 media in After Effects, you may have noticed some undesirable color shifts. The most likely cause for such color shifts is the fact that After Effects by default doesn’t know how to interpret Apple ProRes 422 media. Specifically, After Effects doesn’t know what color space the color information in these footage items is in. When After Effects doesn’t know what color space a footage item’s colors are in, it has to pick something, and it goes with sRGB—which is wrong for ProRes assets, so the colors are misinterpreted.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to tell After Effects how to interpret these colors correctly.

The automatic way is to add a set of rules to your interpretation rules file. If you do this, then After Effects will automatically identify Apple ProRes 422 as such and interpret the colors accordingly. (You can also manually assign input color profiles to footage items individually, but trust me: it’s easier in the long run to edit your interpretation rules file and let the automagic work from there.)

For information on how to edit your interpretation rules file, see the last section of the “Interpret footage items” page of After Effects Help.

Add the following lines of text directly above the line “# this soft rule should be the last in the list of soft rules”.


# soft rule: Apple ProRes 422 720×480 & 720×486 are SDTV NTSC
*, 480, *, *, "apch" ~ *, *, *, *, "r6nf", *
*, 480, *, *, "apcn" ~ *, *, *, *, "r6nf", *
*, 486, *, *, "apch" ~ *, *, *, *, "r6nf", *
*, 486, *, *, "apcn" ~ *, *, *, *, "r6nf", *

# soft rule: Apple ProRes 422 720×576 is SDTV PAL
*, 576, *, *, "apch" ~ *, *, *, *, "r6pf", *
*, 576, *, *, "apcn" ~ *, *, *, *, "r6pf", *

# soft rule: Apple ProRes 422 HD is Rec. 709
*, 720, *, *, "apch" ~ *, *, *, *, "r7hf", *
*, 720, *, *, "apcn" ~ *, *, *, *, "r7hf", *
*, 1080, *, *, "apch" ~ *, *, *, *, "r7hf", *
*, 1080, *, *, "apcn" ~ *, *, *, *, "r7hf", *

[Note: Be sure to use a plain text editor (like BBEdit or Notepad), not a word processor, to edit this file. Line endings and invisible formatting from word processors can make the file not work correctly.]

The four-character codes apch and apcn denote ProRes 422 HQ and ProRes 422, respectively.

These rules assign ProRes media the appropriate color profile by looking at the vertical frame size to determine whether the media is NTSC, PAL, or HD. You could add a similar rule for 2k assets, etc.

After you’ve made these changes to your interpretation rules file, start After Effects. Your ProRes media will now be automatically be assigned the correct color profile.

Of course, assigning the correct input color profile to a footage item doesn’t help anything if you’re not using the color management features that use those input color profiles to convert colors into the project’s working color space (project working space). You must therefore also enable color management by choosing a project working space. (Choose File > Project Settings, and choose a working color space from the Working Space menu.) For information about color management, see the “Color management overview” section of After Effects Help, and the white paper and tutorials that it points to.

(update: When you render and export the movie out of After Effects, make sure that you’ve assigned an output color profile that is appropriate for your output. If you’re “round-tripping” back to ProRes 422, then you’ll probably want to assign the same profile to the output file that you used to interpret the input file.)

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