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new RED color science, and how to make it all work with After Effects CS5 and Premiere Pro CS5

[UPDATE: The Premiere Pro CS5 (5.0.2) update installs the new RED importer plug-in, so you don’t need to install it from the Labs website.]

Adobe just released a new RED importer plug-in for After Effects CS5 and Premiere Pro CS5 on the Adobe Labs website. This new set of software supports the current RED firmware (#30) and new color science.

At the bottom of this post is a set of instructions for a way for you to fix a problem with color space interpretation for all RED files.

What’s changed with the new RED importer software?

RED has been making a lot of changes in the past several months, including introducing their new Mysterium-X sensor and a new “color science” that includes something that the RED folks are calling FLUT. You can read what Jim Jannard and Graeme Nattress have to say about FLUT and the new color science on the RED User forum, on threads such as this one and this one. You can find more information and download the new firmware on the RED website.

My oversimplification of the gist of FLUT is that it’s a control for manipulating brightness in the midtones while not clipping highlights (though they’ll be rolled off and therefore may get crushed). FLUT is manipulated in terms of stops, so an increase of 1 is equivalent to a doubling of ISO number.

If you’re just working within After Effects, we still recommend that you do your manipulation of exposure and related characteristics within After Effects in a 32-bpc project, so you don’t lose any detail in your highlights. The RED R3D Source Settings color adjustments don’t currently preserve overbright values (values above 1.0, where 1.0 is pure white). Color adjustments done within After Effects, on the other hand, can and do preserve brighter-than-white colors when you work in 32bpc (bits per channel) color.

But, if you must manipulate color settings in the RED source settings, the new FLUT control makes it so that you lose less highlight detail than you did with the previous version.

new and changed features:

  • Added new Color Version menu with Version 1 and Version 2 options, so you can choose whether to interpret your RED footage using the old color science or the new color science. (Note: Mysterium-X requires Version 2.)
  • Added new FLUT slider.
  • Added new Shadow slider.
  • Added new option to Color Space menu, REDColor.
  • Added new option to Gamma Curve menu, REDGamma.
  • Kelvin slider now only goes to 10,000 instead of 100,000 (which was not a useful range). You can still directly enter larger numbers.
  • Added options (2500, 3200, 4000, 5000, and 6400) to ISO menu.
  • Names for saved presets are limited to not contain certain characters (such as / : * ? ” | ). If you attempt to save a preset with a name including one of these characters, a dialog box will appear that tells you to not do that.
  • Minimum color version and camera firmware number now appear under Properties in Premiere Pro.

(Note: The FLUT, Shadow, REDColor, and REDGamma controls and options are only for color version 2.)

bug fixes:

  • Importing Premiere Pro CS4 projects with RED clips resulted in clips having yellow-green coloring.
  • User Curve Setting is now saved in RED R3D Source Settings dialog box. In the previous version, it was being set back to As Shot.
  • The RED importer can now work with Unicode characters in paths. In the previous version, the importer failed when attempting to read from paths containing some characters.

how to change your interpretation rules so that RED footage works with color management

If you’re using color management, you should interpret RED files as HDTV (Rec. 709). We actually added an interpretation rule in After Effects CS5 to do this automatically, but we made a mistake. It’s a very easy mistake for you to fix in your interpretation rules file, though.

See the bottom of this page for instructions on where to find the interpretation rules file and how to edit it.

The problem is that the rule that was supposed to make the correct input color profile get assigned automatically was put at the bottom of the file, whereas it should have been put higher up in the file.

Look for this rule, which should be at the very end of your interpretation rules file:

# rule to make red raw files available as Rec709
# with Gamma encoded 32bit float data
*, *, *, "R3D ", * ~ *, *, *, *, "r7hf", 0

Cut that rule and paste it above this passage in the file (which is roughly in the middle):

# this soft rule should be the last in the list of soft rules
# soft rule: tag all untagged footage with an sRGB profile
*, *, *, *, * ~ *, *, *, *, "sRGB", *

After you’ve done that and saved the file, restart After Effects. Now, when you import a RED R3D file and you have color management turned on, the colors will be interpreted correctly, using the HDTV (Rec. 709) color profile.

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