Similar to camera color spaces, display color spaces are typically defined in XYZ space. However, no current displays can properly show everything in most scene-referred images due to absolute luminance and color gamut limitations, and the evolution of display technology means what you can see will change year by year.
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Displays receive a signal and output light. Display standards, and calibration to those standards, allow us to send a signal and get a predictable output of light and color.
Today, most displays are additive, in that they have three “primaries” which emit red, green, and blue (RGB) light, and when combined or added, they form white. The ‘white point’ is the color that is produced when equal amounts of red, green, and blue are sent to the monitor.
Display standards exist so that you can take an image from Display #1 and send it to Display #2 and get the same color. In other words, which red, green, blue, and white are being used?
This is especially important in broadcast TV and the internet, where images are sent to millions of displays simultaneously. Common display standards include sRGB (internet, mobile), BT. 1886 (HD broadcast), Rec. 2020 (UHD and HDR broadcast), and P3 (digital cinema and HDR).
These standards define three main components:
1.Primaries, usually defined in XYZ
2.White point, usually defined in XYZ
3.EOTF (Electro-Optical Transfer Function / signal-to-luminance (Y))
Test patterns are measured in order to tune displays to hit standard targets as closely as possible. Usually the test patterns include patches of red, green, blue, and white, as well as a greyscale to measure the EOTF.
Only after calibration do creative adjustments become meaningful, and color transforms become useful. A color managed workflow requires this step in order to truly have an impact on image fidelity and consistency.
Display technology has come a long way since we first began exhibiting motion images in public and then the home. From projection systems in theaters to over-the-air broadcast to emissive displays like OLED and even an iPhone, the display technology on which we look at images continues to evolve quickly. Color management and proper archival elements protect the high quality display of a movie for the future.
Returning to the original story of my parents and their remaining wedding photos, it’s apparent how being in the moment and dealing with all the challenges of that moment — budget, time, people, access to technology — can seem small compared to what is happening around you. But as time goes on, the remaining records of that experience only become more precious. And the opportunity to preserve it — and preserve it well — is missed altogether.
Drawing a parallel to a film or television show, preserving these captured moments and assuring the creative intent behind them is preserved and protected for years of enjoyment is incredibly important. Some shows become cultural touchstones. Others are personal favorites that provide comfort for many years. In any case, for many filmmakers they are the culmination of an individual’s life work and deserve the respect of a high quality viewing experience and high fidelity archive.
At Netflix, we are constantly refining our process and approach to these processes while continuing to rely on the vast collective knowledge of so many years of film history and scientific research. Within the Creative Technologies & Infrastructure team, we are always on the hunt for new and innovative ways to increase the usefulness of assets while becoming more and more flexible for creatives and technicians alike. While history and science may give us many resources to work from, the relationships we cultivate with the production community may give the best guidance.
Some movies have been lost to time. Some remastered films are missing entire scenes. And I’m not the only one whose family photo albums are rapidly fading, their quality locked in by the imaging technology available at the time. By combining thoughtful planning and technology, we can preserve the human experience and its stories for decades to come.