We saw in Part 2, the Real World, how scenes can have an enormous dynamic range that far exceeds our cameras. The inevitable result of this is the camera must clip the scene at its maximum brightness level, so we will explore solutions to that clipping. Film, on the other hand, does a soft clip at the shoulder of the film response curve that is far more elegant. Cameras also perceive color differently than our eyes and those differences must be understood and accounted for. Cameras also introduce their own digital idiosyncrasies to the image such as rolling shutter and digital noise due to their electro-optical design. This too must be understood that we may compensate for them in our work.
The visual effects color pipeline starts in the real world, of course. The light from surfaces and light sources are captured by cameras and travels a data path through several “spaces” to the movie screen. The challenge for visual effects is that the real world presents color and light in a totally different way that far exceeds the capacity of our display devices so a degraded version of the original scene must be carefully managed in order to deliver the most realistic version of the original scene to the audience. The real world is not a “color space” in the color science sense, but instead is presented here as the “World Space” where our entire VFX pipeline begins.
The way to think of the VFX color pipeline is as a sequence of operations where the data is depleted at each step, but by starting with high quality data and properly managing the VFX pipeline you can ensure that your VFX not only look great on the intended display device, but will also be future-proofed to look good on display devices of the future.