Join Richard Harrington for an in-depth discussion in this video Maintaining broadcast-safe color, part of Motion Graphics for Video Editors: Terms and Technology (2014).
- The concepts of broadcast-safe color are a bit confusing. This is because a lot of changes have happened in the world of video. You need to determine how you're interpreting the graphics. Are you taking them into a computer editing environment, in which case, usually the editing tool will properly interpolate color? Or are you sending them directly to a tool such as a Still Store, or a live switcher, which may prefer that you pre-process the image in advance? Let's take a look at a couple of images, and I'll explain how to make them broadcast-safe, but when you should do it in Photoshop and when you should let the editing tool take care of it for you.
Let's open up these images here. I'll start with this raw file and really boost the vibrance, so that the colors are quite rich, and bring up the saturation as well. With these really intense colors, these colors can be problematic. If I were to send this image out to a broadcast environment, the really rich reds and greens would bleed together and lose a lot of detail.
If we choose View, Gamut Warning, this will give us a gamut warning for CMYK printing. This gamut is a lot narrower than video, but it's an example of overly saturated colors. I'm gonna choose to turn that gamut warning off for a second. Let's duplicate this layer with a right click, and I'll say Duplicate Layer. There is a filter under the Video category called NTSC Colors, which will attempt to take the overly saturated colors and reduce them.
You'll notice though, if we compare the two images, it created some very hard posterization and clipping. That's not very desirable. Keep in mind, this NTSC filter is specifically designed for using with standard definition graphics, which is probably not something you're going to do. It also doesn't encompass working with PAL, for European or South American standards. Inside of Photoshop, you'll find an Actions panel. If you click on the panel submenu, you can load the Video Actions.
In here, there is an action for Broadcast-Safe Saturation, and if you run it, it will attempt to fix the problems. You'll notice here that it made a slight mask on the saturation layer, and knocked those colors down. Essentially, it used the NTSC color filter to create a selection, but then softened the selection and applied it with an adjustment layer. This image has got its color value reduced, so it's more usable in a video environment.
If I was going to save this image out to use in a Still Store or a switcher, such as a live broadcasting environment, this would be an important step. On the other hand, you can let the editing tool take care of this for you. Let me just save this image out, and we'll call this "bird" and I'll save it as a TIF file, and I'll put that on my desktop for now. Let's bring that into Premiere Pro. We can delete out these other files, and just choose File, Import, or press Command or Control-I, and import that bird image.
Let's put that into a sequence, and you see the colors are quite rich. If I was concerned here, I could bring up my scope. Window, Reference Monitor, and I'll take a look at the Vector Scope, which is useful for seeing colors. You'll notice that some of these colors are pushed all the way out to the outermost ring. This clipping indicates that there's likely a problem in the red areas of the image and in some of the green areas of the image.
As you get closer to this outermost ring, that indicates colors that are oversaturated. Let's just dock this for a second, we'll put it next to the source monitor, and I'll apply a color filter. There's an effect called Video Limiter in Premiere Pro, and if I apply that to the image, we'll have some choices. Let's tweak the settings a little bit, I'm going to make sure it goes after just the color, and I've set the chroma value to a maximum value of 100% to illustrate the change.
That works out well. Looking at the pulldown there, I think that will give me the good target that I want. If I toggle that effect on and off, you'll see that it did indeed pull down some of the color that was pushing out too far. You can continue to reduce this value, although going below 100% is rarely needed for a broadcast environment. But as we reduce that, you'll notice that the values from the edge continue to pull in, and it starts to intelligently limit the saturation within the image itself, reducing the overall intensity of the color value.
Choosing to do this in a video environment where you have scopes is often the best place, but you can make some smart decisions when working in Photoshop. For example, rather than boosting the overall saturation, which tends to saturate the colors and posterize them, I'm a bigger fan of a vibrance adjustment. Vibrance is selective saturation, plus its saturation slider is also not as intense, so you can really make the colors quite rich.
Sticking with vibrance instead of saturation will often produce nicely saturated images that still work within a broadcast environment. You'll note here, we'll apply the Vibrance adjustment, and really boost the colors in the scene, and then, to remove the color cast, I'll add a Curves adjustment and Alt-click or Option-click on the word Auto. I can now fix the Per Color Channel Contrast and Snap the Midtones.
You may decide to adjust the stacking order, and putting that first actually looks a lot better. You'll note that fixing the levels got the white point correct and the contrast good, and then boosting the vibrance really brings out the remaining colors. These two adjustments working together created a nicely exposed and well-saturated image that still meets the demands of a broadcasting environment. The real take away here is if you're using a non-linear editing tool, make the tweaks there.
Get it reasonably close in Photoshop. On the other hand, if you need to save out to use in a live television environment, such as a Still Store or a switcher, consider using that Video action I showed you to make the colors broadcast-safe.
- When to use vector vs. raster graphics
- Working with high-dynamic-range images
- Choosing the right color space
- Understanding file extensions and file formats
- Maintaining broadcast-safe color and luminance levels
- Configuring Photoshop and Illustrator workspaces and preferences
- Using templates
- Building titles
- Sizing photos or logos
- Saving Photoshop and Illustrator files for video graphics