ACES & After Effects Walkthrough

Hey all,

I work with an animation studio in NYC. We’ve been troubleshooting our ACES workflow on a few projects, and I compiled a tutorial walkthrough to help coworkers and freelancers get better accustomed to the process.

It would be great to run it by any of you and see if you had any feedback or if I’m missing anything crucial.

You can find the PDF available here: ACES and After Effects Walkthrough

Look forward to your thoughts!


Hey Casey, awesome share! Thanks a ton. Have you tried setting the working space to ACEScg instead of HDTV Rec.709? If you go that route you can do the exact same setup but you’ll get much richer results with color falloff and shouldering on lights. I’ll usually precomp any chance renders and apply OCIO input - Utility sRGB Texture / output ACEScg to each. Any renders or footage where you can’t preserve rgb I’ll add a convert color profile effect to (directly to the footage inside the precomp), set the input color space to ACEScg and the output to sRGB, while leaving the options to linearize either input or output off, since ACEScg does that inherently. Also, while applying any lighting effects or flares or anything within the in/out transform adjustment layers (709, D60, etc. to ACEScg and then the inverse) you can get some killer results clamping the lights simply by adding a levels with the gamma set to .454 (which you can toggle on and off) in conjunction with an exposure effect. I’ll either clamp the exposure’s gamma to .87 or .454 depending on whether or not I have the levels turned on, and rather than adjusting the light intensity or size in the effect itself, moving or adjusting the exposure value gets really great results. You can crank it really high without any blowout at all, and the colors stay saturated, even more so when clamping the gamma. Anyways, your pdf basically helped me turn a huge corner on this process, which has been a bit of a puzzle to figure out, so thanks man!!! I hope you find some of what I mentioned above helpful for sure, and if you’ve got any extra insights I’d love to hear em! Cheers! Ryan


Hey Ryan,

Awesome to hear!!! Glad it was helpful. Those are some great tips. Gotta experiment with those lighting tips.

We’ve actually had mixed results working in ACEScg, mainly because our renders need to be delivered to a posthouse for finishing. Working in Rec709 allows us to properly animate and design in a color space we’re “used” to and then deliver it in ACES2065-1, which the posthouse can properly slot into their pipeline with expected results. We really want to be able to animate and design everything in Rec709 / sRGB, then just apply an ACES transform at the end so it can be properly “inverted” later in the pipe.

Also, were just on regular iMac / DELL monitors so I’m actually not sure if we could work in ACEScg and be confident that we’re seeing the entire spectrum of what were doing, if you know what I mean? Unless I’m missing something, we’d all need to have calibrated HDR monitors to properly view our work.

Thanks again!

Hi Ryan!

This was a super helpful fun through. This is the closest solution i have found in After Effects as well. Im a little confused by the section discussing gamma shifts on layers like optical flares. You are saying to create layer with the following structure?

Optical Flares
Levels (Gamma set to .454)
Eposure (adjusted for desired brightness)

Setting the Levels to .454 kind of makes sense, as you are converting the sRGB input in to linear space. Is this the appropriate way of doing this? That would be a conversion to linear sRGB right? Wouldnt you instead use an OCIO translate from sRGB to ACEScg? This is my main confusion with ACES in AE.

This leads to my biggest misunderstaing. How do you set colors properly on effects in after effects? If i have a fill effect with a specific red value. How do i get the same value after converting from ACEScg to my ODT which is Output sRGB? Im struggling seeing how a lot of effects that are color dependent will work in AE.

Hey Jacob,

Biggest thing I’d recommend, if your effects are giving weird results, is to do everything UNDERNEATH the OCIO transform. Color correction, effects, etc. Essentially just work in Rec 709 with the ACES transform applied only at export. This way, you can actually just see what the hell is going on in your comp at Rec.709. Then, when you export, the OCIO will transform everything into ACES equally, and come out balanced on the other side of the color pipeline.

I feel like that would sacrifice a lot of the benefits of working in ACES though. We have only worked with a couple of finishing houses that use ACES as their first option right now. So for us, its more about gaining the benefits of color blending etc and less about being able to export ACES at the end.

Ah - gotcha. This guide / setup is much more geared towards maintaining color consistency between a Rec709 workflow within an ACES pipeline / delivery, so that the colorist ultimately sees what we see.

I’m not sure how deep AE will really go in terms of maximizing ACES - outside of the regular blending mode / blurs you can get at 32bpc. Especially if you’re working on a regular SDR monitor.