I Am A Novice, How Do I Use ACES?

I heard for the first time about ACES just yesterday, so I’m a novice. I have a general idea what ACES does in regards to color management and workflow, and I find it interesting. It’s something I want to integrate in my production.

I want to shoot a TV series, I’m shooting with Blackmagic URSA mini pro 4.6K, (RAW cinema DNG) and edit with Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2017, and do my color grading with Lumetric in premiere or DaVinci Resolve. I want to use the ACES workflow throughout the production process. Remember, I’m a novice.

Where do I start from? Is ACES a software or an hardware I can get? How do I practically use it from camera/On-set monitoring to post production, to color grading and mastering as ACES 2065?

Plz, explain it step by step. Thanks.

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Hi Gem,

Thanks for posting today and your interest in ACES. I’m sure someone from the community will offer some more customized advice, but here are a couple of links to guides on ACESCentral that will get you going in the interim. Since there are so many different workflows possible, there isn’t one definitive guide, but you’ll see the similarities right away.

ACES Primer and Quick Start Guides

Netflix Guide to using Resolve for ACES

Frame.io ACES Guide
Frame io includes ACES in their Workflow Guide
(You’ll have to scroll down to the ACES section once you’re in the article)

You’ll also need to find an ACES Input Transform for the camera, but we have some users who I think have done that and will be able to help you locate what you need.


Steve T
ACES Adoption/Comms Lead
ACESCentral Admin

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Others will be able to weigh in with specifics on particular tools but here’s a very quick and dirty overview…

For the most part, ACES should align with your current practices. My answers are brief and do not cover all the nuances that are required when considering each application. It might seem daunting at first but taking the time to learn the benefits of ACES is, at least I believe, worth it in the long run.

ACES is not software or hardware. It is a framework of best practices for color management (and some standardized formats and transforms to go with it) that allow for consistent and unambiguous interchange of digital image files. Different software packages and hardware manufacturers build the relevant parts of ACES into their products. Specific implementation varies based on the UI or UX of the product, but the outputs are the same. You can think of the “ACES Output Transform” (or “RRT/ODT”) as a rendering that is not specific to any camera or manufacturer’s color workflow and will optimize your image for whatever display(s) you’re using. Once you learn it, you don’t need to re-invent your whole workflow if you switch cameras, grading tools, or displays - you just need to work ACES on the one piece of the system you changed.

If you’re capturing RAW Cinema DNG, that’s good. You can apply an IDT in Resolve.

As for onset viewing, it will depend on what LUT box or preview system you have and are using. Many support ACES and realtime application of an IDT (converting the Cinema DNG into ACES) so that you can apply the ACES Viewing Transforms for your on-set display.

As far as I know, Premiere doesn’t natively support ACES transforms, so you’d need to do your editing on proxy files.

You could use Resolve to make a Rec. 709 proxy render for your editing. Bring the RAW footage into Resolve, set the color management to ACES, and deliver a Rec. 709 output using the ACES Rec. 709 transform (details on this are in the Netflix guide that Steve posted previously). Don’t worry about grading or anything yet. This is just to have files that look “correct” for editing (i.e. not flat, “log-like”, and/or desaturated)

I’m not a Premiere user though, so it’s possible that there’s an Adobe rendering that will let you edit the Cinema DNG files. Just know any output rendering that Adobe applies so that the Cinema DNG looks “correct” for output viewing will not exactly match how they would look when you use the ACES rendering. This is why I say don’t fall in love with your color here. Try to just edit and then do the final grading in Resolve.

Export your EDL from Premiere and conform your footage in Resolve. Use the ACES color management in project settings and follow the setup advice from the Netflix guide.

By using ACES you should be able to make multiple deliverables to different output displays more easily.