Working with Stock Footage Clips and Aces

What’s the best way to read in stock footage clips in an aces workflow? I have a large collection of clips collected over the years and find it hard sometimes to get them looking good. They seem to be darker than usual. Most clips are normal prores clips from various stock footage sites.

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Thanks for your first post…Welcome!!!

Obviously the ideal is to obtain stock footage in a log or raw form, so it can be treated like any other camera source in an ACES pipeline. However, I realise that a lot of stock footage is pre-graded Rec. 709, and you are stuck with that.

If you are using a Rec. 709 Output Transform, then using a Rec. 709 Input Transform (I don’t know what system you are using, but Resolve, for example, has a Rec. 709 Input Transform which is an inverse of the Rec. 709 Output Transform, as well as a Rec. 709 (camera) one which isn’t) the intent is that the two cancel out, and without any grading the output looks exactly like the source.

This approach should also work for mapping a Rec. 709 source to other SDR Output Transforms, such as P3-DCI. You need to take care when grading material processed this way, because the inverse Output Transform is “unrolling” the highlights, based on a assumption about the compression that has been applied to them, and this assumption is probably not accurate. This becomes more significant if you want to use an HDR Output Transform, and in this case you may want to consider other approaches.

Please read into what Nick has said, as there are many words of wisdom to be found.

In the world of of stock images, the world is not clean. You’re at the mercy of whatever creative decisions the provider has ended on, no magical system in the world can reverse engineer what that provider has done to the images.

As Nick said, your best bet is to assume that the designer of the final stock-image look had some ACES-like tone-curve and tone-mapping to their final image. Which is a looong stretch, but in the absence of knowledge you don’t have any better assumptions. So its the best you can really do under the circumstances. The nice part about using the ACES inverse transforms is that in the forward transforms (assuming you’re sticking to the SDR realm) you will get back the exact same image.

If I understand you, you have various stock footage which may have been output in various flavours, sRGB, Rec709 etc etc.

I use Davinci and set the Colour management Input set to a specific format Rec709 for instance. When you bring files in they will ALL be assumed to be Rec709 but may be sRGB, Linear…

If you have files that don’t look right, or you know what their profile is different from Rec709 (or what ever you set the main Input to; in the media pool, right click the file and scroll up to ACES input, select the profile you think or know that clip is and it will be interpreted correctly.