FCP, Color Grading, and the irritating gamma shift…

I woke up this morning with this twitter mention on my phone this morning:

I remembered encountering this a few times a while ago, but couldn’t remember it happening any time recently. After brainstorming on it for a few minutes, it suddenly hit me why I hadn’t seen that problem in forever, and also a good, quick workaround for the issue! Most of the projects I do at my full-time job are mine from start to finish, so I write it, I shoot it, I edit it, I color it, etc. And I almost always end up in After Effects as a last step for one reason or another (matting for a different aspect ration like 2.35:1, some light title or mograph work to polish the final edited piece, or even just to make my fade-ins and fade-out more cinematic using Video Copilot’s Film Fade Presets). That ended up being the reason I had so rarely encountered this issue. After Effects is a color managed program (which I learned from Stu Maschwitz’s book and blog), so by bringing my timeline into After Effects, I was avoiding FCP’s gamma shift on exporting.

So if you’re pulling your hair out because of a gamma shift from FCP, and you happen to have a copy of After Effects, try this: Export an XML of your sequence from Final Cut Pro. Import it into After Effects using Automatic Duck’s (now free) Pro Import AE. Export from there (or for the more unexperienced AE user, don’t “Export”, but add to the Render Queue). Since the Automatic Duck plugin pulls the source files and recreates the timeline in AE, you avoid any gamma adjustments from FCP. If you still see a shift, you might want to check your color management settings for your project, but otherwise, problem solved!

  • Reply Birk

    06/18/2012, 12:33 pm

    Hi Aaron

    Does this work for FCP projects where you have added a grade in Color? I tried exporting an XML and imported it with the AutoDuck plugin, but it comes up with a dialog box saying “one (or more) layer effects not supported” and it seems it have thrown away my grade.


    • Reply Aaron Williams

      06/27/2012, 11:06 am

      What you’ll probably need to do is edit in FCP, send to color and grade, send back to FCP, then export a new XML of the graded sequence – the one that says (from Color) to AE. That should work fine.

  • Reply Martin

    07/03/2012, 11:07 pm

    So this happens exporting from FCP to Compressor? What about if I export as a Quicktime file?

    The only way to avoid this is through AF?


    • Reply Aaron Williams

      07/14/2012, 9:29 pm

      There are other, more technically “correct” ways of avoiding this issue, but just exporting a QT from FCP won’t help. FCP has pretty well documented problems with gamma shift on export, whether from Compressor, QT, or another way. My AE tip is just one of the ways to avoid it, and I tend to use it since it fits my common workflow of finishing most pieces in AE for titles and graphics.

  • Reply max

    06/10/2014, 9:35 am

    I am trying to follow this procedure .
    I exported form Premiere Pro CC in “final cut XML”
    Then by Automatic Duck I imported in After Effect CS5.5.
    But I get the same problem there.
    What should I check in the Color Management Settings to solve this problem?
    I am trying to export with different setting of the Color Management but never found the good one.

    Any help?

    Thanks for the post

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