What Good is a Macbeth/Colorchecker Chart?

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Most camera rental houses have an in-house expendables store, and during a recent visit to one such store I ran across a stack of X-Rite “Macbeth” ColorChecker charts sitting on a shelf. I’m firmly convinced that the only reason people buy these is because they think there is a reason to use them for film-style production… but if there is a reason I can’t think of what it is. Let me explain:

I work as a consultant, both paid and unpaid, to DSC Labs, manufacturers of the highest quality video test charts in the world. I straddle both the film and video worlds, and a while back I realized that there was no simple, universal, dedicated color chart for film-style HD production. So… I asked them to make one for me. I took a bunch of their ideas, added one or two of my own, and came up with a new color chart that’s meant specifically for film-style digital production.

In the days of film it was often enough to shoot an 18% gray card as a reference. Adjusting the printer lights to make the gray card appear neutral and the proper density on the print stock effectively “white balanced” the image, as film’s color science is chemically baked into the emulsion. Shooting a gray card reference was a fairly reliable way to get great looking dailies from the lab, as long as what you sent them was properly exposed and nicely lit in the first place.

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