Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Digital path & SDi does not colour-accurate pictures make...

Recent years have seen many prosumer camcorders with HDMI outputs so that you can get access to the uncompressed RGB sensor output rather than having to make do with the H.264 (typically) encoded Y, Cb, Cr data (from the flash or disk-based recorder). This makes lots of sense and has given rise to HDMI -> SDi converters like the ones Mr. Blackmagic sells;

These take any HDMI 1.4 resolution (all the way to 4k UHD - 3840 x 2160 at a maximum of 30P in 4:2:2 colour space) and convert to single-link (1.5G, 3G or BM's home-brewed 6Gbit/sec) SDi. Excellent, you'd think; and they are so long as you only use them for video-type sources - camcorders etc. Don't assume they are of any use in turning the output of your computer into SDi!

So, here's the test rig; my Macbook Pro 15" running Mavericks with a Thunderbolt -> DVI breakout connecting to the HDMI input of the BM converter.

The SDi output is fed to my trusty Tektronix WFM7100-series and I'm running a known-good recording of 10-bit, 1080 50i 100% EBU colour bars on the 2nd display.

Now let's take a look at the state of the bars; not pretty - the luminance response is all over the place with a very funky gamma that has really gone awry in the bright parts of the picture. The blue colour-difference channel is not so bad, but the Cr (red colour difference) is really crushed in the cyan end of it's response; look at the vector display (top-left).

That's not to say that the pictures don't look good on the monitor; but they aren't colour accurate in the way they need to be if you're using this as a method of profiling an SDi display - and I have seen people use this method with Light Illusion to derive the colour space of a display and then generate a LUT to make the display look how they want.

So, my first thought was, head over to the display profile and see if it's just using the wrong RGB numbers; OS-X and Windows both support standard profiles like Adobe RGB or sRGB which are more suited to print and web graphics prep but not necessarily our beloved broadcast Rec.709 colour space. Imagine my horror when I realised that the colour display profile that OS-X had used was the one that shipped with the Blackmagic! How did they not even get that right?!

To be fair even the 709 profile that comes with the OS is wrong; the take-away is don't use these kinds of gadgets if you need accurate colourimentry. For XBoxes or just getting a high-quality desktop feed as SDi they are fine, but not if accurate broadcast pictures are needed.


themoog said...

Just OOI, what if you play back a test uncompressed bars file from your blackmagic shuttle? TBH im sure youll get similar results.. i'm just interested.


Phil Crawley said...

No - the Shuttle and the UltraStudio Express (I keep one in my rucksack for demo/testing) do exactly the right thing; it's the display profile of OS-X that is messing this up. The annoying thing is that BM ship a profile with the HDMI-SDi converter which is wrong!