Why Is Premiere Pro Changing The Color Of My Footage? - SOLUTION

To resolve color changes during import and export in Adobe Premiere Pro, you'll need to align your project, sequence, and export settings with your footage's color profile and space. Utilize tools like Lumetri Scopes for quantitative verification and always cross-check playback on multiple devices to ensure color consistency.

September 13, 2023
Why Is Premiere Pro Changing The Color Of My Footage? - SOLUTION
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Why is Premiere Pro changing the color of my footage?

This is s common issue experienced by several Premiere Pro users. It is common amongst those working with higher resolutions and although counterintuitive, it isn't caused or affected by footage containing several colors per frame.

Let's cut to the chase: if your footage looks off in Premiere, there are numerous culprits to consider.

Color Space Mismatch

The first place I'd scrutinize is the color space settings. If you're working with REC.709 footage but your sequence is set to REC.2020, you're essentially trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The REC.709 color space is limited to a smaller gamut, covering approximately 35.9% of the CIE 1931 color space, whereas REC.2020 covers around 75.8%. The discrepancy here can lead to color shifts that are not just subtle but glaringly inaccurate.

Monitor Calibration

The display you're using can be a wolf in sheep's clothing. A poorly calibrated monitor can distort colors, making them appear either washed out or overly saturated. I recommend using a hardware calibration tool that can achieve a Delta E value of less than 2 for the most accurate color representation.

Software Glitches

Don't underestimate the power of a software hiccup to throw a wrench in your workflow. Clearing the media cache (essentially a storage area for temporary files that Premiere uses to quickly access data) can often resolve these anomalies. I've found that a cache bloated with over 50GB of old data can lead to not just color issues but also performance hiccups.

Export Settings

The codec you choose for export can be the silent assassin of your color accuracy. For instance, using H.264 might be tempting due to its smaller file size, but it uses chroma subsampling (a technique to compress color information) at a 4:2:0 ratio, which can degrade color fidelity. On the other hand, ProRes 422 maintains a chroma subsampling ratio of 4:2:2, offering better color retention.

LUTs and Effects

If you've applied a LUT (Look-Up Table, a mathematical formula that remaps the color space) or any color correction effects, double-check them. A LUT designed for a LOG profile applied to a REC.709 clip can wreak havoc on your colors. Always ensure that your LUTs are compatible with the color space of your footage.

Gamma Shift

This is a notorious issue where the color looks different when viewed on various platforms. It's often due to the gamma curve (a function that maps the tonal range in your image) being interpreted differently by different software. For instance, QuickTime has a tendency to brighten footage, altering the gamma value from, say, 2.2 to around 1.96, which can make your blacks appear washed out.

Bit Depth

The bit depth of your project can be a silent but critical factor. A higher bit depth like 10-bit allows for 1,024 shades of each primary color, as opposed to 256 shades in 8-bit. This can be the difference between a gradient looking smooth or banded.

Color Management Tools

Adobe Premiere Pro offers robust color management features. Utilizing scopes like the Lumetri Scopes can provide quantitative metrics on your color balance. For instance, ensuring your whites don't exceed the 100 IRE (Institute of Radio Engineers) unit limit can keep them from being clipped.

External Monitor

For any color-critical work, an external reference monitor is non-negotiable. These monitors, often costing upwards of $3,000, offer unparalleled color accuracy and are calibrated to industry standards.

Color Changes During Import

Alright, let's get into the how-to of why your footage in Adobe Premiere Pro might be betraying your color expectations. I'll break down each issue and provide a step-by-step procedure to tackle them.

Video Card Driver Issue

The Issue: Your video card driver might be outdated or incompatible, causing color shifts during import.

The Procedure:

  1. Check Driver Version: Navigate to your video card manufacturer's website and identify the latest driver version. Compare this with your installed version.
  2. Update or Rollback: If you're not on the latest, update immediately. If you're already on the latest but facing issues, consider rolling back to a previous stable version.
  3. Mercury Playback Engine: In Premiere Pro, go to File > Project Settings > General. Under the "Video Rendering and Playback," change the renderer to "Mercury Playback Engine Software Only." This bypasses the GPU for rendering, eliminating driver-related issues.

OBS Studio Settings

The Issue: Footage captured via OBS Studio might appear lighter when imported into Premiere Pro.

The Procedure:

  1. Check OBS Settings: Open OBS Studio and navigate to Settings > Video. Ensure the color format, space, and range match your Premiere Pro project settings.
  2. Import Footage: Import the OBS footage into Premiere Pro.
  3. Adjust Lumetri Color: If the color still appears off, use the Lumetri Color panel to manually adjust exposure and contrast to match the original.

Monitor Calibration

The Issue: Your monitor might not be calibrated correctly, affecting color perception.

The Procedure:

  1. Calibration Tool: Use a hardware calibration tool that can achieve a Delta E value of less than 2 for accurate color representation.
  2. Check Nits: Ensure your monitor supports brightness levels adequate for your work. For HDR, you'd ideally want a monitor capable of 1000 nits.
  3. Premiere Pro Monitor Settings: Within Premiere, go to Preferences > Playback and ensure the monitor you've calibrated is selected for playback.

Image Import Issue

The Issue: Still images might appear washed out when imported into Premiere Pro.

The Procedure:

  1. Check Image Profile: Ensure the color profile of your image matches your Premiere Pro project settings. For instance, if your image is in sRGB, your Premiere Pro sequence should also be set to sRGB.
  2. Import Settings: When importing the image, ensure the "Import As" dropdown is set to "Footage" and not as a sequence.
  3. Lumetri Adjustments: If the issue persists, use the Lumetri Color panel to adjust the image's color settings to match the original.

Each of these procedures is designed to tackle the root cause of the color change issue you're facing. By following these steps, you should be able to maintain color fidelity from import to export.

Color Changed during Export

Now, for export color change issues. Believe it or not, this is way more common than you would expect.

Color Space Mismatch

The Issue: Your project settings and export settings might not be aligned in terms of color space.

The Procedure:

  1. Project Settings: Navigate to File > Project Settings > General. Under "Video Rendering and Playback," ensure the color space matches your footage. For instance, if you're working with REC.2020, set it accordingly.
  2. Export Settings: During export, go to File > Export > Media. Under the "Video" tab, scroll down to "Color Space" and ensure it matches your project settings.
  3. Verify: Use scopes like the Lumetri Scopes to ensure color values are within the acceptable IRE (Institute of Radio Engineers) units. For instance, keep your whites below 100 IRE to avoid clipping.

Incorrect Color Profile

The Issue: The color profile of your sequence might not match your footage.

The Procedure:

  1. Sequence Settings: Right-click on your sequence in the Project Panel and choose "Sequence Settings." Here, ensure the color profile matches your footage.
  2. Footage Metadata: Check the metadata of your footage to confirm its color profile. Tools like MediaInfo can provide this data.
  3. Manual Adjustment: If a mismatch is found, use the Lumetri Color panel to manually adjust the color settings to align with your footage's profile.

Export Settings

The Issue: Your export settings might be affecting the color.

The Procedure:

  1. Codec Selection: During export, choose a codec that maintains high color fidelity. For example, ProRes 422 maintains a chroma subsampling ratio of 4:2:2, offering better color retention than H.264, which uses a 4:2:0 ratio.
  2. Gamma and Luminance: Ensure that the gamma and luminance levels in the export settings match your project settings. A gamma shift from 2.2 to 1.96 can wash out your blacks.
  3. Color Range: Make sure you're exporting in the correct color range (full or legal) based on your project's needs.

Playback Device or Software

The Issue: The device or software you're using for playback might be the culprit.

The Procedure:

  1. Cross-Check: Play the exported file on multiple devices and software. Use a reference monitor if available.
  2. Device Settings: Check the color settings on your playback device. Some devices have "Dynamic Color" or similar settings that can alter the appearance.
  3. Software Settings: If you're using software like VLC, navigate to Tools > Preferences > Video and ensure the color settings are set to default or match your project settings.

Each of these procedures is meticulously designed to tackle the root cause of your color change issue during export. By adhering to these steps, you're not just patching up the problem; you're eliminating it at its core.