FEBRUARY 26, 2004
Color Shift in DVD Studio Pro 2
Smoothing the color gap between still and motion graphics
by David Nagel

Your footage is pristine. Your graphics are immaculate. And it's time to put them all together into the greatest DVD presentation in history using Apple's DVD Studio Pro. One hitch though: Despite your painstaking efforts to get your assets to look just right, there's a problem with your menus, namely a shift in color between still and motion graphics. For some, the problem is negligible and can be shrugged off; for others, the effects are dramatic, sometimes to the point where a completely different approach to the project must be taken. But this may not be necessary. Today we'll take a look at the issue of color in DVD Studio Pro and explain why the shift is happening and what you can do to avoid it.

Where the problem of color shift usually shows up is in the combination of still and motion graphics in the menu. Maybe you have a transition that freezes to a still menu; maybe you have a transition leading from a menu to a video presentation or to another menu. Whatever the case, you're looking for a smooth transition, and what you're getting is anything but.[an error occurred while processing this directive]The example below--a hypothetical project, but an actual DVD Studio Pro build nonetheless--shows both cases: a piece of introductory footage blending into a still menu and then transitioning back out when a selection is made. In this case, the still graphic is captured directly from the source footage, so there should be no problem, right? And yet....

Click the Play button to watch.

Now, it's natural to assume that when something like this happens, the culprit is the encoding. But that's not exactly it. With the encoded elements, you will see a shift in pixels when the motion stops, which might give the illusion of a color shift, but the actual color shift is happening somewhere else deep inside your system: ColorSync. This, of course, leads you to assume that the problem is in your display's calibration. Bad calibration, after all, is the culprit in many cases in graphics production, but not in the case of DVD production with DVD Studio Pro 2. In fact, the opposite is true. A calibrated monitor is more likely to produce color shifts in a DVD menu than an uncalibrated one.


That's right. When you calibrate your display, it's assigned a color profile that, though ColorSync, usually helps to produce consistent color throughout your workflow. It's a fundamental principle in graphic design. But the very color profile that helps provide consistent color in graphic design is what leads to your troubles in DVD Studio Pro. This is owing to the fact that your video is processed using the Generic RGB color profile, while still assets use whatever color profile you've assigned to your display. The farther your display calibration is from the Generic RGB profile, the more drastic the color shift in your menus.

The solution to this is quite easy.

1. Quit DVD Studio Pro.

2. Open up System Preferences, and click the Displays button.

3. From there, click on the Color button (Mac OS X 10.3) or the Color tab (Mac OS X 10.2), and set the Display Profile to Generic RGB.

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