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The New Hollywood Workshop: Color in DVD Studio Pro

By Eliot Hochberg (, April 23, 2003

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One of the most important aspects of preparing video for a DVD is ensuring that its color does not go outside the gamut allowed for the target TV signal. The reason for this is that many televisions cannot physically produce certain colors. However, since CRT televisions were originally analog devices, the tubes will try to make these colors nonetheless. The result is an annoying buzzing when there are areas of extreme contrast or out-of-gamut color.

Most professional editing systems provide a means to ensure that colors stay within the NTSC gamut. Photoshop also provides a means to control color called NTSC Colors to address this issue. However, DVD Studio Pro lacks any form of color gamut protection.

I encountered this issue when creating the overlay buttons. The client requested red highlights. I knew that red could be an issue, since it is one of the colors that is most often out of gamut in NTSC video. I was very careful with my reds in the menus and other elements in the project. When it came time to select the colors for the highlights, I intended to be careful, too.

The use of highlights will be covered in another article, but here I will say that DVDSP provides a number of handy defaults for overlay button colors. But don’t be fooled! These colors are not NTSC safe. They work fine on a computer monitor, and on higher quality TVs. But when viewed on less expensive and older televisions, many of these colors are outside the range that the less sophisticated screens can show! There is no indicator in DVDSP that shows which colors are okay to use and which ones aren’t. In a later series, I will do a number of tests to see which colors are okay and which aren’t, using both Photoshop and DVDSP.

In addition, although Adobe Photoshop has an NTSC Colors filter, it often doesn’t pull the colors back as much as is needed to deal with this issue. Therefore, I recommend to every DVD author that they purchase an inexpensive or older television to use to test their colors before they finalize their disc. Even a studio monitor may not show the artifacts that can creep in with out-of-gamut images.

It’s much cheaper to test on a cheap television than it is to realize all of your colors need to be changed after a replication job is completed.

The New Hollywood Workshop is dedicated to using Macintosh computers and software to do what the big boys do. Want an example? Check out Duality, a short made completely with Macintosh products.

Eliot Hochberg is a Web developer with over seven years’ experience. Apple’s new professional tools are just the ticket for a sole proprietor like Eliot to go to the next level. Right now, he’s seeking DVD duplication services that support DVD Studio Pro. If your company does, let us know. We’ll list you in future articles.

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