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I working on a project that I originally began in Premiere Pro CS6 on Windows, converted to CC, and am not editing in CC on Mac. I was making some minor tweaks to the video and getting ready to export, when I noticed some major differences in the color between the source monitor and the export preview (the actual exported file resembles or matches what you see in the export preview).

Notice color differences on the external monitor

The export seems to lose a lot of color, and even shade a bit purple.

I'm on a 2013 retina MacBook Pro with a NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M. I'm also working with a 30" Dell external monitor via Thunderbolt. [Edit: Actually, I wonder if it's the external monitor that's throwing off my coloring. Here's a screenshot from the MBP screen:

MBP Screen

And a screenshot of the rendered video in QuickTime (bottom) compared to the export preview (top). notice the QuickTime video is slightly washed out.

enter image description here


Some of the Googling I've done seems to suggest this is a problem with a gamma shift in Premiere (though I don't know how to fix that on export) or even a problem with the nVidia card (though I don't know of a way to look at that on a Mac).

Are there any suggestions for how I can get the export to match what I see in the source monitor?

UPDATE: After playing around with this some more, it seems like the problem might actually have to do with QuickTime, though I'm not sure where it fits into the various pieces in the puzzle. Here's a screenshot of the same video with QuickTime on top and VLC on the bottom:

QT on Top with VLC on bottom

Thankfully, the video that I uploaded to Wistia preserves the color:

At this point, it seems to just be a QuickTime problem, so maybe just using VLC as my default video player is the way to go. Anyone with a Mac know any more about what might be going on? I'd still like to understand more.

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@AJHenderson the source at that part of the video is .mp4, which had been rendered from Premiere at some point (I can't remember exactly how I rendered it at the time, but was having issues with nesting the sequence). – Ben McCormack Feb 26 '14 at 21:36
@AJHenderson I'm not sure about the conformed files. I copied over an entire "Adobe Premiere Pro Preview Files" folder, but not sure if that's it. – Ben McCormack Feb 26 '14 at 21:47
"Use Previews" didn't seem to do it. Same output as before. – Ben McCormack Feb 26 '14 at 21:52
let us continue this discussion in chat – AJ Henderson Feb 26 '14 at 21:53
I had a similar problem, but I was getting washed out colors from H264 renders in Premiere CC 2015 on Windows. I believe it wasn't a playback issue because the rendered footage looked different when brought back into Premiere. I copied the files to a Mac and was able to render fine. My PC had an nVidia car – Scott Driscoll Jul 5 '15 at 0:26

This is a well-known bug when exporting to H.264. Unfortunately, I'm not clever enough to understand why this happens, but it's a side effect of using the codec. I'll keep looking for an explanation I understand, however I wanted to get this answer out there.

As a workaround for now, I suggest making a quick little eyeball adjustment to the comp's colour correction to compensate. DO NOT DO THIS - SEE BELOW

Update 1:

I did some more digging, and found this on Pro Video Coalition:

QuickTime movies re-exported from applications such has QuickTime Player Pro using the H.264 codec (a common format for web content) appear brighter than the original in some contexts - such as inside QuickTime Player on the Mac, or on a web page viewed by Safari - but not in other contexts such as QuickTime Player on Windows, or the stripped-down QT Player inside After Effects.

Many attribute this to a bug introduced by use of a hidden, optional "gamma" tag (which is different than a full-blown color profile tag) inside QuickTime movies that is supposed to aid in cross-platform compatibility. Unfortunately, this tag is not exposed for the user to edit, and may be interpreted differently by different programs. It has been the cause of much grief among After Effects users employing color management, and has spread into the realm of web video.

- Brightness Issues with H.264 QuickTime Movies, Pro Video Coalition

(Bolding is my doing)

The article also lists a couple of suggestions:

  1. Installing a semi-custom H.264 codec, that allows control of the gamma tag
  2. Do not compensate by darking the image. For players that ignore the gamma tag, suddenly your video is far too dark.

Update 2:

Fuel VFX, an Australian company (whoo!), provided a tool called QT Gamma Stripper. When they were bought out by Animal Logic, that tool all but disappeared, but it's still able to be found on the web. Here's one site that reputedly is hosting a copy of this free tool.

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Excellent research, thanks! – Ben McCormack Mar 3 '14 at 23:58

I was seeing the same thing. Exported video when played in QT was washed out compared to what my preview was in Premiere. When I looked at the same rendered file in VLC it matched. so evidently the problem was in QT. I opened pref and found a dialog box that said.

QT Pref"

Enable Final Cut Studio color compatibility. When enabled video is not displayed using ColorSync." So that is apparently the culprit. When I enable my color now matches PPro and VLC much closer.

I use Premiere Pro CC now so not sure if that QT preference is an artifact from when I used to use FinalCut Pro and if all MAC QT users have it but I did and when I enabled fixed it. downside is my audience probably won't know to enable this so they will still see washed out. Although most view through Youtube/Vimeo which match PPro closer.

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this doesn't help the colours when uploaded to YouTube, which looks bad like in Quicktime – Anentropic Aug 18 '15 at 15:26

It looks like it is probably something graphic driver related. The Mac Book Pro Retina screen shots look almost identical to what I see on my color calibrated environment when I look at the video you have posted on your site.

Looks like the playback screen is probably recognized as a video playback by whatever color corrections are going on on the Dell monitor but the export preview isn't (or maybe the other way around.)

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