there’s been a discussion that I’ve seen a couple of times about which system to choose, here is a little list I’ve compiled, feel free to comment!
I see all of and most of the times a mix of them in the facilities I visit for workflow and colour consulting.
Autodesk Lustre was pretty much the first software based colour corrector (as Colossus), it is still very efficient on long form stuff, because simple actions like copy/paste and basic look setup, which are the basics of colour grading, are really fast, though it’s a bit cumbersome if you don’t have the right workflow integration, lacks support for camera formats, lacks some creative tools though tracker and shapes are really good (and you can get the famous wf_x realtime plugins if you want blending modes, sharpening, grain generation and more . If you try to learn it by yourself it’s a nightmare and the panel is not so nice, but now in most Flame Premium config people get the cheap Tangent Element and that’s alright, plus they have Smoke that’s still one of the best conform on the market, a lot of even using different grading systems use Smoke for conform, interaction works well and it’s cool to be able to go back and forth, making it a full finishing system. Generally speaking it’s a machine that works well if you have a good team of engineers with you (that’s the Smoke guy), pretty much like a Formula 1.
Resolve is everywhere, it has some really cool features, it’s fast, supports new cameras, has a pretty nice panel, has serial/parallel processing, can be very creative, has user management and database tracking, easy to integrate in dailies workflow and a lot of people just use it as an ingest tool, it’s almost an industry standard. It’s a great tool for grading, though a bit slow for simple things. I know some colorists don’t like it, maybe for that, maybe just because it doesn’t feel like driving the most expensive system on the market anymore:p
Baselight is cool but it’s pretty much an island in the workflow: getting things in and out when you have a 4 or 8 aint fun, and projects need more reactivity. I believe we’ll see those configs disappear as multiGPU can fit into one machine you can nicely set on a SAN, like the Baselight One. Though I believe there are still the only ones that have 4K monitoring output. I love Baselight curves, the panel is fantastic, they are the only company that understand colour management (even though it’s not implemented correctly everywhere, but that’s another subject), it’s fast. Basic operations are a bit cumbersome and the GUI is a bit messy when you have complex gradings, but again the panel smooths it down. The workflow integration and all efforts they make with Nuke plugin, FCP, Onset, etc is great, because it’s really the key for the future, interop between the systems.
Nucoda is great as a standalone machine because the conform is strong, the tools are great (I love the Phoenix stuff for restoration and they have good plugins available), not such a fan of the Valhall panel, the new one looks good but I haven’t seen one yet in production. It’s pretty slow on the processing, the GUI is a bit clunky but it has a nice cache management and I believe at some point they would put in some compositing to become a complete finishing tool, it’s already very good on subtitling. The Avid integration is really good and that’s the one you want if you want to directly connect to a Unity.
Pablo has a great panel, was the first to integrate the concept of full finishing system, has been strong on 3D at the beginning, but I believe Quantel has slow down the dev over last couple of years and it’s not that trendy anymore, though I calibrate a facility in a couple of weeks with a couple of them. Pretty much like the Baselight the proprietary storage system make them an island, in both case you can hack it to accelerate the process, but it always mean expensive data duplication.
Mistika is the trendy one at the moment, because it has geat GPU performances and optical flow tools, their 3D stuff is really good, it does a lot of simple things very fast, it’s a finishing tool that I see fitting well in a broadcast workflow or dailies to get a lot of throughput, but I feel for the more refined jobs it lacks a bit of finesse and doing complex things can get cumbersome, comping for example, and I don’t like the CP200 from Tangent. For 3D processing and dailies/input workflows its worth considering Colorfront OSD that has some pretty good stuff too.
Scratch is much more than a grading system, now they start to show the compositing stuff but they already have a very strong data management system, onset integration and Dailies with Scratchlab. I ‘m not a big fan of the grading toolset, again because it goes a bit in the way of efficiency, and most use with it with the CP200, so same remark as before. So it’s a Swiss army knife and its database can do a lot of things for you if you want to integrate a strong workflow.
RAIN has some nice stuff in, very clever to integrate TK control to replace DaV 2Ks, GUI is cool, dev is pretty fast, definitely something to check out.
Speedgrade is now part of Adobe Cloud and at the moment is not very well integrated in the suite but it’s the beginning, they have some good code in for stereo, GPU, they’ve always been good on camera formats too (was my tool of choice for input in the old days) so I guess when it gets integrated better, with support for the Adobe metadata ecosystem, it’s gonna be very interesting.
I wouldn’t finish that list without my ex-Eclair friends who develop Firefly, a tool now used by Panavision for dailies, they have some pretty nice concepts for metadata tracking.
So it’s a very long list (and I miss some) and there’s no market for everybody, some will certainly disappear or be integrated: Color used to be the very expensive Silicon Touch, Speedgrade in CS6, who’s the one for Avid?
Also remember that a lot of project go thru different systems; for example I’ve set up a 3D workflow couple years ago with Pablo software for all 3D processing and preparation, held by a stereograph, then Flame Premium for VFX/conform/grading would work from clean material. Nowadays I see a lot of that with Mistika/Resolve/Scratchlab/Colorfront OSD upfront for preparation, because again the key is speed and there are a lot of things you don’t want to address in a grading room if it’s expensive time, because you won’t charge it to your client.
Voilà, was a pretty long one but I hope you like it! We do integrate all of them in your workflow and make sure the colours are right and not only nice!