Getting SpectraCal’s ‘Color Checker’ and ‘Virtual Forge’ Working on One Mac

In September and October the Tao Colorist Newsletter ran a special with SpectraCal (it’s still available if you click through here). It was a 4-piece bundle allowing you to check the accuracy of your reference display – to let you affirmatively know if your display is (or is not) out of alignment and in need of professional calibration.

This blog post will walk you through how to set up this system on a single Mac – which is a bit of a chore since one element of the bundle (CalMan Studio) is PC software and the other element (Virtual Forge) of the bundle is Mac software.

It originally took me about 3 days and many emails to tech support to get it all running properly. This is my walk-through to save you the time and hassle.

Gather the parts

To get this to run properly you’ll need:

Apple computer (I’m using a MacBookPro)

  • Thunderbolt port (for the AJA T-Tap, if you’re using other hardware to feed your reference monitor… it’s okay to ignore this one)
  • USB port (for the C6 Analyzer)
  • Mac OS 10.8.3 or higher

CalMan Color Checker Tao of Color Bundle

  • CalMan ColorChecker software
  • Virtual Forge Pattern Generator software
  • SpectraCal C6 Color Analyzer
  • AJA T-tap

VMWare Fusion ($60)

  • This runs Windows on the Mac
  • There are other solutions. Setup should be similar to this workflow but this is the only workflow I’ve tested and verified.

Windows XP Pro, 7 or 8 ($175)

  • VMWare does NOT include a license of Windows. You’ll need to provide that. I used an old version of Windows XP Pro from my wife’s dormant PC laptop.

From VMWare about Windows:
“You can either migrate an existing copy of Windows from your old PC or install a new one. In order to run a Windows virtual machine, you must have a licensed copy of that Windows operating system or purchase a new Windows license.”

Drivers for your Blackmagic / AJA Hardware

  • Whether it be the T-Tap, Decklink or AJA card – you need to output a signal to your reference monitor. Make sure you’ve downloaded the drivers  for that hardware. We’ll be installing it.

The Hard Part First: The Windows Install

Even now, the Mac-snob in me bristles at the notion of ‘infecting’ my Mac  with the Windows operating system. Then again, that’s better than going out buying a Windows laptop and hooking up two laptops every time I want to run Color Checker.

So, I decided to suck it up and ‘take one for the team’.

Install Virtualization software

The journey starts with a visit to VMWare’s Fusion web page

  • Buy & download a license of Fusion

Install Windows (XP Pro, 7 or 8)

Installing Fusion is easy enough. Tougher was deciding how to get Windows inside Fusion. I originally tried to import my wife’s unused Windows laptop, which proved to be a failure. It was bloated with software I didn’t want or need and was generally buggy. I couldn’t get it to work with CalMan Studio. I deleted that virtual disk and started fresh from an old copy of Windows XP Pro we bought for a long-dead PC (that used to be the Tao Treasurer’s time-clock for her employees).

The fresh install of Windows proved to be far easier, quicker and less buggy and is the approach I recommend.

Update Windows

Of course, just like the Mac, you’ve got spend twice as long updating the Windows software than it took to install it. After you’ve finished installing Windows, we’ve got a few more components to install…

Install the .NET Framework

This one tripped me up for a day. Once you have Windows installed and updated you need to install the .NET Framerwork, available off SpectraCal’s website:

Install CalMan Studio

CalMan Color Checker is a subset of CalManStudio (which itself is a subset of CalMan Ultimate). When you enter your license into CalMan Studio, it’ll enable the Color Checker portion of that app. So…

  • Enter your License Information: This is important, Evaluation Mode is essentially non-functional. It enables you to look at the software and simulate color checking a display – but it’s just that, a simulation. You must enter your license information before ANYthing else we do will work for you.

Now that ColorChecker is running, shut down the VMWare. We’ll be restarting the Mac in a few minutes, anyway.

The Easy Part: The Mac Install

We’ve done the hard stuff (for a Mac user). Now it’s the easy stuff, installing our Mac components.

Install Hardware Drivers

If you bought the Tao bundle, you’ll want to head to AJA’s website and download the drivers for the T-Tap. If you’re using BlackMagic gear, including their version of the T-Tap (Mini-Monitor) then you’ll want to download those drivers from the Blackmagic website.

Once you’ve downloaded and installed your drivers:

  • Restart your Mac

Install Virtual Forge

Virtual Forge creates and sends the patterns that ColorChecker analyzes. To get your license to run it, we first need to send our Machine ID to SpectraCal tech support – which they’ll then send back a license.

Attach T-Tap (or other hardware), Get Your Virtual Forge License

Virtual Forge won’t launch unless it senses a video output device. If you bought the Tao  Bundle, that’ll be the T-Tap. And we need to launch Virtual Forge to find the IP Address of Virtual Forge – which we’ll enter into Color Checker.

  • Attach the T-Tap, Blackmagic Mini Monitor or other video output device to your computer
  • Once you have your Virtual Forge License, again follow that Quickstart to enter the license.
  • Quit and restart Virtual Forge to enable the license

Now, we need to get the Ethernet Address that we’ll enter into Color Checker which will allow Color Checker (running on VMware Fusion) to control Virtual Forge (running on the Mac OS).

  • From the Virtual Forge About window, copy the IP Address that starts with ‘en0:’ (including that en0 prefix)

Final Steps

We’ve now done all the prep work to getting the system up and running.

  • With Virtual Forge running, if you haven’t already, hook up the T-Tap (or other monitoring device) to your reference display – into the same input that you’ll be feeding from your color grading rig.
  • Launch VMware
  • Plug in the C6 Video Analyzer. Windows should let you know it sees the new device.
  • Launch CalmanStudio
  • Enter the IP Address from Virtual Forge into the Source Tab

You’ve now completed all the steps necessary for the ColorChecker to work.

 A few final notes:

I always follow this same order when setting the Mac up for using CalManStudio:

  • Plug in the T-Tap
  • Launch Virtual Forge
  • Confirm an image going into my reference display
  • Launch VMWare
  • Plug in the Analyzer and confirm Windows sees new hardware
  • Launch CalMan
  • If necessary, punch in the ethernet address for Virtual Forge inside of CalMan

If I don’t follow that order, it can take a few extra minutes of restarts for all the software to see all the hardware.

Questions?

Use the comments section.

Good luck and happy Color Checking!

 

 

 

 

Comments { 9 }

Flanders Scientific’s Bram Desmet on LCD Displays, Part 2

“The ‘Truth’ About 10-bit LCDs”

Bram Desmet - Managing Director, Flanders Scietific

Bram Desmet is the Managing Director of Flanders Scientific, Inc., based in Suwanee, GA just 30 minutes outside of Atlanta.

Despite holding a B.A.in Philosophy from GA State University – and being an instrument rated airplane pilot – Bram ultimately followed in the footsteps of his father, (a 30 year veteran of the professional broadcast industry) when he joined DDA (a sister company of FSI) and then later Flanders Scientific. Both companies focus heavily on professional display technology.

As Managing Director at Flanders Scientific Bram is a vocal advocate of FSI’s core philosophy of providing professional broadcast products that strike an ideal balance between performance, features, and affordability.


In Part 2 of Bram’s Interview we discuss:

  • Monitor Setup Specifications
  • Nits, Gamma Response
  • Choosing the Gamma Setting for your display
  • LCD and Rec. 709 / DCI P3
  • Types of LCD Displays
  • 10-bit color depth
  • LCDs appropriate for color critical viewing
  • LED vs CCFL Backlights
  • Contrast Ratios
  • “LED TVs”
  • What to avoid in LCDs
  • Lifespan of LCDs
  • The economics of buying an LCD
  • 10-bit native vs 10-bit via FRC
  • Viewing interlacing artifacts
  • CRT vs LCD
  • FSI’s dealer network (or lack thereof)

Tweet, Like, or Leave a comment! (bottom of the page, no registration required)


Listen Now 

Part 1 | Part 2

Subscribe in iTunes | Subscribe to the Tao Colorist Sunday Morning Newsletter
More Interviews


Show Notes:

This interview is part of an on-going interview series with the movers, shaker, and thinkers involved in the field of professional color grading for moving images. When I have new episodes to release, they are released on Tuesdays. To be notified you may follow me on Twitter (@patInhofer), via our RSS feed, and on iTunes.

You can find more interviews here: TaoOfColor.com interview series homepage.


FCC Disclaimer
Yes, I have affiliate accounts with online retailers. Anything on this page that links to Amazon, B&H Photo or ToolFarm is  an affiliate link. If you buy anything from my affiliate link not only do I get a commission, but you get a warm pleasant feeling that you’re helping to sustain the Tao Of Color website! If that is what you do – I, and all my readers and listeners say, Thank You.
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Flanders Scientific’s Bram Desmet on LCD Displays, Part 1

“Once, Twice, Three Times We Measure”

Bram Desmet - Managing Director, Flanders Scietific

Bram Desmet is the Managing Director of Flanders Scientific, Inc., based in Suwanee, GA just 30 minutes outside of Atlanta.

Despite holding a B.A.in Philosophy from GA State University – and being an instrument rated airplane pilot – Bram ultimately followed in the footsteps of his father, (a 30 year veteran of the professional broadcast industry) when he joined DDA (a sister company of FSI) and then later Flanders Scientific. Both companies focus heavily on professional display technology.

As Managing Director at Flanders Scientific Bram is a vocal advocate of FSI’s core philosophy of providing professional broadcast products that strike an ideal balance between performance, features, and affordability.


In Part 1 of Bram’s Interview we discuss:

  • Working for Mr. Flanders
  • Competing against Sony and Panasonic
  • FSI’s Product Range
  • The extinction of CRTs
  • How LCDs are manufactured
  • Characteristics of a high quality LCD
  • How LCD distributors differentiate their panels
  • The purpose of a reference monitor
  • Plasma vs LCD
  • What’s the minimum acceptable LCD for color grading?
  • Puck-style probes for calibration
  • How FSI calibrates their LCDs
  • Spectro-radiometers & Colorimeters
  • Different types of Colorimeters

Tweet, Like, or Leave a comment! (bottom of the page, no registration required)


Listen Now 

Part 1 | Part 2

Subscribe in iTunes | Subscribe to the Tao Colorist Sunday Morning Newsletter
More Interviews


Show Notes:

This interview is part of an on-going interview series with the movers, shaker, and thinkers involved in the field of professional color grading for moving images. When I have new episodes to release, they are released on Tuesdays. To be notified you may follow me on Twitter (@patInhofer), via our RSS feed, and on iTunes.

You can find more interviews here: TaoOfColor.com interview series homepage.


FCC Disclaimer
Yes, I have affiliate accounts with online retailers. Anything on this page that links to Amazon, B&H Photo or ToolFarm is  an affiliate link. If you buy anything from my affiliate link not only do I get a commission, but you get a warm pleasant feeling that you’re helping to sustain the Tao Of Color website! If that is what you do – I, and all my readers and listeners say, Thank You.
Comments { 4 }

SMPTE-NY Meeting: Live Blogging “Evaluation Grade Monitoring”

Feel free to discuss this post in the comments!

This past Thursday, SMPTE-NY had a joint meeting with the IEEE and SID-MAC. The topic “Evaluation Grade Monitoring for Cinema and Television”.

In truth, most of the discussion was on Television monitoring. In a separate room was the Dolby PRM-4200 Reference Monitor, a 20-series Panasonic plasma, and (3) Sony displays sitting side-by-side: BVM 24″ flat tube CRT, the new 25″ OLED in the middle, and their 24″ BVM LCD.

Before I get to my notes, some quick impressions on the displays I saw:

  • Dolby PRM-4200 LCD: This $50,000US LCD is a monster. When I first walked into the room I though someone had rolled in one of the old flat screen 40″ CRTs or a rear-projection set. That said, it’s a great looking LCD. And listening to the Dolby presentation I got a sense as to why it’s so expensive. For one, it natively displays the full DCI P3 gamut. Dolby goes through a meticulous process to hand-select panels that can meet this spec. Second, the blacks are very very impressive. Third – the darn thing can output (and, IIRC, maintain grayscale linearity) up to 600 Nits to emulate a typical home display (in comparison, most reference monitors are calibrated between 100 – 200 Nits).  But again – if you need to take this thing with you on-set, it’ll take three men to move it.
  • Sony OLED: This is an impressive monitor. One piece of footage they were running was a long 3 minute wide shot of cliffs over water as the sun sets. The deep shadows in the OLED held detail long after the LCD was overwhelmed by the (dim) ambient room light. And in the Sony presentation it was clear, though not explicitly stated, Sony considers this their Grade 1 reference monitor – knocking their LCDs off that pedestal.
  • Panasonic Plasma: The pro-sumer 20-series they displayed was calibrated to Rec. 709 gamut. Like the OLED, it’s just fun to look at. As I’ve written in my notes, they don’t consider the LCDs to be Grade 1 reference monitors for color critical decision making. They also don’t consider their Plasmas to be in that class either – though they think they make fine client monitors since they can be calibrated very closely to Rec. 709. The big issue is how plasmas need to cut the power in extremely bright scenes (think: standing in front of a white cyc). A reference monitor needs to maintain brightness throughout the grayscale.

Some other general observations:

  • This was a very technical crowd of around 60 -100 people. One speaker asked colorists to raise their hands, and I think maybe 3 hands went up. Lots of engineering types in the room.
  • Green phosphors – in general, displays have trouble getting saturated greens to meet the wider gamuts. This seems to plague all the display technologies.
  • There was lots of talk about modern displays not just meeting the specs of CRTs (which had lots of problems) – but going beyond them.

Notes of importance:

  • It turns out that CRTs never had an explicit standards for image display (peak white level, gamma response, etc). The phosphors were standardized, but nothing else since CRT technology had inherent characteristics that were difficult to change. If you were building a CRT and used SMPTE phosphors there wasn’t much else you could do to the image. Today, that’s all changed and nothing matches CRT, or each other. Standards and Recommended Practices are currently being developed.
  • There’s controversy over what should be a “Specified Standard” and what should be a “Recommended Practice”. I think my notes cover it pretty well.

Read On for my notes from this meeting… and feel free to comment at the end of this post.


————

“Evaluation-Grade Monitoring for Cinema and Television”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

6:30 PM Program Begins

Produced by Mark Forman, Mark Forman Productions, Corp.

No more CRTs! What to use for a reference display? Join us for a technical discussion on the future of evaluation-grade monitoring in the post-production environment for digital cinema and television.

Speaker

David Bancroft: Bancroft Technical Consulting, IEEE BTS Distinguished Lecturer and Chairman of SMPTE’s Fixed-Pixel-Matrix Display Working Group

Laryngitis

Why standards?

  • Interchange & interoperability : consistent results, across a range of suppliers. Suppliers have a common spec to target. Consumers get the possibility to get a consistent viewing experience.

Monitor vs signal standard:

  • recorded signals have specified standards, monitors don’t. CRT didnt need specs due to the technology – operated in a narrow range.  NOW we need standards since current displays don’t natively match CRT – they used to be deficient to CRT, now they are excessive.

Reference monitor:

  • Calibrated measurement tool. 1 volt needs to equal 1 volt. Measuring appearance to reveal content we are adjusting, lighting, exposure, color balance, & balance between camera angles, scenes, even if it doesn’t reflect reality. It must “tell the truth, not just pleasing”. Pleasing is for consumer sets.

What we need:

  • Same content looks same on every reference monitor and should never looks like it needs to be remastered in another facility.. No serious change in appearance with new tech vs CRT mastering.

What Manufacturers need:

  • Ref monitor that should be capable of meeting standard and must have the data to measure.
  • May have to set standard to a higher black level that the monitor can attain so operators can actually calibrate. Blacks in OLEDs are literally black – how do you measure pluge?

Standards are codified and should be practical, realistic

Recommended Practice are suggestions

They need to cover things we can control: Inherent properties of the monitor, inherent properties of the viewing room, controllable properties of the monitor, controllable properties of the viewing room.

The following is personal opinion of speaker about how they should be divided:

  • Standards are the things the User can’t control in the Monitor and viewing room. These are inherent properties.
  • Monitor inherent – gamut limit, intensity range from black to super-white @ color temp, contrast range, pixel counts (spatial response) and 1-to-1 pixel mapping mode (no scaling); temporal response (how quickly can it refresh for acceptable human vision); viewing angle (max allowable variation in luma and color in horizontal and vertical) & surface reflectivity
  • Viewing inherent. -  Max low level light ambient light; reflectance of surfaces on walls.

Recommended Practice:

  • Things easily controlled by the User
  • Monitor setup: engineering setup, operational setup (quick calibrations)
  • Viewing: ambient light, monitor surround (10% of peak white?)

Current status of specifications –

  • EBU revision – April 2011 tech document 332o. It’s a USER requirement
  • ITU has group working on gamma
  • SMPTE, 2008 Study group is now Working Group, 2011Q2 / 2011Q3 for monitor inherent standard; 2011Q4 for viewing inherent; then Recommended Practices in 2012

Audience Question: Shouldn’t we go for more colors and wider gamut rather than be restricted by what CRTs could reproduce?

Answer: We need to agree on incompatibility between old and new content. Not a technology problem, requires more bits, maybe noisier pictures.

Call for User Input on SMPTE panel

————

Speaker

Pete Putman, ROAM Consulting, Display Consultant, Educator and Columnist

Suitable CRT Evaluation Replacements:

Display wide grayscale at consistent over time

  • LCD transmissive, like light shining through window blinds – white crush is problem and is non-linear at very top of response curve
  • Plasma, emissive, like staring at sun (my comment, not speaker’s)
  • OLED, emissive : low yield, two types SM OLED & P OLED
  • FED, killed by lawyers

CRT Replacement must :

  • track color consistent
  • neutral gray
  • wide viewing angles
  • calibrate to standards
  • wide grayscale without clipping or crushing

Accurate gray scales are the key. Shadow detail is toughest. false contouring

LCD – CCFL are tough to track. Color accuracy is problem (especially greens due to added blue phosphor)

Plasma – False contouring is not a problem

Plasma Vs LCD

  • Wider viewing angle – especially up/down axis
  • can match 709 and most of DCI
  • full white drops with power management dropping light output (from 100 nits down to 65 nits)
  • High switching rate (up to 600 Hz)
  • Phosphors age (usually in first 200-300 hours).

LCD v Plasma

  • Polarizing is a problem and reduces viewing angle
  • Led backlights help reduce blacks
  • green can be undersaturated – blue red hits 709 and DCI, green 709.
  • IPS tend to look better.
  • Pro monitors moving to LED backlighting, doesn’t solve viewing angle.
  • Motion blur can be problem.
  • Put up grayscale and move around to test off axis viewing issues.

Panny TH-42PF20U Plasma

  • Covers Rec.709, most of DCI,
  • gamma just barely off and fixable (especially using something like Davio),
  • grayscale track is good as good as many CRTs
  • 120-129 nits, 931:1,
  • nice deep blacks.

Waiting in the wings – OLED, SM OLED is current favorite. High current Low voltage,

LEM-150, 15″, $6k,

  • gamut maps 709 nearly precisely
  • not suitable for P3
  • nice gamma response
  • grayscale track is flat
  • error better than many eval. displays.
  • no viewing angles issues.
  • 100-120 nits
  • 140,00:1
  • black level .001 nits. Beyond range of testing device

————

Gary Mandle, Senior Product Manager, Sony Electronics Inc.

OLED Eval Monitors

Started in 1994, first showing in 2001, 2004 small OLED

$203 million plant just for OLED

First pro OLED was 7″ and now 24″

Simple process, tough execution (process didn’t seem simple to me)

Explained science of OLED

  • Low energy
  • uses phosphors
  • entire panel is 1/16″ thick (some layers are less thick than a water molecule)

To get to P3 gamut they block low energy emissions and enhance high energy emission (esp. in green channel) to get expanded saturation.

Several different OLEDs : Stacked, transparent (HUDs), PLED (flexible), active matrix (that’s the reference OLED)

OLED beats CRT at

  • contrast
  • low light
  • black performance is whatever you want it to be
  • pixel speed from white to black is nearly instantaneous, have to slow it down because the speed produces flickering
  • tuned to balance smear vs flicker

OLED gamut accuracy from black to white, LCD loses accuracy near blacks.

Building 17″ 25″ panels. 10 bit, P3, surpassed CRT life 30,000 hours (failure is sudden toward yellow), 12 bit hdmi, display port

Half weight of LCD

2k for cinema, displays interlace (1080i), plugin card for Harris rasterizer

Burn in can be problem, same as CRT but not any worse, auto shutoff after 10 minutes

72 watts, no fans, no heat problems,

Headroom over 200 nits

  • It measures color balance and luminance to keep panel stable as phosphors decay, using the headroom to slowly compensate for phosphor decay. When it can no longer compensate it does a sudden failure. You ‘ll know it!

———–

Steve Mahrer, Senior Technologist, Production and Media Services, Panasonic

If we replace CRT, don’t just emulate, improve – CRTs were not quite 709

Ideal CRT replacement

  • high res (2k and beyond)
  • great Scaler for non native resolution (don’t introduce artifacts)
  • 1:1 pixel mode
  • user controls for gamut / gamma management
  • good off axis viewing
  • “native” options
  • no 120hz 240hz
  • Bigger is better – content errors missed on 19/ 25″ devices are fully visible at 50″
  • 3d capable? Probably.
  • affordable

Panny Plasma

  • black not quite OLED
  • good gamma especially with LUT management
  • green phosphor decay has been fixed for 3d and looks great in 2d – especially in next generation 30-series plasmas
  • 80% P3

Panny LCD

  • CCFL
  • better than 709
  • LUT presets for 709 601, EBU
  • At best are probably Grade 2 devices

Panny DLP

  • large venue
  • high contrast
  • accurate
  • great for film outs as cinema display.

25″ vs 50″ size reveals issues

In 2 years all plasma will be 3d for cost of 2d

Panny 42″ 50″ 65″ will all be 3d later this year

At NAB releasing 30series

  • better blacks closer to reference

Don’t make smaller than 42″ Plasma since it tough to make pixels small enough

No announcement about OLED.

Floating white points on Plasma at >130 nits can be better controlled, no comment on when it’ll happen.

————-

David Schnuelle, Senior Director, Image Technology, Dolby Labs, Chairman of the SMPTE Digital Cinema Technology Committee

PRM-4200 Refernce Monitor

  • better than CRT
  • Fixes CRT deficiencies
  • Dark blacks
  • built in 1d 3d LUTs
  • Rec709, P3 (and more)

It’s all about Math – digital processing to model the standardized display

10 bits not enough anymore – Image Interchange Format is 16 bit OpenEXR over 12bit log.

Dithering needs to be removed

Can match consumer brightness. (500 – 600 nits)

How do you do your initial passes without being in the Big Room? Must meet P3 , not a simulation.

10 bit outputs need 12 bit displays

1500 x 3 = 4500 individual RGB LED, 10 bit no dithering,

Balloting finishes on proposal for math to turn electrical impulses into an image on the screen next month

Characterize, calibrate in factory, compensate

Getting accurate color readings at low levels is very difficult and EXPENSIVE

LCD LED life testing. 50,000 hours stay within 1% of their spec.

LCDs are individually qualified because of getting to P3 (mostly in green channel). Primary and white color accuracy better than most CRTs they’ve measured.

  • .005 nits for black. They tend to ride it higher – If they lower it expert viewers complain
  • 2.4 gamma
  • peak deviation are minimal
  • color tracking highly precise

Low reflectence

$1k / inch @ 50 inches !

——-

That’s it!

Discuss in the comments…

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