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.


Use the comments section.

Good luck and happy Color Checking!





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