Colorspaces and File Types

<QUESTION: I'm choosing to use sRGB IEC61966-2.1 as my working color profile in AE. When I select this profile, the AE project colors immediately appears a little washed out. I add an adjustment layer to the final project and adjust the contrast, brightness and a couple of other color teaks to make it look the way I want in After Effects. Then I render it  and the resultant video looks completely wrong, with around 15% more contrast, and over-saturated.

Sometimes I think AE color management should be renamed "Color MANGLEment". LOL. The problem you’re describing relates specifically to either GAMMA or BLACK/WHITE levels.

Read more: Scene Referred Colorspace

What's the difference between Rec. 709 Gamma 2.4 and HDTV (Rec. 709) in AE? Which one should I use for advanced VFX when working in linear color space?

You can use any of those or even sRGB in a linearized workspace, as the gamma in the profile is not used, only the color coordinates of the primaries and white point.

When you are working in LINEARIZED space, your gamma is 1.0

Read more: Rec709 Profile

We've are compositing in rec709 as opposed to the default no-color space in AE, and when we switched to 709, it seems to be quite a bit brighter in gamma and offset.

Something I discovered is that not all Rec709 profiles are created the same - some have a technically wrong gamma. This includes Rec709 profiles that ship with Adobe products.

Read more: Correct Rec709 Profile

QUESTION: Why doesn't Rec709 have a specific gamma?

Rec709 has always specified a gamma, it is:

Read more: Rec709 Gamma

QUESTION: Which would give the best colors? Shooting aRGB or sRGB? And what bit depth should I use in After Effects?

First off, I'd like to mention that there is no such thing as aRGB. There is sRGB, and there is AdobeRGB, but Adobe RGB should never be written as aRGB.

Read more: AdobeRGB vs sRGB

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