Calling for an open source camera profile database
With more and more new RAW conversion applications coming out from small and independent developers, many suffer from the same problem. Cameras aren’t profiled properly or poorly, and as a result, when you open a RAW file in many of these applications the colours look a bit flat or different than you would expect.
The reason is actually quite simple. RAW files don’t inherently include the instructions for how the colour should look, and so, In order to have the software match what would be output if you had shot Jpeg, developers would have to profile each individual camera. As there are hundreds of different cameras out there, this would be an extremely costly endeavour, and beyond the resources of most small developers. It’s ok for someone like Adobe who can afford it, but it's too much to expect from smaller software companies.
So I had an idea. Why doesn’t someone come up with a way to create an open format for profiling and an open source database. If you could come up with a simple tool that anyone could use to profile their cameras and then submit the results, you could create a crowd-sourced database of different camera models, and how their RAW files should be profiled. I don’t know the technicalities of how you would go about this, or if its even possible, but I’m pretty sure that at least some of the technology exists.
There are several ways you could actually deliver the formats. From colour sync type profiles to standard LUTs, there are plenty of ways you could actually deliver the profiles in a way any developer could tie into. As for the actual profiling side of things, there is software for doing this but its pretty complicated. Someone would need to come up with a simple tool that would enable this to be done simply by the average user. If it’s too complicated, then people just wouldn’t do it.
I always wondered if there wasn’t some way to analyse a raw + jpeg pair and then, by scanning for the difference between the two, use that as a way of creating a profile. I know there are colour matching technologies that can do similar things. There was a similar feature in Final Cut Pro at one point - I’m not sure it's still there - but you could match the colour of one clip to another. surely something similar would work for matching a raw file to the corresponding jpeg. Anyway, however one would go about doing it, I think this could be a huge boon to the industry, as it would enable much wider competition in the space.
In an ideal world you would see someone with clout take this on, like Google or Apple, but I can’t see that happening. Perhaps an alliance between smaller developers could create some sort of working group. Of course in an ideal world, camera manufacturers would participate in this and submit their own profiles. Anyway, this is all just a fantasy on my part, but I think that something like this is needed. It will probably never happen, but one can dream!
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