ACES pipeline for CG and Compositing

What is ACES?

The Academy Color Encoding System (ACES) is an industry standard for managing color and digital files throughout the life cycle of most any media production, from motion picture, to television, video game, or immersive storytelling project. From image capture through editing, VFX, mastering, public presentation, archiving and future remastering, ACES ensures a consistent color experience that preserves the creators’ vision. It also “future proofs” your project and simplifies the creation of the many deliverables that are required of today’s productions.

Working with ACES

After the shoot, the rushes get converted to ACES (or stored in its original colorspace) and then the proxies for offline editing are exported to a Display Referred space (like rec709).
When the edit is locked, most of the times (especially if during the shot no DIT is present) the editor will export a .AAF/XML to the colorist that will reconform the edit to ACEScct, match the different shots, do a primary correction and discuss a first grade with the DOP and the director.

To make sure the ACES pipeline is smooth, the colorist will conform the shots to ACEScg for the VFX department, and will provide a set of show LUT’s for the artists to have a first idea of the final grade.

Any CG elements are rendered out and saved in ACEScg or in Linear sRGB, and the CG is composited. It is very important the same View LUTs are used, otherwise the CG will look completely different to the compositor than it did to the CG artist.
The previews are rendered out with the show LUT applied. The completed shots are rendered out to ACES again and are sent back to be reconformed and finally to the colorist that will work on the final grade.

ACES pipeline for CG and Compositing

more coming soon

ACES in Nuke

1. Adjust projects settings

  • Project Settings (shortcut “S” without selecting any node)
    OCIO config: aces_1.1
    working space: scene_linear (ACEScg)
    monitor: based on your monitor colorspace (rec709 or srgb)

2. Read .EXR file


3. Load “show LUT” node at the end of your node tree (make sure it always stays at the very end while working before it)

  • OCIOFileTransform
    file: show LUT
    interpolation: tetrahedral
    working space: ACES – ACEScct

4. Prior exporting, disable the LUT node or export with the “Write” node before it.

ACES in Photoshop

1. Open the .EXR file

2. Assign ACEScg profile

  • Edit -> Assign Profile -> “ACES CG Linear (Academy Color Encoding System AP1)

3. Load “LUT” layer at the top of your layer panel (make sure it stays at the very top while you’re working under it)

  • Layer -> New Adjustment Layer -> Color Lookup -> Load: this

4. Prior exporting, disable the “LUT” layer.

ACES in After Effects

1. Import the .EXR file

2. Assign ACEScg profile

  • Project settings -> Color
    Working Space: ACEScg ACES Working Space (or ACES CG Linear)
    Linearize working Space – ON
    Compensate for Scene-referred Profiles – OFF


3. Load “Show LUT” layer at the top of your layer panel (make sure it stays at the very top while you’re working under it)

  • Window -> Effects & Presets -> Utility -> Apply Color LUT -> Choose LUT…

4. Prior exporting, disable the “LUT” layer.

Why I don’t see ACES on my color management profiles list?

Probably you don’t have OCIO installed on your computer.
Go here to download and install the OpenColorIO.