This article states:

A scene-referred workflow is one in which we manipulate our images prior to their transformation from camera color space to display color space. A display-referred workflow is one in which we manipulate our images after they’ve been transformed from camera color space to display color space.

What I'm confused about is - isn't any kind of workflow a display-referred workflow, considering that the display will convert whatever signal is sent to it, to its own ICC profile, and apply its own adjustment/curve?

As an example, say I have a JPG texture I'm using in Cinema4D. I want to bring it into the ACEScg space. I linearize the image, and work on it. When I'm ready to export, I convert it to sRGB. But my display is converting everything I see, the moment it's sent a signal to its own profile, is it not? So how can there be a scene-referred workflow in this case?

I hope what I'm saying makes sense - I'm still trying to learn/understand color management.

  • not qualified to talk about color grading, but I think the distinction relies not on profiles nor calibration but rather it relies on gamut and data representation: if you do certain things in/on camera, you are working with the (probably) log/HDR/RAW data. Display-referred probably will be downsampled or dithered. In some circumstances, it is probably better to dither values after transforming. Simple example being 16bpp gradients then dithered to 8bpp reduces or eliminates banding
    – Yorik
    Jan 14 at 17:32

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