Washed out mp4 videos? Here's (something of) a "fix"!

One of the very long-term problems we've faced over the years is the old gamma issue when exporting/encoding videos to quicktime formats. The most popular of which is mp4, and is now pretty much the defacto standard for web video. All the main video hosting websites use it and many actually require it.

You might have noticed that your video/animation looks spot-on in After Effects/Premiere, but when you export/compress your video and view it in quicktime/VLC etc. it looks washed out. Blacks become grey and whites are dulled. In fact, if you view the video through a web browser like Firefox or Chrome (such as on Vimeo) it will also probably look incorrect and washed out. This is a colour depth/gamma issue. If you open the same file in Windows Media Player (and some others) it should look correct, with proper contrast. See below for a clear example of what's going on visually:

The bottom line is that most video players and web browsers seem to display qt mp4 videos with incorrect gamma/colour depth. There is a solution for people using NVidia graphics cards with DP/HDMI connection to your monitor(s), which we found on the Adobe forums:

  1. Open your NVIDIA Control Panel (type NVIDIA in your start menu search field and select NVIDIA Control Panel).
  2. Go down to Video and select “Adjust video color settings.”
  3. Under #2 (How do you make color adjustments), select “With the NVIDIA settings.”
  4. Under the Advanced tab change the Dynamic Range with the drop down to “Full (0-255)” (not “Limited (16-235)”).
  5. Be sure to uncheck “Dynamic contrast enhancement.” and "Colour enhancement"

** You might need to do this whenever you install new graphics card drivers. **

What this essentially does is allows all Windows applications to use the full colour range your card is able to display. Before, it was limiting this range drastically, ultimately clamping the colours, causing a severe lack of contrast, except certain applications which seem to override it ragardless (such as WMP).

Now, it's worth noting that this will have zero effect on your actual video files. It won't do anything to their encoding, of course, and won't change anything online. It won't enable anyone else to view your videos with the "proper" contrast/range. It will, however, allow you to view your videos exactly as they're supposed to look compared to how they appear in your video editing applications, which is important. The best thing to do is to view your video with this setting both on and off, once it's finished, so you can check it still looks reasonable on the default settings. The current trend of washing out video (the "hipster effect" as we call it...) obviously isn't helped by this issue, as it further washes out an already washed-out video.

It's less good news for AMD users - there are some solutions out there, just not as straightforward, and we won't cover those here.

Good luck!