ColorChecker Turns 40!
by Sandra Kehoe – March 18th, 2016
It’s hard to believe that the Macbeth ColorChecker Color Rendition Chart, or ColorChecker Classic as it’s known today, has been used in the image reproduction process for the last forty years.
What is incredible is that this appears to be just its first forty years and that there is still a lot of benefit in this simple color chart in today’s workflows. In fact, over its rich history, ColorChecker has grown into an extensive product family over the last 12 years.
The Original ColorChecker
The “Macbeth” Chart, as those of us with a few years of experience in the industry know it as, was created by Cal McCamy, a color scientist for Macbeth instruments, along with Harold Marcus, the technical director of Munsell Color. It was developed in response to the market need they saw for a new type of color target to help with balancing the color imaging process.
The target was first introduced on May 24th, 1976 at the SPSE conference in New York and hasn’t looked back since. An excerpt from the opening paragraph of the original article submitted by McCamy and Marcus states why they created the Macbeth ColorChecker: “Photography, color printing and television do not truly reproduce all colors. The nature of the rendition may be described in terms of the ways in which the colors in the image differ from those in the object. The image and the object may be compared visually or by measurements. To facilitate comparisons of this kind, we have developed and are making available a well-characterized color chart to be used as a standard test object.”
Helping Photographers & Filmmakers
The color chart was fully embraced by the photographic market, where it played a significant role in providing consistent production of color positive negatives and prints. In this analog world, it was an important tool for darkroom technicians to create high-quality color images for print photography.
The target itself is made up of a series of colors and grays that assist in understanding how well an image will be reproduced. When producing the target, they used a color range from those that are found in nature or the world around us, to extreme chromatic colors, as well as the primary colors for RGB and CMY color reproduction processes. Interestingly, this selection of colors and grays has turned out to be almost timeless in spite of all of the technological advancements the field of photography and video has seen over the last four decades.
The target was the perfect fit to be produced at Macbeth since Munsell Color was part of the company. Munsell Color has been producing color standards in a variety of industries and disciplines for over 75 years. This level of color knowledge ensures that the production of the colors found in the ColorChecker is consistently produced to the highest levels of color fidelity as specified since 1976.
ColorChecker Anniversary Celebration
During this anniversary year, we will be sharing more information and stories about the ColorChecker Classic (Macbeth Chart) and the family of products born from this trusted original chart. But for today, lets give our thanks to the two individuals that had the foresight to create this scientific tool that has helped thousands and thousands of photographers, filmmakers or imaging specialists create great color over the last forty years. Here’s to the next forty years and whatever they might bring to the world of color imaging.
Click here to learn more about ColorChecker 40th Anniversary events and promotions.