The processing pipeline in Capture One gives you an idea about the order in which Capture One processes your adjustments. Knowing more about this order tells you how tools interact and hands you over a clue of about the best editing workflow.
Processing Pipeline in Capture One
In an earlier post Histograms in Capture One, I mentioned the Processing Pipeline in Capture One. This pipeline describes the order in which Capture One processes your adjustments for the different tools.
Knowledge about the processing pipeline can help you create an effective editing workflow. My idea about this workflow is that you better work in the same order as the pipeline to prevent counter-effective editing.
That there is a processing pipeline is no secret, but how that pipeline in detail works, is Capture One’s secret. Fortunately, Capture One offers a number of tools to reverse engineer the pipeline to a degree that is sufficiently accurate for optimizing your editing in Capture One.
Another reason for looking into this processing pipeline is just out of curiosity. Curiosity is good as it is the mother of all learning.
New versions of Capture One have a new Processing Engine. It is the processing pipeline that is at the heart of this engine. By upgrading to a newer engine, new capabilities become available as they are only part of the new pipeline in that engine.
Sometimes the effect of some adjustments changes because of another algorithm behind it. But sometimes the order of tools changes in the processing pipeline. Most noticeably is the change of order for the Color Balance and the Black & White tool since in Capture One 11. More on that later in this post.
Reverse Engineering The Pipeline
As already explained in the post Histograms in Capture One, the different tools with a histogram reveal a lot about the pipeline. They give us a sneak-peek into Capture One’s internal operation.
I will also address the tools that have multiple channels – the Levels and Curve tool – and the order in which Capture One processes these channels.
Our first stop is the histogram of the Exposure Evaluation tool. The purpose of this tool is to evaluate the exposure, which is very helpful during tethered shoots.
Most of the tools in Capture One do not have any effect on the graph in this tool, but a number of them do:
- Base Characteristics (Curve)
- White Balance
- Lens Correction (Light Falloff)
- Crop and tools that induce cropping like Rotation and Keystone
The adjustments of these tools are at the beginning of the processing pipeline in Capture One. As a result, you can consider applying them early in your editing workflow.
Our next stop is the Levels tool. Adjustments that affect the graph in the Levels tool but not the Exposure Evaluation tool are:
- High Dynamic Range
- Clarity, Natural, Punch, and Neutral method; Structure
- Color Balance, Master wheel
Adjustments with these tools affect the graph of all channels of the Levels tool. If you like to make manual adjustments or prefer to use auto-adjust, consider making adjustments with these tools first.
Note that the Levels tool has different channels. About the processing pipeline, the three color channels Red, Green, and Blue come first, and the combined RGB channel last.
As far as I know, there are no tools that sit between the Levels and the Curve tools in the processing pipeline in Capture One. In other words, I do not know of any tool’s adjustment that does not affect Levels but does affect Curve.
Conclusion: Capture One feeds the output of the Levels tool into the Curve tool.
The Curve tool has five different channels. Is there any particular order in which they are processed, like with the Levels tool? Yes, again, the three separate color channels Red, Green, and Blue come first. Next is the Luma channel and last the combined RGB channel.
At or near the end of the processing pipeline, you find the Histogram tool. The graph in this tool shows the final result. What adjustments since the Curve tool affect the chart in the Histogram tool?
- Base Characteristics (ICC Profile)
- Color Editor
- Black & White
- Color Balance (3-way, both color & lightness)
- Clarity (Classic method)
- Process Recipe (ICC Profile)
The order of these tools is entirely random as far as I am concerned – in reality, the order is not arbitrary, of course – with one noticeable exception that I already mentioned in the introduction of this post.
The Color Balance (3-way) adjustments are processed after the Black & White tool. This order has changed in Capture One Pro 11. The result is that you now can color tone your black & white images with the Color Balance tool.
The Black & White tool already had a toning and split toning feature with two sliders for Highlights and Shadows, respectively, but the Color Balance tool now adds more options to it.
We have come to the end of the processing pipeline in Capture One 20. You can use the insights from this post to optimize your editing workflow, to prevent making adjustments that contradict others.
But feel free not to do it this way if it suits you better. In the end, you are the photographer, and you are the creator and your image alchemist.
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