By far the best thing about all this linear color workflow stuff is that people can easily use one term to mean completely opposite things. For instance, we say that an image with a gamma of 2.2 looks right on a monitor of gamma 2.2, but in truth one of those is really the opposite of the other so that they can cancel out.*

Throb.net has a very good breakdown of using a linear-light workflow in 3D. In fact, part of it looks strangely familiar. But in Throb’s graycard example, he uses the opposite terminology from mine.

He calls is darker card, the one that has not been corrected for display, “gamma encoded,” and calls the one that looks right to our eye “linear.” This terminology disagrees with mine, and with that of the inimitable Bill Spitzak. I like to use linear to describe linear light intensities, whereas Throb tends to use it to describe perceptual linearity.

But a perceptually linear image is indeed gamma-encoded, so I still think Throb’s page is a little confusing. I’m guessing he’s saying that the dark image you see is effectively gamma-encoded by the display device?

He and I and others actually had a conversation earlier this year on the Highend2D Shake mailing list about how confusing all this stuff is. It boils down to the difference of describing the data in the file vs. the light that hits your eye. Perceptually linear = gamma encoded file. Perceptually dark = linear data.

It's always dangerous when some random website, mine included, starts claiming to be authoritative on matters of color, so I've always been careful to be consistent with my terminology, label it as mine and not necessarily everyone’s, and declare my assumptions. Looks like Throb has a similar policy.

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that there is a magnificent chapter by Brendan Bolles on all this stuff in AE 6.5 Studio Techniques.

* And for that, I do apologize.