ColorMunki Quirks

The ColorMunki color profiling device from XRite is one of the core technologies of my color workflow, but it has its oddities. Fortunately, there are some workarounds–and where there are none, patience is a virtue. Profiling a second monitor presented some difficulties, and the device has some ergonomic design shortcomings. You also have to learn to deal with a few good features.

The quirk that caused me the most difficulty was profiling the second monitor in my two monitor setup. My primary monitor is an Apple Cinema HD, set up so the top edge is at eye level right next to my viewing booth. The display is driven by a MacBook Pro, down at hand level, the ergonomically correct position. For a long time, I was unable to profile the PB display–ColorMunki would report an error at the tail end of the process. I also noticed that the geometry of the ColorMunki calibration screens seemed a little odd. Eventually, I discovered that I had to relocate the menubar to the laptop screen. This solved everything. I don’t know if this is a quirk of ColorMunki with multiple screens, or of the geometry of my screen layout–one above, one below. Anyhow, the solution is simple.

Another quirk can only be remedied by patience, so far. Though the ColorMunki is aesthetically pleasing, its single central control wheel is not easy to grasp and turn. The wheel snaps to various positions, depending on the function you want to use (device calibration, spot color reading, ambient light reading, printer and monitor profiling). When running the monitor profiling software in particular, after calibrating the device to its own internal target, shifting the wheel (to ambient light reading or from ambient light reading to profiling) sometimes causes the software to request that device calibration be performed all over again. Perhaps this happens because I inadvertently press the central button? It’s far to easy to do this, and the action may be read as a request to perform the operation associated with a position of the wheel I just passing through. All I know is, I have to turn the wheel quickly and rather gingerly to avoid this irritating behavior.

One quirk that is not a quirk: running the monitor profiling only to be told at the end that you should check to be sure that the shutter covering the spectrophotometer is open. All to easy to forget (you did shut it to keep out dust, didn’t you?) and entirely an operator error.

One other thing to remember: once you have calibrated your monitor, do not change its brightness or contrast. If you want a bright screen, use a different profile–I switch to the native profile for my Cinema HD display when I want to see an image the way most people on the net will see it, for example, in a web page. Since I travel with my laptop (and sometimes use its automatic ambient light adjustment), I try to keep track of just where its controls are set, if I change them outside the studio. In any case, the large screen never leaves the studio, and is the only one I use for making color decisions.

Having mentioned the quirks, let me heap some praise. When I first started working with a calibrated workflow for printing, ten years ago, I quickly decided that all I could afford to calibrate was my monitor. Printer profiling hardware was just too expensive, so I downloaded or bought profiles. Now here’s a device that costs not much more that my first monitor “spider” and does an incredible range of useful calibration–it will even calibrate projectors. Its printer profiling seems more accurate, for my purposes, than the profiles I download. Its spot reading capability has really come in handy. It’s a great tool. You’d have to pay considerably more for a dedicated device to get better printer profiling.

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