Staying Broadcast Safe with Motion Graphics for TV

“Broadcast-safe video (broadcast legal or legal signal) is a term used in the broadcast industry to define video and audio compliant with the technical or regulatory broadcast requirements of the target area or region the feed might be broadcasting to.[1] In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the regulatory authority; in most of Europe, standards are set by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).” –Wikipedia

Here are a few notes to help you with your next motion graphics for TV project.

Broadcast safe color bars.
Broadcast safe color bars.

Broadcast Safe colors, broadcast colors, or broadcast-safe colors are colors required for videos in the broadcast industry. Essentially, you need to keep each RGB value below 235. You can do this by specifying each color in the graphic but it all changes when you add an effect or a blending mode. An effect that adds to the brightness or glow can cause you to move beyond safe colors.

Solutions for Broadcast Safe Motion Graphics for TV:

  1. Use the scopes at a TV studio or let video editor handle it. It’s always nice to divide up the work and hand this over to a professional.
  2. Use Synthetic Aperture’s Color Finesse (more below)
  3. Use the After Effects plugin Broadcast Colors (although the reviews on this seem to be mixed and it might not be as accurate as you’d like)
  4. Aharon Rabinowitz’s solution is to solve the problem with an adjustment layer
  • Add adjustment layer on top of all footage
  • Layer, new, adjustment layer
  • Effect, Adjust, Levels (going to dull colors)
    • Input K: 16, Input white: 235
    • Output K:15, Output white: 235
Color Finesse for After Effects CC.
Color Finesse for After Effects CC.

Synthetic Aperture’s Color Finesse for Broadcast Safe Motion Graphics for TV

Synthetic Aperture provides professional digital video production tools. Color Finesse is a plugin that does color correction and enhancement in After Effects CC, Final Cut Pro, and Premiere Pro—and as a standalone application.

Reviews on this plugin seem to be positive but mixed. For more information on Color Finesse workflows go to:

  • Color Finesse Workflow: Primary Grading (Part 1)
  • Color Finesse Workflow: Primary Grading (Part 2)
  • Color Finesse Workflow: Using a Control Surface (2011)

As always, make sure the scopes are set up for the appropriate broadcasting system. “In the USA, that means NTSC, and NTSC works from a Waveform Monitor video level black of 16-16-16 to a white of 235-235-235. Set color saturation for the Vectorscope to 75% Bars, not 100% Bars. Of the two, it’s more important to get the vectorscope right. Most NLE’s have software proc amps that sort out video levels properly. But not color saturation.” (-Dave LaRonde, Former Sr. Promotion Producer, KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA)

Dave also provides a tip for great reds used by the BBC – “they begin with fully-saturated reds, and then the MAKE THEM DARKER. The result: a nice, bright and legal red, but darker than you’d think. Try the trick yourself, and check it out in Color Finesse.” (-Dave LaRonde)


O'Connell Design
O’Connell Design

O’Connell Design is a creative studio dedicated to film and motion, game cinematics, and engaging visuals. For more information on our studio and to view our portfolio go to