"Gamma" and its Disguises:
The Nonlinear Mappings of Intensity in Perception, CRTs, Film and Video


In photography, video and computer graphics, the gamma symbol represents a numerical parameter that describes the nonlinearity of intensity reproduction. Gamma is a mysterious and confusing subject, because it involves concepts from four disciplines: physics, perception, photography and video. In this note I explain how gamma is related to each of these disciplines. Having a good understanding of the theory and practice of gamma will enable you to get good results when you create, process and display pictures.

Published in SMPTE Journal, Vol. 102, No. 12 (December 1993), 1099-1108.

This material has effectively been superceded  by the Gamma chapter of my book A Technical Introduction to Digital Video. That chapter is available online.

Complete paper


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