YCbCr, Y′CbCr, or Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr, also written as YCBCR or Y'CBCR, is a family of color spaces used as a part of the color image pipeline in video and digital photography systems. Y is the luma component and CB and CR are the blue-difference and red-difference chroma components. Y′ (with prime) is distinguished from Y, which is luminance, meaning that light intensity is nonlinearly encoded based on gamma-corrected RGB primaries.
Y′CbCr color spaces are defined by a mathematical coordinate transformation from an associated RGB color space. If the underlying RGB color space is absolute, the Y′CbCr color space is an absolute color space as well; conversely, if the RGB space is ill-defined, so is Y′CbCr.
Cathode ray tube displays are driven by red, green, and blue voltage signals, but these RGB signals are not efficient as a representation for storage and transmission since they have a lot of redundancy.
YCbCr and Y′CbCr are a practical approximation to color processing and perceptual uniformity, where the primary colors corresponding roughly to red, green and blue are processed into perceptually meaningful information. By doing this, subsequent image/video processing, transmission, and storage can do operations and introduce errors in perceptually meaningful ways. Y′CbCr is used to separate out a luma signal (Y′) that can be stored with high resolution or transmitted at high bandwidth, and two chroma components (CB and CR) that can be bandwidth-reduced, subsampled, compressed, or otherwise treated separately for improved system efficiency.
One practical example would be decreasing the bandwidth or resolution allocated to "color" compared to "black and white", since humans are more sensitive to the black-and-white information (see image example to the right). This is called chroma subsampling.