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Saturday, October 31, 2015

••◊ Color Correcting Web Videos

I've recently been doing more color correction with Sony's S-log3 and learning as I go.  A problem that keeps creeping up is that Dominique's skin tones always look too dark.  He has very dark skin and tends to wear typical set work black clothes during our blog videos.  I was wondering why in the world does it look so dark when I get the footage into post on my computer(?)  I use a rec.709 (800%) LUT on the monitor and it looks perfect there.  Is there something wrong with my computer monitor?

As with most technical endeavors, I first set out to make a model of the problem in Excel; but first a brief explanation:  Computer monitors use a standard called sRGB.  This color space is pretty much what the web uses today.  Rec.709 is a television and video monitor standard.  Although both standard have the same color primaries, they differ in the encoded gamma curve.  ...and that's where my problem lies.  When I was viewing the footage for rec.709 it wasn't correct for display on an sRGB display, nor web videos.

...so how far off was my video?  That's where Excel comes in. I started by plotting percentage reflectance of an object being recorded versus the output IRE value.  So if you had a test target that gradually increased reflectance from 0% (absolute black) to 100% (absolute white) then this is what the luma waveform monitor would show for each standard.  The biggest take away here is that sRGB produces higher IRE values for any given reflectance (blue curve).  So if you have an 18% gray card in the scene then the standard says it would produce a 44 IRE level with rec.709 and a 50 IRE level with sRGB (assuming data levels 0-255, not broadcast or "legal" levels).

To further describe the relationship of sRGB to rec.709 I plotted the two against one another.  The take away here is that sRGB produces higher values, especially in the dark tones - i.e. where Dominique's skin and clothing are.  The process to fix this in Adobe Premiere is pretty easy.  All we have to do is apply a "luma curve" effect that emulates the blue line in the graph below and we'll have a correction from rec.709 to sRGB - and a much better looking web video.

The question now is how does this look in the real world?  I added the luma curve effect to the project below and set it to use approximately the same curve as the blue line in the previous graph.  Notice how Dominique's skin now has much more detail and his clothes do too?  Much better, I think.

So my learning here is that if you want to output the video for television, use a rec.709 monitor.  If you want to output to the web and you shot in rec.709, you might want to use the luma curve above to correct your footage.  Next time I know.  Don't assume one equals the other.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

••◊ Tutorial: Mounting a Camera on a Car (Matthews Pro Mount Car System)

Dominique and my friend Kevin helped make this tutorial yesterday on how to mount a video camera on a car.  Yes...I know the camera is making a shadow on the car hood in the end shot, but this was a tutorial NOT a film.  I had a hell of a time doing color grading.  The contrast of the outdoor sun with the inner garage bay was a challenge, but the FS7 was up for it.  Also, I had an "adventure" when I found out my ancient CS5 version of Premiere wouldn't import the Prores codec files.  I spent many hours trying to find a work around using free conversion software, which added time and complexity, as well as lowered the video quality.  -- If anyone wants to support the future of these tutorials please consider sending a few bucks my way to pay for Adobe Creative Cloud software!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

••◊ Street Photography (literally): San Diego Festa 2015

Today I tagged along with some friends to Festa in Little Italy. There was the usual smell of garlic, sausage, and tomato in the air with live bands playing at the ends of the blocks.  With the recent heat wave the shaved ice started to look really tempting.

Every year during Festa Little Italy also hosts a chalk art exhibition.  The art only lasts a day.  By the time I write this the streets might already have been washed clean.  So enjoy art while it lasts.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

••◊ Tutorial: Creating Soft Beauty Lighting with Double Diffusion

Dominique and I worked on this short tutorial about creating soft beauty lighting over the weekend with my friend and film producer Natalie.  Dom's schedule is being dominated by his senior year school work, so we have to make our tutorial endeavors much shorter and simpler to fit his schedule.

One technical issue I'm having is with color rendering.  When I use Premiere Pro or Windows Media Player the video looks correct.  However, when I play it back online the video looks washed out and magenta.  I hope this is just a Vimeo issue.  The real color grade on this video came out nice, in my humble opinion, so I hope the experience isn't ruined by a technical glitch in Windows 10.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

••◊ How To Setup The Sony FS-7

I know the title sounds a bit overly authoritative, as if there's just one way to setup a camera.  However, this is the way I've found to do it after shooting three projects with the Sony FS-7.  I *love* this little (OK, it's actually kind of big) camera.  With S-log3 and the new color gamuts this camera just rocks.  It's nothing like the bad old days with the FS-700.  With the right settings I feel like I'm looking at a movie...OK, enough with my camera crush, let's get to the reason you're reading this blog entry.

The first thing I like to do is to make sure there is a card placed in each slot.  The FS-7 can quickly change between the two slots by using the "slot select" button right next to the card door.  This way I don't slow down the production when a card runs out of room.  In XAVC-I and UHD the card uses approximately 2GB/min so the 64GB cards that come with the rental kit run out pretty quick.  When the DIT gets handed a card I can continue shooting without a production delay.

One thing you should immediately become familiar with is the button interface on the operator side of the camera body.  Arguably the most important button on this interface is the "user menu" button on the left vertical panel.  This takes you to most (not all) of the settings you'll need to setup the FS-7.


The first thing I do is make sure that both cards are formatted.  This operation is pretty obvious, so I won't dwell on it.

As for the base setting, my personal preference is to use the CineEI mode because that takes away a lot of the internal processing, which makes my life easier since I typically turn the internal processing off anyway.  CineEI has some limitations, so read the user manual and understand if you can live with these.  I also like to use the S-Gamut3.Cine color space.  I discussed this in a previous post, which shouldn't be too hard to find, so you can read about it there.

The next thing to setup is the resolution of the camera and the recording codec.  The FS-7 can record in either HD or UHD (which some companies use interchangeably with "4K".  I don't use raw recording and for the budgets I work on I generally don't recommend it either.  S-log3 is about as raw of an image as the producers generally feel comfortable working with.  As for the codec; if I don't know what the producer is going to do with the footage I'll deliver it in XAVC-I.  If it's just a corporate video or a narrative scene it might make more sense to use XAVC-L to use less disk space.  With a sit down interview XAVC-I isn't going to buy you more than XAVC-L.


One of the really nice features of this camera is the ability to over- and under-crank footage.  In HD you can record up to 180fps.  In UHD you're limited to 60fps.  Also, be aware that the monitor LUT gets turned off when you go into over-crank mode.  I'll talk about the viewing LUT a bit further down, but this is somewhat inconvenient for setting focus and exposure.  The really nice feature here is that you can set the frame rate in 1pfs increments.
To turn on and off the S&Q (slow and quick) mode all you have to do is press the S&Q button on the side of the camera.  The frame rate has to be set in the menu system.

For the default user menu (yes, it's custom configurable) the last item I configure is the viewing LUT.  The "category" setting is set to "LUT".  Then I set the "LUT Select" to "709 (800%)" because rec.709 has much more contrast than S-log3 delivers.  My thinking is that if exposure and white balance look OK with this viewing LUT turned on then my footage should look even better and I probably nailed exposure by eye.  Also, it makes pulling focus feasible.  Pulling focus with the S-log3 look is nearly impossible.  Notice that the "viewfinder" setting is set to "MLUT On"
(monitor LUT = On).  Using a viewing LUT does not affect your recording, it just makes your display look like a post processed image.  The nice thing here is that you can create your own custom LUTs with external software packages and upload them to the camera.


A setting that's not in the user menu by default is the setup for ISO/gain.  I always set this configuration to ISO since gain doesn't really make any sense.  What exposure meter reads in gain?  In CineEI mode you use the three settings marked EI.  There's a corresponding H,M,L switch on the side of the camera that allows you to set the camera to the ISO settings you have here.  Each of the EI ISO settings are user configurable.  I always set the M setting to ISO 2000 since that's the native ISO for CineEI mode and what I typically stick to.  Note in the second picture below that the camera shows you the highlight range for each ISO setting.  For ISO 3200 it's 6.7 stops above neutral gray.  For ISO 2000 it's the standard S-log 6 stops above neutral gray.


The next important setting in the "camera" menu is the "shutter" setting.  This is just my personal preference, but I like to use shutter angle instead of a time setting.  That way when I switch frame frames the shutter speed is always set to the typical 180-degree shutter angle by default.  If you do it by time then you'll have to mess with the shutter speed when setting up an over-cranked or under-cranked shot.  I'm also used to dealing with shutter angle and find it more efficient.  When you press the shutter button on the side of the camera you'll see the second picture below.  Last night I was recording a sports event with a 45-degree shutter angle to give the footage a more "attacking" feel as they often do for action movies.

The camera I have is a rental camera so I just double check the "audio" menu just to make sure that they didn't do anything strange in here.  There's no special settings I use.  I just don't want to be messing around with this on set.

The viewfinder settings allow you to turn on and off the "advertisements" on the LCD.  I prefer to turn as many of these off as possible so I can actually see the image I'm recording.  The FS-7 has a good array of scopes (luma, vectorscope, histogram).  However, when you turn on a viewing LUT, as I did for the viewfinder, you lose the scopes!  So what I do is turn on the scope I want, then disable the viewing LUT when I want to see the scope.  It's much quicker than doing both operations every time I want to turn on a scope.


Lastly (at least most of the time...), I setup peaking so I can pull focus.  By default the peaking is set to monochrome.  I typically use the color peaking with red color.  When I want to turn peaking on and off I just use the peaking button on the side of the LCD.


Hope this helps.  Leave a comment if you have questions.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

••◊ New Work: "You're Everything"

Director Tommy Friedman and I shot this music video for Jorandy a few months back, primarily at Jorandy's Mother's home and Belmont Park at Mission Beach.  I used the Canon C100 on a DJI Ronin stabilizer to keep the camera moving at the park and shot on sticks at the house.  By the end of the day my shoulders were completely ruined and I had to give the camera to my AC to do the final shots.  Those handheld stabilizers are amazing, but very strenuous.

One problem we had was that Tommy was super nervous on the roller coaster and kept stopping the camera, which meant the entire cast and crew had to ride the coaster three or four times to get the 3 seconds you see in the video!  Everyone came off that last ride looking a bit green.  I also guess-timated the focal length and rented my friend's Zeiss 15mm ZE lens.  Turns out it was perfect for the roller coaster and a heck of a great lens. (self-pat-on-the-back)

The gaffer and grip, who shall remain anonymous decided to not show up.  So there was a lot of work moving equipment around and keeping track of it all.  We were also chasing the winter sun since the director decided to shoot some of the scenes in places where the setting sun was quickly stealing our light.  Most of the Park scenes were shot using shiny boards or handheld reflectors to provide some "sunny day" contrast to the images.

Stephen Mickelsen of Bad Cat Films did the final color grade and did a really nice job.  The song is a bit bubble gum teeny bopper for my taste, but I think the images sort of match that younger free and fun feel.