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Red Giant Color Suite, with Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 and Colorista II

  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz

Flatten Your 5D

Readers of The DV Rebel’s Guide know that I like to set up my cameras to record as much dynamic range as possible, resulting in a low-contrast, low-saturation “digital negative” that allows more flexibility for grading in post. If you’ve seen any video I’ve shot with the Canon 5D Mark II lately, whether in the Red Giant TV tutorial or on fxphd, you may have wondered how I set up the camera to achieve this. The answer comes in the form of some in-camera Picture Style settings.

I posted a while back about using Canon’s PictureStyleEditor software to create these custom Picture Styles. Since then I have found that the controls in the camera are more than sufficient for creating a more post-friendly look for the 5D’s video files.

Starting with the “Neutral” setting, I make the following modifications:

  • Sharpness all the way down
  • Contrast all the way down
  • Saturation two notches down

Save that as on of your User Defined Picture Styles. Then, optionally, hop over to the Custom Function menu, select C.Fn II: Image, and enable Highlight Tone Priority.

UPDATE: Or don’t. See Update 1 below.

Your settings should look like this:

This will remove the contrasty, video-like tone curve from your future recordings, and eek out a little more highlight detail. Here’s a shot made with the default settings:

Video frame made with Standard Picture Mode, Highlight Tone Priority offHere’s that same shot with the Stu settings:

Prolost Settings

You can see the reduced contrast, the increase in shadow and highlight detail. It’s closer to a raw image with a linear tone curve. Zoom in and you can see the difference in highlight handling on the reflections:

Default settings — harsh, clipped highlightsProlost settings — smooth rolloff in the highlights, increased detailYou can also see the difference in sharpening artifacts. My settings reduce, but do not eliminate, the moiré effect endemic to the 5D Mark II’s line-skipping:

Default settingsProlost settings

You’re going to put all that contrast and most of that sharpening back in post of course, but in your own way, and with more control, and after any shot-to-shot evening out or clever power windows. The ability to design a “zeroed out” or CINE_LIKE-esque Picture Style is one of the things that makes the 5D Mark II’s video dangerously close to usable.

I recommend assigning this setting to one of your Custom notches on the mode dial, so that you don’t inflict these settings on your stills. They don’t affect raw files of course (UPDATE: That’s not actually true, see Update below), but they do get baked into the JPEG previews that accompany those raw files. I have the above settings registered as C3 (along with manual control and a 1/60th shutter), so I can quickly pop into my ideal movie capture settings.

Reader Comments (46)

Hey Stu,
What kind of sharpening are you adding in post?

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJon Carr

Thanks Stu

Eagerly awaiting episode 3 in your FXPHD course. Loving the course so far.

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTrevor

Hey Stu,

there is a Custom Picture Style "superflat" over at the forum.
<a href=""

Have you see it already ? What are your thoughts about it ? Almost the same as yours ?

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTobias

I'll give it a try, thanks for the link!

August 3, 2009 | Registered CommenterStu

I totally agrre. The 0 sharpness, -4 contrast and -4 saturation that I've seen in the forums seems too much desaturated for grading, specially for skin tones.

What do you think for greenscreen? I´ve been using 0 shapness, -2 contrast and 0 saturation and the results are very easy to pull keys.

Or do you think that your settings could work for greenscreen too?

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGui Albuk

thanks fir the info, any idea if this is possible on the D90?

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaimAlwan

As a still photographer who admires your video work and attempts to apply that to still images, I wonder is there a reason that you don't do the same sort of things with your stills? Shouldn't the same principle of gathering as much dynamic range as possible then crushing to taste in post apply here too?

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKenton Jacobsen

I don't see how you can do that in C3 mode and still maintain manual exposure. I was sure you only had manual exposure in M mode.

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Gottshalk

Yup, I love such settings. My HV20 has them too, and even Canon's new line of consumer digicams, namely the SX200 IS. It's the reason why I like the $330 Canon SX200 IS so much: a lot of color control (including an additional R,G,B control independently in addition to what you show in the 5D-2 menu screenshot), manual white balance support, and exposure locking (not just exposure compensation). It shoots 720/30p at 24mbps h.264, which ain't a bad deal at all. I was able to get good looking footage out of it, footage that was grade-able -- something that was not possible with my other Kodak (I have a bunch of these) and Panasonic HD digicams (DMC-FX150).

Anyways, what I am saying is that it's nice that Canon puts weight in the color/picture controls on all of their recent products. Even if they might not offer any full manual controls some of their newest consumer digicams, at least they give us exposure locking and color controls -- more than other manufacturers can claim!

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEugenia

Kenton: You're absolutely right that the same principal applies to stills—that's why I shoot raw. Picture Style settings only affect JPEG shooting, and the movie files of course. Raw files always have the full dynamic range of the camera.

Matt: The custom modes record whatever settings you were in when you registered them, so if you register C3 when in M mode, then C3 = M.

August 3, 2009 | Registered CommenterStu

I too would like to know what kind of sharpening you are adding in post.

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFanto

Thanks Stu! This is great for me because I shoot a lot at live music venues, switching back and forth between stills & video. I generally shoot my stills RAW, using the monochrome setting just so I can preview the pix in B&W, and it's tricky to switch quickly sometimes, cause I DEF don't wanna shoot video using the same settings. The shutter speed can vary quite a bit during the shoot... and IF I want my footage B&W.. of course I'll just change it in post - more options. It just never occured to me to to use the custom modes. ;P

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjirard

Hi Stu,
Nice suggestions...

There are so many out there who don't seem to get working with Digital acquisition...or the DI post processing...

I've run into several Directors and DPs who kept doing the opposite..and pushing the highlights to blooming, etc...and wondered why they had a lack of decent definition in the shadows...along with the loss of highlight details, etc...

I hope that more of us here will look to do better tests not just with the cameras...but with the whole pipelines and workflows to know what can be done...and what can and can't be pushed..and in which directions ...


Ray Adams

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRaymond Adams

Cool, thanks for the tip.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid O.

Hello Stu,

Thank you for all the good informations. I too would like to know what kind of sharpening you are adding in post.
thanks !

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmbroise

i remember reading somewhere that for the DVX-100, the best approach was to boost saturation settings in the menu. This recorded an over-saturated look but gave the most data to play with in post. If you want a saturated look, there you go. If you want it more muted, simply lower it. And this would yield better results than boosting low saturation levels; a process which would add noise.

I'm curious as to why it's advantageous to lower saturation here.

Thanks! I always appreciate all the info I get from Prolost!

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbrandon

Brandon, you can read just about anything about the good old DVX100, so deservedly popular is that camera. But if you've read what I wrote on the topic in The DV Rebel's Guide you'll see images and fancy graphs and things that show why shooting a lower-saturation image is better, regardless of camera.

August 4, 2009 | Registered CommenterStu

That's kick ass Stu! Now if only I'm had a 5D to go with it. I'm sure the theory will apply some day soon anyway.

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJason

I don't get it. Other then more detail in the shadows. Everything else looks blurry with that effect. Why not capture full res and then downgrade it in post if you like that look?

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterclive

clive, it's actually very hard to remove sharpness in post, while adding it is super easy should you want it. simple as that.

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermattias

Exactly Mattias - or maybe more accurately, the artifacts of heavyhanded and clumsy sharpening are hard to remove in post.

The 5D is not capturing a full 1920x1080 image, and it's using that nasty oversharpening to try to hide this.

Those dark outlines around high-contrast shapes are a dead giveaway of low-end digital acquisition.

We're not taking away any resolution, we're just skipping the consumer video "sweetening" that we can do so much better in post.

For those who have asked, I haven't found one perfect one-size-fits all sharpening method, but the Sharpen filter in After Effects is pretty good, as is Unsharp Mask. As with stills, you need to use different sharpening for different outputs. Test test test!

August 5, 2009 | Registered CommenterStu

Stu, can you please explain what you mean by "The 5D is not capturing a full 1920x1080 image". Is it because it skips every third row?

August 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

Dearest Stu:

Do you know if setting the picture style to Monochrome would result in fewer compression artifacts because there is no color information to compress to h.264 (assuming you wanted B&W video)? Can doing this in camera actually improve image quality from a compression standpoint?

PS: you rock!!

August 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterka

Martin: Yes.

ka: Thanks, and possibly, but I'd still prefer the flexibility of having the color info to make better B&W choices in post.

August 13, 2009 | Registered CommenterStu

It's worth noting, for those who still shoot stills (say that five times real fast) that HIghlight Tone Priority affects RAW images in camera, as opposed to Auto Lighting which only affects the camera JPEG. It also affects the available ISO settings. It's best to only apply this in a Custom User setting.

Highlight Tone Priority seems to have roughly the same affect as adjusting Exposure,Fill Light, and Recovery in Camera RAW/Lightroom, without the fine control you have doing it yourself.

Obviously, when shooting video you aren't going to have these options in post like you will when shooting RAW, so having the camera bake this into the video file is a better option.

August 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Rigdon

I tried these settings but I'm not totally convinced on the merits of removing all the sharpness from the equation. I understand the idea is to reduce artifacting, but from my tests it seems I get better images by using the in-camera sharpness at say, 2, than trying to sharpen it back up in AE. I'll keep testing, maybe I'm doing something wrong...

August 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMax Faraday

I guess this is the advantage of buying the 5D a year after release. Clever people have figured out all those smart tricks and working-methods.

August 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEelke

I've tested your settings this monday on a car-rigshot. The basic idea of HTP is great (especially in our case, were we attached the 5D on a Racecar that goes around a 25 kilometer Racetrack in the woods with changing Light every 100 meters).

But here comes the "but"... HTP (compared to a similar setting without) introduced a lot of new noise and nasty artifacts in the darker areas. In some shots it was that much that the footage was unusable. After some tests i can for sure say that the new noise belongs to HTP.

Sorry for my bad english and greetings from germany ;)

August 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterToby

Hey Stu,

Really nice post.

For sharpening it might be worth trying out a bilateral filter paired with a regular sharpen tool. It works like a smart USM by attempting to smooth aberrations in a 3D cube of the image, although the calculations are costly and sometimes it filters too much. I have no idea if there's one in Nuke or AE yet, but Frantic has one for Fusion that's decent. I got sucked into pairing elaborate tool chains together for a show I was on recently where the matte painters were using photos from a camera set to 400 ISO at night with hardware sharpening set to maximum for an elaborate set extension. Nothing really worked, but bilateral filter made it less awful and gave slightly more control than a USM.


August 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSean Konrad

I saw someone else had asked this but the question has been not answered yet, the custom functions C1-C3 don't seem to permit manual exposure shooting. Is that correct? I can't find a way to get C3 to allow manual exp. which makes the custom settings less than ideal.

August 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphotonashville

Hi photonashville, that question is answered above, see my 2nd comment.

August 23, 2009 | Registered CommenterStu

Thanks for this Stu, this is really helpful.

Can you maybe post the ideal profile settings for a number of the most popular video cameras? Specifically, I am looking for the ideal settings for my EX3 and I'm afraid that I only screw up the settings. So far I have used "Philip Bloom style" settings which I found somewhere - the images are great, but I noticed that especially gradients in the sky tend to pixelate very easily in post. What are your settings for the EX cameras?

September 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNino

attempt to port those settings on D90 here :

November 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfrancoistarlier

Thanks Stu. You do owe me a beer. I've been shopping. My question is this, do the settings for your 5D translate over to settings for the 7D?

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterreallybadbrad


January 5, 2010 | Registered CommenterStu

About Contrast: did you check a waveform with videos (not jpegs) shot with that settings and compared it to the standard profile? Even though this setting stretches the shadows, it crushes a lot the highlights and brings the higher signal down by at least 15% (meaning you are loosing 15% of you total dynamic range).

About Sharpness: I tried shooting the exact same image with sharpen at the default position and totally to the left and I couldn't recover the image without sharpen to a descent standard. The camera applies the sharpen before the compression, applying the sharpen after the compression means you are also applying sharpen to compression artifacts. And it also increases a lot the noise level.

I haven't played with saturation yet, but I think it won't do any good either putting it down. That would be great if the clipped saturation still had information and putting it down could also include the original unclipped signal (decrease the dynamic range of the original setting but include more information that was lost on the clipping). If it's just going to bring the clipped signal down then you are loosing dynamic range for the colors (whatever was clipped at 100% will now be clipped at 80% and the 20% above it is lost dynamic range).

I think these settings give a false feeling of dynamic range.


February 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIvan

(1) Are you sure it clips? With the knowledge of picture-styles just working on jpgs (and video) you should think about the RAW-Data, that gives more details in the highlights, beyond the clipped jpg. and so the picture-style flattens the RAW-data and turns it into a 8bit-video-frame - with of course more dynamic in general.
(2) By Flattening the Contrast-Curve you get more detail in the dark areas too, so this gives more information (dynamic) indeed.

regards chmee

March 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchmee


I am shooting with a Panasonic HPX170 as my main camera, but recently picked up a 7D and have been using it for B Roll and even experimented a couple times using it as a second camera for interview setups. Obviously, these cameras will never match perfectly, but how would you suggest setting up the scene file settings on the Panasonic to match your 5D/7D settings as closely as possible?

April 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterScott Tanis

Personally, I'd get it as close as possible by eye and then do the rest in color correction. I'm sure many people would disagree with me.

April 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterStu

Hello Stu,

I have visible vertical stripes in noisy dark areas with highlight tone on. Is it normal?

April 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRodion Zhabrev

At what ISO?

April 9, 2010 | Registered CommenterStu — fullsize screenshot.

ISO 320, F9, 1/50

April 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRodion Zhabrev

Seems like I forgot to turn off some corrections in camera, but everything is disabled, except highlight tone priority.

April 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRodion Zhabrev

hi stu, thx u very much for the tutorial, i just bought 550D last month and very excited to use it for shooting movies. FYI, i use your setting for my new short, and very satisfied with the result.. i even didn't do any grading at all in the post-pro..

btw, you can watch it here :)

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIgnatius Ivan

nice info.. but, could those settings be applied in every country with different temperature? i live in indonesia which has a tropical weather..
sorry, i'm newbie in this DSLR things.. and sorry about my english.. :)

September 20, 2010 | Registered CommenterDeka Ramandhika

When Highlight Tone Priority is enabled, you won't be able to dial to ISO 100. You start with ISO 200. I wonder if there is a way to get ISO 100 with Highlight Tone Priority enabled?

June 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterHuey Le
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Sorry, comments are disabled temporarily while I tweak some stuff.
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