Prolost Amazon Store

The easiest way to support Prolost is to begin your Amazon, iTunes, Mac App StoreZacuto or B&H shopping here. You can drag those links to your bookmarks bar so you never forget. It costs you nothing and it really helps. Thanks!

Prolost & Found (search)
Subscribe

 

Want to know what it’s like to almost never get email? Subscribe to the Prolost mailing list!

Tools

Slugline. Simple, elegant screenwriting.

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

Needables
  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony
  • 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)
    Panasonic
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM
  • 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

Entries in Color (105)

Tuesday
Apr102012

Prolost Flat

For shooting video, I’ve set up every Canon HDSLR I’ve owned the same way since the very beginning, and the 5D Mark III is no different.

  • Start with the Neutral Picture Style
  • Set Sharpness to zero—all the way to the left
  • Set Contrast all the way to the left
  • Set Saturation two notches to the left

That’s it. That’s Prolost Flat—the Picture Style of choice for Vincent Laforet, Philip Bloom, Jason Wingrove, and many others.

Prolost Flat FAQ

How did you come to these settings? How do you know they’re right?

They’re not “right,” they’re just good. Prolost Flat has been tested the only way I care about—by shooting stuff and trying to make it look great.

What about [some other custom picture style]?

It’s probably great. But it is possible to over-think this stuff, and there is such a thing as too flat.

All we’re trying to do here is bring back everything the camera has to offer in an easy-to-color-correct package. To put it another way, what you want from a flat profile is to eliminate the contrast s-curve that the most Picture Styles bake into the footage. Some custom Picture Styles go so far beyond “flat” that they actually invert this curve. This not only makes the image harder to grade, it can cause quantizing and compression artifacts to show up right in the middle of your tonal range, where they’re most noticeable.

What about log? Isn’t log the best transfer function for grading?

Yes. And in particular, Technicolor CineStyle is very nice. If you like it too, please do use it. It’s great.

But without meaning any disrespect to the folks at Technicolor, there’s one big reason why you might not want to use their Picture Style. Prolost Flat can be set up in seconds on any Canon HDSLR, in the field, without any cables, computers, or downloads. What if your camera dies on a remote shoot and you rent a replacement? Or a friend shows up with his 7D and offers it as a B camera? Or you need to work with footage from another crew? Prolost Flat is always available and works on every Canon HDSLR. It’s easy to set up and you can coach someone through the process over the phone, or even in a text message.

I’ve heard a lot of people use Prolost Flat, but bump up the sharpness a bit. Canon HDSLR video is so soft, isn’t a little sharpening a good idea?

Yes. But not in camera. Never use in-camera sharpening.

  • It tends to be of a poorer quality than what you can do in post.
  • It’s very difficult to monitor and set up accurately in the field. What looks good on a portable LCD might look hideous back in the grading suite in your calibrated, 1080p display.
  • Different scenes can benefit from amounts of sharpening. What worked on the low-contrast charts at your test bench might create horribly over-sharpened results with a high-contrast exterior shot.
  • Baking sharpening into your footage is as permanent as a bad tattoo. On your face. Better to give yourself the option to dial it in later, under controlled circumstances, using the amazing array of powerful post-production tools available.
  • Different output media require different amounts of sharpening. The sharpening you use for a YouTube upload will be different than what you want for a broadcast master, which will be different than a Blu-ray master.

In the slideshow below, you can see one example of sharpening using the After Effects Unsharp Mask effect, with an Amount of 120 and a Radius of 1.1. You can download full-res comparison frames here.

But doesn’t in-camera sharpening happen before compression? If I’m sharpening in post, aren’t I also sharpening and enhancing compression and noise?

Yes. But in-camera sharpening is such a blunt instrument that even its privileged position of operating prior to compression can’t save it.

A light pass of noise reduction from something like Magic bullet Denoiser II not only cleans up some compression artifacts, it also can promote your 8-bit footage to higher color fidelity by interpolating new, high-bit-depth pixels. So your HDSLR processing pipeline should look like this:

  1. In a 16 or 32bpc environment…
  2. Reduce noise
  3. Visual effects, if any
  4. Color correct
  5. Sharpen
  6. Add back some noise/grain to taste
  7. Titles or graphics, if any

Sharpening is a perceptual exercise. You want to sharpen what the viewer sees. So it’s critical that sharpening be performed after color correction.

Everyone says the 5D Mark III’s video is even softer than the Mark II’s. Maybe just a little in-camera sharpening?

No. The Mark III’s softness is simply the lack of artificial sharpness that came from the aliasing that plagued the 5D Mark II. This means that the footage takes sharpening in post even better than 5D Mark II footage, because there are fewer inherent artifacts to bring out.

It would be nice if the 5D Mark III resolved more detail than it does (there is plenty of room for improvement there), but adding in-camera sharpening won’t make that dream a reality. It only adds permanent, ugly artifacts to your image.

Cool. I’m just going to bump up the sharpening by one tick. Sorry.

Are you sure you wouldn’t be better off with a hacked GH2?

One last strike against in-camera sharpening: It limits your ability to add additional sharpening in post. You don’t want to sharpen sharpening artifacts. You can see in the below comparison how even one notch of Sharpness adds ringing artifacts that will make sharpening in post problematic. These are 1:1 crops—you can download an archive of the full-res frames here.

I’m just a shooter and don’t always have control over what happens to my footage. I like to add sharpness so my clients don’t complain about soft footage. My children need wine!

You might also want to re-think shooting flat then. Prolost Flat is designed to be graded—and specifically, graded underneath an s-curve. If you’re not going to be around to see this done properly, you might not be pleased with how your footage winds up looking in the final conform.

What about Highlight Tone Priority?

Highlight Tone Priority is an optional method Canon uses to capture more highlight detail by “pushing” the ISO one stop. The result is one extra stop of highlight detail (roughly), coupled with one extra stop’s worth of noise (also roughly).

When I first posted about Prolost Flat, I recommended using HTP for bright scenes with difficult highlights. But since then, I’ve completely stopped using it. The benefits don’t tend to outweigh the risks. And by “risks,” I mean that you might leave HTP on and shoot a bunch of raw stills, and wonder why they don’t look as nice as they should in Lightroom. Unlike other settings discussed here, HTP does affect raw stills. Oops.

Speaking of which, what happens if I leave my HDSLR set to Prolost Flat when I shoot stills?

JPEG shots and the embedded JPEG preview in raw files (what you see on the camera’s LCD when chimping) will be created using the Picture Style. But of course, the actual image date in the raw file is unaffected. And of course you’re shooting raw, right?

I leave my cameras in Prolost Flat all the time, even for stills. If find that the flat preview image gives me a better sense of the actual raw “negative” that I’m capturing. The only thing you have to get used to is that it’s easy to underexpose slightly if you judge exposure by the preview image, as the Prolost Flat preview looks a touch brighter than most default raw processing.

What’s the right s-curve to use?

The one that looks best to you. All I’ll suggest is that you use the same one from shot to shot.

You can watch me setting up some s-curves and grading under them in my Colorista II tutorials and my demonstration of color correcting food photography.

Share this article using the url prolost.com/flat

Tuesday
Mar202012

Canon 5D Mark III Graded

Dan Chung posted some camera-original clips from his new 5D Mark III. I grabbed one and did a quick color correction. 

To my eye, in this highy subjective and non-conclusive test, the footage holds up better under extreme adjustments than that of the 5D Mark II.

Shot with a production 5D mkIII in 1080/24P, 24-105mm f4L, 5000ISO , Standard picture style, regular Noise reducion.

Tuesday
Jan312012

FCP X Updated, Magic Bullet Looks 50% Off

Final Cut Pro X was essentially version 1.0 of an entirely new app, and it shipped with enough features absent that many questioned the continued use of the “pro” name. Today Apple released a free update to FCP X that restores many of those missing features, including:

  • Import FCP 7 projects via 7toX
  • Media re-linking
  • Multicam editing
  • Video out via Blackmagic and AJA PCIe cards, as well as Thunderbolt devices

In this way FCP X is following the Apple pattern that is as hated as it is admired: if you can’t make it perfect, don’t release it. Some of these reinstated features are better than they ever were in FCP 7. Multicam tracks can be synced automatically based on audio waveforms, or even metadata. The new chroma keyer is greatly improved.

All these new and not-so-new features are wonderful to see, and I’m delighted that Apple is advancing FCP X so quickly. But what makes me happiest today is that this new release represents the collaborative effort between Apple and Red Giant to resolve the issues that were preventing Magic Bullet Looks 2 from working properly. Starting today, Looks users can download a free update that enables full FCP X compatibility.

Red Giant is so excited about this that they’ve put Looks on sale for 50% off (that’s $199). For every platform.

So if you haven’t tried FCP X or Magic Bullet Looks, today is a great day to do either, or both.

The 50% off sale (offer code LOOKSFCPX50) is for the next seven days. Magic Bullet Mojo already works wonderfully in FCP X, and is still 50% off—only $49.

Tuesday
Nov292011

Holiday Gift Ideas 2011

I’m hard to shop for. If I want something, I tend to buy it. This annoys and distresses those around me. But there is an opportunity lurking in that situation—every once in a while, I get the delightful surprise of a gift I didn’t even know I wanted.

Usually socks.

Looking for gifts for the DV Rebel in your life? Or for an easy link to send those flummoxed by your bizarre filmmaking nerd lifestyle? Here are some ideas.

Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Innovation

Another in the must-have series of big-ass ILM books. Enough said.

Visual Stories: Behind the Lens with Vincent Laforet

It’s rare that a photographer is even consciously aware of the specifics of their style and technique. Rarer still that a world-class photographer with such an awareness has any interest in sharing these insights with the world. And then there’s the rarest of all cases: A world-class photographer who can inspire and educate us with truly revelatory words about some jaw-dropping pictures.

Rare as in, just this one book. Vincent slam dunked this one.

Screenwriting Tips You Hack

Images on the screen start as words on a page. A blank, terrifying, soul-crushing page. I’ve been following and enjoying Xander Bennett’s Screenwriting Tips You Hack blog, and now he’s compiled the best of it into a book. If had just been a collection of his pithy and insightful blog posts, that would have been great, Instead its, like, an actual book type book that expands on the blog’s best bits. Even better.

The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts and Select Art from 25 Years of Animation

Animation studios use something called “color scripts” to plan out the color palette of a story. These long, filmstrip-like pieces of artwork are loose in detail but rich in storytelling color.

In other words, they are my favorite thing in the world. There’s so much beauty and inspiration in this book that it’s a bit overwhelming. That’s why I keep it in the bathroom.

Dot

Strap this little gumdrop to your iPhone 4 or 4S, download the companion app, and capture 360º panoramic video.

On your telephone.

For $79.

I need to sit down.

The DV Rebel’s Guide

Is it possible that you still know someone who doesn’t have this book? Heck, maybe the thing to do is buy the friend who already has it the Kindle edition. Speaking of which…

Kindle

This might be the Kindle year for me. I love my iPad, but I also love the imaginary notion that I’ll someday be somewhere sunny and the iPad will suck for reading there. I’ve also recently become infatuated with the indie author phenomenon, and I feel like simply owning a Kindle helps that movement grow.

I changed by mind since the last Kindle post. I think the simplest, cheapest one is the one to get. But I’d splurge and grab the one without ads.

A 50mm Lens

Please stop with all this “roughly what the human eye sees” baloney. The reason 50mm lenses are great is that they are fast and cheap. On anything but a full-frame DSLR, a 50 is a portrait lens. You know, for taking pictures of people. Which are the only pictures anyone cares about.

If you have a friend who has a DSLR with the crappy kit glass, get them the thrifty fifty for Canon or Nikon, show the the Aperture-priority mode on their camera, and transform their photography overnight from information gathering to emotion preserving.

Lightroom

Another photography life-changer. Whatever you’re using for your photography, if it’s not Lightroom, you’re doing it wrong.

Incase Origami Workstation for iPad

I’m writing this blog post using my iPad 2 (a great gift idea as well of course, if you are a Super Pimp Monster of Giving), Elements, and Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard. When I travel for less than three days (a carefully-tested and validated threshold), I don’t bring my laptop. The reason this works is that if it’s more than one day, I bring the Bluetooth keyboard. But the keyboard is a bit awkward to pack and lug around. In fact, mine has gotten a bit beat up, with some keys held on by tape and school prayer.

Enter the Origami Workstation. It’s a case for your keyboard, not your iPad. But when you open it, it becomes a stand for the iPad. It’s simple, brilliant, and best of all, non-commital. Your iPad never gets connected to the thing, it just rests on top, in whichever orientation you like. It even works with iPads in cases (mine is in the Apple SmartCover, which is so wonderful that there are days I don’t even think about how overpriced it is).

Apps

Speaking of Apple stuff, everyone’s favorite evil company makes it easy to gift apps for both iOS and Mac. This is a really cool thing to do, and it’s often cheap as bad coffee.

  • Of course I’ll start by suggesting that if you still have a friend who doesn’t have Plastic Bullet, Noir, or Movie Looks, you can set them on the path of righteousness for just a few bucks.

  • Similarly, giving Plastic Bullet for Mac to your friend is a gentle but firm way of saying “You have no idea what to do with five dollars, do you?”

  • I mentioned I’m writing this using Elements. It’s a great little iOS writing app. Thanks to SPMD, I’ll probably write a good chunk of my next screenplay on it.

  • On the Mac side, Byword is a simply lovely app for writing. Both it and Elements work beautifully with Markdown. Life is good in textopia.

  • Here’s a fun double-whammy. Order your friend a Wacom Bamboo Stylus for iPad and the ArtRage painting app. It’s like handing them a license to smoke clove cigarettes.

  • The gift of a Kindle is an invitation to read more. But maybe you don’t really care, like $100 care, that your friend reads more. Maybe you more like $5 care. In which case, buy her Instapaper. It’s the best app for reading web articles on your iOS device, and it’s integrated with Twitter. The next time someone posts a link to a cool article that you don’t have time to read right now, you’ll tap “Read Later” and it gets saved to your Instapaper library. Or you do it from your web browser using an easy-to-install toolbar bookmark. Later, you can read the day’s articles in a lovely book-like presentation, even when away from your internet connection. This is a home-pager for me on both my iPad and iPhone.

    Either this or a smack in the head would be a perfect gift for your friend who types “TLDR” a lot. Your choice.

Monsters

Inspiration. It’s a strange thing. Sometimes a great movie inspires me, other times, a festival of back-to-back terrible films is what it takes to get me writing like the wind. But the film that has kicked my ass up and down the block with shameful, abusive inspiration lately is Monsters by Gareth Edwards. He flew to Mexico and shot this movie himself with a crew of fewer than ten, including his two lead actors. He had a loose plan and a ton of faith in his ability to make something out of nearly nothing. In his own words:

I guess creativity is just being stupid enough not to realize you can’t do something.

The Blu-ray is gorgeous, and packed with supplemental features. I keep the slipcase tacked to my office wall.

Happy holiday shopping from Prolost!

Oh, wait—one more:

Point-Blank Sniper Gear

The man’s a myth.

Page 1 ... 2 3 4 5 6 ... 27 Next 4 Entries »