Why I don’t frequently shoot LOG or rather flat profile footage…

I love working as a Director of Photography, in fact I like making images just as much as I like Directing and so I find myself frequently working with other Directors in the roll of cinematographer.

The bulk of what we do is Documentary Film and Non Profit DocuFilm style work.  We have also worked on promos for Discovery Network, shows for Military Channel, music videos, TV commercials, and more. Like many other creative filmmakers, I also write, edit, and color correct.  Did I mention on top of that, I run a business? With that said, we own and shoot with the Canon C100 Ninja Blade combo, and a Canon 1D-C camera which we sometime shoot internal 4k and sometimes Ninja 2 recorder with 1D-C in S35 mode.  We also own a good bit of lighting and other fun gear.

We create full productions for many of our clients, but we also often find ourselves handing off footage to clients who only need us involved for the image creation process of their production.  Many of these clients will be doing the editing in house and often color correction is done by the editor in the editing suite or not done at all.  I feel many of these clients would not know what to do with LOG footage and would prefer not to deal with it for that matter.  I remember a while back seeing some of my footage on TV and it was clearly not color corrected.  I was pretty disappointed about this and resolved at that point to do everything I could to deliver footage as close as possible to the end product.  So basically, I wanted to shoot my footage so that if it were not color corrected at all, it would still look great.  This pretty much so means no LOG unless the client special requests it and can handle it.  I should mention that I frequently do not use LOG on my own projects, as I prefer to do as little color correction as possible to save time.  It used to be when you shot film you did your very best to get it right in camera on the film negative.  I feel that this is a bit of a dying Art.  I also recognize the fact that digital color correction programs can make a huge impact on the end results, but honestly not every client or production can or wants to afford that workflow.

So, what was I going to do?  I do not like my Canon C100 standard setting… I found a profile on the web that emulated the Canon 5D Mark II camera which I had frequently shot in Neutral or Standard profile.  I shoot my Canon 1D-C in Standard.  Sometimes, I will adjust these styles to be less sharp or lower contrast depending on the shoot at hand.  I always manually select the color temperature or Kelvin for each shot.  I know the color temperature of the lights I am using and I can make subtle adjustments as needed by looking at my set of monitors.  I find that I have a pretty good understanding of each of my monitors and how they relate to what I will see in my color calibrated editing suite.  My SmallHD DP6 is always warm and a tad contrasty even though I have adjusted it’s internal settings.  My SmallHD DP4 is similar to the DP6, but nothing as bad as my Atomos Ninja 2, which is unusable for anything other than false colors in my opinion.  I have an HP Dreamcolor and an Atomos Ninja Blade.  I personally found that the monitor on the 5D Mark III with the brightness +1 was a fairly good judge of the color and image I would get when I got to the editing suite.  I don’t have the similar confidence with the 1D-C’s monitor.  The Dreamcolor is excellent but is also a bit contrasty, it does a decent job of matching the Canon EOS camera look.  So what do I do?  I “know” my monitors and I use my Atomos Ninja recorders in false color.  False color for me is amazing tool that allows us to see the IRE values for areas of the picture and understand the overall contrast of the image. This paired with the waveform monitor on the Atomos and internal with the Canon C100 really help us make accurate judgments about the exposure and contrast of the images.  When I need it, I pull out my Light Meter.  I also make sure never to use a new monitor without bringing out monitors that I already know and trust what I am going to get… This way I can daisy chain them in and compare the new monitor to the monitors I know…  This process has helped me keep my contrast range acceptable and my skin tone exposure where I would like it. As far as color… I always know the temperature of my key light and I know what other colors I am mixing in or the temperature of the practical lights in to the frame.  From here, I will dial the Kelvin temperature to what I like. Do I want it a bit warmer?  Do I want it a bit cooler?  In a run and gun situation, I will use waveform monitor, false colors, trust my instincts and at times in tough situations, I will put a color chart in frame before the shot, just as a safety.

This method has been very successful for me and I have made my clients very happy. I find that my footage almost always looks very nice as is and with extremely minimal color correction, the footage pops nicely.

I love what I do and would love to work on narrative films and more commercial work and when that happens I will shoot LOG to maximize the creativity freedom allowed in a color correction suite.

This blog is not meant to say that LOG is not a good thing; just that it may not always be necessary for all clients and workflows.

Here is an example of a recent film we shot called EARTH : 2965

http://pulsecinema.com/quicktime/EARTH2965.mov

Here’s a split screen view of the same film to show how little color correction was done.  On the left half of the frame is the un-color-corrected version.  On the right half of the frame is the color corrected version.  Only a minor black crush and a broadcast safe filter were added to the final film.  This is frequently standard procedure for all our non-LOG footage.  If it needs more color correction we will do it, but we aim to keep the need for color correction to a minimum.

http://pulsecinema.com/quicktime/EARTH2965split.mov

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