Comment sections and forums in the photography and video world are something of a wasteland, where brand advocates quarrel among themselves about obscure technical details. Art and craft are rarely to be found. Every so often a gem turns up which deserves a brighter spotlight.
DPReview’s Carey Rose who is an experienced photographer but a video newcomer posted a demo video of the new Canon 1DX Mark III of blacksmith students. The video didn’t turn out as well as he’d hoped.
Unfortunately, the lighting made for a bit of a white balance nightmare, so I dialed in a manually tweaked kelvin value as best I could. Gray cards can only help so much when your subjects move around a room with different parts lit by different types of lighting…On the small rear screen, it was really difficult to see while filming, I’d only spotted it when I was reviewing footage for editing. Manipulating the shutter speed a bit may have solved it.
When Carey asked for some tips on how to improve the grade on Canon C-Log, Henry Eckstein stepped up and delivered a three part class on how to grade Canon C-Log step by step, including adjusting exposure, white balance and sharpness.
I keep forgetting that I now have 30+ years of video production experience (shoot, edit, grade, Vfx) and keep thinking i’m still a newcomer!
Sooo now….just so you know, on ALL Canon footage shot with CLOG, during grading, boost the shadows by 10% to 15%, then boot the luminance mid-tones by between 5% to 10%, then REDUCE the bright highlights by between 5% to 10% (sometimes more!)
After that, boost the overall saturation level by anywhere between 5% to as much as 15% depending upon your tastes! I also tend to add some blue or orange colour temperature. If your video tends to look really Blue or is otherwise “Cold Looking”, I tend to add some orange colour temperature to make my video look “warm” and if the video is too “Warm” or Orange looking, I will add more “Blue” (aka Daylight) to the image to make it more natural looking.
Within any scene you look for clouds which should be white and at Sky which should be blue!
And for your talent, make sure the skin tones look natural AND that you can see “texture” on their faces (i.e. pores on their skin) and that you can see the weave of the fabric of their clothes.
In terms of scenes with clouds, you should be able to see puffy texture and grey streaks and wispiness within a cloud. It SHOULD NOT be blasted out to bright white blobs! You need to see texture in a cloud to ensure you have great light and contrast levels.
After I do my initial shadows, mid-tones and bright hightlights luminance level adjustment, I tend to INCREASE my contrast ratio if my image is too greyish and low contrast looking by about 5% to about 8% on most Canon CLOG footage and if it is already too contrasty, (i.e. you cannot see the textures of dark clothes or dark wood or road pavement in a scene) I reduce the contrast until the textures come out.
Finally, I add an unsharp mask (1.5 to 3 pixel radius) to get my object edges and talent face/hair looking sharp and clear!
In your scenes, you should always adjust your luminance levels, contrast levels and sharpness levels UNTIL you can actually see the fine details in hair, clouds, roadways, furniture, clothes, plants, trees, etc. When you see those fine details clearly it means you have made a proper luminance/brightness grade.
Now you can adjust colour tones (i.e. more warm orange or more COOL blue) to your image to have your film make a mood statement to your final audience. The colour tone you add is dependent upon the script where action scenes tend to be more cool blue or pure real-world natural colour while slower parts and close-ups or actor-centric scenes tend to be warm orange.
For documentaries, I tend to grade to a more natural or cooler look for things like workplaces or industrial settings while for outdoor scenes and landscapes or outside of personal homes, I make them look more like a warm sunset.
With Canon CLOG, you NEED to boost your shadows and reduce highlights with precision.
AND you also need to add some UNSHARP MASK to fix the tendency of Canon shooters to have a soft-look to their footage because the on-set display monitor tends to be quite overly sharp and contrasty making people THINK their Canon 4K footage is sharp when in reality when blown up to 65 inch TV size or shown on a movie screen size, it will be “too soft” looking. The “Unsharp Mask” just affects fine object edges fine details.
If you shoot CLOG, it always needs a fairly aggressive colour grade (I like Blackmagic Resolve!) !!! You just cannot expect that a simple overall video brightness and contrast boost will make it look good. It won’t!
Always grade the shadows, midtones and highlights first! Then add the colour saturation and a fine-tuned contrast ratio adjustment so as to see fine details and textures in clothes, faces, furniture, clouds and roadways and finally add the UnSharp Mask to make your image pop and look sharp!
While some of these tips are Canon C-Log specific, many of them apply to grading log footage in general. What is most important is the workflow:
- adjust luminance levels and contrast. Treat shadows, midtones and highlights separately.
- add saturation
- adjust white balance
- adjust tone
- fine tune contrast
- adjust sharpness
I originally planned to save Henry’s tips for myself in my private creative tips drawer but as they are too good to keep to myself.
Alec has been helping businesses succeed online since 2000. Alec is an SEM expert with a background in advertising, as a former Head of Television for Grey Moscow and Senior Television Producer for Bates, Saatchi and Saatchi Russia.