Friday, October 4, 2013

Log Gamma: The Shooting Mode Made for "Fixing it in Post"

Sierra, X-Pro II, Lo-Fi, Earlybird, Inkwell, Kelvin. Many of you recognize these color/luminance filters by name thanks to the well-known photo-sharing app; Instagram. Quite recently, I stumbled upon the realization that the photos posted on sites like Twitter,  Tumblr, and even Facebook are, more often than not, corrected for color and/or luminance. When did it become natural for us to accept pictures like this: 

Or this:

When in reality the scene probably looked more like this:

With the rise in color filters for photography, the increase in more dramatic video coloring was bound to follow. I mean, isn't video just a culmination of stills anyway? Despite this, editing color and luminance in post for video can prove slightly more difficult than editing for individual photos. For instance, most cameras' default settings are set to record only the bare minimum of information needed. (This is to reduce the size of the file; increasing the space on your SD card.) However, by failing to record the camera's full dynamic range, the amount of color, luminance, and contrast manipulation available to the editor is greatly depleted. This is where log gamma comes in.

Found on most modern-day digital cameras, log gamma offers the DP the option to shoot a scene as flat (color and luminance wise) as possible. Receiving footage shot in log gamma is pretty much an editor's dream come true; especially when consistent color throughout is essential to the piece. 

Here you can see the increased amount of information recorded when shooting in "Canon Log" (flat) as opposed to shooting in the camera's "Normal 1"  default settings.

The red gamma log line takes substantially longer to reach the top of the graph illustrating the increased amount of information recorded. 

Unfortunately, there's a catch. While the final, edited footage shot in log gamma often looks incredible, the images you see on the camera beforehand don't. At all. Think shooting with a JVC-100 before you know anything about lighting and/or white balancing. 

Here's a before and after shot of flat footage:

I don't know about you, but I don't think I could ever feel comfortable handing an editor video that looked anything like the picture on the left. Even if I knew that the ends would justify the means. To me, shooting in log gamma is like saying, "I'll fix it in post", before you even run into production problems. (Side-note: There are no production problems that cannot be fixed. Probably. So I've been told.) In conclusion, shooting in log gamma can greatly enhance the quality of your film. It is up to the DP to decide whether she can wait for the editor to reveal the beauty of her shots.

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