May 2, 2016
by Peter Deak
I’m privileged to be working as the cinematographer for director/writer Stephanie Mitchell (Tsalagi Films LLC) on her upcoming 30-minute pilot, Requiem Lost, about a soldier who’s back home in the U.S. and having to come to terms with his PTSD.
We’ll be shooting in cinema 4K on the Panasonic GH4. We very much want a filmic look to the drama piece so I did some test shots with our supporting actor David Rose using the camera’s Cine-D profile. You can view the video HERE, which shows some of the key highlights from the test.
Prior to this screen and camera test, I ran some earlier tests with various settings in the GH4’s Cine-D color profile, just shooting at my house. I incorporated some settings from others who have posted in forums. In most of these, it was recommended to set the Master Ped to +15. The Master Ped controls the level of black. The higher setting gives the footage wider latitude and shows more detail in the shadows. However, my results were poor. Even shooting at ASA400 (at which setting noise is minimal), I saw not only increased noise in the shadows but, worse, color artifacts (such as red blockiness in a tan colored desk where there shouldn’t be any red).
So here’s what I decided to do. I left Master Ped at 0 (which is the middle default setting) and instead used the Contrast setting, turning it all the way down. I also didn’t turn noise reduction down as far as some others have recommended. (Again, I wanted to avoid artifacts). My settings for the Cine-D gamma for the test with David Rose was as follows:
-1 Noise Reduction
+1 Hue (to take a bit of green out since Panasonic cameras tend to lean towards green)
Master Ped 0
In post, I used Color Grading Central’s LUT Utility for Final Cut Pro X to test several film LUTs (which are noted in the video). I’m a DaVinci Resolve user as well and have shot RAW video footage and color graded footage in Resolve but Stephanie and I decided we wanted a post production workflow that can be incorporated in the NLE itself. Color Grading Central’s LUT Utility is also available for Adobe Premiere. Shooting RAW was going to be too cumbersome, require a different camera, and involve a lot more storage space for footage.
The LUT Utility comes with quite a few film LUTs for both LOG and even Rec.709 footage. You can purchase more LUTs but I just used those that came with the utility (LUT Utility purchase price: $29). I treated the Cine-D as a log and so applied LOG LUTs. We really liked the results. We’re leaning towards the Kodak Elite Color 200 because it gives us the most natural looking colors. By the way, you can use a LUT as a starting point and do further color grading to truly customize your look. (I didn’t do any other grading except minor exposure adjustment on the last clip.)
One comment on the GH4 and Cine-D. You have to protect the highlights. They can get ugly in some situations when they clip and that will ruin a cinematic look. It’s not like shooting in RAW where you can more easily protect the highlights by underexposing and have a lot more flexibility in bringing up the mid tones in post without noise. You’ll see in the test video that around 1:27 to 1:34 the trees in the background seem to melt into the sky. This was shot on a day with hazy high clouds that were very bright. If we had blue sky, it may not have been so severe. I had zebras set at 100% and knew the trees and sky were blowing out. I wanted to see how bad it got. Yikes, pretty severe.
For those who know about Panasonic’s V-Log and the new setting in the GH4 and are wondering why we’re not using that instead of Cine-D, I’ll quickly state that I tested it as well and it’s too noisy when capturing 4K internally in the camera. I read in forums and agree that it’s best suited for capture externally in 4K 4:2:2 10-bit (vs. internal 4:2:0 8-bit). Some external recorders such as one by VideoDevices accepts Panasonic V-Log.
Remember, perform tests prior to using any custom settings on a client project. Make sure you’re getting the look you and the client want. And it’s also good as a DP to get to know your actors beforehand and see them from different angles and with different lens focal lengths. It’s hard to work camera tests in these days which are hard to schedule and for which there’s usually no budget but take it on yourself to do it and you’ll be much happier when you get to your actual shoot days.
Lightsky Videography LLC
Requiem Lost starts shooting May 7th. You can find out more by visiting www.gofundme.com/43w4yh3u
I don’t have any association with Color Grading Central and was not paid to write about their LUT Utility. Same for Panasonic – no association, not paid.
Please visit my website www.lightskyvideography.com for production news and updates.