Full res evaluation images, not that anyone cares

OK, I’ve now uploaded all the cameras at full res and full colour depth.

Digital Cinema Cameras Full resolution EXR files

These are links to ZIP folders of one EXR frame per exposure +/- 4 stops

The EXR’s were generated by the manufacturers own software, with the exception of the Varicam which was done in Resolve as they don’t have their own software.

They are VERY large files. Most are in ACEScc space, if not it’s because the manufacturers didn’t specify anything other than ACES so the may be linear or log.

ARRI Alexa SXT

Blackmagic Ursa Mini-Pro

Canon C200

Canon C300-2 & Odyssey

Canon C700 4.5K

RED Dragon

RED Helium 7K

RED Scarlet

Sony F5

Sony F55

Sony F65

Varicam LT & Odyssey

Varicam Pure

Of course I realise that very few people who say they want to know about cameras will bother to download the 10.5GB of data here, and that’s just one frame per exposure, they’d much rather have a few pretty shots and a summary saying that their DSLR is way better.

It’s not!

UHD camera evaluations

Now that I’ve got the files uploaded to Vimeo in all the forms that are going to be there it’s fun to sit back and watch the stats.

http://www.cinematography.net/UHD-Digital%20Cinema%20Camera%20Evaluations%202017.html

I shoot everything at the highest resolution, RAW and uncompressed as much as possible and 327 pillocks have watched the results on a smartphone! Why do I bother?

Of every 1,000 that watch on a desktop only 360 actually finish a clip, how you assess a camera by only watching the underexposed and generally worst looking part is beyond me. I mean, I know you all have busy lives but these clips are only 40 seconds or so long, the UHD are trimmed to 34 seconds.

If you aren’t prepared to watch all the way through why bother, it’s not as if I’m hiding what these evaluations are!

You’re not going to get a pretty clip of people playing in the park with a great soundtrack. I shoot real evaluations and don’t generally give any conclusions because what I like may not be what you like.

There’s a clear objective method of finding out which camera is best for you. Watch the bloody clips!!

I know I should just end the whole series with a conclusion that camera X is the best, life’s not like that.

I will be uploading some EXR’s in 16bit ACES later, it’s a lot of work to do this and I’m taking a break to do some other work for a while.

Anyone who wants a copy of all the rushes is welcome to them, complete with false starts and mistakes in camera settings that were then re-shot. Just send me a 256GB SSD or SD card and a payment prepaid return envelope and I’ll get it to you. If you’re a Gold sponsor or Subscriber/Donator there will be no charge, for everyone else there’s be a €50 charge for my time payable in advance to cml@cinematography.net

The Future of the BBC

I’m sure that I’ll regret this and get a lot of grief but I think it’s time that someone stood up and said that the outpouring of support that the BBC appears to be getting in the run up to potential change is strangely enough totally from parties with vested interests. Mostly tired old labour luvvies who couldn’t get hired in the real world.

Once upon a time there was only one TV channel in the UK and it was the BBC, then there was a commercial station and in 1964, if you lived in the south, or 1967 for the whole country there was BBC2 and colour!

Much later, the early 80’s saw Ch4, which I shot the launch for, and then Ch5.

There still wasn’t much choice and the reasons for the existence of the BBC were very clear.

Sky, which started in 1984 after a few years of tests, changed everything, we now have hundreds of TV channels producing material for all interests.

Where groundbreaking original drama was the preserve of the BBc in the past we now look to HBO and Netflix.

And of course there is the real growth and change, channels that function via the internet and don’t use “normal” transmission methods.

So, does the BBC have any reason for existence in the present conditions?

Well yes and no, there is absolutely no need for the huge amount of material it produces that can be got on many commercials channels to at least as high a standard or in many case much better. The days of the BBC as a bastion of quality are long gone, both technically and artistically.

I’m not going to list the programmes that are transmitted all day that should be on commercial stations because I will confuse those that are on the commercials channels and those that are on the BBC, Location Location Location, House in the Country, and so on.

We could close Radio 1, Radio 2 and BBC1 without any loss of quality programmes, OK there are a few BBC1 shows that I’d like to see survive but they could easily be moved to fill the holes made in the BBC2 schedule when you remove the stuff that shouldn’t be there.

The BBC should only be making programmes that nobody else would/will, they are not commercial, they don’t have to justify their existence to shareholders. Sometimes something like Strictly Ballroom will appear, it’s hugely popular but it’s also something that would not have been made elsewhere neither would Bake Off.

Do we need such a huge BBC web presence or is that strangling commercial startups at birth?

The BBC should certainly not be in the magazine publishing business.

Should people that make mind bogglingly stupid decisions like killing off the programme that is their most successful international sales platform be allowed to keep their jobs? And yes, Top Gear is a programme that the BBC should make, it’s safe from the pressures of the car companies and therefore should be able to make open and objective tests of cars.

It should have the freedom to offend a few people, that’s what allowed Monty Python to succeed.

And when it comes to offending people does the BBC have to be so absolutely PC? are a significant proportion of deaf people illiterate? if not why are repeats ruined for the majority of people with an overlay of a gurning madman waving their arms around, isn’t this what subtitles are for?

Also on the theme of PC, they are the BBC, that is the British BC, the presenters should reflect this and not the islington/Hampstead luvvies vision of equality. Lets look at percentages, in terms of presenters, aah what’s the point, I’ll just be called racist. Look at the 2011 census results for the country as a whole, not just London or other large cities, the people shown on the BBC are totally out of proportion to those figures. The BBC tries so hard to be PC that they screw over the majority of the population.

As for the people they employ and the money they are paid…

You could remove half of the staff and not notice the slightest difference, cull to a third of the present numbers and they may start to get more efficient.

Why on earth were they allowed to spend the billions on an ego project like the new broadcasting house in the heart of the most expensive area in London, what’s wrong with an industrial estate out near Heathrow. Ah no, that’ll be where a commercial enterprise that is knocking them out in terms of quality and originality is based.

I’m stopping now, I could compare shooting station idents for BBC2 and Sky but I’d start crying.

 

 

 

CML and image quality – chickenshit’s

CML was set up for high end pro’s and those who aspire to be in that class.
I’ve never worried about offending anyone else.

There are lots of places on the net for cinematographers who don’t care
about or maybe just don’t recognise a high quality image.
I never wanted CML to be one of those places.

My recent experiences of working with post people whose whole approach to life was “that’ll do” “good enough” “nobody”ll notice” has caused me to stop and take stock.

I feel that CML has been drifting in that direction.

I realise the political and economic pressures that are on us, believe me!

That doesn’t remove from the fact that if we don’t stand up for image
quality nobody will we are “the guardians of the image” and painful though it might be at times we have to fight that fight.

Answer for yourself a few simple questions, in a world where data size
didn’t matter, where RAW recorders were tiny and cheap, where transfer times were zero, where processing power was vast WOULD YOU EVER SHOOT ANYTHING OTHER THAN RAW?

Of course you wouldn’t because deep down inside you know that compression damages your images.

Next question, bearing in mind the conditions listed above, given a choice
of a system that recorded equal amounts of RGB and one that recorded 50%G and 25%R&B and then guessed what was in the holes that that approach left behind would you ever use anything other than the full RGB system?

Of course you wouldn’t because you know that resolution and colour are
compromised by CFA systems.

Now, given that you would go the quality route every time, why are you being such chickenshits and compromising your images all the time?

Devastated 3

So, I’ve finally got a version of The Taking that I’m happy with, I certainly didn’t think that this was going to be possible after the C&C showing in Leeds on the 5th November!

It’s taken a lot of work to clean up the mess and in the process I’ve learned a huge amount.

I’ve also had a lot of help and I’d particularly like to than  Nick Shaw and Gavin Greenwalt for the LUT’s that they created to fix some of the initial errors. These errors were introduced when 4K TIFF’s were created for the VFX guys from the original R3D files, why the match graded log DPX files I had created weren’t used is a mystery. Anyway, the TIFF’s were created with the contrast, saturation and FLUT settings burned in that we had used for monitoring only on location and that were never meant to be used anywhere else.

This created a wonderful set of problems as there was more than one look used on location…

These files had been used by the post house in the final finish for the C&C showing, it should have been clear to a blind man that the files were not “normal” log files but whatever…

I’ve spent 4 weeks going through the edited DPX files matching black levels and contrast, replacing shots that had been clipped form data to TV levels and generally patching things up.

Finally on New Years Eve I had a version of the film that looked as it should.

A version that didn’t have to apologise for being low budget but that looks good regardless of budget.

It looks the way that Dom and I agreed it should back in July when we graded it at UWE.

 

 

Devasted 2

Wow!
Well that’s got to be the fastest and biggest response I’ve had to a post.
So let me clarify…
People don’t walk out of a showing saying that post screwed up the skin-tones, they say what a useless DP.
People don’t walk out of a showing saying that the editor zoomed too far into an image, they say that the AC couldn’t get it sharp.
People don’t walk out of a showing saying what a dreadful DCP, they say that the colourist screwed up.
People don’t walk out of a showing… I think you get the point now.
It’s not the people responsible that get blamed, it’s the image originators.
Well I’m not taking that.
Is my last post abusive and offensive? I hope so!
If we, the cinematographers, don’t stand up and scream when our images are messed up them nobody will and the rush into mediocrity will accelerate.
We are “The Guardians of the Image” and if in general we’re too chickenshit to shout when our work is damaged then we deserve what we get.
To all camera crew out there, stand up and be counted!!

Devastated

I’ve delayed writing this since I was at the cast and crew showing of The Taking.

I needed time to calm down and stop screaming.

The incredibly hard work of all the camera, lighting and grip crew has been devastated by incompetent uncaring post.

The DCP had obviously been made by a blind man who had left both his white stick and seeing eye dog behind.

Over saturated, weird gamma, blacks crushed, skin looking dreadful, thanks guys you just made our work look crap.

I’ve seen better looking grannies TV’s!!!

I graded the film and delivered 10 bit 2K DPX files, 2 versions, one log without film convert applied and one finished totally. I’d wanted to deliver higher res files but that was vetoed by the post supervisor.

During the conform and grade I’d reduced some of the extreme reframes that the editor had done, trying to keep the directors intentions intact but also trying to preserve image quality.

I didn’t agree with the reframes but ultimately that’s not down to me, I felt they reeked of low budget TV soaps.

The files I delivered had been graded on a system that was calibrated with Lightspace CMS, £3,000 of calibration kit.

Apart from the ridiculous looking images in the DCP there were also all kinds of reframes, zooms in and out and it looked like they had been made from the DPX’s not from the R3D’s so the image quality was horribly degraded.

I have no idea of the route that the images followed once they left me, they should have had the VFX added to DPX files at 2K and the DCP rendered from them.

I strongly suspect that they went through a compressed intermediate format and that was probably HD!

I had added a degree of mid-tone sharpness in resolve and was nervous that I’d overdone it, I needn’t have worried, the post guys managed to soften off the pictures wonderfully.

It was 6 months under 40 years ago that I first worked directly for a TV station, I thought that people weren’t attentive enough to what they were doing but didn’t know beter.

It was about 30 years ago that I moved into high budget commercials and met a lot of resistance from camera crews because I came from docco’s and TV. At the time I thought that this was unfair, looking back I realise what they were worried about.

TV is an area of work where “good enough” and “that’ll do” reign, almost nobody cares about getting things RIGHT!

The old line of “why is TV called a medium? because it’s never well done” was reinforced by your approach.

I was asked during the Q&A before the showing by a show organiser who had seen a video copy of the film, why did it look so different from a TV series that had been shot at roughly the same time in roughly the same locations? why did ours look cinematic and theirs look…

I pointed to the 60′ screen behind me and said “because I shot for that not for a tiny TV” I had repeatedly during the shoot reminded people that we were shooting a movie not a TV show.

I’ve offered to spend my own time and money making a decent DCP and deliverables if they’ll send me the final DPX’s and audio files.

Numbers, numbers, numbers

Having just been to IBC and seen all the new kit and listened to everyone talking numbers it was refreshing to talk to Les Zellan, Carey Duffy and Jon Thorne who were only interested in talking about images.

I then did a 30 minute TV appearance with Rodney Charters and Bill Bennett where the conversation was again about pictures and not numbers, no matter how often the presenter tried to bring it back to numbers!

I’m really looking forward to this week as I’m doing two presentations of “Fuck the Numbers!” which started life as a one off to finish a series of events organised by Graham Hawkins of 24-7 Drama, I don’t think he realised what he was unleashing on the world! I’ve now done variations on this show all over the world and it gets punchier every time.

The first one is in Utrecht on Monday during the Netherlands Film Festival and this is followed by Birmingham City University on Thursday.

I’ve updated the show and hope to see some of you there!

Still Grading with Resolve 11

Nearly 2 months since the last post about the grade and I’m still at it, only a couple of hours a day but it’s an interesting way to work.

My use of groups has caused a few problems between the various “final” versions of the cut but I’m learning how to deal with this.

There’s a great facility in Resolve 11 that lets you assign a collection of shots to a “group”, within that group you have the ability to apply a pre-clip grade to all the shots in the group, this can be a full multi-node job if you like, then you can grade each clip separately as you would in a conventional grade, then you have a post-clip grade that applies an overall post clip grade to the group and finally a timeline group that puts a grade across the entire timeline.

I’ve been using this a lot, using pre-clip to get the exposure into a “normal” and neutral colour balance position.

Then I use the clip to match each shot in fine detail.

Then the post-clip is used to add an overall look to that group.

If you think scene rather than group it makes a lot more sense.

Over all of this I can then make entire timeline tweaks, I’ve used this for a slight de-saturation of the entire film and also for a tiny detail increase in the mid -levels. The great this about using this overall change is that I can easily tweak it in and out and currently I’ve got the de-saturation off.

I love the ability to change scenes as a whole whilst retaining all the matching, which often includes layers of window correcting specific things like faces.

Some scenes shot in mixed light have benefited hugely from using a selective filter to reduce certain green tones in the pre-clip.

It’s a learning experience about which layer to use for what but I’m getting there.

The only fly in the ointment is that Colortrace only uses the clip by clip grade so if you want to work between various edits you need to save the pre and post stills which contain their grades manually. With only 20 or so groups in this film it’s not too hard but I could see it being a problem on some jobs. C’mon BMD! make it an optional feature of Colortrace.

Another week of tweaking at home, the 4K Dell monitor I have now has calibrated 100% with Lightspace and I’m really happy about it with one exception, Windows/Resolve don’t handle the scaling of menus very well. In most menus in resolve you need a magnifying glass to be able to read the menu’s, I’m constantly sliding my specs to the end of my nose and leaning in closer to try and read the options. I’m lucky that I know the menus well enough to know that the second one down is add a dynamic link as there is almost no chance of me reading it!!

We finish the film at UWE in a full Resolve suite the week of the 18th.

It’s been an interesting experience, grading while they edit, the multiple versions have caused some issues but that’s partly because of the speed of my system and partly due to the use of very new facilities in the software.

I was really pissed off a couple of days ago when a guy in a post house involved in the job queried why it would take 20 hours to render a full 3K 16bit DPX version when “my Pablo will do it in 30 minutes”  yeah well mate how long at your rate card could we have spent grading this? maybe a couple of days rather than a couple of months. Oh and how much did your entire system cost? Mine was about 6 grand.

The need for speed is hugely over stated when it comes to grading.

 

The Taking – The Grade…

Well, I’ve started the grade, first at home and later at UWE.
An initial problem, that I was aware of as we shot, is that we used in camera looks and they don’t translate to Resolve or any “real” grading system.
Both RED and ARRI have used their own format of “look” files in the past rather than using an industry standard one, ARRI have fortunately learned and their latest camera accepts industry standard LUT’s.
The problem that non-standard looks cause is that everyone has got used to the look both on set and in the offline, now we have to try and get something like that in the final grade but it’s not easy.
Sure we can debayer into Resolve using the look stored in the metadata but this is a destructive process and if we do that any detail that is in the RAW file in the highlights or shadows is lost.
Well as the whole point of doing a grade is to refine the image we can’t go that route!
Graeme at RED kindly sent me a LUT that can be loaded into Resolve that will created RED Gamma 3, this is great as I always have the underlying log image to pull data back from but I now have to try and re-create the contrast and saturation alterations that we added to the looks.
This is much harder than it should be, I’m guessing that pivot points are at different places for RED and Resolve contrast and that 50% saturation means different things to them both…
This has led me to start a grade from scratch and take a different route, of course this causes problems because everyone has got used to the look and now doesn’t want to see a change.
Oh the joys or RAW and log!