FS700 Picture Profile Guide and nLog v1.2 (updated 3/8/2013)

Here is my nLog FS700 picture profile updated. My aim with an all around picture profile is to build one that looks great in all situations, and can go uncorrected in post and still look great, meaning broadcast safe and good color is absolutely necessary. A lot of this PP came from very focused testing and examining the luminance response as well as shooting relevant real world scenes as well as looking for tweaks on the job. I will list the settings and then go over the testing and rationale for each setting.  I would like to note that the only settings I consider to be hard and fast defining settings for this profile are the GAMMA, KNEE, and COLOR DEPTH settings, the rest I would say are fairly safe to adjust +-2 depending on your own needs and preferences and still get great images.  I adjust BLACK GAMMA LEVEL and COLOR LEVEL regularly myself, and the number I listed for those is really just the average of the range of values I normally use.

Noah Yuan-Vogel presents “nLOG v1.2″
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BLACK LEVEL: +5
GAMMA: [CINE4]
BLACK GAMMA RANGE: [MIDDLE]
BLACK GAMMA LEVEL: +5
KNEE POINT: [77.5%]
KNEE SLOPE: [+1]
COLOR MODE TYPE: [PRO]
COLOR MODE LEVEL: [8]
COLOR LEVEL: -1
COLOR PHASE: [+2]
COLOR DEPTH: [+1, -6, -3, 0, +2, +5]
DETAIL: [-2]
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BLACK LEVEL
I found that a value of 0 allows shadow values to fall well below broadcast safe 0% on a waveform monitor. With all Cinegammas, a value of at least +4 is needed to just barely keep all values at or above 0%. A value of +10 just barely keeps everything over 2% for a little extra safety and DR stretch in the lowest end. If you need hard blacks, you could use +5 but I wouldn’t go lower than that unless you are sure your workflow can handle it or you want clipped blacks.

GAMMA
I’ve played with all the gammas and CINE2 would be my second choice and a good candidate for reducing noise in some high ISO situations. You’ll notice that if you set your ISO to 320 in CINE2 it will automatically change to 400 in CINE1 and 640 in CINE4 and if you switch between CINEGAMMASs, your white clip point actually stays the same. That is most likely because the hardware gain stays the same at all these settings. CINE4 gives the most highlight range and compresses the highlights the most, allowing for more pleasing images in high contrast situations. This is almost always desireable, also because it lowers highlight and midtone contrast in a way that is more pleasing for the part of the curve where skintones and important subject detail normally are placed. When shooting alongside a C300, I found CINE4 best approximated the C-Log gamma in that it has nearly identical highlight range of just over 5 stops.

BLACK GAMMA
CINE4 already has relatively low contrast in the mids and highlights and pushing this allows tweaking of the contrast in the shadows.  I used a RANGE of HIGH for a while mainly just because it appears to have the most drastic effect and broadest range but eventually found that I preferred the look of MIDDLE after I was inspired by the beautiful look of the shadows when I was playing around with an F65, and re-tested my FS700 settings.  The BLACK GAMMA LEVEL is certainly something that can be set to your own taste and I change it occasionally depending on the shooting environment and desired look, but I generally come back to a value close to +5.  This and COLOR LEVEL are the two settings I am most likely to adjust depending on the project/scene.
You may want to use a value as low as -2 to reduce the appearance of noise in high ISO situations, or even lower than -2 for a very high contrast effect.

KNEE
I have gone through several iterations of preferred knee for making CINE4 broadcast safe (clipping under 100%). I used to use a high knee point since it seemed to better follow the natural compression point of the gamma curve, but eventually noticed in some instances the extreme compression of the very last stop of detail did not look natural and certain parts of a scene such as outside a window where much of the detail is overexposed or near blown out would have unnaturally low contrast to the extent that it looked altered and did not match properly with the color matrix as color detail would have contrast but luminance did not. Put simply, it didnt look right. I ended up settling first on 75%, +2 and eventually on 77.5%, +1 because after testing nearly every setting possible on a luma ramp and natural ramp-like subjects, I found it was the smoothest and best hidden knee point that didn’t cause any issues with highlight details.

COLOR MODE
This is an interesting one. I mostly used a vectorscope and macbeth color chart for this one. At first glance and with experience from FS100, the main candidates were the CINEMA and PRO simply because they are of lower saturation and seem more pleasing in their desaturation of highlights. I used STILL for a while because in theory I liked its de-emphasis of green/magenta, but occasionally I found its bias to be unwanted for broad color range scenes.  I now use PRO which is quite similar to CINEMA and would consider either, but I find PRO to be a bit more neutral.

COLOR LEVEL
This is one that may be a bit to taste. In PRO COLOR MODE, I definitely prefer -2 or -1 but 0 might be better for an ENG or reality look.  Lower levels are useful in narrative when you want room to push overall color a bit in one direction with white balance without getting an oversaturated look.  Lower COLOR LEVEL values will be less sensitive to mixed color temperatures or pushed tints.  For any COLOR MODE setting besides PRO and CINEMA, you’ll get similar results subtracting 2 from your COLOR LEVEL values and using a range of about -4 to -2 instead of -2 to 0.

PHASE
This is a slightly odd one in that maybe mistakenly I normally expect this to be more of a GREEN/MAGENTA adjustment. Looking at a vectorscope, this simply pushes each primary clockwise or counter clockwise, so it will affect all colors equally. I like the +2 since it pushes blue just a little more cyan, red just a little more pink. It’s a fairly subtle effect but after testing it at all values I found +2 to be a good compromise, where I like the positive effect but +7 is too drastic for certain kinds of saturated color elements.

COLOR DEPTH
This one took some work to figure out. I used to use the ABEL CINE recommended settings, but I took it with a grain of salt since they don’t really explain any of the values, and then I had a couple instances while shooting where I found certain bright saturated colors to show up unnaturally so I started from scratch. In the first few months of owning the camera I constantly tweaked the settings and then finally I sat down and pointed the camera some natural elements with saturated colors at various high and low exposure settings and thats where it became pretty instantly clear what the right setting was for some of them. It’s a tough setting since it primarly affects under an over exposed colors and has much less effect on midtone colors. In the end I found I arrived at surprisingly similar values as the ones ABEL CINE published, but tweaked a few where colors looked quite off with their settings.  Most recently I found a couple situations where I felt the red depth looked off so I tweaked that to a more pleasing setting.  More and more, though, I realize that there may not always be a best setting since the depth adjustments are doing things to the image that really should not be done at all, so there is always a chance with any setting that some saturated color might look a little wrong.  This is a limitation of the Sony NEX picture profile system and why no other line of cameras ever had a COLOR DEPTH adjustment as far as I know…

DETAIL
I don’t have much to say about this one, but -2 has been fine for me after rolling through all the options zoomed on detail. As soon as I see any evidence of edge sharpening in any images I shoot I will probably lower this value, but so far it’s been fine.

 

I’m calling this nLog simply because it is a familiar name that indicates that this is designed to create images that maximize the dynamic range of the sensor. This is not to be confused with C-LOG or LogC or GLog or SLog or real LOG, all of which have different intended purposes and workflows. I’d call it closeset to Canon Log (C-LOG) in that in my opinion it can easily be used without any post correction at all but is almost mandatory for getting the most out of the sensor, and in my experience that is the case with Canon Log as well.

When I shoot with this nLog PP, I can just leave as is in post or just throw on a 3-way color corrector and just push the shadows a little cyan to pop skin tones and have great looking images without much work if a more drastic grade is not called for.

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