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Best Picture Style for 5D


Earl Nottingham
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I'm trying to come up with a "default" custom Picture Style for my 5D which will yield a pleasing result for nature documentaries to be viewed ultimately on television. I already have the flat profile custom configurations which require tweaking in post but I was hoping to find something which looks good right out of the camera. Surely there are some favorites out there. I understand that what "looks good" is subjective but I would be interested in suggestions.

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I tend to go for either "neutral" or "faithful" with the contrast set down a notch or two just to ensure we're seeing all the information right up to the very top of what the sensor puts out. The default setup is terribly clipped.

 

I'm not sure that more cleverness than that is really useful as a day to day setup.

 

 

Read http://www.dpreview....OS5D/page14.asp, although that's the original 5D. I'm not sure if the mk. 2 has the same behaviour but experience suggests it does.

 

P

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Hi Earl,

 

It is indeed very subjective. The only reason to use picture styles is to "pregrade" the image.

Since the picture style is being applied before the image is recorded (converted to 8 bit, 4:2:0, H.264)

you are pregrading the raw-data (with your picture style). If you got a very contrasty image (take picture,

check histogramm), you could use a flat picture style to compress as much as possible into the 8 bit image,

if you want to film a subject which is very low in contrast, you should use a picture style like standard or

even contrastier to expand the values in the histogramm to the max (if you do that later in 8bit, you will eventually

get some banding).

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

It really is a matter of what you are shooting but I feel that in most situations you should shoot with Neutral or better yet a preset called "Superflat".

 

I like to shoot "Superflat" and then color correct the image in post to get the most dynamic range out of the camera.

 

Here is a link that demos the setting and includes a link to download the file. http://vimeo.com/7256322.

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It really is a matter of what you are shooting but I feel that in most situations you should shoot with Neutral or better yet a preset called "Superflat".

 

I like to shoot "Superflat" and then color correct the image in post to get the most dynamic range out of the camera.

 

Here is a link that demos the setting and includes a link to download the file. http://vimeo.com/7256322.

 

 

In my experience shooting in Neutral yields much better colors than the superflat preset. Superflat tends to "grey out" many colors, and they can't be brought back properly in post color correction. You can actually see this quite clearly in Tyler's Vimeo post.

 

After shooting with these cameras since their inception, I've settled on usually shooting at the Neutral setting with the sharpness brought down one or two clicks (depending on the lenses I'm using) and the contrast brought down two or three clicks.

 

 

Alex

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Alexander has a valid a point about the colors becoming greyed out and again this goes back to what you're shooting.

 

 

For example the video I posted a link to earlier was shot on an overcast day where there isn't much contrast to begin with. It seems that shooting superflat in this scenario would be a bit ridiculous since the lighting is totally flat.

 

 

I have gotten great results with both the superflat and the neutral settings that Alexander described so both are a really great option.

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Like others have said, the flatter the better. I would suggest a Neutral picture style. Make sure to turn down your sharpness to 0. Contrast to 0. Saturation down to -1, and color tone set to 0 as well. This should give you the most latitude in post. Happy shooting!

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You may want to watch the Emmy award winning Zacuto Shootout video series. They assembled a small team of cinematographers and DSLR experts. They performed a variety of fairly scientific camera tests on a number of DSLR cameras, and also put them in direct comparison with 35mm film. Participants included Robert Primes, ASC, and Philip Bloom, among others. They took the resulting footage to a first rate color grading suite, and projected the results in several first rate theaters, including the one at Skywalker Ranch, and showed the results side by side to an audience of cinematographers and industry professionals.

 

Here are the settings that I have ended up using on my Canon T2i. They are based in part on the Zacuto Shootout results, and also on my own tests and preferences:

 

Highlight Tone Priority: Off

Auto Lighting Optimizer: Off

Movie Exposure: Manual

Picture Style: Faithful

Sharpness: 0

Contrast: -4

Saturation: -2

Color Tone: 0

 

The big difference between my settings and the Zacuto Shootout settings is that I decided to use the Faithful picture style, while they used the Neutral picture style. I decided to make this change because in every test I have done, I liked the look of skin tones better with the Faithful picture style.

 

According to Canon's picture style documentation on their web site, the Neutral picture style provides the most latitude, while the Faithful picture style provides the most accurate color.

 

Personally I found that the latitude was fairly similar between them with the contrast all the way down at -4 and the saturation halfway down at -2, and that I cared more about the color accuracy than the small differences in latitude at that point.

 

If you have a Canon DSLR and a computer in front of you, you have a couple of options for doing your own A/B tests. You can shoot video of the same thing using multiple picture styles and compare them. You can also shoot RAW images and use the Digital Photo Professional software to apply picture styles to the RAW files. In this way, you can compare the results of multiple picture styles after the fact on the exact same images. I went through several dozen random RAW pictures that I took in a variety of geographical states and lighting situations, and personally I preferred Faithful over Neutral almost every single time.

 

I have learned from reading David Mullen's posts that he has a philosophy of getting the image halfway there in camera, and then getting it the rest of the way there during color grading. To me, the Faithful picture style seems more in keeping with that philosophy, at least based on my personal experience.

 

Your mileage may vary, and I would encourage you to perform your own tests to decide for yourself which picture style(s) you like better. Shoot some footage in different lighting conditions and locations, and try to grade it. See which one gives you the best results for your projects.

 

I haven't played with the third party picture styles too much, but based on some of the tests I've seen, it seems that some of them can do horrible things to skin tones to get a little bit of extra highlight and shadow detail. You only have eight bits per channel, and if you're stretching them too far across the light spectrum, you will necessarily capture less detail on the critical midtones. Again, I would do your own tests before going with what someone else recommended, including me.

 

Best of luck, and happy shooting!

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  • 4 months later...

I just produced a short video for a client of mine on picture styles, with discussion on both neutral and super flat - I'll post a link once it's available online.

Phil, great video for B&H! At this point I am impressed with the Marvels Cine 3.4 for my particular needs; not too flat- not too contrasty. Have you had a chance to try the new Canon/Technicolor picture style with their LUT file?

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