Is dynamic range allocation only true for log ?Posted by Jeremie Mac Carthy on February 3, 2024 at 10:29 pm
I was shooting well-lit interviews with another filmmaker and he had a sony A73 (not a7siii) and was filming in a non-log picture profile (I believe it was cine4) and he dialed his iso to 200, which really itched me in the wrong way.
As someone who shoots 90% of my projects in s-log 3 with native ISO 800 or 12800, and using ND to correctly expose, his method felt wrong technically, as the main reason to shoot native iso is to allocate dynamic range more or less equally above and below middle grey (in log format!) while maintaining a great signal to noise ratio.
If it were me, I would have shot in native iso for the a73 (640 I believe) or around 800 to keep information above middle grey. But again, in this case we’re shooting on a non-log profile picture.
On my FX3, I was shooting S-cinetone, at 800 iso (I later learned the native iso is 100/2000 for this specific profile). However my image looks very clean. I’m a bit lost and would love some clarification :
Is dynamic range not affected by ISO increments in s-cinetone or other picture profiles as opposed to Slog 3 ?
I hope you can help me with this issue.
Thank you for reading
February 4, 2024 at 12:51 pm
Depending on who’s the boss, you get to dictate what format the cameras will shoot, and follow what the production/editor is expecting as deliverables.
Far too often I get footage delivered where the operator has felt the need to go OTT, except the out-put is for a quick turnaround for HD broadcast. Nothing worse than having to match multiple cameras of different origin – but then these issues are often dictated by the production budget.
When I know I’m on a tight time-line for delivery, I ask for Rec709 – this is not a popular choice for wannabe DOP’s and producer/director’s who “accidentially” have been given a camera with a lot of buttons and menu settings on it.
SORRY! I realise that this is a contentious remark, but it is based on spending many more hours in the edit than needed because of it. A result of an industry that has seen a change from trained camera operators training up the next generation, to current times where NO training is given before an “amateur” is handed a camera. Whilst the cameras at the same time have gone from all in one unit tape/card recording, to have complex settings and is delivered a LEGO kit without instructions even at entry level.
In short: What is your output, and will it make a difference to the viewer whether you use one or the other?
And the even shorter answer to your question:
Is dynamic range not affected by ISO increments in s-cinetone or other picture profiles as opposed to Slog 3 ?
The Dynamic Range in S-Cinetone at 460% is lower than that of S-Log3, according to SONY. But S-Log3 has more noise in the shadows.
At the base ISO, the S-Cinetone will let much more light to the processor, than S-Log3 will.
As said, I’m just the editor who often does camera work. There are much smarter people here who might be able to give better insights.
February 4, 2024 at 3:29 pm
Hi Mads. Thank you for your reply.
You are correct in that the deliverables were expected very shortly following the shoot, and the other filmmaker, like you, was mainly thinking as an editor and was tweaking the settings as such.
We had a wide shot on a7siii, and 2 close ups on a73 and Fx3. The other filmmaker dialed every camera to 8 bit 4.2.0, cinetone or cine4, lowest ISO possible, 4k.
As an aspiring DP, and having spent so much time learning about theory and technique, I’ve always thought best to squeeze the maximum amount of quality when operating a camera, particularly if it’s in the mid range.
Am I wrong to think this way ? I understand you must find compromise when delivery is expected on such short notice, but in this day and age, will 10 bit and 4k really slow down the workflow of the editor ? Aren’t you defeating the whole purpose of using such capable cameras if you dial back all kinds of settings degrading the final output just for some editing ease of use ?
I understand the client might not notice the difference, but I certainly can “feel” it even if the final deliverable is delivered in 1080p. Again, maybe I’m wrong in this and I should think differently.
Regarding dynamic range in S-Cinetone: I’m still confused. Why are there 2 native ISOs in this profile if you can dial in any setting and still maintain information in your highlights at all values? (example : if shooting iso 200 in LOG, you would clip highlights very easily as there is less allocated information above middle grey)
Sorry for the long post, I’m still learning 🙂
February 4, 2024 at 5:43 pm
No worries – it is good to be an aspiring DP that is still learning, hopefully you’ll never stop being curious and gaining new skills.
It is also good that you want to deliver maximum quality.
But ultimately, you have a responsibility to the Production, their client, and the overall cost of production.
As an editor, I often myself telling my producer that I can happily use 3-hours plus to fix something, that only the producer and I ever saw in the first place as a problem. Which is where we decide not to fix this “unknown” problem.
On the specific production that you mention, I don’t what you were shooting for, except it has a tight turn-around time.
Think of multi-camera shoots like what you find on multi-camera live shoots (News, Sport, entertainment). If those cameras are not matched, no matter how little time it takes to fix in post, it will add time. Also, if the editor is editing on location, they might not have the big calibrated monitor to fine-tune your highlights etc.
This does take time away from editing, soundmixing, adding branding, text elements, maybe subtitles, sfx, music, vfx, and so forth.
Then there is the ongoing discussion of where it will be consumed: At a conference on cinema size projection, or an old mobile phone?
Goes without saying, that if it on the phone, the person watching will not neccesarily care about 4K or other formats. But will prioritise and value good sound if it is an interview.
As a DOP you might never get exposed to this, but if on tight turn-around the difference can be between watching the master only once before delivery, or do it twice and pick up any spelling mistakes, jump-cuts or “rogue” keyframes. That even if it is only the editor that notices it. They will still be kicking themselves for having had to rush through the edit.
I show my age here, but I did start out on UMatic cameras and 2mc editing – back then “preview was for whimps”. And, any story that did not make broadcast, but looked beautiful, was a total waste.
In a tight turn-around, the deadline is everything. And if you throw anything other than Rec709 into that mix, without sharing the Lut info, you may find yourself at the back of the queue for getting the next refferal for a job. As it is always the freelance person who is not in the room, who is most likely to be blamed for anything that goes wrong after that – even if they are not to blame.
(And yes, you can still fix it in the grade – but takes time)
Sounds harsh, but I mean well when sharing this with you.
By all means keep asking the questions.
But better, learn your camera kit inside out. Find out what delivery format works best for you, and what Luts if not standard, that you like to share. Find a meaningful and quick way to share shooting information with Production and Editor as soon as the shoot is finished – this is a positive way for you to get ahead of issues, whilst giving the customer something with your name and direct phone-number. If through agency – ask them, they’ll love you for putting their details instead of yours on the “paper-work”.
In short, it is often everything else but your actual camera work that will make the difference on you getting the next job.
But I am assuming that you know how to press record, set lights, ensure picture is in focus, and checking back to make sure that the sound is recorded too 😉
Sorry for the ramble – I am in the middle of finishing an edit, so it is shoot from the hip here.
Nevertheless, go shoot, get published, get more experience + paid work!
Keep in mind that several Oscar winning DOP’s started out where you are at, and I know of one who won big awards on filming without studio lights, and on small prosumer cameras.
February 5, 2024 at 3:06 am
The whole point of native iso is to get maximum dynamic range with minimal noise. I certainly only shoot with native iso on my two Blackmagic cameras as well as shooting RAW. I have a friend with a Sony s7ii and I know she just can’t get clean log images off that camera. The stated native iso I suspect is incorrect as the noise is unacceptable, particularly as an 8 bit codec with slog2 or 3 is blocky when graded. I know my friend prefers a slightly contrast flattened rec 709 which often clips highlights but stays much cleaner and safer from noise and blocking. I’m not a Sony camera or codec fan, especially with the s7 range
February 5, 2024 at 4:29 pm
Thank you for taking the time to reply. Your input is incredibly useful to me.
Through this experience I’ve learned to dissociate myself from the project when it is not mine, and not be as personal when it comes to perfecting image quality, as long as production is happy. I can sometimes disagree with the final demands, but ultimately it’s out of my hands and I should deliver only what is expected.
This way of working however, is bland and non-ambitious to me. I hope to create and film projects, no matter the subject, as beautiful and interesting visually as possible. Maybe I’ll convince some clients directly as to why it matters. Otherwise why are we doing anything at all.
Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your knowledge. Sometimes it feels overwhelming and lonely when working with people with very different viewpoints and workflows. But i’m learning.
February 5, 2024 at 4:32 pm
Thank you for your input Micheal,
I believe non-log profile images are more forgiving in ISOs when it comes to dynamic range. I think it’s safe to move it around without affecting highlights too much. Or so i’ve learned.
February 5, 2024 at 8:42 pm
I hope I didn’t come off as too cold on my latest answer.
I am incredibly grateful to you and anyone who takes the time out of their day to respond to people like me, as I’m trying to figure out my direction as I’m going. I want to learn everything I possibly can to be the ideal team player on a production, and hopefully one day a great cinematographer.
I hope your edit goes wonderfully well. Take care.
February 6, 2024 at 11:55 am
Don’t worry, you are doing fine.
And as you learn on the job, you’ll be able to use that knowledge and pass it forward to future people entering your field.
Just keep on shooting.
And, there is nothing wrong in having high standards, but you have to aim for productions with high budgets to make that stick. That often means doing work as an assistant, rather than DOP.
Do keep in mind that once you enter the high-end of production, you are a part of a team that can easily involve 50, upwards to 400 people to working on even a “small” project.
Alternative is filming loads of short-films for directors in search of a show-reel.
Hopefully the director will bring you along, or film might get spotted.
What-ever you do, just keep on using that camera, and make it professional, as well as exciting.
February 6, 2024 at 10:31 pm
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for sharing advice with me. I will follow the necessary steps to better myself.
Have a great one.
February 14, 2024 at 6:14 pm
This is a follow up to Jeremie’s question. If you are shooting “well-lit interviews”, and have control over the lighting ratio and can keep the dynamic range of the scene within the native dynamic range of your camera, is there a reason, or other benefit, for shooting log?