I have a video question for all the digital video users here that have more experience than I. Flat versus "WYSIWG" for scenes where high contrast is not an issue?

When you dip your toe into the web looking for information you get....a lot of information. Most of it is contradictory and many times what you read as "best practices" runs counter to what you experience when you test things out for yourself. Into this category I will place, "expose to the right", "more (or less) pixels are always better", "You must always shoot RAW", and now, "You need a flat profile or a log profile to do professional quality video."

I understand the theory behind S-Log and the need (desire?) to have the longest tonal range you can get, because you think it may give you more dynamic range, but is it really better to shoot everything in a flat or S-Log profile for work where you have lots of control over light? I'm beginning to think it's one of those artificial, "this is the way we do it" barriers to entry in the video world. A hurdle to jump over, both intellectually and technically, in order to get your "pro" badge to sew on your jacket sleeve. But, as often is the case, I could be wrong. 

How I long for the old days when I shot a lot of Super8 film and all you really needed to do was pick the film emulsion you liked best and then meter carefully.......

This all comes up for a couple of reasons. One is that I just upgraded the firmware in my Olympus EM5.2 cameras and one of the improvements is the addition of a "movie" profile that is only intended for video and only accessible when in the dedicated movie setting (movie camera icon set on the mode dial). The other is that I've been working with files from the Panasonic fz 1000 and I find that the files are better looking if I shoot them (lit, interior interviews) exactly the way I want them to appear when I am finished with a project rather than when I use a flat profile and try to do larger curve corrections or color changes in post production. I've developed a method centered around "shoot the way you want it to look" rather than "shoot it super flat for post." I think the super flat S-Log files might be malleable enough to take big corrections if they are coming from enormously expensive super cameras like Arri Alexas and Sony F55, with super high bit rates and 4:4:4:4 Pro-Res files, but I'm pretty sure that most consumer cameras already bake a lot of compression into their video files and making big changes in post production pushes these files past the breaking point. 

Then again, I am not a professional colorist so I could be doing lots of things wrong ---- even though I have been slavishly following every tutorial made for DaVinci Resolve, and Final Cut Pro X. 

If you have experience using the "flat" profiles with consumer cameras (Nikon D750, D810, Olympus EM5.2, a wide swath of Panasonic G and GH cameras, etc. Perhaps you'd be kind enough to correct me (gently) and give me the gift of your experience-based, knowledge largess. 

I think I have the audio pretty well figured out for right now....


Michael Bulbenko said...


you are correct that LOG gives you more post flexiblity than Rec709...but again, staying in Rec709 if you're just doing web/computer/TV delivery is much easier. So LOG is not necessary at all. Handy, helpful, yes. Necessary no, if you can actually control the environment and get the lighting/contrast to where you want it. Like anything else if you can get in camera up front why save it for post-production? Also, viewing LOG on set is an issue, monitors do not work that way, LOG was never designed to be for viewing, but recording only.

Michael Bulbenko, Burbank, CA

Frank Grygier said...

My opinion is to use the standard video profile that suites your eye if you are doing run and gun,interviews or any short form video that needs to be turned around quickly. Various looks can be applied to this video footage using REC 409 LUTS or the color correction tools in your NLE of choice. I will only use flat profiles if I think I need the extra dynamic range and want to take the time to bring the most out the video that my camera is capable of delivering.
Typical "flat profiles" that are not Log in nature tend to be fools gold anyway. Results will vary. WYSIWG is the best approach for me most of the time.

Anonymous said...

I am speaking from the perspective of using Canon video DSLRs and Sony professional video cameras for corporate videos and prior to that working for a major motion picture studio:

If you are planning to shoot with a DSLR and edit using a professional video editing tool, such as Premiere or Final Cut X (especially if you are planning to color grade) it is best to use a flat profile for your DSLR. If you are just shooting straight to video with maybe some minor cuts, but no serious editing and no color grading, then you might as well use an in-camera profile that appeals to you and your viewers.

Kirk Tuck said...

Michael and Frank, Thanks very much for the information, and Michael, thanks very much for providing the link to your Japanese counterpart at Fujifilm's motion picture division's wonderful paper on the whole S-Log discussion. Your input helps me clarify how to be work most effectively and efficiently on small to medium sized video projects in the near future.

Great to get such good feedback so quickly!!!

theaterculture said...

When I was in film school, most of the cinematography teachers were out of the studio side of things while over in the screenwriting program we took our one required film and video production class with a guy who had done a bit of shooting for Andy Warhol and worked a fair amount doing lighting for Jim Jarmush. The proper film production program instructors always taught shooting with the slowest manageable stock, aiming for a neutral histogram while doing video, and letting things like color grading or push/pulling happen in the printing phase. Our hippy-artist-independent guy was all about using whatever effects you had in a particular video camera, using tungsten stock outside, and pushing your negative until it was nothing but grain.

Seems to me that with the amount of meticulous pre-planning that you seem to do for your projects, you can probably get away with WYSIWYG profiles most of the time since you'll have thought out the look before shooting a frame anyway...

Dave said...

Kirk thank you for posting this question, and to Michael and Frank for the helpful responses. I wrestle with this on my Sony cameras as I know that log is great if you have the time, but most of my projects are hit and run type deals.

Stephen Greszczyszyn said...


I'm just digging into this too, and my conclusion is that for me, Log profiles are more work than they are worth and can really mess up the image if you don't know how to properly expose the shot and manipulate the image in post. I am using Panasonic/Olympus cameras (and have considered Sony for video). Here are some links that I have found helpful trying to find a good all-round "realistic" picture profile for my cameras.

"What this test also revealed to me though, was the fact that neither camera produces great colors in Log mode. Don’t get me wrong, you can certainly capture beautiful images on both cameras and color grade them to look really great… But right off of the camera, using nothing more than a LUT on the Log footage, neither camera delivers perfect results in the color department."



Sony (Autumn Leaves creative style):

I'm really enjoying your blog and the topics you bring up - especially as you explore video. Thanks.

Michael Bulbenko said...

to what Stephen G said, LOG is more work, but indeed it can be worth it if the project merits the labor. It does require conversion back to a display space, and that's how it's used on professional sets. Either camera raw or Log is what gets sent to the post house for grading, but they view in 709 on set and make color decisions based on how the 709 appears. This is done by way of some kind of on-set color management software/hardware that does that conversion, or with cameras that record in one format but allow monitor out in 709. Also, the operator wants to see 709 for clarity reasons, not Log. So back to the original question: if you don't want to take on the role of a professional post house, just shoot and edit in 709. As for flat camera profiles that are not log, they give you a bit more leeway for adjustments yes, but you need to make sure you're getting the picture back to what looks proper for delivery.

Mike Tesh said...

I shoot Rec 709 on my Canon DSLRs and C-Log on the C100mkII. I was never happy with the flat profiles on the DSLRs but the C-Log is nice if you have time to work with it.