This post is a description of what works for me. I am shooting on a Canon 70D and editing in Premiere Pro CC2015. If this isn’t your set up, there are definitely things here that can help you, but your specifics will be different. I am posting it on my blog so that I can refer to it in the future and possibly help a few people. If this post isn’t specific enough to help you in your situation, there are a lot of tutorials and resources out there on the web.
Setting up Canon DSLR to shoot flat video for better color correction.
Digital Cameras must interpret the data dumped out of the chip when the camera shoots video. The raw data off the chip isn’t pretty. In order to make it pretty, the camera makes some decisions about contrast and saturation and then bakes those decisions into a very compressed h.264 file. Once the camera has done that, there is very little latitude available for color correction or color grading.
To address this, in higher end cameras, cinematographers shoot in LOG. It is a very flat, low-contrast, ugly format. However there is a lot of data in the highlights and the lowlights. This gives the editor the most latitude in color correction and color grading. Canon DSLRs do not have this however it is possible to adjust the camera to approximate LOG shooting and regain the ability to color grade footage shot with a DSLR.
For people who have experience with shooting in RAW for stills, this is similar. Unfortunately, due to enormous file sizes and slow write speeds on media, we cannot shoot RAW video. LOG is a decent compromise. It captures video in the muddy middle of the range. This reserves range on the top and bottom end of the brightness scale giving us the latitude needed to color correct and grade without the video falling apart into a mess of digital noise.
The folks at Technicolor created a Camera Profile called Cinestyle so that cinematographers shooting with Alexas, Reds, or other high-end digital cameras could also shoot with DSLRs and use the same color grade. It is possible to match footage from Alexas with DLSRs. There is a limit, but this camera profile gets us closer.
Download the Cinestyle Profile
Install EOS Utility
I found the EOS Utility installer on Canon’s 5D Mark III page. http://usa.canon.com/cusa/support/professional/professional_cameras/eos_digital_slr_cameras/eos_5d_mark_iii#DriversAndSoftware
I had to attach a USB cable between my computer and my Canon 70D for the next part
Install Profile on Camera
Please see the steps below:
– Ensure that EOS Utility v2.6 or later is installed on your computer
– Download the Technicolor CineStyle™ Profile by clicking here
– Connect your camera to your computer using the appropriate USB cable
– Note: for the EOS 5D Mark II you may need to set “Communication” to “PC connect” in the camera’s menu
– Start the Canon EOS Utility
– Select “Camera settings/Remote shooting” on the main window
– Once the capture window opens, click the camera icon
– Click “Register User Defined style” under “Shooting menu”
– Once the new page “Register Picture Style File” opens, select one of User Def. 1, 2 or 3 at the top of the new page
– Click the open file icon
– Select the CineStyle.pf2 file you’ve just downloaded
– Click on OK
In the menu on the camera, make sure you select User Def 1 (or wherever you installed the CineStyle Camera Profile before you shoot.)
Now you can shoot all your footage in LOG.
Here are the best camera settings:
Color Tone: 0
ISO: a multiple of 160 (160, 320, 640)
Using an ISO that’s a multiple of 160 lowers the amount of visible noise. Here’s why …
Basically, the camera has several native ISO settings, in most cameras these are 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 etc. The thing with the values in the middle (125, 160, 250, 320) is that they are simulated! This is very important to understand.
If you set the ISO at 125, there will be more noise than at ISO 100 because the camera sets the ISO at 100 and than simulates the higher ISO (125) by applying GAIN.
Similarly, when set at ISO 160, the camera actually already goes for ISO 200 and applies NEGATIVE GAIN, making the image darker and thus hiding a lot of the noise. The same is true for all the multiples of 160 through 640 (160, 320, 640). You can see the grain at the different ISO levels on this video on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/19579012. The video shows the grain at the different ISO levels on a Canon 550D. Every sensor is different, but the sensor in most or all DSLRs will work this way.
Why do should you care about how grainy your footage is? First off, grain, especially digital grain, isn’t visually pleasing. I’m sure there are times when you might want to emphasize the grain for creative purposes, but most of the time, it’s best to start with the cleanest source footage possible. Second, color correction and grading will increase the grain and noise a lot of times especially when pushing the footage to extremes. Minimizing the grain when you shoot the footage will help ease that problem. If you want grain, it’s easy to add it in post. You will have a lot more control in the final look.
Scopes and Histograms
When shooting in a controlled environment always shoot in manual. Also, if it’s possible on your camera bring up a histogram on your screen so that you can make sure you aren’t blowing out the whites or crushing your blacks. This will also give you the most latitude when you edit your footage. Blown out whites and crushed blacks will never come back. That is data that can never be recovered. If you want blown out whites or crushed inky blacks, by all means do that, but do that in post so you can have control. Happy accidents are great, but you shouldn’t build your career on them.
When you are shooting in an uncontrolled environment, choose your shots wisely. If you start on a bright subject, finish that shot on a bright subject. If you start in the shade, stay in the shade. Wide variations in brightness is where DSLRs fall apart. If you find yourself shooting in wildly varying light levels, it’s probably worthwhile considering moving up to a purpose built video camera or switching to cinema primes that allow you make smooth changes to your aperture. Is there such a thing as an aperture puller?
Editing LOG in Premiere
Now that you have foul-looking LOG footage, let’s make it pretty again. We are going to take advantage of the new(ish) Lumetri Color engine in Premiere. There is a lot of latitude trapped in your gray, dull LOG footage. The first step in unlocking it is to apply the CineStyle S-curve. If you have used curves in Photoshop, this is very similar. There is a very specific curve that will “fix” your footage. This S-curve will automatically bring every shot into a very nice baseline. In fact, it still makes me very happy switching between the original LOG footage and the corrected footage. The color and the contrast explode into life. It’s awesome.
Installing the CineStyle S-curve
Download the appropriate LUT file. For Premiere, use the .cube type of LUT. LUT is short for Lookup Table. It defines black levels and correct color for specific cameras. LUTs are also used for color grades. I’m sure LUTs do way more than this. I did some quick Googling and found this http://nofilmschool.com/2011/05/what-is-a-look-up-table-lut-anyway. For the purposes of this post, I just wanted to give you a quick definition.
Download the CineStyle LUT here:
Unzip the file and save the .cube file somewhere easy to find on your computer.
In Premiere, I like using the Color Correction workspace when I am grading my footage. It puts all the right tools for the job on the screen and makes it easy to work. Specifically I want scopes and the Lumetri window. When I grade, I open the timeline with my footage and click on a clip I want the color correct. Then, I apply the Cinestyle LUT in the Basic Correction section. After that, I play around with the sliders until the video looks the way I want it. If you’ve ever used Lightroom for stills then you’ll be right at home.
You are free to color grade. By starting with LOG content, you should have more latitude compared to standard footage.