“No, This Doesn’t Look Filmic” – Shooting log, flat, and LUTs all suck

Shooting log, shooting flat, using LUTs, turning down the contrast…stop doing these things! Unless you have a 10-bit capable camera, shooting with log profiles like Cine-D, V-Log, C-Log, S-log, or Technicolor CineStyle will only damage your footage and limit what you can do with it in post-production. I usually explain this in mathematical terms, but that can be hard to grasp, so this video serves as a short overview of the things that you should avoid in the realm of picture profiles and saturation/contrast settings.

For a lot more information about this subject, this article will satisfy most of your curiosities: YouTube video experts don’t understand why flat/log footage on 8-bit cameras is a bad idea

UPDATE: There’s a new video I put out that covers a lot of the same ground, but gets more technical and has more examples and information. Feel free to watch both.

5 thoughts on ““No, This Doesn’t Look Filmic” – Shooting log, flat, and LUTs all suck

  1. I’m very open to the idea that shooting in logarithmic range mode may not be preferable to shooting with your camera’s optimized “normal” video mode. And I concur 100% with the info presented in the last minute of the video. Logarithmic recording mode gives a greater dynamic range of light *at the expense* of color information. I’m not sure which of the two I prefer, as I am a still photographer who is very new to video and trying to learn about this.

    But I disagreed with the first 5 minutes of the video. Is the video saying that people are *publishing* low contrast unedited log video?!? The video seems to be critiquing flat or logarithmic video that has not been color corrected, or stretched back out to the natural tonal range. If one shoots a logarithmic video, one cannot view that video without first performing a color correction back to human vision (using a LookUp Table). Logarithmic video is essentially a compressed file format that is not meant for viewing. It’s similar to how if you shoot still photos in RAW, and then just open them up in a viewer, they look much worse than a jpeg file would. The RAW file will only look better if you provide a white balance and exposure point (and then you can sharpen and further tweak from there if you want).

    If people are actually recording logarithmic video and then releasing it unedited, WOW. Stop! No! Never do that! It’s like if someone shot a photo in a different color space, like Adobe RGB, and then presented that image as-is. It will look awful. It’s not intended for VIEWING. It’s essentially a compressed file format intended for editing later. Logarithmic mode is an INTERMEDIATE mode, the same way Adobe RGB is. No one uses Adobe RGB for their final product, or you get results like in this article: https://digital-photography-school.com/adobe-rgb-versus-srgb-color-space/
    (Note: I do not use Adobe RGB at all, but if it has any benefits, it is when you use Adobe RGB colors as an intermediate step, before converting them to a final standard RGB output, the same way one must convert a logarithmic video before viewing it)

    A logarithmic video must have a basic conversion performed on it before it can be viewed. Now, is that tradeoff of dynamic range versus color data worth it? ***That’s the real conversation I’d like to be having.*** Critiquing some intermediary step of viewing straight out of camera RAW or log video files is misunderstanding why one shoots in those formats in the first place.

    My understanding is that logarithmic video gives better shadow detail. There is a good article from B&H which explains why (look at the chart going from 1 to 8): https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/video/tips-and-solutions/understanding-log-format-recording

    I’ve never heard of someone selling a lookup table. A LookUpTable (LUT) is how one converts the non-viewable ‘raw’ logarithmic video to our standard vision color range. If you are using anything but the LUT provided by the manufacturer for your specific camera, then it is going to give bad values that will make your video look weird or wrong, with bad colors and contrasts. There is no reason to use any other lookup table, much less buy one from a third party. Unless you are trying to create one of those weird unnatural looking videos like making the intentionally ugly sunset at 4.35, or produce some intentionally unnatural look, like a 16 color 80s style video effect. If people are doing this, they are completely misunderstanding the whole reason one would ever shoot in log mode at all.

    While the last minute of the critique is spot on, I think if you are getting some negative comments it’s because the first 5 minutes are misdirected criticism.

    1. My video is not just about shooting log, it’s also about shooting “flat” (intentionally cranking down contrast/saturation in the camera’s picture profile) and it is that flattened footage that I often see published with either no or minimal correction. There is this misguided notion that giving your video the washed-out look of a movie theater projector “silver screen” makes it look more authentically “film-like.” People who shoot log usually apply some LUT that they were sold by the person advocating the shooting in log in the first place; I don’t ever seem to see log footage that is uncorrected being published (because it looks like utter crap that way and obviously so) but I very often see footage shot on 8-bit output format cameras and inappropriately recorded in log space, then stretched back out to normal, with all the histogram breakup and compression artifact amplification you’d expect. As for the LUT thing, selling them is widespread and is one way that so-called “experts” make money off of aspiring novice filmmakers. The LUT is pushed as a one-click way to magically make your footage look like Hollywood gold. It is not, and it’s sad; 15 minutes is all it takes to understand the fundamentals of color correction and the need for LUTs goes out the window.

    1. It’s probably okay, but frankly, I’d avoid log profiles in general. They are only useful for scenarios with very high contrast, where you absolutely need to maximize the recoverable information that is otherwise lost in the shadows or highlights. That describes a minority of filming situations. Log is a trick to gain a little more dynamic range, but dynamic range doesn’t matter nearly as much as color fidelity, and while you may not have the severe artifacting with log on 10-bit that you have with log on 8-bit, you’re stripping away the extra 2 bits of data depth in some portions of the image, so the higher resilience of 10-bit footage goes away if you pair it with log.

      Also, phones are terrible cameras. No one should be filmmaking with phones. They have gotten massively better over the years, but the compromises required to squish the whole optical system into a phone make everything a phone produces look relatively poor. Better to spend $350 on a Panasonic G7 body and $450 on a Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 lens than $1000+ on a nice new iPhone.

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