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'Similaar Flaat' Aims to Bring Improved Skin Tones to Canon DSLR Picture Profiles

01.9.12 @ 11:05AM Tags : , , ,

Picture profiles have taken HDSLRs to another level in terms of getting a gradeable image out of our favorite low-cost hybrid cameras. As far as Canon DSLRs are concerned, Technicolor CineStyle is the official “flat” setting and a top user-created choice is Marvels Cine, out of which I’ve had problems getting useable skin tones (but I have not tried the latest version, designed to fix this). Joining the fray is new entrant Similaar Flaat, by NoFilmSchool frequenter Samuel Hurtado, which is designed to offer a similarly flat setting with improved skin tones. There are a number of profiles, so grab them yourself and see if it’s worthy of the extra “a”…

Samuel has prepared an impressive set of charts and skin tone tests, but test video is “on the way.”

These picture styles are heavily optimized for my T2i. I think they’ll work just as well on all the Canon DSLRs that share that same 18 Mpix sensor and Digic IV processor (7D, 60D, 600D-T3i, 550D-T2i), but I’m not so sure about the 5D2 or 1D4. If you have one of those, you can test yourself (and maybe keep me posted:

In the meantime all I could find is this very brief shot of a moon UPDATE: Samuel has posted a results video, what do you think?

If you have any tests of your own, please share!

Link: Flaat Picture Styles for Canon DSLRs – Similaar


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  • Awesome. I will download it this afternoon and try it out. Nice to see that it was optimized for T2i.

    So far I’ve been using John Hope’s Cinema profile, and Cinestyle, depending on the project. But I’m shooting a ‘fashion-video-style’ music video this coming weekend, and a picture style oriented towards skin tones will be definitely useful.

    Thanks, Samuel. :)

  • Looks interesting. The results look good on the skintone test; colour seems more accurate at first glance.

    Is there any way for third parties to implement the same ~16 IRE offset black level as Technicolor CineStyle? It loses colour space, as it were, but I’ve seen definite improvements in compression quality from it.

  • Rev. Benjamin on 01.9.12 @ 12:42PM

    Very nice. Way to style and profile.

  • Great! I would love to post a test for the 5D Mark II, but it’s really dark here in France (7 PM)…

  • Thanks for posting here, Koo!

    I hope everybody likes it. If not, at least you’ll get a lot of info about how the different picture styles treat the image :)

    • I’m definitely testing it out tonight. Just out of curiosity… which one is the one you like the most?! From the pictures you posted, I’m really liking Flaat 3 as shot, but I also noticed Flaat 2 when graded had a more a ‘natural’ look to my eyes.

  • Flaat_2 would be my workhorse option
    Flaat_3 is the one I’d use if I needed some extra DR
    Flaat_4 is for very excepcional cases where I need as much DR as I can get

    Flaat_1 is there mainly for people that are used to shooting neutral-4
    Flaat_2 will feel the most natural for people shooting with Technicolor CineStile or Marvels Cine


    I am currently testing Cinestyle against Flaat 2 and Flaat 3.

    One thing I will say is for those people who are trying to achieve the most filmic look possible, flaat 3 is too sharp. Almost like VIDEO sharp. I’ve attached a snapshot of the two side by side. Cinestyle is on the left and Flaat 3 is on the right. When I looked at the settings, the sharpness is turned all the way up to 7. I’m not saying it’s unusable by any means. I’m saying that “it looks digital.” I’ll post the whole video here shortly.

  • please stop kidding yourselves that you are getting more dynamic range here. honestly, I’ve done the tests and can clearly show that shooting flat, trying to pretend your dslr is a RED or Alexa just does more harm then good. You are reducing your gradation range in a very limited codec. typically you are getting 7.5 or 7 bits worth of actual information by doing so. Only in the the most high contrast situations can you get a better based exposure by doing what all flat settings do – expand the bottom end so you can underexpose the highlights. this results in very noisy mids and darks. here are the tests complete with charts, scopes from camera and media files. Part 1 has a test video showing a series of test shot under extreme high contrast, sun + snow + shadows. in part 4 all the scopes and how shooting flat reduces your usable dynamic range in the CODEC.

    • I will deffinitely check your site. But I don’t think nobody is pretending that a DSLR is a RED. Most of us just can’t afford a RED and we try to do everything available to improve our shooting, I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    • I know

      That’s why my workhorse option (Flaat_2) doesn’t push DR above what you get with Neutral or Portrait (or Technicolor CineStyle, or Marvels Cine). What it does is to flatten the response to light, respecting colors, so as to use the available color space more efficiently and deliver easily gradable footage.

      Flaat_3 and Flaat_4 deliver increased DR (please look at my waveform tests, and consider adding flaat to your tests), but, as I said in my page, they should be used with care: “when shooting with the most extreme Flaat options, the reduced color space and bitrate that’s left for the midtones and highlights can create (in some scenarios) some banding and/or macroblocking (e.g. on bright skies and such)”

      These tradeoffs are the reason I haven’t developed a picture style, but a suite of them. I’m not trying to kid myself, just trying to get the most out of the tools I have.

    • (very nice blog, BTW: I’m bookmarking that…)

    • Ok, now that I’ve read all 4 parts of that post you linked to, I must say…

      First: very interesting, nice job, I learned some stuff I didn’t know about (like: unlike internal codec, HDMI out is not limited to IRE 100%).

      And then: we’re nearly on the same page: it’s a matter of trying to record what’s in front of your camera in the most efficient way possible, so as to get the best final image you can; flaat tries to do that by:
      * spreading the recorded DR evenly across the codec’s color space (that’s the sense in which flaat is flat)
      * trying to spread the recorded images across all that color space, to use it to its fullest; this is done for example by not desaturating colors (as you found too, going for nearly-black-and-white and then bringing colors back is not a good idea) (I like saturation=-2; 0 or even +1 is too saturated for my taste, but you could use that with flaat without any issues; same goes for sharpness; contrast, though, should be left at -4)

      Also: including flaat in your tests doesn’t make sense: you can just look at my posted waveform graphs and induce what results you’d get; for your low DR subject, it’s easy to guess you’d conclude a more contrasty picture style would be more appropriate.

      In this sense, it seems to me like you’d like an eventual flaat_0 option, still flat (in the sense I described above) but recording less dynamic range than the benchmark I used for reference (“portrait with contrast=-4″).

      A close alternative is to shoot “portrait with contrast=-1″, which would preserve highlights a bit better and dedicates most of the codec’s color space to recording the midtones (between IRE 20% and IRE 90%, it records 5 stops of DR, whereas flaat_1 puts there 5.66 stops of DR, flaat_2 puts 6 stops, flaat_3 puts 6.75, and flaat_4 puts 7.66). But it is not flat (it has an s shape) and thus requires more accurate exposure in camera (if you underexpose or overexpose and something falls out of the sweet spot of the picture style, you’ll be using a very small color space to record that), and with my limited grading skills would be a bit more difficult to work with in post.

      • Ok, I’m off to check out your stuff :) I’m certainly interested in if you can add an extra stop or so.

        I think the real purpose of my tests comes down to knowing your shooting situation and applying things appropriately. if you are on the extremes of contrast like sun & snow then you need all the help you can get. however for more normal contrast and controlled lighting, shooting flat can really hurt you because the information being fed to the codec is just too reduced.

        when you put it on the scope you can see bands of no information / gradation. thats never good. its why when you start to grade dslr material + in camera compression the images can really fall apart. you have to fill the codec’s range as much as possible. this is true even with RED.

        • * that’s precisely the idea: to use the codec’s color space to the fullest
          * ther is some extra dynamic range with Flaat_3 and Flaat_4, but it comes at price of noise – in the situations you’ve mentioned, where you have lots of light to work with and can shoot at very low ISO, that’s when it should be most useful
          * please keep me posted! I want to hear thoughts from users, no matter if they are bad or (preferably) good

    • Greg Greenhaw on 01.12.12 @ 10:26AM

      Are you using magic lantern and increasing your CBR value to 1.5 or 1.6? I consistently get 70mbs out of my 5d at CBR 1.5. I is pointless to talk about dynamic range if you are not maxing out the quality.

  • This is awesome! Im definitely downloading it!

  • Hmm, I wonder why Koo or other opinion leaders are yet to comment on this picture style. Yes, you heard right, some of us actually care to know what they are thinking ; P

    • just released, I guess people are playing with it, they’ll post when they have new thoughts to share

      • In your opinion, what advantage do you think this PS has over Technicolor? I’m seriously asking out of curiosity although I’m doing fine with Cinestyle but won’t want to prevent myself from discovering something better.

        • the more important thing is: more efficient use of the codec’s color space, because:
          * if you forget about the top 2/3 stops of latitude, CineStyle restricts its IRE values to 16%-82%; Flaat_2 uses 0%-92% for that same DR
          * CineStyle pushes saturation down so much that it only uses a small portion of the codec’s color space
          this should lead to cleaner footage when graded (luminance and chrominance channels should end up smoother)

          apart from that:
          * easier to grade, because this one is actually flat (whereas CineStyle has a weird gamma response) and is easily color corrected with a luminance curve (the RGB curve that CineStyle requires reassigns saturation and shifts colors across the image in ways my simple mind cannot predict accurately)
          * extended dynamic range (at cost of noise) in the case of Flaat_3 and Flaat_4

  • I use Super Flat. It works very well and I do everything in post

  • vashi nedomansky on 01.13.12 @ 1:39AM

    Tested all 4 Flaat profiles and really find “Flaat 2″ to be a great all-around profile. The flesh tones and contrast really get me closer in camera then with all other options I’ve tried before. I’ve been using cinestyle exclusively since it came out, but Flaat 2 might be a viable option to help me get closer, quicker and in camera…especially when monitoring on set. We shall see……..thank you Samuel for the effort and for sharing.

    • it should be a bit closer in camera (e.g. it’s not overly desaturated) but it still needs to be graded, to get contrast where you want it – it should be a relatively easy grade, though

  • I am definitely gonna try these – I think Flaat 2 looks good to me. It’s flat enough to be gradable, but you won’t need extreme grading skills, and it still looks kind of natural on the monitor.
    My biggest problem with cinestyle is my monitor while shooting: I can’t focus well and exposure is hard to judge.
    From what I see, I think Flaat 2 could really be a nice option for me.

  • Julien Cheron on 03.15.12 @ 8:50AM


    This short was all done on Flaat_2!