November 27, 2015

A Beginner's Guide to Shooting & Grading Log Footage

Intro to Shooting and Grading Log Video
Getting started with log video may seem intimidating at first, but once you understand the basics, you'll be well on your way towards creating stunning images.

In a new video from The Camera StoreJordan Drake and Chris Niccolls not only give you a quick rundown of what log video is, but talk about when and how you should shoot in log, and also how to get started with grading those flat images. If you're brand new to log, this ought to be super helpful:

While there are a few obvious bits in this video, like boosting contrast and saturation in order to start your grade (or applying a LUT), there are also some excellent tips on how and why to shoot in log in the first place.

First and foremost is the fact that shooting in log isn't always necessary. Because log is primarily designed to maximize dynamic range, it makes sense to shoot log in tricky lighting conditions where you expect there to be both extremely bright and dark parts in the image. However, in more controlled lighting situations, such as studio work and shooting green screens, shooting in log isn't really accomplishing much for you. In fact, it's just making more unnecessary work for you in post-production.

Second is the issue of noise. Because log curves pull up the shadows, digital noise can often become significantly more noticeable. This can make for some headaches later on, but there's a somewhat simple fix to this. You've probably heard of ETTR, or "Exposing to the Right." Essentially, by exposing a stop or two brighter (of course making sure your highlights aren't completely blown out), then pulling down the exposure in post, you can ensure that your image will have much cleaner shadows.

There's a major caveat here, though. ETTR can be problematic in the context of filmmaking because of the low bit-depth that many cameras record internally. It's much easier to lose highlight information completely when you're not shooting RAW. Add to that the fact that exposing a log image can be tricky, especially if you're trying to do it by eye without some sort of monitoring LUT. All of this is to say that if you plan on using ETTR, be extremely careful. If you don't nail it, you're potentially setting yourself up for re-shoots.

Lastly, low-light shooting and log don't mix particularly well. For a great technical explanation of why this is, check out this post from Alister Chapman. Here's the main gist of it:

You don’t need log when the scene only has a limited dynamic range. If you use Rec-709, which has a 6 stop range (without any knee) instead of log, at the same ISO, then now instead of recording using only 35% of the available data you will be using almost 85% of the available data and that’s going to give you much more real picture information to work with in post production. You will get a much better end result by not using log.

For those of you who have been shooting log for awhile, what do you wish you had known when you were just starting out? Leave your advice down in the comments!      

Your Comment

16 Comments

I def wish I had known about ETTR a but sooner. It's the best option for me when shooting with the blackmagic cameras as it allows me to apply LUTS without much adjustment to contrast and saturation.

November 27, 2015 at 3:18PM

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Don Way
Writer/Director of Photography
1074

Or shoot Red and never worry about any of this...

November 27, 2015 at 6:10PM

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Robert Ruffo
Director/DP
275

Of course! Just let me borrow your wallet...

November 27, 2015 at 7:03PM

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Nicholas Ortiz
Director/Writer/Stuntman
225

Definitely. Let me just find that $10,000 bill in my wallet I've been looking to spend.

November 27, 2015 at 8:31PM, Edited November 27, 8:31PM

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Alexandra
Videographer / Documentary Filmmaker
326

hahahaha

December 4, 2015 at 12:11AM

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Raph Dae
Screenwriter & attempted director
444

Red shooters remind me of ProTools users and BMW drivers...lol

November 27, 2015 at 10:54PM

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Dylan Sunshine Saliba
Cinematographer
87

What's the difference between a porcupine and a BMW driver?...

The pricks are on the outside of the porcupine.

November 28, 2015 at 6:03PM

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Or....or.... DON'T shoot Red because you aren't a spoiled trust fund baby, and learn how to make something amazing without relying on super expensive equipment. That is another possibility.

November 28, 2015 at 10:09PM, Edited November 28, 10:10PM

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Rory Sopoci-Belknap
Director
145

lol...how does shooting red mean you don't need to know any of this. Every colorist I know who is working on a Red show always turns the files into RedLOG Film files for grading...Using RedGamma to monitor on set is fine but it is far far far from how I'd ever want my finished footage to look. Also what about the Alexa? 99% of Alexa work is in LOG C...even the arriraw files are log...run your mouth and you just end up looking uneducated and arrogant.

December 5, 2015 at 4:12AM, Edited December 5, 4:12AM

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Jerome Stolly
1st. Assistant Camera
447

What does using a RED have to do with not understanding LOG workflow? If you convert your REDCodeRAW R3D to a REDlogFilm gamma curve, you'll certainly need to understand all of the points described above.

December 29, 2015 at 6:14PM, Edited December 29, 6:23PM

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Chris Hunter
Cinematographer & Editor
22

I just shot my first wedding with the a7s using slog2, and I wish I would have seen this article first. I think I relied too heavily on the idea of log footage to make everything look great. I knew it wasn't a perfect solution, and I did use ETTR, but I probably didn't need to shoot the whole thing in log. The majority of the scenes look wonderful, especially with the Luts I used, but there were definitely some dark dance scenes that probably could have benefited from just shooting rec-709.

November 28, 2015 at 1:35PM

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I've been learning this the hard way with my AS7II http://www.sonyalphaforum.com/topic/3012-travelling-the-world-with-an-a7...

November 30, 2015 at 9:19PM

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A lot of cinematographers have vouched against ETTR. And instead they would recommend using a/your histogram and be wary of middle grey levels.

I'm just paraphrasing. I also heard log needs to be graded with the right software on a powerful enough computer, preferably using a de-logger - got no idea what in hell that is.

There's definitely a need for more education about log. Thanks for the article.

December 4, 2015 at 6:21AM

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Raph Dae
Screenwriter & attempted director
444

I wish you'd had a person completely unaware of video technology and technique present when you wrote this copy.

You don't tell us what it is to 'shoot log'. Explain it to an 18 yr. old.

I recommend a rewrite with much more care in writing to beginners who are ready to begin learning about 'shooting log'.

April 7, 2016 at 8:10PM

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Dan Lewis
Media being
8

I'm still having a ton of trouble with color noise in my s log2 videos. They are overexposed about 2 stops, and I have pushed the blacks down and whites up, and added saturation. Am I doing something wrong? It seems to defeat the purpose somewhat if I have to use a noise reducing software every time. Any help is appreciated!

May 25, 2016 at 7:59PM

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Great post!

January 4, 2017 at 10:10PM

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O'Raine Thomas
Cinematographer/DP/Editor
15