Stirring & Stylish: Distinctively Dark Imagery

Color timing 5D Mark II footage – Part 1

In Equipment and Technique on June 9, 2011 at 7:19 pm

We’re finished off with colour timing ‘The House’, and the results are in.  We shot on the 5D Mark II, and timed on the Da Vinci Resolve system.  We test screened at the Pacific Cinemateque.

This entry is presented in two parts, so check back next week to get the second half of the results.

So, how did it go?  How did the footage hold up on the big screen?  All in all I’d say it held up pretty well.  The typical problems with this camera were certainly in evidence, but because of some good planning in pre-production we were able to avoid these problems in large part.  These problems, and their solutions are:

1) Aliasing – You may have seen magenta and cyan bands running through certain parts of the frame.  Aliasing occurs when a particular texture in front of the camera lines up with the pixel pattern on the camera’s chip to create a visual anomaly.  Often, aliasing occurs along straight lines, which can appear jagged.  If you have several sets of parallel lines, as can occur in floor tiles, fabrics, roofing, etc. the problem is enhanced to create a magenta/cyan moire-like pattern.  The best way to avoid the problem:  Don’t shoot anything that can cause the problem.  On ‘The House’ we tested every piece of wardrobe to make sure it didn’t cause a problem on camera (we tested it at several distances away from the camera as the size of the pattern can affect the aliasing problem), and avoided shooting problematic patterns.

It may not always be possible to avoid shooting a problematic pattern.  What to do then?  The best thing to do it check your monitors carefully.  The LCD on the back of the camera is too small.  You’ll need a larger screen, preferably a production monitor, to view and check for any aliasing.  If possible, throw the pattern out of focus to eliminate the sharp line pattern, or use a diffusion filter to soften the sharp edges of the pattern (make sure to test these diffusion filters in pre-production so you’re not on set guessing whether the filter will be too strong or not).

If you do end up with an aliasing problem in your footage hope and pray that you’re colourist can bail you out.  We had two instances where the aliasing problem showed up in the fabric on a couch and on the floor of a tiled pond.  Luckily, we were able to reduce the colour banding by creating masks and balancing out the colours, but this was a time-consuming and difficult process, and not a route I would recommend.  Attempt to eliminate this problem while you’re shooting and you’ll end up with better results.

2) Rolling Shutter – If you’ve used this camera then you’ve seen the jello-like quality that the image can have when the camera or subject moves quickly.  This effect is especially pronounced when the camera is hand-held.  There isn’t really too much you can do here, except for trying to keep the camera steady.  Also, if you have access to them it would be useful to put an image stabilizing lens on the camera, especially if you’re on a longer lens.

3) Dynamic Range – The 5D has a fairly small dynamic range – the range from shadow to highlight that the camera can reproduce – which makes shooting under high contrast conditions difficult.  Protect those highlights, use the built-in histogram to make sure you’re not losing info at either end of the spectrum, consult the false colour function of your onboard monitor, and get and use a light meter.  I’ve found that shooting a DSLR is more like shooting reversal film than negative film.  They are contrasty, and if you make an exposure mistake you have little recourse to make corrections later.  Use that meter!  Test before you shoot!

I look forward to sharing the second half of the results next week.

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