Update: BeatLog-II + Beat's Flat

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beatboxa Senior Member • Posts: 6,631
Update: BeatLog-II + Beat's Flat
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Broken into sections. Skip ahead if you want.

Context:

I think some of you have seen my past posts on log profiles, picture controls, etc.

I had previously concentrated on my stills picture control and made a quick & dirty video log PC, because the video one worked just fine. But after a while, I realized I found grading bright skies with direct sunlight (in particular) to be a bit annoying in my log profile when I expose video right to saturation. So I found myself wanting to really improve it. So I thought I'd do it meticulously & right this time.

Setup:

So let's start with the setup:

I began by picking a display. I chose a 10" Samsung AMOLED tablet in its most accurate color rendering mode (estimating based on similar tablets from Displaymate), at full brightness in this mode. True blacks is important here, so it's AMOLED or nothing.

I then rendered a linear black(0)-to-white(255) gradient in Gimp, with the native vertical resolution of the tablet but the 3x2 aspect ratio of the camera. I put a 1-pixel white border around it just to see the border as I framed with the camera. Here is some version of this gradient I created.

^This was going to be displayed in fullscreen on the tablet.

Then, I picked up my 85mm F/1.8S. Then, I picked another lens when I realized I didn't get the proper reproduction ratio to have the screen fill the frame with the 85. I ended up with my 200-500, set to F/8 to avoid vignetting, perspective distortion, etc.

I lined up my tripod, used my "highlights " profile to find the exact point of saturation, and dialed back a notch (1/3 stop). Ended up with:

  • ISO 100 (obviously)
  • F/8
  • 1/2.5 shutter speed

Then, I brought the raw into Nikon Picture Control 2. And the fun begins...

Results:

So the plan was to start with as flat as I could get it, and then tweaking a profile there. Because this was a linear gradient that filled the screen, the histogram should be as flat as possible--and one way to tell how flat it is using the autoscaling of the histogram is that it should consistently be as tall across as possible too.

For reference, here is Nikon's 'Standard' against the photo I took of the above gradient:

Disgusting. Here is Nikon's Flat: (which really should be called "Flat...ter?")

From this one, you can clearly see that Nikon's flat is really only flat for the midtones. Not so hot for shadows & highlights.

And here is the Flat I came up with:

(Compare to the rendered input above). Perfect? Nope. But very close--I'm certainly happy with it. Much better than Nikon 'Flat.' I spot checked every quarter, and overlays look really good. Also what looks good? That histogram! Could have brightened the highlights a bit more, but whatever.

(And sidenote: you can also tell how well exposed this raw was due to the histogram within the curve pane--for perspective, halfway across is 1 stop from full raw saturation, so this a fraction of a stop from clipping. From how flat it is, you can also see how raw captures linearly, and verify that the screen does a great job rendering linearly). The leftmost peak shows what is essentially 0, below which the camera cannot make anything out).

Anyway, here's an invite to Beat's Flat for those who got curves:

So if you want a flatter flat, there you go. Would work great for video on its own.

(Sidenote: if you want, take that curve, and use that slider right underneath to brighten it, and it would give you more shadow latitude for JPEG / video. It's an easy out if you're done).

This is the perfect starting point for a PC.

But I want more than that. Flat is good, but there's still an opportunity to shove more tonality into the shadows. I couldn't sort out how much more to push, and it's not easy with Nikon's histogram, in Picture Control 2. Also, calculations got complicated (if anyone wants to spend the time to do the maths & add to this flat curve, feel free and please post for everyone's benefit).

I ended up thinking: why not just make it a more linear shadow increase, so that it's at least predictable, easy to make and verify, avoids extremes, and is very easy to grade any tones afterwards?

So that's what I did. And I present to you, BeatLog-II:

Beatlog-II:

(For reference, here's the older one from my previous posts):

Only tested a few days, but so far, I love this new one. It's awesome. Keeps the shadow grading, solves for the highlights, keeps plenty for midtones. Make sure Clarity = 0.

Here's a past shot from one of my many trips that I think shows the difference well. Pay attention to the sky and to the shadows (left side & doorway):

Nikon flat:

Old profile:

Beatlog-II:

And another.

Nikon Standard:

Nikon Flat:

Old Profile:

Beatlog-II:

You'll note it's not actually as extreme for shadows as the old one, but it's close enough. You can push it more if you want, but I don't think it's worth it for me.  The easy route:  just use the slider to brighten it.

Anyway, load it up!

Secret tip: If you import it specifically as a Movie Picture Profile, you can have two separate banks of picture profiles--one bank for stills, one bank for video. So when you flip to movie, it automatically uses this movie profile, and stills uses your stills profile. This is something Nikon support told me was impossible...

Caveats:

  • Technically, this is only for ISO 100. But given how flat & linear the input & output were, and after using it a few days, I'm confident it will work just as well for all ISOs. I plan on using it for all ISOs.
  • Keep Clarity at 0. Otherwise, you will risk clipping. All other sliders are fine to play around with, but I prefer to keep saturation at 0.
  • I've done limited testing, but so far it's way better for me in practice than the old one.

Also, note that I can't play around with this for the next week or so, since my Z6 is going in for service . ARGH!!!! Thanks, Nikon. I hope you're reasonable enough not to charge me, even though it's out of warranty...

All in all, the more I've been using the camera over the past year, the more I'm digging the convenience of all-internal video!

...when I can capture audio without the camera frying on me. >:(

The only thing it's lacking is gimbal-like IBIS.

Recommendations for future Nikon cameras...

  • Nikon, call me. And fix my Z6. For free.
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