The first batch of test files are up!

12 cameras in tungsten and daylight, different skintones and my new test chart.

16 bit EXR and RAW files will be available later.

CML and image quality – chickenshit’s

CML was set up for high end pro’s and those who aspire to be in that class.
I’ve never worried about offending anyone else.

There are lots of places on the net for cinematographers who don’t care
about or maybe just don’t recognise a high quality image.
I never wanted CML to be one of those places.

My recent experiences of working with post people whose whole approach to life was “that’ll do” “good enough” “nobody”ll notice” has caused me to stop and take stock.

I feel that CML has been drifting in that direction.

I realise the political and economic pressures that are on us, believe me!

That doesn’t remove from the fact that if we don’t stand up for image
quality nobody will we are “the guardians of the image” and painful though it might be at times we have to fight that fight.

Answer for yourself a few simple questions, in a world where data size
didn’t matter, where RAW recorders were tiny and cheap, where transfer times were zero, where processing power was vast WOULD YOU EVER SHOOT ANYTHING OTHER THAN RAW?

Of course you wouldn’t because deep down inside you know that compression damages your images.

Next question, bearing in mind the conditions listed above, given a choice
of a system that recorded equal amounts of RGB and one that recorded 50%G and 25%R&B and then guessed what was in the holes that that approach left behind would you ever use anything other than the full RGB system?

Of course you wouldn’t because you know that resolution and colour are
compromised by CFA systems.

Now, given that you would go the quality route every time, why are you being such chickenshits and compromising your images all the time?

Devastated 3

So, I’ve finally got a version of The Taking that I’m happy with, I certainly didn’t think that this was going to be possible after the C&C showing in Leeds on the 5th November!

It’s taken a lot of work to clean up the mess and in the process I’ve learned a huge amount.

I’ve also had a lot of help and I’d particularly like to than  Nick Shaw and Gavin Greenwalt for the LUT’s that they created to fix some of the initial errors. These errors were introduced when 4K TIFF’s were created for the VFX guys from the original R3D files, why the match graded log DPX files I had created weren’t used is a mystery. Anyway, the TIFF’s were created with the contrast, saturation and FLUT settings burned in that we had used for monitoring only on location and that were never meant to be used anywhere else.

This created a wonderful set of problems as there was more than one look used on location…

These files had been used by the post house in the final finish for the C&C showing, it should have been clear to a blind man that the files were not “normal” log files but whatever…

I’ve spent 4 weeks going through the edited DPX files matching black levels and contrast, replacing shots that had been clipped form data to TV levels and generally patching things up.

Finally on New Years Eve I had a version of the film that looked as it should.

A version that didn’t have to apologise for being low budget but that looks good regardless of budget.

It looks the way that Dom and I agreed it should back in July when we graded it at UWE.



Devasted 2

Well that’s got to be the fastest and biggest response I’ve had to a post.
So let me clarify…
People don’t walk out of a showing saying that post screwed up the skin-tones, they say what a useless DP.
People don’t walk out of a showing saying that the editor zoomed too far into an image, they say that the AC couldn’t get it sharp.
People don’t walk out of a showing saying what a dreadful DCP, they say that the colourist screwed up.
People don’t walk out of a showing… I think you get the point now.
It’s not the people responsible that get blamed, it’s the image originators.
Well I’m not taking that.
Is my last post abusive and offensive? I hope so!
If we, the cinematographers, don’t stand up and scream when our images are messed up them nobody will and the rush into mediocrity will accelerate.
We are “The Guardians of the Image” and if in general we’re too chickenshit to shout when our work is damaged then we deserve what we get.
To all camera crew out there, stand up and be counted!!


I’ve delayed writing this since I was at the cast and crew showing of The Taking.

I needed time to calm down and stop screaming.

The incredibly hard work of all the camera, lighting and grip crew has been devastated by incompetent uncaring post.

The DCP had obviously been made by a blind man who had left both his white stick and seeing eye dog behind.

Over saturated, weird gamma, blacks crushed, skin looking dreadful, thanks guys you just made our work look crap.

I’ve seen better looking grannies TV’s!!!

I graded the film and delivered 10 bit 2K DPX files, 2 versions, one log without film convert applied and one finished totally. I’d wanted to deliver higher res files but that was vetoed by the post supervisor.

During the conform and grade I’d reduced some of the extreme reframes that the editor had done, trying to keep the directors intentions intact but also trying to preserve image quality.

I didn’t agree with the reframes but ultimately that’s not down to me, I felt they reeked of low budget TV soaps.

The files I delivered had been graded on a system that was calibrated with Lightspace CMS, £3,000 of calibration kit.

Apart from the ridiculous looking images in the DCP there were also all kinds of reframes, zooms in and out and it looked like they had been made from the DPX’s not from the R3D’s so the image quality was horribly degraded.

I have no idea of the route that the images followed once they left me, they should have had the VFX added to DPX files at 2K and the DCP rendered from them.

I strongly suspect that they went through a compressed intermediate format and that was probably HD!

I had added a degree of mid-tone sharpness in resolve and was nervous that I’d overdone it, I needn’t have worried, the post guys managed to soften off the pictures wonderfully.

It was 6 months under 40 years ago that I first worked directly for a TV station, I thought that people weren’t attentive enough to what they were doing but didn’t know beter.

It was about 30 years ago that I moved into high budget commercials and met a lot of resistance from camera crews because I came from docco’s and TV. At the time I thought that this was unfair, looking back I realise what they were worried about.

TV is an area of work where “good enough” and “that’ll do” reign, almost nobody cares about getting things RIGHT!

The old line of “why is TV called a medium? because it’s never well done” was reinforced by your approach.

I was asked during the Q&A before the showing by a show organiser who had seen a video copy of the film, why did it look so different from a TV series that had been shot at roughly the same time in roughly the same locations? why did ours look cinematic and theirs look…

I pointed to the 60′ screen behind me and said “because I shot for that not for a tiny TV” I had repeatedly during the shoot reminded people that we were shooting a movie not a TV show.

I’ve offered to spend my own time and money making a decent DCP and deliverables if they’ll send me the final DPX’s and audio files.

Numbers, numbers, numbers

Having just been to IBC and seen all the new kit and listened to everyone talking numbers it was refreshing to talk to Les Zellan, Carey Duffy and Jon Thorne who were only interested in talking about images.

I then did a 30 minute TV appearance with Rodney Charters and Bill Bennett where the conversation was again about pictures and not numbers, no matter how often the presenter tried to bring it back to numbers!

I’m really looking forward to this week as I’m doing two presentations of “Fuck the Numbers!” which started life as a one off to finish a series of events organised by Graham Hawkins of 24-7 Drama, I don’t think he realised what he was unleashing on the world! I’ve now done variations on this show all over the world and it gets punchier every time.

The first one is in Utrecht on Monday during the Netherlands Film Festival and this is followed by Birmingham City University on Thursday.

I’ve updated the show and hope to see some of you there!

Resolve 11 the good and the bad

Now that I’ve finished grading The Taking I thought I’d comment on R11…

Generally I love it, I particularly like the ability to group sequences and grade those groups pre and post an individual clip grade.

This means that an overall pre clip grade can be applied to a sequence to get the whole sequence into the general area and the each clip can be matched in the clip layer whilst post clip level can be used to add an overall look to that sequence. It makes changing your mind, or the director changing his, very easy, you just change the post clip layer.
Of course on top of all this you have a timeline layer that alters the look of the entire film, great for an overall desat or grain pass etc.

So whats wrong with this?

Well, the big problem is that when you export a project only the clip adjustments are carried over so when you get a completely different AAF from the editor you can’t just use trace color to recreate the grade.
You have to make sure that you save every pre and post grade to the gallery and then export that.
You then have to recreate the groups and add the pre and post grades. It’s a pain.

One of the big advantages to this system is that if you have a lot of VFX work, and we did, you can export DPX files with just the pre clip and clip setting for the VFX guys as these are just files which have been colour and exposure matched but not had a grade applied. You can then send them a reference QT file that has all the looks applied.

It’s relatively easy to then add the VFX shots back and get a totally matching look.

Please BMD add total layer matching to color trace…

Final post of The Taking

It has been interesting grading an entire film, an eye opening look into the realities of a colorists life.
Creating the overall look of scenes was pretty easy, after all I’d shot it with a look in mind.
The difficulty, huge at times, was matching shots within a sequence.
Sometimes we had shot indoors in controlled lighting and it was really a simple case of apply the look and walk away for 30 shots.
Other times i had a controlled shooting situation but it had large light sources in shot and with the Arri/Fuji Alura zooms I was using all bets were off. The colour changed dramatically from shot to shot and in a 50+ shot sequence I had to individually grade every shot.
This however paled into insignificance compared to the exterior garage fight sequence where the light varied from hard sunshine to heavily overcast, and I mean that black doom laden heavy overcast that the North of England specialises in, in the space of four hours. It wasn’t a case of a change from one to the other but a constant to and fro.
Some shots from high up with no sky, some from low down with 30% sky. From wide end of the zooms to the long end, from wide open to stopped down, from no filters to 3 stops of IRND.
Exposures varying all over the place because one operator was setting the stop I called out and was getting a consistent skin tone whilst the other knew better and used the histogram display to ETTR ( expose to the right ) to get me the most data. Of course this also gave me thoroughly inconsistent results.
This was the same operator who knew better than the director or me what framing we needed and kept ignoring instructions only to have to be corrected a few minutes later. My corrections got louder and more abrasive as the day went on.
It created not just a nightmare to edit but a nightmare to cut. We were shooting very fast and a lot of the time was spent watching the action and not monitors, a big mistake in this case. I usually recommend that directors watch the actors rather than the monitors but in this case, well, I usually work with crew I can trust.

Weird things you grade

I’ve been finalising the grade today, only one more day to go.
So what was I grading today?
Well I started out tracking a window, not a very large one, around an actors dick, it was apparently too hidden in the shadows so there I was tracking a window to follow his willy shot by shot.
I then had the great fun of becoming a dentist, well, I spent nearly two hours cleaning an actors teeth!
They looked yellow and unpleasant so on take after endless take I tracked a windowed key with his mouth so that every time he spoke his teeth were a pearly white.
I suppose it could have been worse, instead of brightening a prick and cleaning teeth I could have been cleaning a prick and…

Hacking this site

Since we were badly hacked a year ago we have implemented improved security.
I see that we have once again become a target, 30+ failed attempts to hack in in the last 12 hours.
Please just piss off.