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Old December 16th, 2009, 10:16 PM   #1
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Footage is dark on computer screen any suggestions?

I have a 24-inch iMac (from late 2007) running OS 10.6 with the latest version of FCS3 and the new QuickTime updates. I have seen snatches of info regarding people having trouble with the black levels on their clips in earlier versions of QuickTime but I heard that the new versions fixed it. I come seeking help!

When I shoot on my 5D, the details come through really nice on the LCD. Black levels are good, nothing seems to get lost. However, when I play the files on my Mac, it's as if the gamma of all the files is substantially altered... all shadows, regardless of the black levels prior, are BLACK just completely black. There's also a general sense of everything getting a bit darker.

Maybe it's my monitor (can anyone attest to the iMacs having mediocre displays for color correction?), but I have found somewhat of a fix for my problem by using Color to adjust gamma levels. It brings all this detail out of the blacks, which is a nice relief to know the data is still there and not compressed to oblivion... however, I'm not very proficient in Color and the whole process strikes me as cumbersome. If there's a way that something on my computer can be tweaked to enable the footage to be played back as it should look, or if there's some sort of batch process possible to get the files looking brighter with minimal headaches, that would be fantastic! As it is right now, it's just a bit discouraging to take seemingly amazing-looking video and then having to dink around with Color and Final Cut to make it play back as it should.

Anyone else having (or had) this issue, or a suggestion for what to do? If it simply must be done through Color, if anyone knows the exact values for the gamma level alterations (or a different process/tweak entirely) so I could apply the same filter to all my footage, that too would be a big, big help. In advance, thanks a bundle!
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Old December 16th, 2009, 10:24 PM   #2
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The LCD on the 5D bears absolutely no resemblence to reality.
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Old December 16th, 2009, 10:46 PM   #3
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Heh heh... I was beginning to get that sense about it myself. I'm assuming you would recommend a field monitor.

If that's the case, makes me wonder what people who use the Zacuto or other "loupes" do about this issue. Do people just shoot extra bright, knowing it will look darker in the end... something along those lines? Seems scary to me.
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Old December 16th, 2009, 10:52 PM   #4
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HIf that's the case, makes me wonder what people who use the Zacuto or other "loupes" do about this issue. Do people just shoot extra bright, knowing it will look darker in the end... something along those lines? Seems scary to me.
No, you meter the scene prior to shooting so you aren't guessing at your exposure. Then you look through the LCD for framing, which it does a fine job at..

I don't trust the built-in, cheap LCD on any of these cameras. And mine on the EX1 is better than most.
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Old December 17th, 2009, 12:20 AM   #5
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Thanks for your insight. Shows how much I still have to learn haven't used a meter in years, nor do I even own one! It's probably about time.
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Old December 17th, 2009, 12:29 AM   #6
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I think it oppiste to me. Mine is like look good on the cam LCD and it brighter on my computer strange.
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Old December 17th, 2009, 04:53 AM   #7
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You can alter the brightness of the LCD on the 5D. By default it is set to adjust illumination to the ambient light, but you can disable that and set your preferred brightness. I have it at maximum brightness to compete with reflections, but, like Thanh, I've noticed this still leads me to overexpose the image. So I just very slightly underexpose and it's works out very well.
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Old December 17th, 2009, 11:33 AM   #8
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You can also just take a still photograph and check the histograms and highlight blinkies, or you can use zebras with Magic Lantern.
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Old December 17th, 2009, 02:21 PM   #9
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First thing to do is get to a uniform LCD brightness. If you are setting it at automatic, the lcd brightness will change. So I choose a level setting on the manual mode that I can live with in most situations and leave it there. I agree with Bill Binder's advice re: using Magic Lantnern zebras. It is a fairly sure way to avoid blowing out the image. Using a flat setting I can then get a reasonalbe decent latitude in the captured file, which can be color corrected to any settings desired after converstion to Cineform.
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Old December 17th, 2009, 07:49 PM   #10
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This thread is touching on, but not diving into, color profiling and color management. This is a deep, dark topic with many trees killed to cover it in book form.

The best thing you can do is to make sure that at least your iMac's monitor is properly profiled. I've used the calibration options available through the Display Preferences, but they're too subjective. One's eyes get tired, and ambient light levels change a lot! I got a Spyder system from Datacolor and now my 24" HD external monitor and laptop display match perfectly. Makes an immense difference when used with a white-balance/18% gray card and a ColorChecker card on set...then you have absolute color temp and RGB references for color correction purposes. (Even if you get an external monitor, those tend to have their own color calibration controls.)

With DSLR's I've found that shooting stills for histogram reference is just part of my on-set workflow. If you have an on-set laptop, tethered shooting or not, this can help tremendously checking the full-rez stills...provided you have the time to do so, of course. Another best practice is to not let the camera artificially introduce contrast (hence Stu's "Flatten your 5D" and the Superflat picture settings) so that you at least have color grading latitude without clipping whites or blacks. But all that assumes you're exposing properly in the first place! :-)
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Old December 18th, 2009, 09:35 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perrone Ford View Post
No, you meter the scene prior to shooting so you aren't guessing at your exposure. Then you look through the LCD for framing, which it does a fine job at..

I don't trust the built-in, cheap LCD on any of these cameras. And mine on the EX1 is better than most.
Perrone is right on here! He knows his lighting too! The LCD on the camera under exposes what you really get in my experience, so when you try to crank up your exposure a stop or two it's blown out when you get to the edit. Always calibrate your monitors at home as best as possible.
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Old December 18th, 2009, 11:03 AM   #12
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Thanks, everyone I really appreciate it.
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