White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305 at DVinfo.net

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Canon XF Series HD Camcorders
Canon XF305, XF205 and XF105 (with SDI), Canon XF300, XF200 and XF100 (without SDI).


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Old March 27th, 2012, 08:49 PM   #1
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White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305

I know this has been much discussed, but I'm still not getting it... and it's making me crazy because I'm wasting so much time in post trying to balance things out that it is really becoming an unnecessary pain. And I THOUGHT that if I did a custom white balance on the XF300 and on the XA-10 that I use for travel videos, I'd be able to use the XA-10 for "B-roll" footage mixed in with the XF300. It really isn't pretty at all...

Custom white balance - just fill the screen with a white card (I have the set from Vortex media) under the lighting you're shooting in, turn off full auto and AWB, set the white balance switch to A or B, press and hold the White balance button until the icon stops flashing, and there you go - and if you want the colors warmed up a bit, use the 1/4 warming card and do the same with that - Am I missing something?

And how does this relate to CP files - can you use a custom white balance WITH a CP file? I've tried it with Doug Jensen's suggested CP settings, with the built-in CineF CP settings, with the "Mojo" CP settings I found on the XF300/305 Vimeo forum, and with no CP file selected... I'm still not getting the color I want/see from this camera without a LOT of post work (Colorista 2 in Premiere Pro).

I mentioned on another thread on the XF300 that I was using an external monitor (Marshall V-LCD50-HDMI) on some shots. The Marshall showed WONDERFUL color, and XF300 screen showed color blown out and overcooked - and the XF's screen was correct.

What am I missing?

Frustrated in LA!

Larry Becker
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Old March 29th, 2012, 02:46 AM   #2
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Re: White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305

Hi Larry, I'm also struggling to get the best color and skin tone from the XF300. If the light is not perfect or mixed I found a method described in post #3 in Wb xf305 helpful.

Yesterday I found this blog Secrets to Great Color… Brian Struble Unfortunately the secret is not revealed yet.
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Old March 29th, 2012, 11:40 AM   #3
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Re: White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305

Hi Martin,

I had seen that thread and thought, "I really need to learn to use the scopes!". My main source of info on the XF300 was Doug Jensen's really good video on the camera, but he skips over the use of the scopes, noting that he assumes people with this camera would know how to use them or should find other sources of information on them - not very helpful, but I guess I understand what he's saying. HOWEVER, in a "run and gun" situation, which at least half my shooting is, I'm reacting to constantly changing lighting and conditions. I don't know how you'd do all that.

He does go into detail on how to use his warming cards for custom white balance - which I bought and tried to use. When combined with a CP file, MY results where AWFUL!!!! But they seem ok - or at least not awful - with no CP file and white balance (but not much punch, weak color, and so on). Hence my question, "Am I missing something?"

I think one of the main points of the thread you pointed me back to is interesting - doing a custom white balance WITHIN a CP file, but I'm not sure how that would be different from loading a CP file (like a stock included one, or Doug's recommended settings from his video or one from the thread on the XF300 Vimeo forum) AND THEN doing a custom white balance on top of the CP file. I'm going to try it and see what happens, but wouldn't that custom white balance be saved in the CP file? then you'd have to re-do it every time you used it. Confused...

The blog you pointed to from Brian Struble looks like it might turn in to something helpful, but it doesn't seem to be fully active yet. There are no follow-up posts, and when I tried to subscribe, it flashes me to a screen asking, "Are you sure you want to do this? Retry." I wasn't really wanting to make some kind of moral decision - I just want to FIND THE SECRETS!!!!

(EDIT: I sent Brian an email and he wrote back - seems his subscribe function isn't working properly and he's working on it - he wrote back asking what my color issues were).

AND WHY ARE THEY SECRET??????

This reminds me of shooting jpgs (where the white balance, right or wrong, is cooked into the file) with my first real digital camera - a Canon 1DII - I QUICKLY switched to raw shooting and never looked back - primarily because of white balance issues. Now with my 5DII, I never shoot anything but raw, and even in video, it's pretty easy to get a natural, pleasing white balance and skin tones.

Two steps forward, three steps back...

Larry

Last edited by Larry Becker; March 29th, 2012 at 05:33 PM. Reason: Note on Brian' blog
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Old March 31st, 2012, 07:01 PM   #4
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Spent the day experimenting...

Ok - so I spent my afternoon experimenting with CP files and White Balance... A couple of things:

1) There are updated CP files on the Vimeo XF forum, posted by Brian Weed (thanks for your efforts, Brian!). He has updated the Truvid and Mojo CP files to Truvid2 and Mojo2 - they seem much better.

2) I went back to the Doug Jensen CP file from his Mastering the Canon XF305/200 video, and I still didn't care for it UNTIL I listened to his advice on getting the camera off auto everything, which I tended to use because I often find myself shooting in changing environments. When I had used his CP file, things looked mostly too dark and a little cool. When I got off Auto Gain and Auto Iris (and Auto WB), adjusted the iris to appropriate the appropriate setting based on Zebra 2 indidcations and what I was looking for in the shot, and did an Auto WB on a 1/4 warm card, I was pretty happy with the results. With this CP file and a little warming, the blacks were rich, the colors were pleasing, and I'm happy. Boosting the exposure slightly and warming the white balance up just a bit (he says he generally uses 6k outdoors) seems to give a nice balance, great color, rich blacks and clean whites.

I bet that a LOT of video novices like me tend to leave things on auto everything and HOPE the camera sorts it out. I'm done with that. Since we can't shoot RAW (like I'm used to on my 5DII still shooting), I have to be more careful with exposure AND white balance - just like we were shooting jpgs with that stuff cooked in.

Much happier now - took the time to spend time with the camera and experiment... Just say no to auto! (usually)

Larry
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Old March 31st, 2012, 11:17 PM   #5
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Re: White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305

These cameras are really not for novices, IMHO. They are pretty sophisticated tools for professionals. (Would a novice buy an $7000 camera? Not likely). That being said, I agree with your thoughts. All manual, except for run and gun situations where you need to rely on the camera because it's too crazy (ie. news gathering situations). And understand it's auto functions so there are no surprises. My goal is to always experiment in advance, and never rely on untested situations on location.

As a contributor to the Vimeo XF group, I can say it's a great place to be.
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Old April 1st, 2012, 12:53 AM   #6
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Novices

Hi Al,

Some of us come into cameras like this as a logical progression in the field - others take a less direct route. Many, like me, have come into it through DSLRs - My first real video was on a Canon 5DII, which I had been using for still photography. Over the years I have put together a decent lens collection, and thought that would be a good route to get into video. I was soon frustrated by focus and sound issues, and found that for run/gun, non-static situations, it was just too much! I even got an external monitor and an external audio recorder. That's a lot of kit!

For the kind of shooting I was doing (location, run/gun, some interview), I needed autofocus, real sound inputs, and a great codec for editing. And there were NO XF100's to be found anywhere at that time (May 2011), so I gulped hard and went for the XF300. I did the shoot, and even got a stipend and travel expenses out of it... (the project is still in progress- more shooting to do!)

So... I'm not ENTIRELY a novice a video (a consumer Hi8 tape camera and a consumer Sony AVCHD camera before the 5DII), but I AM a novice at much of what a camera like the XF300 assumes you understand. Scopes? Zebras? Waveforms? CP files? Shutter angles? Iris? And then there's continuous lighting - LED's?

And don't get me started on video editing! Even though I've been using Photoshop since the mid-80's, Premiere Pro is REALLY a different experience! But I'm getting there - I was fortunate enough to have an experienced professional video and game editor/producer sit with me for a couple of weeks every day and edit a whole promo piece for a fundraising appeal that was marvelously successful. I've even built my own pc to be optomized for it (512gb sata3 SSD for OS and programs, 4TB of harddrive space, color-profiled monitor, 24gb RAM, NVidia 580 graphics card, Core i7 processor, and it's water cooled.

So - I agree, they're not for complete novices and wanna-be's, and if you read some of the basic questions out there, there are indeed people who have never touched video before, and have no clue. They think you point the camera, push a button, leave it on auto, and magic comes out. And there are those of us who are after the best quality possible and, despite the learning curve, are banging away at it.

It's really fun and challenging. I am happy also to be a part of the Vimeo XF group, as well as this one!

Larry
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Old April 1st, 2012, 05:29 PM   #7
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Re: White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305

Hi Larry,

Just wondering if even after your hard work experimenting with the white balance with the cam, have you tried color correcting/grading in post yet? I understand your shooting situation, which is plenty of run n gun, interview stuff, and the need to get your camera settings setup before you hit the record button. But I really love grading and color correcting in post (almost too much!), specifically with the MXF files coming out of the XF (at 50MBPs :)

Really jealous of your PC specs, BTW :)
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Old April 1st, 2012, 07:09 PM   #8
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Re: White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305

Hi Jeff,

Yes, I use Red Giant's Magic Bullet Colorista II and Looks 2.0. I don't mind color correction if it is fairly minor tweaks to get that little bit more out of the file, but when the color is so far off that you have to do real violence to the file just to get it looking somewhat normal, then I'm not having fun.

I've found it true in digital photography as well. Get it as good as the camera will get it, and make adjustments inpost only as you need to. The files I was often getting we're embarrassingly bad and required major gymnastics to get flesh tones looking like something somewhat associated with this planet. While I agree that the files are pretty forgiving, I was really pushing past the limits!

I still need to do some flesh tone experimentation later this week in a shoot I'm going to be doing. My tests were with static, known colors and outdoor scenery (blue skies, buildings, grass, objects and situations that I knew). I'll be doing a shoot in church win a whole BUNCH of kids of all different flesh tones- instead of dreading it, I feel like I have a much better handle on the equipment.

I also found that a lot of color correction increases the rendering time as well, and makes matching those shots with others problematic. As far as I can tell, the Red Giant software DOESN'T use CUDA processing, so if I'm doing major tweaks, the rendering time gets out of hand quickly. For most projects, though, my system handles it as I'm working and I'm able to preview and work at full res previews WI no burps or stutters at all. Anyway, Making more decisions as it gets in the camera rather than "fixing it in post" is my goal, I guess.

Sorry for the equipment brag... Been building computers for decades, and after my first iffy tries editing AVCHD files on my old pc wih Vegas 8, I decided to just do it as well as I could. Stuttering, bizarrely long rendering times, and an inability to even tell what precisely I was sometimes working with in my old system in Vegas 8 and Premiere Pro 4 were very frustrating experiences. Premiere Pro 5.5 in my current system is very fluid and smooth.

What do you use for color correction?

Larry
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Old April 2nd, 2012, 10:42 PM   #9
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Re: White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305

Hi Larry,

I also use the latest Magic Bullet stuff, and have even used it on some SD projects back in the ole' XL2 days :) But the MXF files at 50MBPs really are pretty robust files.

We shot this interview and unfortunately only had my on cam (Z96 LED) light and practicals to work with, so it was a bit underexposed (kept it at -3 gain): Personal Documentary Sample-"Peter B." - YouTube (Cam settings at 1080/24p; 4000K)

But I dialed up the exposure on Colorista 2 (and tweaked the saturation up) and really lit his face up.

Best,
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 12:20 PM   #10
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Re: White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305

I've been using one of these LitePanels Micropro LED units and I've been pretty impressed, at least for fill lighting on interviews. Very portable, and throws an amazing amount of light closeup. It's pretty easy to see on screen how much to add, and I've been able to balance it nicely with side window light or outside lighting. I might get a bigger one (maybe a 1x1 panel) eventually. They're coming down in price quite a bit.When I bought the LitePanels, there wasn't much out there and it was REALLY expensive - but genuinely nice.
Litepanels MicroPro LED On-Camera Light LP MICROPRO B&H Photo

Thanks for linking the YouTube video. I see what you mean about it being a bit underexposed. I think underexposing has been a part of my problem as well. Getting off of Full Auto, using Zebra2 to dial in the exposure, using Doug Jensen's CP, and THEN doing a white/warm balance is, for me, a key-at least for now. For interviews and scripted static shots it will work - for the solo run and gun stuff, I'm still going to have to run a lot on auto. I'm not that fast/swift to make it all work on the fly yet.

I attached (I hope!) some frame grabs of what I did wrong on my last interview - all auto, Mojo CP, warm balanced with 1/4 warm card - a DISASTER!. It took me a LONG DARNED TIME to get it at all usable - and as a photographer, I'm still not happy with the file-seems a bit crunchy, and I can see where the original was blown out, especially in the red channel. It feels like I'm trying to color correct a jpg file that already has the color, white balance and so on cooked in. If you screw it up, it is a PAIN to get it back.

I like the sample interview you posted! What are you doing with them? I've thought about doing something like that in my church, offering it as a service for families. I often use photography as an inroad for connecting with people - shooting their family events (even the occasional wedding for people who can't afford a photographer) and making prints for them (gratis). This kind of video might be an interesting way to connect as well... It COULDN'T be more labor intensive than processing a couple of hundred RAW photos and printing them - could it? haha

Larry
Attached Thumbnails
White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305-blown-reds-over-saturated.jpg   White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305-colorista2-correcxted.jpg  

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Old April 3rd, 2012, 04:22 PM   #11
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Re: White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305

Larry, I think your focussing needs some tweaking too, have a look at the vicars face in the corrected shot in particular. On the XF series they have a fantastic tool to help you with critical focussing. It is called peaking, have a look at this thread for some interesting comments. Questions about Canon XF300

There are so many things to check as you appreciate so any help you get on these forums are only an another asset provided you take them as constructive feedback :)
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 04:54 PM   #12
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Re: White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305

Hi Alan,

I went back and played the video and focus is ok. I think what you're seeing is the low res of a frame grab and maybe a little motion blur. I was actually using face recognition focus, and it works really pretty well on a close subject like this.

I had shot him before using a 5DII (and 24-105L lens) and he drove me a little nuts - he moves around quit a bit-rocking back and forth as he speaks (I learned NOT to let him sit on a chair that rocks, moves or creaks at all! The sound issues ruined a couple of takes).

The facial recognition tracking on the XF300 was a real benefit here - it just didn't come across in the screen grab well. I went back and looked at the footage on Canon's XF utility, which shows a marker whenever the face recognition kicks in - it was tracking him really well, and I remember shooting him and watching the tracking squares. It locked on him well, much better than I could have manually! But I DIDN'T have peaking on - that would, as you say, been a good check to make sure it was locking on.

I THINK for an interview shot or a ENG-type shot with one or two people in the shot, facial recognition works well. For a more formal and complicated shot, throwing it on manual focus is, I agree, the way to go. Beyond that, plotting the scene out with follow focus markings on the focus ring (or a follow focus device rigged on the camera) would be preferable. For landscape shots, FOR SURE peaking... closeups of a person or a few people (especially a "rocker"!), maybe ok to use FR.

I DID one interview of two people and FR kept switching from the person who was talking to the other person, and I had to keep using "Select Face" to keep it on the right person (happened maybe 5x in a 10 minute interview - so, not too bad).

Alan - have you tried the facial recognition focus? What do you think about it?

Larry
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 06:16 PM   #13
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Re: White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305

Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Becker View Post
I've been using one of these LitePanels Micropro LED units and I've been pretty impressed, at least for fill lighting on interviews. Very portable, and throws an amazing amount of light closeup. It's pretty easy to see on screen how much to add, and I've been able to balance it nicely with side window light or outside lighting. I might get a bigger one (maybe a 1x1 panel) eventually. They're coming down in price quite a bit.When I bought the LitePanels, there wasn't much out there and it was REALLY expensive - but genuinely nice.
Litepanels MicroPro LED On-Camera Light LP MICROPRO B&H Photo
I'm using a Chinese/ebay knockoff mostly known as the Z96 LED light (which I bought from LA Color Shop, a dvinfo sponsor :) And I've used a couple of LEDs from Cool Lights when I worked for a university. I like the Z96 light alot, but would like to round it out with at least two more LEDs.
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 06:28 PM   #14
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Re: White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305

Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Becker View Post
I like the sample interview you posted! What are you doing with them? I've thought about doing something like that in my church, offering it as a service for families. I often use photography as an inroad for connecting with people - shooting their family events (even the occasional wedding for people who can't afford a photographer) and making prints for them (gratis). This kind of video might be an interesting way to connect as well... It COULDN'T be more labor intensive than processing a couple of hundred RAW photos and printing them - could it? haha
Thanks! This was done for a family friend who was retiring from the police force (turned out he was one of the oldest recruits in New Mexico when he joined), and after a career in the military. It was produced pro-bono, thinking to use it as a demo reel for other clients. We had done many interviews before, but never about a personal documentary. It was really interesting getting to know someone, who you thought you actually knew before, again for the first time :)
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Old April 3rd, 2012, 06:33 PM   #15
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Re: White Balance methods and CP files on the XF300/305

Hi Larry,

I've played a bit with the Face Recognition feature, but I rarely use it. But I do use Peaking (color Red) alot! And although I don't have anything on Auto, I also use the Auto Focus button just to double check my focus. I guess that's one of the XFs features that compelled me to buy the cam, a sharp LCD monitor, and an Auto Focus button :)

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