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Old May 5th, 2020, 10:34 PM   #1
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Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

I would ask on the colorist forums but I KNOW I'll get crapped on there. Here there might be at least some sympathy for a no budget situation.

I don't know if any of you do professional color work, but if so maybe you can advise.

So I'm attempting to grade a zero budget short a friend and I shot, but alas, I have nought but my Imac screen. Not even a colorimeter probe to try to calibrate it. Even in expert mode, the Imac only has a few adjustments (a few tests/adjustments for luma curve, set white point, choose gamma value) so no fancy curve adjustments and things, not even the basic brightness/contrast/saturation/etc. on a typical monitor. Basically I'm hosed. I found some monitor settings where my grade for our trailer, a nice sampling of shots from the film, seems to look nice, more or less like what I'm seeing in Da Vinci (which I'm using to grade) on a variety of screens/devices, but I know none of this is in any way legitimate for grading. Nevertheless, best I have.

This is all to say I'm wondering if there's a guide to the Ansel Adams zone system for exposure as it applies to a waveform monitor. All search results turn up answers regarding production (and how, no, not really, cause each cam/profile treats gamma differently which makes the zones different), when I'm talking about POST production. What I mean is, you have your zones...is there some way we've generally agreed they correlate to percentages/IRE values on a waveform...like 0 is black, no detail, 0-10 is dark grey, 10-20 is less dark dark grey with some texture detail, etc. I figure this way, if I can't trust what I'm seeing by eye, I can at least say "ok, this shadow area is at 10% and that mostly means it's OK/too dark etc. 'cause I know 10% is a dark grey" (or whatever).

Anything to that?

Ditto rough guides for saturation/vectorscope...I can tell when a red is oversaturated/legal, but that doesn't tell me what it will look like for most folks.

Found some monitor tests/charts online and they are telling me colors ok, contrast is a little whack. I'm basically not able to distinguish between total 0% black and 3% black (I can maybe see the difference if I'm straining, but I might be imagining it), only a little better with 100% white and 90% white (though I can definitely see the difference).

Thanks.

Last edited by Josh Bass; May 6th, 2020 at 12:28 AM.
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Old May 6th, 2020, 04:48 AM   #2
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Re: Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

Seems the reasonable solution would be to rent a monitor. In the end the color balance is going to matter, so even if you get the colors in legal range and the contrast and dynamic range looking right on the scopes, there’s that.
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Old May 6th, 2020, 10:31 AM   #3
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Re: Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

Grading should never be done on a computer monitor. Get a Blackmagic UltraStudio ($145) and grade to a video monitor via SDI or HDMI. Then all you have to do is set the monitor up to color bars and you are off to the races. Even a consumer monitor can be made to look good enough for basic grading if you turn off all the automatic stuff and set it up to bars. It's the only way you will ever know what you are really getting. Plus it frees up your computer monitors or scopes on one and the Resolve interface on the other.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/892451-REG/Blackmagic_Design_bdlkulsdzminmon_Ultrastudio_Mini_Monitor.html//BI/2855/KBID/3801
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Old May 6th, 2020, 11:23 AM   #4
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Re: Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

You’d have to recommend an insanely cheap video monitor (unless 7” monitor would do...those are all I currently have). Renting would make sense if it were a paid project or if I knew when/if I was ever going to work again.
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Old May 6th, 2020, 12:48 PM   #5
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Re: Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

$145 for the UltraStudio and then you can use whatever television you already have unless it is complete junk. How much cheaper do you need?
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Old May 6th, 2020, 01:10 PM   #6
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Re: Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

Oh I see. So even my Panasonic Viera 1080i plasma from 2007/2008 will do? That's my only actual TV. I'm not sure you can turn off any auto settings per se...it just has picture profiles like "vivid", "normal", "cinema", etc. with various adjustments for picture, brightness, contrast, plus some warm/cool and black level settings.
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Old May 6th, 2020, 10:26 PM   #7
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Re: Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

Are you using Final Cut Pro X or iMovie on your iMac? Final Cut Pro has excellent color correction, waveform and scopes tools to help you zero in on the colors.

Also where are you going to display the finished project? Exact colors are less important if you are posting to YouTube, Vimeo, or some other place on the web than they are for a mainstream commercial release. This is because everyone is looking at it on some device that you have no control over. They may be watching on an iPhone with night shift enabled so the overall screen color is warmer than with it off. Or they could have the brightness turned down way down or up. Are they watching it during the day in sunny room or at night with the lights off. All of these and other things affect the colors.

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Old May 6th, 2020, 11:11 PM   #8
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Re: Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

I am grading in Da Vinci 'cause I've gotten pretty familiar with it, it's more powerful for grading (as far as I know) than FCPX, and my experience is that inaccurate though a computer monitor may be, the viewer in Da Vinci is still more accurate than in FCP (FCP uses quicktime, quicktime seems to do something to the gamma that makes all your footage look a little less constrasty/saturated than it is--you can see this if you open something in QT player vs VLC).

As for final destinations, I could not say for sure. It is not my film, I shot it and am doing the "grade". I would THINK more web-based viewing than festivals, if not due to our current crisis then at least because my buddy/the director caring enough to spend moolah to send it off to 20-40 fests seems unlikely at our advanced age.
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Old May 7th, 2020, 08:01 AM   #9
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Re: Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

Resolve is exactly where you should be doing your grading. Anyone who advocates grading in FCP or any other NLE is clearly dispensing bad advice. NLEs are okay for quick color correction but they are not the right tool for serious color grading.
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Old May 7th, 2020, 11:32 AM   #10
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Re: Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

I always like to do at least one thing right.
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Old May 7th, 2020, 10:11 PM   #11
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Re: Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

Resolve is a good program for color grading.
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Old May 8th, 2020, 09:28 AM   #12
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Re: Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Bass View Post
This is all to say I'm wondering if there's a guide to the Ansel Adams zone system for exposure as it applies to a waveform monitor. All search results turn up answers regarding production (and how, no, not really, cause each cam/profile treats gamma differently which makes the zones different), when I'm talking about POST production. What I mean is, you have your zones...is there some way we've generally agreed they correlate to percentages/IRE values on a waveform...like 0 is black, no detail, 0-10 is dark grey, 10-20 is less dark dark grey with some texture detail, etc. I figure this way, if I can't trust what I'm seeing by eye, I can at least say "ok, this shadow area is at 10% and that mostly means it's OK/too dark etc. 'cause I know 10% is a dark grey" (or whatever).

Anything to that?
Nope. Nada. Does not apply. Doesn't even make sense.

Archer (everyone always forgets about Fred Archer, sigh...) and Ansel Adams codified the Zone System for B&W negative exposure and development at the end of the 1930s. Well before digital anything.

The purpose of the Zone System is to create a B&W film negative that's easy to darkroom print. That is, contains all the information needed for the print, and arranged on the negative so that it's easy to print on a #2 printing paper. Most people don't even remember what that means, much less have any experience with it. But the bottom line is, the negative is an intermediary between the scene being captured, and the paper print. Basically, you use the negative as a way to shoehorn the (variable) dynamic range of the scenes onto the fixed dynamic range of the paper.

And the Zone System isn't just about exposure. It's about exposure and film development. They come as a pair -- you can't really separate them and have it make any sense. The Zone System encapsulates, proves, and supports the far older photographic concept of: "Expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights." And it includes the sensitometry of the toe and shoulder of the density curve(s).

I know I've already got just about anyone reading this scratching their heads right now. And that's because the Zone System has absolutely nothing to do with digital anything, let alone color, or positives, or motion pictures. Nada. Zilch.

Do not go there. That way madness lies.
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Old May 8th, 2020, 10:19 AM   #13
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Re: Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

Thanks. Not to say you don't have a point but I KNOW there are cinematographers out there (better than I) using it for digital. Hell, I remember back in 2005 this elaborate shoot for this educational game with video sequences and the gaffer talking about "this'll be zone 5" (or whatever). Maybe he was talking about something else but I doubt it.
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Old May 8th, 2020, 01:42 PM   #14
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Re: Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

Using fragments and some nomenclature doesn't mean you're using the Zone System. I'm not saying that they weren't using something that worked for them. I'm saying it wasn't the classical Zone System as defined by Archer and Adams.

Part of the trouble is self inflicted. Archer/Adams used the same term (zone) when talking about light (the scene) and density (the film). Worse, scene brightness changes are linear, so zone IV is generally defined as half as bright as zone V, which most modern photographers would call a 1-stop difference. However, the density in zones on film is non-linear (follows the sensitometric curve for the particular film developed and depends on the print process requirements [a platinum print wants a considerably higher Dmax on the film than a silver gelatin print for example]). It would have made things simpler and easier to understand if either scene brightness zones or film density zones had been called something else. Just sayin'.

Anyway, the genius of the Zone System is how it separates film exposure (which defines Dmin and image shadow detail) and film development (which defines the placement of image highlight detail and Dmax), and provides ways to control the range between the two. Without the ability to do this, and do it predictably, the Zone System is definably meaningless.

Anyway, you asked. I answered. Do with my answer what you will.
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Old May 8th, 2020, 02:17 PM   #15
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Re: Is there anything to the zone system for waveform monitors for grading?

I sort of get it.

Anyway I looked for the ultrastudio mini monitor on ebay, found two at a good price,missed the end of both auctions. Waiting for more.
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