on July 16, 2014

Cinestyle, Prolost, Marvels & More: Why you NEED to know these Picture Profiles.

There has been a lot of discussion on what picture profile to shoot with.
The easy answer to this is: shoot RAW, and you won’t need to deal with it. It’s one of the great advantages of RAW. White balance becomes an afterthought. You can move a little faster because you have more latitude to nail exposure.
But it does introduce a whole host of post processing workflows to consider, and for many people, its not worth the extra time in most for most projects.
So that leaves us with the picture profiles in h.264.
Just like the comparison with Raw CR2 images to jpegs, the difference between RAW and h.264 is just as dramatic. That being said, you can get very close and intensely beautiful images straight out of the camera, it just means you have to dial in the exposure just right, and make sure you are nailing while balanced, be

When you first start shooting with your camera, the Portrait mode is probably going to feel the best for you and look good straight out of camera. And while i wholeheartedly encourage experimenting with all the settings on your camera to fins out what you like, you will soon find that there are certain advantages of some profiles, and getting the look you want “in camera” will limit your options further down the post-processing line.
The first profile to really take advantage of Canon’s system is the Technicolor Cinestyle.
Cinestyle

For a very long time, it was what every shooter had on their camera, especially for narrative work. The advantage of Cinestyle is that it has a VERY flat profile, and is about as close to a LOG look as your going to get coming out of your DSLR.  (A note about Cinestyle. It comes preset, but they recommend setting contrast to -4 and saturation to -2. It’s a quick fix once it’s loaded on your camera)
Why do you want that LOG look? The simple answer is that the soft contrast and lifted blacks allow more information to be recorded in the darker end of the spectrum, and it is always easier to put more contrast in and crush the blacks than it is the other way around. This is also known as “exposing to the right” or ETTR. This works best in low light scenarios where you don’t want to bump up your ISO and introduce noise into the picture.
GREAT! you say. Why shoot anything else? There are a couple of downsides to this approach. One is that is Commits you to color correction. For a lot people who are shooting casually, or want a quick turnaround, they might not want to take that extra time in post to color correct and balance each shot, and so they are left with this very soft, muddy look to all their images, and they can feel stuck in the position of HAVING to sit and post-process instead of just slapping together their kid’s birthday party and sending out the video to friends and family.
The other downside of Cinestyle is that while it does its best at replicating a LOG profile- the compressed image coming out of the camera is NOT REAL LOG, but rather 8-bit H.264. The post processing workflow that many professional colorists use on professional level footage doesn’t always translate top the compressed image that comes out of the Prosumer DSLR. The images just start to artifact and don’t hold up very well to heavy correction. Generally speaking, the less you have to push the image in post, the better it will look.

So then these other profiles started popping up all over the place. (you can create your own as well- using Canon’s own software that came with your camera). Marvels is a great profile that came onto the scene and made quite a stir.
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It has great color reproduction and takes color correction very well, but it still looks great out of camera and doesn’t COMMIT you to having to color correct.

Next up is probably the one I shoot with the most for production work.  It’s the VisionTech Profile from VisionColor.
Visiontech

They are the makers of the OSIRIS series of LUTs, which if you haven’t had the chance to see, will really bring a lot of great color into your projects, and the price is very affordable. VisionTech is very similar to their VisionColor profile, but it lifts the blacks about 8%. this gives you a little wiggle room to adjust for contrast and get that detail in the shadows that will bring a real richness to the image. Darks with an undertone of your preferred color will almost always be more interesting than just a straight black.

And finally, there is Prolost.
Prolost

Prolost is very similar to Visiontech, and any LUT settings you do with Visiontech are probably also the same settings as for Prolost. Prolost is the preferred picture profile of such greats as Stu Maschewitz (the creator- and a coloring GENIUS), Phillip Bloom, Vincent Laforet, and many others, and there is a good reason for that: its great and its easy. Picture profiles need to be loaded on to you camera and you need a USB connection. Prolost isn’t so much an independent profile as much as it is a modification to an existing one. Start with your Neutral profile, take the contrast all the way down, take the sharpness all the way down, and take the saturation two clicks to the left. If you are working with other shooters, it is something that can be done in the field, you can all sync and make sure you are shooting with the same profiles, and if you camera crashes and needs to reboot, you van be up and running very quickly. It can still be graded, but it looks decent out of camera, and as Stu Maschewitz says “It’s so simple, you can tell someone how to do it over the phone.”

Plus there are many, MANY other profiles out there. They all have nuances and differences that make them better or worse, depending on the project. I am a fan of free profiles, and you can always create your own, but one that might be worth the expense is the Cinema Profile from John Hope.
Cinema

Just really great color, right of the can, and I often use this when I want to get footage up and posted as fast as possible.

So how do you choose?  Simple, you don’t have to.
You can load all three. It is important when using the flatter profiles that you adjust for exposure before you switch to theflat profile.
I like to put a “regular” picture profile right next to a flat one so i can just switch over before I shoot. or better yet, USE THE HISTOGRAM.

One the the great features in the nightly build of Magic Lantern is the ability to automatically switch picture profiles once you hit record, so you can set up your shot and it switches to the flatter profile as soon as you start shooting.

How do I have mine set up?
I have my neutral profile set up to pro lost all the time. It’s a nice tweak, and I wasn’t doing anything with it anyway. You get three custom profiles and I have technicolor cine style as profile 1 because it’s the flattest, and vision colors Vision Tech as profile three, as it’s the one I shoot with most often. John hope has a profile called cinema which I find to be quite nice and has a linear (normal) color space). I’ve used marvels i. The last for this, and wished has a nice one as well. There’s even one that is custom made for correcting the color space in cine style. Any of these will do, depending in your preference. I do my framing and check exposure on this profile because it is closest to what I want the final product to be. I’ve found that setting exposure in a flat profile has me trying to compensate for the soft contrast and my results are not as consistent. By having it between the two flatter profiles, I can toggle back and forth from linear to flat with one click and it speeds things up tremendously. After exposure is set, magic lantern switches me to my selected (flat) profile for recording, and we can shoot away.

How to LOAD a picture Profile:
Loading a profile can be a little intimidating for many. It feels like you have to become friends with a whole new suite of software, but in truth, it’s not that bad.

Load the Eos Utility app that came with your camera. (There’s also one for custom creating your own picture profile, but that’s another article)
Attach your camera to the computer using the supplied USB cable. If you don’t have it still, grab any compatible USB to mini USB connector. Turn your camera on and the computer should recognize it immediately.
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From here, think of the software as an extension of your camera menu.

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Click on “Register User Defines Styles” to bring up this menu:

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Click on the folder icon, and browse to where you have stored your profiles.

I like to keep mine in my Dropbox account in addition to on a usb on my keychain.  That way, if i have to reboot my camera, or I need to sync profiles with another shooter, I have it availabe all the time.

Now you have at least three new profiles to shoot and play with.

The key is experimenting.

Think ahead of time.  If everything needs heavy grading, turning around footage quickly I creates your enjoyment and you will ultimately produce more projects and that increased process if processing and playing is what will get you ahead- not constantly fiddling with your work until it is perfect.

You have to learn to let go when you feel like you are just “changing” it and not necessarily making it better.

Think of the work as a journal, and this documents your art on this day, in this place. Invariably, you will look back at your early work years from now and smile at how much you’ve progressed, so take that with a grain of salt.

Art is never finished, it’s abandoned. So put it to bed and look for your next piece of art

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