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SimonSpear

Natural Light vs WB & Colour Correction

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Hi all

 

This has been playing on my mind for a little while now, but I've just watched two documentaries over this past weekend that brought it right back to the front part of my brain and I thought that I'd ask you all what you thought before something else pushes it out again (Homer style)! :)

 

Ok the two docs were Planet Earth:Shallow Seas and a JM Cousteau Ocean episode on Sharks (but you could replace these two with numerous other high end productions). Both of these documentaries used very little (at least very little evident) colour correction or I suspect at times absolutely none at all. Most of the footage appeared to rely on natural available light, with the occasional close up in brilliant colour when subjects were in range of their billion+ Watt housing lights or other independent additional light sources (ie camera assistants).

 

So what do you all think of this practise? The planet Earth footage at times was stunningly beautiful, but a little part of my brain kept on thinking 'hell that would be so much better in colour rather than saturated shades of blueness'. The Cousteau footage was a times in my opinion pretty poor for the conditions that they were shooting in (crystal clear vis & lots of light). Admittedly at times some of the footage was from 40-50m which you would expect WA distance shots to be washed out at, but other footage was from no more than 15-20m at most and in those conditions you would expect much better results. I have mulled over the idea that they decided to keep the shallower footage blue to match that from deeper depths, but then why show close ups in glorious technicolour?

 

I heard Peter Scoones talk earlier in the year that he prefers to work with what light is available and almost exclusively does not use lights unless shooting at night. He's one of the very top guys in this field so he must be right? right?? (Not to criticise Mr Scoones because he really is a god like figure to me, but I'm sure you can see what I'm getting at).

 

So should we look to achieve something that is pleasing to the eye rather than something that looks like, colourwise, that it was shot in less than 1m of water? Should we stop battling to make that green soupy water look a deeper shade of blue? I can't help feeling that if some of the footage was posted here asking for opinions that the main response would have been that is was often beautiful footage, perhaps some of the best ever seen, but that some more effort should have been paid to the colour correction.... Or am I just being picky??!! :D

 

Let me know what you think! :)

 

Cheers, Simon

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Hi Simon,

 

There is a natural light topic somewhere on this forum already, I think its in the Galley...

 

But I prefere to shoot in available light (not because I'm a cheap skate with no lights) because I do think it gives a more natural look. Although you would have to be good to spot the difference in some shots that have been through a £15000 editing studio. When I was filming my pike I had a very sunny day over head and in the open areas it was great and the A1 was cool..But when I was around the Canadian pond weeds there were large shadowed areas and trying to get a good looking sequence with both weeds and surface was a pain in the arse. If i'd have had lights I could have lit the shadows..But thats wide angle for yer..

 

Theres good and bad in all..But if it gets the shot your after then use the lights..

 

Dive safe

 

Dean(stating the obvious)B

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Simon,

 

I have to say I have the same issues with the shooting techniques i have seen in some of the more recent films (eg. JM Cousteau Ocean episode on Sharks). Frankly i found the color and wb to be a big dissappointment. I also watch discovery HD and they have seen some underwater episodes on a series called "Equator". Beautiful HD BUT, poor colors. It was obviously shot without WB underwater then "color corrected" in post. Personally, i found the images to be lacking with really bright colors near to the camera and obviously color corrected slightly colorful stuff in the distance. Also, the colors were quite odd looking that were CC'd in post.

 

For open blue shots, i think no underwater CC is not a big deal. But for reefs, shallow environments and colorful creatures, i think it makes a big difference. I have read alot about these million dollar CC systems in post that do much better than underwater CC. I just haven't seen it actaully deliver.

 

I expect that some of these top folks do not CC for two reasons: 1. The super large Sony HDCAMs (eg 900) and WB is either not available or challenging. 2. They are worried about consistency between multiple shoots. Apparenly the million dollar systems aren't capable of dealing with this variance. As such, folks settle for little or no color.

 

There is a series out there that is delivering some of the best quality underwater footage (using WB) that i have seen (IMO). Chech out Blue Realm...especially the section on Mantas of Socorro. I think these guys have raised the bar. I chatted with them at DEMA...good folks.

 

I recently had about 30 people over to my house for a party. As usual thay asked to see some of my latest content (twist my arm why don't you;)). Without exception, their feedback was "wow, the color and crispness is awesome" and "why don't we see this kind of stuff on discovery"? These people are all big travel and outdoor enthusiasts and many are divers.

 

Truth is, the industry is filled with much better and more experienced shooters than me. So why aren't they delivering the content that customers are seeking? Especially with the onslaught of HD, folks are looking for surreal, vivid, stunning content (not shades go grey and blue). Perhaps the broadcast has yet to catch up with this demand.

 

Whenever I see broadcast underwater footage where the production team has taken the time and used the techniques necessary to deliver such stunning content, i get even more motivated to raise the bar on my shooting.

 

-Shawn

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Scoones doesn't use lights?

 

sweet.....

 

i can now use that as an excuse for not having any rather than telling people i am poor....

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Hello Simon

 

Hopefully by giving my slant on things it will provoke some thought.

 

Even though I have 2 strobes, I am starting to warm to using available light as one of my techniques

 

I do all my processing or most of it at least in the water.

 

I set my set up in Manual, and go to 400ASA. Then I use manual WB by setting it that way, pointing at the subject and then setting the WB manually there and then.

 

There is hardly any post-processing at all.

 

Here are 2 shots from Sydney Australia

 

One is a Frog Fish

 

P8130050.JPG

 

400 ASA, 1/100 f3.2 @ 5m with 3m viz

 

And a Red Indian Fish

 

PB190148.JPG

 

400 ASA, 1/100 f3.2 @ 15m with 10m viz

 

In the first case I couldn't get the strobes in close enough in the second case the hotshoe attachment became loose.

 

Using Natural Light and Manual WB does force you to get in close.

 

Cheers

 

almity1

http://www.almity1.com

Almity Web Page

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Yes some of their shots are not the best..and you are left with..I can do better than that.

I don't like using lights as well, scares the animals away unless it's dark or deep or macro.

 

Those TV mob don't care, they have a audience/monopoly anyhow...we have make it colourfull and eye catching to capture the audience and sell our DVD's

 

Here is a grab from a dirty green water dive.

cc.jpg

 

And here it is after blueing up the back and enhancing the front.

 

cc1.jpg

 

O yeh in case you don't know...I used EDIUS 4 :) ...all in real time in a HDV timeline.....

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crap look at that colour correction!!!! i am jealous

 

i don't do that...

 

time is of the essence man!

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Hi guys and thanks for your thoughts.

 

I didn't realise that there was a discussion going on elsewhere about this. I wish I had more time to be a forum mole and not just read the video stuff! :)

 

To put what I said in context I rarely use lights when diving in good conditions. When you have lots of light and great vis or are very shallow then there really is no need and I can normally dabble with colour afterwards. I have no MWB ability underwater with my set up, so when things get a bit murky I find that for close ups then lights become almost essential (in those conditions WA is a total blow out).

 

Another production that has surprised me at times has been Monty Halls Ocean Adventures on which Scubazoo do all the underwater video work. They come with a great reputation and no matter how much I enjoy the actual programme (despite them ALWAYS finding what they came to see on the absolute very last dive!!), I find that much of the footage appears to be not as good as it could/should be. Is this an inherent problem when the raw shots go into post production? Is there a loss of quality once it actually gets to being broadcast?

 

I guess I am just surprised at what appears to be the lack of post production correction or even 'in dive' correction on some of the footage that I have been watching lately on what are billed as top end productions. Generally the close ups in these productions are bathed in light with vivid colours. It's just the WA shots that appear to be lacking.

 

Lots and lots of the footage that people post here literally blows the socks off of some of it. I've long thought that resort/liveaboard and other day in day out videographers are some of the best in the business. Even many of the amateurs/hobbyists that are members here produce stunning work. It's just a shame that the wider world can't get to see their footage most of the time. I think that would really make them sit up and take notice.

 

Cheers, Simon

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I'm constantly fascinated by this issue too and I agree with Shawn that it's either too difficult to MWB with those cameras or, as Drew said on the other thread, they're trying to use a common white so they can match up afterwards.

 

However the truth is that the bluey-green look is actually more like what you see underwater. Our huge boosting of the red channel by using filters and MWB is in fact revealing colours that we don't see underwater. So should we be recording what we see or revealing more than we can see? It's all down to individual taste.

 

On the other side of the coin I got Howard Hall's Coral Reef Adventure. Like Scoones, the quality of Howard Hall's work is legendary but on this production I felt that a few of the shots were actually too red. Most of the footage was originally shot with Imax. To me it looked like they had used a red filter and/or manually white balanced and used lights as well, so some of the closer coral and fish came out too red for my liking. Maybe as a videographer I'm too tuned into this but there were shots in there that I would definitely have cooled the reds down. Great show though!

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Simon, I saw Shallow Seas. I don't remember any scene that needed more color saturation. Many of the shots which needed color had the color necessary to portray the character of the shots but not oversaturated.

The shades of cyan/blue is the standard as you see it underwater for wide angle shot look. Coloring up subjects in WA just seems unnatural. Why make it look like air when it's water? :(

 

Nick, did you watch Coral Reef in an IMAX theater or DVD? The red bias could've been bad DVD compression. IMAX film is color corrected, and if the compression is bad well, it shows.

The Cinealtas and every HD camera can WB and more. :)

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Im sitting here slowly cutting up our new Ningaloo DVD and it's a real shame one has to compress it down to 8+mbps crapy mpeg2 for normal DVD's. We are riching up the colours more than normal abit to get that wow look but not too much. Pretty funny though we ran out of our old versions and in the last couple months lost about $1000 bucks in sales :( People are just ringing us up wanting them.....Ya get that....

 

We are very lucky as we are the only ones here with so much good and different footage, the only other good one is by David Hannan but this next one will be heaps better than that so we have the market sown up here in Exmouth. Also as the Exmouth Navy Pier is closed and we are the only ones to have tons of HDV footage from it, that DVD is going to sell like hotcakes as well when we recut it.

 

Just abit early to make HD DVD's as the market is so small still and everyone have a normal DVD player.

Will render out a m2t version to play in our cinema though may do some burnt HD wmv versions for people as an option.

 

My thoughts on WBing is that as long as you get it pretty close while you are down there, you can always fix it up on the puter later on. You can see the limitation of HDV on natural open water shots / dirty water from the 25mbps compression but still it's heaps cheaper than the real thing. :)

 

We also want to look at streaming the stuff in high res to foks out there in broadband ADSL 2 land using DMR as I think that could work well or even let them download the file with DMR so that only lasts a few days etc.

 

So soon maybe we can all share our work to the masses just like the large TV networks do now and not only that, we are not force to watch those anoying *&^%$ adds.

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Drew I watched Coral Reef Adventure on DVD, not Imax. Some of the foreground stuff like coral and glassfish was coming out obviously redder than real life. Like they'd used lights but the filter/WB was setup for ambient light. Not a big deal though, it's just the opposite problem to the other productions we were talking about. No doubt over-sensitivity to it on my part.

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Drew, Sensational Seas was not anywhere near as bad as the other programmes I have mentioned(personally I thought it was stunning), but there were times (must stress in my opinion here), that the colour was lacking. I'll have to rewatch it and give you some specific examples. The whole thing about WA shots looking blue because they are in water and not in air is the crux of matter I guess. As I've already said pretty much all of the close ups are bathed in light and vibrant colours, so the whole argument of trying to find a common white seems a bit bogus to me because if that was the case it would all be blue.

 

Let me throw another idea out there. When you are diving and you look at a red fish in the distance you know it's red. That part of your brain that sorts colours out quite clearly accepts it as red. It's not blue. It's not green. It's not washed out. To your brain it's as red as it would look in the air. Now if you film or video that red fish without lights or without colour correcting it then it will almost certainly look a different colour to what your brain has accepted it to be.

 

So what's right? Your brain or your video? Hmmmmmm

 

Cheers, Simon

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Oh for sure Simon, the brain does all sorts of colour balancing trickery. Like when we're under incandescent lights for a long time we don't think "hey, everything in here's yellow", but when we look at footage of the same thing later we can see the yellowness.

 

I think there's a middle ground. Take a cheap single-chip setup down with no MWB and the footage really does come out almost monochrome. The red fish in the distance are a greenish shade of grey.

 

But MWB a 3-CCD camera at every depth in conjunction with a CC filter and the footage definitely comes out more vibrant (red/orange pumped up) than what we see. Customers tell me that all the time... "Is that really the same dive? How the hell did you do that? It looks much more colourful".

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To me its simple...most people want and enhanced experience. Everytime i shoot and show folks after the dive they say, "that looks much better than what i saw" and more importantly.."i wish it had looked that good to me"...tv viewers feel the same way:)

 

If we want to go to the extreme on the natural look arguement, then throw away lights follks...because it sure doesn't look naturally like that underwater LOL. IF you answer, well when i turn my lights on, it looks like that to me. Well, if then one can just as easily dive iwth one of those CC masks and it iwll look just like our CC footage.

 

I just don't buy the natural look argument from anyone who is willing to modifiy with lights or anything else (gamma, post color correction). To me, one is only then justifying modifications that they deam acceptable....who exactly wrote the rules anyway.

 

Peace!

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Simon, I think you are mistaken about the common white issue. On WA shots, many times the subject is too far away to get good color, so they can either paint it in, which is time consuming or leave it. This is where having the same WB level makes sense IF the water conditions are consistent too. This way, there is less post needed.

As for close up vs far off subjects, you will get better colors when light travels shorter distances in water. Hence the reef shots are usually in brilliant color. However with WA and farther off subjects, light is absorbed and hence looks bluish same as when you see it underwater. The human eyes have some color temp latitude but still limited. Everything that is dependent on the distance of the subject from the lens and depth. In shots of changing depth and distance, having a single WB setting isn't always optimal. I am of course referring to WA shots. Every 1.5m changes the WB requirements so any subject to lens distance change and depth will affect WB. So it isn't bogus but an actual production consideration.

It is obviously a matter of taste. As for other productions, I think most of the time they try to WB then are forced to pull back to allow cut continuity.

 

 

Drew, Sensational Seas was not anywhere near as bad as the other programmes I have mentioned(personally I thought it was stunning), but there were times (must stress in my opinion here), that the colour was lacking. I'll have to rewatch it and give you some specific examples. The whole thing about WA shots looking blue because they are in water and not in air is the crux of matter I guess. As I've already said pretty much all of the close ups are bathed in light and vibrant colours, so the whole argument of trying to find a common white seems a bit bogus to me because if that was the case it would all be blue.

 

Let me throw another idea out there. When you are diving and you look at a red fish in the distance you know it's red. That part of your brain that sorts colours out quite clearly accepts it as red. It's not blue. It's not green. It's not washed out. To your brain it's as red as it would look in the air. Now if you film or video that red fish without lights or without colour correcting it then it will almost certainly look a different colour to what your brain has accepted it to be.

 

So what's right? Your brain or your video? Hmmmmmm

 

Cheers, Simon

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