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ACS and HDR Investigation


Thomas Gleeson
 

I was involved with the Australian Cinematographers Society and we have released a video looking at the new image standards for HDR production with the emphasis on what it means for cinematographers. We setup some test shoots and put these through HDR workflows. Rec 709 is now over 30 years old and with roots that go even further back. It was designed primarily around Cathode Ray Tube display technology and the 100 nit brightness and limited colour gamut of Rec 709 standard is woefully inadequate for modern displays. HDR standards also for the first time include metadata that can communicate with HDR enabled home displays giving content creators control over how their image is displayed. 

 

But enough chat from me. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbK7mHG3lF8&t=486s or at Newsshooter 

 

Every working cinematographer working today will likely have to deal with a HDR finish in the coming years. I am a little surprised HDR does not generate more interest among cinematographers.

 

Many Thanks

Tom Gleeson

ACS Technology Committee


Art Adams
 

I’m really glad the ACS did this. HDR is coming, like it or not, and it’s going to change a lot about the tools people use and how they work with them. Overall, I think it’s a good thing, but there’s going to be an adjustment period.

 

More than anything, I think there’s going to be some shocks coming when projects that were shot monitoring only in Rec 709 are remastered for HDR and shown on high quality monitors, or worse, HDR projectors. There are a lot of unexpected things that pop up. It’s a bit similar to watching my BluRay of The Prisoner, a series shot in the late 1960s that I saw broadcast on PBS as a kid. The remastered BluRay shows a lot of things that I never saw on TV: lens flares, makeup failures, etc. None of those were an issue until it was re-released on a medium whose quality level was only a dream at the time. And that was only an HD re-master.

 

This is going to be an issue for anyone who shoots long form projects with a shelf life. I’m already hearing stories of cinematographers shooting streaming content and monitoring in Rec 709, getting some surprises when they see dailies in DolbyVision, and calling their rental house in the middle of episode two to swap some things out.

 

We’re spending a lot of time and resources looking at how this will change production and distribution, and working hard to get ahead of the curve with lenses, cameras, color processing, and even lighting products that are designed with HDR in mind. We try to stay away from surprises.

 

-Art

_______________________________________________________
Art 
Adams
Cinema Lens Specialist
ARRI Inc.
3700 Vanowen Street
BurbankCA 91505
www.arri.com 

818-841-7070
x4212
 
aadams@...

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Merritt Mullen
 

I think one issue with HDR is going to be set monitoring and dailies — I’m not talking about what the DIT and DP see at their station, I’m talking about the producer's and director’s monitors, the monitors in the editing room, the iPad dailies and still frames that go out every day by email, etc. Even in SDR with OLED monitors, I’m seeing a better picture at the DIT station than anyone sees until final color-correction.

Otherwise the DP is lighting for HDR but no one else is seeing the image correctly until the final color-correction and then whoever is watching HDR at home — which is a problem if the majority of people are all watching SDR all the way from set through editing and at home.

So for HDR to work, it really has to be a conversion from top to bottom in workflow.

David Mullen, ASC
Los Angeles


John Brawley
 

I agree David.

Even at DIT, HDR monitoring is just really problematic. There don’t seem to be any great options for HDR field monitoring.

I’ve taken to going back to a film mentality whereby you just have to test in pre and try to know at a light meter level what will and won’t work. Like with film it’s hard to see all the nuance on the day, not only with exposure but the colour nuance. That’s what I find more exciting about HDR. The colour precision.

With that comes the same issues we had back then when monitoring on video tap. The old trust me it’ll look great I’m the grade but then if you’re not participating all the way though and following up….

JB

--
John Brawley ACS
Cinematographer
Los Angeles

On Sep 28, 2022, at 09:35, Merritt Mullen via cml.news

I think one issue with HDR is going to be set monitoring and dailies —


Merritt Mullen
 

I don’t think we can go back to the days of “trust me, it’ll look great”…

David Mullen, ASC
Los Angeles

With that comes the same issues we had back then when monitoring on video tap. The old trust me it’ll look great I’m the grade but then if you’re not participating all the way though and following up….

JB


Matthew Williams
 

Even at DIT, HDR monitoring is just really problematic. There don’t seem to be any great options for HDR field monitoring. 

John,

Having done 4 TV series in the last several years… 3 of which were monitored in SDR and delivered in HDR… and all of my conversations with different colorists (Technicolor, Headquarters) agree with the approach we’ve taken with this method, as they’ve all seen some tough mistakes on the SDR pass when monitoring in HDR on set. It obviously can be done, but the cost vs. the final results don’t show a benefit for me at this time.

I have my own really good calibrated Sony LCD 1080p monitors with our LUT on set in the DP / Director tent, so everything looks close to the final idea, and I light it the way I normally would want it and don’t really worry about the HDR trim now that I know this approach, as we do the HDR trim in Post color. (I think that helps me as well… having my own monitors, because I’m using the some monitor set up every time and I know these monitors well instead of getting different rental monitors every time). 

I use the Alexa’s (Alexa Mini or Mini LF) exclusively, so I know the dynamic range of these cameras has all the information available when it comes time in post to make the HDR pass. All of the different colorists we used were very happy with the results, and confirmed to me this was the best way at this time. 

Unless you are on a big budget project that can afford the gear, the testing and the monitoring with HDR, its very expensive to the average production. And we shot in ProRes HQ 4444, not Raw… so that also helps with the time and costs, and the quality is great. (If working on a big feature, or a big TV production like Game of Thrones with lots of compositing and effects, Raw would make more sense having all that data, but not for average 4K HDR TV series work in my opinion. (There are always different needs and exceptions, so I’m not saying this is 100% the same for everyone out there).

I’ve successfully delivered 3 HDR projects to Disney+ and Apple TV+ with this method and had great HDR results… 

We colored the first 2 of these series for Disney+ in the SDR pass, and then we did an HDR trim afterwards, which was much better for me as I could look at first passes in SDR at home on my calibrated DaVinci system, but this last one for Apple TV+… they wanted to do the HDR first and the SDR pass 2nd, which makes sense in today’s world, but it screws up my post routine at home, where I can preview and make notes ahead of the session. I’m not set up to accurately view HDR at home.

I figured it would cost me about 5K to upgrade my DaVinci system at home to be able to view HDR properly, and way more than that to upgrade my monitors to 4K HDR on set.

So I don’t see the benefit of HDR monitoring on set at this time, (in my situation). If you can ever watch a session in both HDR and SDR at the same time, its really beneficial, as you’ll see where and how the differences work on both systems, and it will prepare you to have that confidence on set and not have to worry so much about HDR.


Matt
- - 
Matthew Williams
Director of Photography
mwdp@...
818 590-4528

On Sep 28, 2022, at 10:59 AM, John Brawley <john@...> wrote:

I agree David.

Even at DIT, HDR monitoring is just really problematic. There don’t seem to be any great options for HDR field monitoring.

I’ve taken to going back to a film mentality whereby you just have to test in pre and try to know at a light meter level what will and won’t work. Like with film it’s hard to see all the nuance on the day, not only with exposure but the colour nuance. That’s what I find more exciting about HDR. The colour precision.

With that comes the same issues we had back then when monitoring on video tap. The old trust me it’ll look great I’m the grade but then if you’re not participating all the way though and following up….

JB

--
John Brawley ACS
Cinematographer
Los Angeles

On Sep 28, 2022, at 09:35, Merritt Mullen via cml.news

I think one issue with HDR is going to be set monitoring and dailies —


Steve Oakley
 

I think the overall video was great except for one single big disappointment : showing side by side HDR vs SDR, and specifically when a HDR->SDR goes right, and when it goes wrong. I kept waiting for this and it never came despite being talked up.  there was one shot that sort of hit on this with the orange wall lights behind the woman's MCU, but personally I would of found that distracting in SDR or in general to begin with. I get the point of saying in HDR, it was worse but the point was really circled around rather than getting right to it.

Define what you want in a HDR field monitor because 1000nit+ screens are common. do they have the best color accuracy ? no, not in the everyday personally affordable range. does anyone want to be using a $25-50K monitor subject to what these things tend to be abused with through normal use ? probably not. maybe the path is - and I know a few people will cry, cringe, say no way at this - put a 37 to 42” consumer OLED into a production grade cage frame like cameras are, then add SDI->HDMI LUT box to even out color / gamma ? or load custom firmware into the set for use with external calibrator and maybe input LUT box ? I think the phase is "affordable really good compromise thats close enough for most things"

Steve Oakley
DP / Colorist / VFX
Madison & Milwaukee



On Sep 28, 2022, at 11:59 AM, John Brawley <john@...> wrote:

I agree David.

Even at DIT, HDR monitoring is just really problematic. There don’t seem to be any great options for HDR field monitoring.

I’ve taken to going back to a film mentality whereby you just have to test in pre and try to know at a light meter level what will and won’t work. Like with film it’s hard to see all the nuance on the day, not only with exposure but the colour nuance. That’s what I find more exciting about HDR. The colour precision.

With that comes the same issues we had back then when monitoring on video tap. The old trust me it’ll look great I’m the grade but then if you’re not participating all the way though and following up….

JB

--
John Brawley ACS
Cinematographer
Los Angeles

On Sep 28, 2022, at 09:35, Merritt Mullen via cml.news

I think one issue with HDR is going to be set monitoring and dailies —


Thomas Gleeson
 

When we made this video we set a target for a twenty minute length and this has meant we have committed many sins of omission. If we had gone down every rabbit hole in the HDR space it would have become a twelve part one hour series.  While HDR standards and workflows are beginning to settle there is definitely still an element of the Wild West with HDR. I agree with all the posts about the problems of affordable HDR monitors. On our Test shoots we used the Sony X310 that costs $35,000 ! BUT. In the next few weeks Small HD are releasing two new HDR field monitors. A 17" model @11,000 usd and a 27" model @13,000 usd. If these monitors prove to be capable then HDR monitoring on set begins to become affordable. If not others will soon step into this space. HDR on set monitoring is coming. Of course it is possible to monitor in Rec 709 even when you are finishing in HDR. You just need to be aware of what that entails and have a good understanding of what the HDR version will require. We discuss this with Toby Oliver ACS in the video.

Another link that needs to be in place is a HDR fluent DIT and a good line of communication with the Post House. In the end much of the technical support for a HDR project should be coming from Post and your colourist based on your deliverables. Certainly on larger productions you also need to have every one on the same page in terms of rushes. This can be a complex beast but some of the Apple iPads and Apple laptops are offering amazing and accurate HDR screens. 

I would not want to suggest that everything is in place to seamlessly put together HDR from on set through to Post but people are doing it and all the pieces are beginning to fall into place to make it a much simpler and affordable process.

I believe what is not clearly understood is that the way an image is displayed on a device is mainly determined by that displays capabilities. So if you have finished your project at 100nits and Rec 709 and that is transmitted/streamed SDR then the TV will just stretch out the signal to that TV specifications so if its say a Samsung QLED the highlights can now be 2000 nits and mid grey will be wherever Samsung thinks best. If you finished the same project in HDR and in the colourists suite you determine that your highlights are going to be 750 nits then every HDR enabled set will display 750 nits. You can also dictate where the mid grey point and other parameters should be. If the TV can't make it to 750 nits if using Dolby Vision it will intelligently tone map the image to that particular displays capability.  Metadata is fantastically exciting. You can now sit in the colourist suite and using metadata like an invisible hand reach out to every HDR enabled consumers display and tell that display how you want it to present your images just like you do every Christmas at Uncle Frank's house when he has the brightness and colour set to 100%. 

Steve Oakley I understand your disappointment and we did consider doing direct HDR to SDR image comparisons but in the end we felt most people would initially watch in SDR where that would not be possible. We do have a HDR version of this video but Youtube's HDR implementation totally sucks and so far we have so far failed to get it uploaded without breaking it.  I am the first to admit the video is not perfect but it was made with no money and everyone involved has a day job and while I like to believe I am a reasonable shooter I freely admit to being a crap producer, crap editor, crap sound guy and crap at the myriad of jobs that had to be learnt on the run. 



So most importantly the brightness of the sets is not coming from the HDR enabled stream. The displays are inherently bright and getting brighter. HDR image standards give the content creator control over that brightness so depending on the project the HDR version of a film could easily be darker on a display than the SDR version. If that's what the content creators wants. 

Apart from all the technical limitations I am not certain why people are not more excited about a new image standard that is a huge improvement on your fathers's generation Rec 709. I hate use this cliché it but this is truly the first time that the tonal and colour palette available to cinematography has significantly improved. I for one am cheering it on.


brad dickson
 

I don’t want to make this a marketing post but as an FYI  along with having the HS Scope the 8K HDR software incorporates HDR scopes in its software that runs on your computer. Drastic Technologies makes and while it doesn’t fill the monitoring gap it does allow on set signal analysis at an economical price.
As I said I am not making this a marketing post so you can visit drastic technologies website for details and contact them for details. 

Brad Dickson 
Senior Lighting Designer 
Toronto Canada 

On Thu, Sep 29, 2022 at 03:26 Thomas Gleeson via cml.news <lensboy235=me.com@...> wrote:
When we made this video we set a target for a twenty minute length and this has meant we have committed many sins of omission. If we had gone down every rabbit hole in the HDR space it would have become a twelve part one hour series.  While HDR standards and workflows are beginning to settle there is definitely still an element of the Wild West with HDR. I agree with all the posts about the problems of affordable HDR monitors. On our Test shoots we used the Sony X310 that costs $35,000 ! BUT. In the next few weeks Small HD are releasing two new HDR field monitors. A 17" model @11,000 usd and a 27" model @13,000 usd. If these monitors prove to be capable then HDR monitoring on set begins to become affordable. If not others will soon step into this space. HDR on set monitoring is coming. Of course it is possible to monitor in Rec 709 even when you are finishing in HDR. You just need to be aware of what that entails and have a good understanding of what the HDR version will require. We discuss this with Toby Oliver ACS in the video.

Another link that needs to be in place is a HDR fluent DIT and a good line of communication with the Post House. In the end much of the technical support for a HDR project should be coming from Post and your colourist based on your deliverables. Certainly on larger productions you also need to have every one on the same page in terms of rushes. This can be a complex beast but some of the Apple iPads and Apple laptops are offering amazing and accurate HDR screens. 

I would not want to suggest that everything is in place to seamlessly put together HDR from on set through to Post but people are doing it and all the pieces are beginning to fall into place to make it a much simpler and affordable process.

I believe what is not clearly understood is that the way an image is displayed on a device is mainly determined by that displays capabilities. So if you have finished your project at 100nits and Rec 709 and that is transmitted/streamed SDR then the TV will just stretch out the signal to that TV specifications so if its say a Samsung QLED the highlights can now be 2000 nits and mid grey will be wherever Samsung thinks best. If you finished the same project in HDR and in the colourists suite you determine that your highlights are going to be 750 nits then every HDR enabled set will display 750 nits. You can also dictate where the mid grey point and other parameters should be. If the TV can't make it to 750 nits if using Dolby Vision it will intelligently tone map the image to that particular displays capability.  Metadata is fantastically exciting. You can now sit in the colourist suite and using metadata like an invisible hand reach out to every HDR enabled consumers display and tell that display how you want it to present your images just like you do every Christmas at Uncle Frank's house when he has the brightness and colour set to 100%. 

Steve Oakley I understand your disappointment and we did consider doing direct HDR to SDR image comparisons but in the end we felt most people would initially watch in SDR where that would not be possible. We do have a HDR version of this video but Youtube's HDR implementation totally sucks and so far we have so far failed to get it uploaded without breaking it.  I am the first to admit the video is not perfect but it was made with no money and everyone involved has a day job and while I like to believe I am a reasonable shooter I freely admit to being a crap producer, crap editor, crap sound guy and crap at the myriad of jobs that had to be learnt on the run. 



So most importantly the brightness of the sets is not coming from the HDR enabled stream. The displays are inherently bright and getting brighter. HDR image standards give the content creator control over that brightness so depending on the project the HDR version of a film could easily be darker on a display than the SDR version. If that's what the content creators wants. 

Apart from all the technical limitations I am not certain why people are not more excited about a new image standard that is a huge improvement on your fathers's generation Rec 709. I hate use this cliché it but this is truly the first time that the tonal and colour palette available to cinematography has significantly improved. I for one am cheering it on.

--
Thank you 
Brad Dickson