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Skin Tones In HD

>Published : 24th July 2005

class="Paragraph">>> #1 Rule of the DP is to "Make the Leading Lady Look Good" <<

>Not an easy task in HD, I have never really liked the way unfiltered HD renders close up flesh tones. For some reason the blemishes and flaws show up more on HD than any other format. I would love to hear what other cinematographers think on this subject, and what others do to make faces look pretty. I generally use a very thin white or black pro mist, depending on the scene.

>On a shoot two or three years back I was lighting an aging female star, when one of our Producers eased up beside the camera and tried to quietly ask if we could put a stocking over the lens. We were all immediately in trouble when one (un-named) crew wag suggested that we try a furniture blanket instead.

>Dave Stump
Vfx supervisor/DP
LA, Calif.


>A LOT more years ago than that, I was the VC on a pilot with Linda Evans. This was SD then, of course, with Philips LDK9 cameras in this case. We were trying different makeup, filters, nets and video techniques to try and make her look younger (the leading man was 15+ years her junior)... At one point, we had stockings both in front of and behind the lens (it looked like mud)...

>The Exec is standing next to me and the DP on the set and asks if there is any way we can make it softer still! I say that the only thing we could do at this point is to put the stocking over Linda's head! Unknown to me, she had walked up behind us and overheard this exchange. When I suddenly realized she was there, I assumed that I might as well start packing up my stuff right then... But she just starts laughing and says, "Yeah, you are right!"

>The pilot went well, by the way...

>Tom Tcimpidis


>David Stump wrote :

class="style7">>Not an easy task in HD, I have never really liked the way unfiltered HD >renders close up flesh tones. For some reason the blemishes and laws >show up more on HD than any other format.

>Even after backing off the detail? Hmmm, could this be compression artifacting bringing out the blemishes? How do Warm Black ProMist or just regular ProMist look in HD?

>I use them on my Betacam all the time and love the look they give. In fact having the Warming part of the filter helps me immensely. I rarely have to white balance anymore. I shoot everything in preset.

>Tom McDonnell
Director/DP
New Orleans, La


>David Stump wrote:

class="style7">>I would love to hear what other cinematographers think on this subject, >and what others do to make faces look pretty.

>I think that this is the characteristic that makes people wrongly assume that video in a general sense is "sharper" than film. It handles the fine transitions poorly and makes them blocky. Like "seeing every pore" in HD - how often do you look at someone and see every pore? Not that you don't see them, but they don't look like that. It isn't the realism that many people seem to think it is. The same thing can happen with film stretched to the limits - when the density of the negative is too great in an area adjacent to an area of no density you can see the "cliff" at the edge. It looks like poorly shot video.

>As HD or whatever the next incarnation is called gets better - greater definition, highlight latitude and color depth, I think it will begin to look less "sharp" (as they say) and you won't have this ugly skin issue to the same degree. Until then, put a sock on it, or use a lot of soft light to fill those tiny shadows.

>Best Regards,

>Anders Uhl
Cinematographer
ICG, New York


>Ring light...

>Nick Hoffman NYDP


class="style7">> We were all immediately in trouble when one (un-named) crew wag >suggested that we try a furniture blanket instead.

>---Shooting through furniture blankets is easier than shooting through steel...wonder what ND stop is on a furniture blanket?

>Jeffery Haas
freelance editor, camera operator
Dallas, TX


>Last week I went to a pre-release screening of an unusual quasi-docudrama called "What the (bleep) is going on?" The drama parts seemed to have been shot on S16 and the docco parts on HDCam. As expected, the HDCam parts, though sharper and much less grainy, had skin tones I can only call "greyish" (What is it, really? -- a kind of lifelessness in the middle flesh tones?). This has often been pointed out in A-B (35/HD) tests.

>What I'd like to know is whether the Varicam also shares this deficiency in the flesh tones. I've seen too little Varicam material to have a good sense of
it.

>Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


>Dan Drasin writes :

class="style7">>As expected, the HDCam parts, though sharper and much less grainy, >had skin tones I can only call "greyish" (What is it, really? -- a kind of >lifelessness in the middle flesh tones?). This has often been pointed >out in A-B (35/HD) tests.

>REPLY: [The writer was asking why some video clips he sees have washed out looking faces]

>One possibility might be excessive knee (highlight compression) which tends to suck the color out of people's faces. Its a common artifact of knee/highlight compression. The trick is to not dial in enough knee to reach people's faces.

>Lew Comenetz
Video Engineer/DIT


>Dan Drasin writes :

class="style7">>What is it, really? -- a kind of lifelessness in the middle flesh tones?

>One possibility is the overuse of Black Stretch. This can take the subtlety out of skin tones and make people look like mannequins.

>Jim Iacona
DP
San Francisco


>Lew Comenetz writes:

class="style7">>[[ REPLY: [The writer was asking why some video clips he sees have >washed out looking faces] One possibility might be excessive knee >(highlight compression)]]

>Actually, the faces are not "washed out" and I'm not talking about "video clips." The problem I'm citing is quite different, and seems to be a generic characteristic of HDCam. It's much more subtle than a washout or a knee problem, and it occurs at a much lower IRE than the knee is ever likely to reach. You might not even notice it until you've seen an A-B comparison between 35mm film and an HDCam filmout. But once you've seen it you can spot it easily. It's a kind of "lifelessness" in skin tones and other mid-tones. I don't think it has to do with the skin detail setting.

>My expectation would be that a system with greater bit depth and maybe lower compression would overcome this problem.

>Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


class="style7">>It's a kind of "lifelessness" in skin tones and other mid-tones.

>Is there a way you can be a little more accurate in what you're seeing?

>Is it a little desaturated? Or lack of a particular color?

>This is from a comparison test. Have you seen it in HDCAM material you've worked with? Have corrected it? How have you corrected it?

>Dale Launer
Writer/Filmmaker
Santa Monica


>Dan Drasin wrote :

class="style7">> It's a kind of "lifelessness" in skin tones and other mid-tones. I don't >think it has to do with the skin detail setting...greater bit depth and >maybe lower compression would overcome this problem.

>I'm familiar with the problem. some refer to it as "waxy skin". The gloss and sheen gets lost. Almost like heavy polarization and too much powder/makeup, but not exactly the same feel. I agree its probably more due to low bits and compression: "hey pixel #356, pipe down on the data rate and make sure you look like all the adjacent pixels".

>Too heavy on the knee correction could also cause this, but it depends on the lighting, skin gloss and you'd have to be pretty heavy handed on the knee slope.

>Mark Doering-Powell
LA based DP


class="style7">>It's a kind of "lifelessness" in skin tones and other mid-tones.

>Go into Photoshop and apply Curves to a picture with skin-tone. Lock a point at the middle of the scale (mid gamma). You'll notice that by raising a point between black and mid gamma, saturation decreases and skin tone begins to take on a greyish ashen quality. Is this what you're talking about? That would point to black stretch or more broadly, the gamma curve.

>Interestingly, if you lower a point between full white and mid gamma, a similar effect occurs, though it's more subtle and seems to effect the brighter areas of skin tone. This would relate to the knee.

>Dan Coplan
Cinematographer / DIT
www.dancoplan.com


>I've noticed the same thing frequently happens with green vegetation such as leaves, shrubs and bushes on day exteriors - they look artificial or waxy. Salads are really bad - it looks like talent is eating a prop, not real food.

>Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List
http://www.cinematography.net


>Jessica Gallant wrote:

class="style7">>Salads are really bad - it looks like talent is eating a prop, not real food.

>Some of this can come from weird user matrix settings, or so it was suggested to me.

>There was a sitcom I saw an early episode of … Life with Bonnie … I think it was called, where it seemed like a vectorscope display would show sharp points with nothing between the colors -- looked almost hand-painted with no paint mixing. A child with red hair had RED hair... no variations in the reds. Same with other colors.

>Really a strange look, and I don't think intentional.

>Jeff "no matrices here" Kreines


class="style7">>Someone told me once that green is a very particular color. One that >poorly reflects the lights that absorbs.
>You can notice this on video cameras as well as with film cameras.
>Green is a complicated color to work with.

>Many cinematographers have made beautiful films featuring lush and detailed greens -- jungles, farm fields, Ireland, etc. I've seen gorgeous flesh tones too.

>John Pytlak
Eastman Kodak Company
Rochester, New York
http://www.kodak.com/go/motion


>Someone told me once that green is a very particular color. One that poorly reflects the lights that absorbs. You can notice this on video cameras as well as with film cameras. Green is a complicated color to work with.

>Sure but the questions is if they achieved that green straight out of the camera or after some kind color correction ?. Also it’s very common to see films where jungle green, farm fields, etc. look almost brown.

>Guess some stocks deal better than others with green. As for HD I’ve always noticed that green get hurt while other colors
looks pretty real.

>Rodrigo Lizana Lamarca
Pixine, Cine Digital
www.pixine.cl


class="style7">>Sure but the questions is if they achieved that green straight out of the >camera or after some kind color correction ?

>Precisely. If the full workflow was: out of the camera into the soup, out of the soup to make a print, charge admission, project the print, there would be much disappointment throughout the land.

>And just to wrench this back to the original topic, anybody shooting with Ikegami or Thomson HD cameras disappointed with flesh tone rendition? All I've seen mentioned so far is the Sony 900.

>Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC


>Dale Launer writes :

class="style7">>It's a kind of "lifelessness" in skin tones and other mid-tones. Is there a >way you can be a little more accurate in what you're seeing? Is it a little >desaturated? Or lack of a particular color?

>It was quite visible in some of the very first HD (F900)filmout-vs-film A-B comparisons exhibited by Kodak, and once I noticed it there it was easy to spot it on its own in theatrical films shot on HDCam. Granted, Kodak was at pains to point out that deficiency in HDCam, but some DP´s in the audience had already picked up on it.

>It's really hard to describe the effect, but next time I encounter it I'll look more closely and see if I can figure out what's really going on. I suspect it's a matter of bit-depth more than anything else, which is why I asked whether anyone had noticed this quality in Varicam filmouts.

>Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA