Cinematography Mailing List - CML

F-900 Skin Detail Adjustment Advice

Anyone have a guide for the use of this menu? I would be most greatful, I can set the phase and width using the auto function but don't have time to experiment on the other settings, any help would be most appreciated.

Keith Collea 24p engineer PDR, CA

Keith, Turn it off. You did not say what your F900 tapes were going to. If it is film then you should already have the main detail turned off, so the skin detail will have no effect. Let me back-up. What the skin detail does is turn down (or up) the detail just on a certain color (like a face). But it is not cumulative. Let's say you had the camera set at 0 detail and then you set the skin detail at -30. The skin detail would be lower then the detail on the camera and you could probably see it. However if you had the camera detail set at -30 and the skin detail set at -30 they would be the same and there would not be any less detail in the skin than any other part of the picture.

I have found that the detail of the F900 is usually set at such a low level (and rightly so) that the skin detail adjustment is totally moot.

I think that this is something that Sony hawked (first at NAB with the BVW 600) that we were all excited about, thinking that we could get rid of wrinkles on old codgers (like me) without softening the whole image with diffusion. As it turned out it is almost useless.

It seems like another case of the designing engineers not having a clue to what works in the field or the studio for that matter.

I guess for some news guys that have their detail set at +50 it would help.

I realize that my answer has gone a little far a field of your question. The short answer is Turn it off.

Steve Golden, DP/International Cinematographers’ Guild

Chicago, IL

That's exactly what I was hoping to try and do, I'm seeing artifacts from Tiffen's latest HD black diffusion around the edges of the face against a black background, the face is about a stop above key and the background is almost black, the shots are night in a cave on an older female with some skin abnormalities and the camera's detail is off and the clarity of the closups are very revealing, I've never tried the skin detail and was hoping to use it, so, oh well, thanks,

Keith Collea

Whoa, Keith :

To use skin detail to best advantage you MUST take the time to experiment and dial in appropriate numbers, the whole point of the menu is customization for skin specifics. Skin detail settings, in my opinion, are best set using your principal actor/actress and preferably on the set or under some kind of controlled lighting (you can get laughable results setting up those menus in a shop under ceiling fluorescents and then taking the camera to the set).

Not something you can bang off on a reference chart. Take a good monitor to the set with you and insist on the time to adjust your menu settings then. Make sure you check out close-ups, mediums, and medium wide shots before locking in your menu numbers. Remember, less is more.

Jim Furrer Director of Photography

VGG Systems, Inc. / Dark Street Films Lakewood, CO USA

Hey Steve,

we are all here to learn and share opinions You are not on the set with Keith in Prague you have no Idea what he is being asked to do nor the conditions he is under nor the minor miracles he may be attempting to pull off.

You gave a good explanation of Skintone detail and a few things to consider that part was very helpful however your "PS" statement is very out of line.

By the way I use the "Detail On" on everything I shoot I just know how to properly set it. And most everything I shoot goes out to Film. Got something to say to me.

Keith knows that it needs to be on to be used and he knows when and where to use it he is simply asking How best to use it. I'm sure he appreciates the helpful info but could do without the condescending hand slap.

B. Sean Fairburn SOC HD Cinematographer Castaic Ca

PS Test it first, if you like it use it.

Actually Sony, the great Xerox of the East copied that technology. Ikegami won an Emmy Award in the Technology Development Section in 1994 for the development of Skin-Tone Detail and Control Edge Enhancement technology. In fact most everything in the Sony viewfinder was invented by Ikegami, hense why their cameras blow Sony out of the water. In fact the camera in itself is designed by Ikegami as the small portable design of video cameras was developed first by Ikegami in 1962 and used extensively by CBS at the time.

In the field, I think skin tone control is something not to play with. It wasn't designed for field use as much as it was designed for studio use by a camera shader on multiple camera set-ups. In that case it is a very useful tool, but in the field, with a less than experienced person at the control, your better off just lighting the way you want and white balancing the way you want.

Just a note: Skin detail doesn't always just affect skin. It will effect anything in the shot that is in the same range of color as skin. Effectively they figured out what range of color most skin is in and made a special pot which adjusts only that narrow range. If other elements match that color to then skin adjustments may add color where they are not wanted. I had that problem last year on a pilot I was doing for The Kathy Levine Show for Studios USA. The set was beautiful pink chiffon. While in the room with the shader, he was moaning about the set. I asked what was wrong? He showed me. By adjusting the skin control I watched the set come to life as if it had been lit by colored specials that were on a dimmer. So much for skin control for that show.

Walter Graff NYC

The skin-tone detail circuits can be dangerous. Anything in the shot within the "fleshtone" color range will also be softened.

You could use it if you have tested on the actual set with the finished lighting and wardrobe; otherwise you are putting yourself at peril.

I think most people prefer to use traditional methods to control the look of your subject; better makeup, softer lighting, lower detail setting, and, if all else fails, learn to love the character in the face.

Good shooting!

Leo Ticheli

Director/Cinematographer Birmingham/Atlanta

Just for the record: The Emmy for skin tone contours was shared between Philips and Ikegami. I am the inventor of automatic skin tone detection (pat nr US 5,428,402) that was the basis of our Emmy. But the original inventor of skin contours was Mr Hunt of RCA, I think in 1984 (US 4,506,293) Actually he deserves the Emmy for the original idea. We, Ikegami and Philips got it for the implementation.

As for practical use: I agree with earlier statements in the discussion that it is not very useful for high definition imaging. However it is very useful for systems where excessive contours have to mask limited resolution (like NTSC). Another typical use is when pictures will get compression: e.g. using skin contours on surfaces like the grass on a soccer field to avoid overloading the compression with unnecessary details.

Jan van Rooy

Senior Technology Officer PCP Cameras

Thomson Multimedia Broadcast Solutions

Jan, do you think that selective control of reducing resolution *would* be useful in a much higher res camera? Lets say a 4k HD camera? Application would be the transfer to 35mm film.

Existing detail enhancements probably wouldn't have a place in such high res cameras but another form of selective softening could be invented? Grouping pixels perhaps?

Applying softening effect selectively to shadow, midtones, highlights or specific colours *in combination* with lighting and lens filters would be a powerful combination, where the look is tailored and applied on set.

Jan, its fantastic to have someone who designs these cameras, on the list, I hope you stay around:)

Mike Brennan DP London

One application here, and it is not only a high-def issue, is to go the "other direction" and use skin detail on the complementary / opposing colors to skin tones, to smooth out defects in a flat, single-chromatic background and to prevent "detail artifacts" and physical imperfections from contaminating the edges against the solid color field in front of which the subject appears.

Okay, I'll just say it . . . blue screen and green screen foreground elements.

Jim Furrer, Director of Photography

Dark Street Films / VGG Systems, Inc. USA based

I don't use detail in anything I've ever done in HD, I've only worked with film over the last ten years till the F900 came out, the last video I shot was on an BVW-300 that I owned and it didn't have any detail circuitry on it at all, Over the past year I have experimented with HD detail but for my applications have never needed it, I'm proud to say that I'm working on a set where we're shooting incredible images without diffusion, we're not trying to make something look like film, we're actually making the F-900 look it's best in it's own right, no diffusion, only smoke, lights, flags and gels, 24p, 180 degree shutter, wide open, no ND, strong backlight, soft key, with little fill. In a scene yesterday I had an actress I wanted to see less of in her closer than close closeup, I tried the Tiffen black diffusion but had since gotten used to the crisp detail I had been getting without it and so therefore tried the skin detail option, it wasn't the time to learn so I abandoned my effort and thought to seek advice later from my peers, while on set I tried looking through the viewfinder to determine the amount of softening I was adding, I couldn't see past the lines that defined the area of the auto color feature, I couldn't imagine how one could in a pinch just switch on this option and dial in some softening, it wasn't the place to experiment, I suppose if I used it more often I would be able to whip it on, I guess I'll just stay late and play with it, It's hard to experiment or ask anyone to help after a 14 hour day with less than 10 hour turn arounds, it is an eighty day shoot in Prague and I'm alone running two units and three cameras so maybe I'll find the time somewhere along the way, thanks Sean for the support, still Winter in Prague.

Keith Collea- whatever

Any creative tool that helps to get the pictures you aim for is helpful. And as we all know it is possible to key out areas of the picture based on color, luminance, or other properties, and to process these areas. Skin contours in cameras is just an example of what you can do.

Softening would simply mean apply 2D lowpass filtering for these selected areas.

Question is: where do you do that. In postproduction on raw data (like FilmStream format), you can test several alternatives on the same material, if you do it while shooting you only have one chance. But on the other hand, doing it on the set saves time in post and gives you a direct impression of the results. Difficult choice..

Jan van Rooy

Thomson Multimedia Broadcast Solutions

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