A couple months ago Canon USA announced a new partnership with the long time color professionals at Technicolor. They developed a new scene setting for the 5d mark II ( that also works with other Canon HDSLRs ) This new setting essentially helps drive the most latitude out of the sensor possible. While it may look like the imagery comes out flatter, it actually helps preserve more of the information contained within the image -- capturing more vibrant colors, better gradation in the highlights, and also more information in the darker areas of the image. While this step forward isn't yet to the golden standard of a RAW video image, its a huge step forward in creating better imagery with your HDSLR.
If you haven't downloaded the scene setting or the Canon EOS app yet I put a .ZIP file below that contains all the files you'll need to get everything set up. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD (right click and save as)
Canon EOS Utility App
Technicolor CineStyle scene setting
Technicolor CineStyle installation guide
I put a short video together that highlights some example video clip shot with this setting switched on and off. The main things I set out to test were dynamic range, highlight retention and color gradation + saturation.
PART 01/dynamic range: The beginning of the video starts with a simple comparison of the dynamic range of the image. I was in my garage and happened to dig up some old color transparencies that have been passed down through my family over the years -- most of them happened to be processed by technicolor :) Anywho, since film inherently has more dynamic range than the image coming out of the 5d, I thought this test would be perfect for looking at how much more range the CINESTYLE setting brings out in both the highlights and the dark areas of the film images.
PART 02/color: The second part of the test focuses on what a properly graded image can look like when using the cinestyle setting -- it's important to note that the cinestyle setting isn't your typical shoot to edit setting. It required a few more steps in the color grading process to bring the most out of it, so if you are planning to use it, make sure you have planned a bit more time in the color grading pipeline so that you can make the most out of the imagery. If you look closely you can see that the colors form the cinestyle setting are slightly more vibrant and have better overall fidelity than when on the standard setting.
PART 03/contrast & color rendition: In this section I shot a light house that had white paneling. You can see that a greater amount of detail is held within the whites in the cinestyle graded footage, as well as the cinestyle straight from the camera.
PART 04/shawdow details: I think one of the greatest strengths of cinestyle is the ability the setting has to bring out the details in the shadows. You can clearly see that even when the light is turned on behind the slides, there are details still preserved in the image... the red color of the football uniform as well as the shadows hitting the house and door behind him. If I were to shoot anything at night, I would definitely turn cinestyle on just for the couple stops of light it preserves in the shadows.
I am glad that Canon is working on building relationships with companies like Technicolor. I think that they created one of the most successful DSLR cameras in the world with the 5d --- its gotten into a ton of peoples hands and the freedom to tell stories in a more cinematic way has definitely been expanded by these products. Hopefully more advances like this will come in the near future from Canon.
I drew up a list of pros, cons, and tips from having used the cinestyle setting for the last week or so on all the projects we've been working on...
• As you can see, the cinestyle scene setting helps make imagery out of the 5d look flatter and more evenly toned. From a grading point of view this is very good, because you have more data in the image to work with. The end result, is that your going to get smoother gradated color tones as well as overall luminosity when you apply your final color grades in an app like Color, FCP, AE, or Premier.
• At this point, Cinestyle (FREE) a 5d ($2600) and Final Cut Pro ($599) are as close as you can get to having the most filmic image without using film or a RED camera ($17,500 for the body)
• Canon is listening.... Im hoping that the future is bright and that they can give filmmakers a video image that looks as good as the still image that their cameras can produce. Compared to film, the image is 65% there...it just needs 3-4 more stops of dynamic range and 3-4 times the resolution -- then it would be a digital cinema camera that could content with much of whats seen on the big screen today.
• you don't lose anything by using this setting, you only gain. While it takes time to get the image looking good -- you gain a lot in the process with the increased fidelity of the image with higher quality colors + overall image gradation.
• Although the benefits are there, the cinestyle setting doesn't offer the tremendous benefits that you would get by being able to shoot RAW images in video mode. The next step to take in getting the absolute most out of the imagery would be to improve resolution, compression, and add the ability to shoot RAW video.
• Time. Plain and simple, to make the image look good when shot with cinestyle it takes a good deal of time and tweaking. So if you are shooting a project on a tight timeline and do not have a "pseudo RAW" workflow already in place for image processing, you would be better off staying in 'standard' mode on the camera and grading from there.
• Becuase the image looks washed out, you lose alot of the contrast that you would noramlly get on your LCD, so focusing on the fly can be a bit more tricky -- I have found that I just need to get a bit closer than I normally would to the LCD and i'm fine.
• Make sure you shoot in multiples of 160 with your ISO. These settings (160, 320, 800, 1600 ) are native to the 5d's sensor and you will thank yourself later for sticking to them when shooting in cinestyle mode. You will get a much cleaner image shooting at 320 rather than 100 iso.
• Its often hard to judge white balance when using the cinestyle setting -- primarily because there are so many other colors that come into play because of the "boost" that the setting gives to the darker parts of the image. What I have been doing recently, is to switch over to standard mode, get the Kelvin temp set correctly, than I switch back to cinestyle and start shooting. It gets pretty easy to get down quickly if you do it 5 or 6 times in a row.
• You can underexpose a bit more than you would normally because the setting boosts the data in the darks so much. This helps when shooting outdoors. I found that I could underexpose by almost a stop and a half and the image would still look great. I am currently underexposing everything by 1/3rd of a stop when using this setting.