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Flaat Picture Styles: the long explanation

 
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Flaat for Canon DSLRs: Presentation Technical tests Download
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Flaat for the Sony a7s: Presentation Technical tests Download



NOTE: this refers to the first and second version of Flaat. Newer versions have less variants, and may have different names too.


There are 3 reasons these were born:
* I was unhappy with all previous picture style options for Canon DSLRs: standard, neutral, portrait, etc, just don't seem to cut it; Technicolor CineStyle seems to use the available color space inefficiently and delivers more noise than other options; Marvels Cine requires a lot of work in post and is not easy enough to grade for my very limited skills (I end up with clay looking people nearly all the time). You can see my old post about picture styles here.
* I had some free time.
* I was inspired by AbelCine's great blog posts about the different gamma curves available on the Sony F3, with and without the S-Log upgrade (here, but also here, here, here and here). Quick summary: this is the waveform of a DR test chart with a final image gamma (F3 S-LOG plus P2 LUT: HG8009G40)


and this is the waveform of same chart with S-LOG (ungraded):

Wide and flat, much nicer than what I could get with my Canon DSLR.


So, given that, and being the constructive nerd I am, this is what I did:
DR test chart:
* I used my TV to create a relatively accurate dynamic range test chart; it only covers 11 stops of latitude, but for my T2i (550D) it should be nearly enough
* With my Canon T2i (550D), I took 7 stills of said chart, at shutter speeds 1/3 stops apart from each other, in RAW mode (so I can easily develop them using different picture styles and settings)
* I resampled those 5184x3456 stills to 1920x1280 (in order to approximately simulate the noise in video mode: first resample to 5184x1152 using nearest neighbor, then resample to 1920x1280 using bicubic)
* I merged those developed and downsampled images in a very specific way, so I get a confirmation that the chart is relatively accurate (it seems to have some minor problems in the brightest sample, but the rest is fine), and a synthetic shot of a virtual chart that works in 1/3 stops and has two stops more dynamic range than my TV can provide
* I inserted the resulting image on a 1080p timeline, and got the waveform for this virtual 1/3 stops chart under each picture style tested
Skin tones tests:
* I looked for an old RAW still which I could use for assessing skin tones (I chose one with difficult lighting but properly white balanced), and developed it using the same picture styles and settings
* I resampled said still to 1920x1280 (same simulated video mode method) and cropped the relevant area (that's the ungraded skin test)
* I brought those skin crops to the editor, and graded them using a simple luma or RGB curve and a saturation adjustment, just to see what issues arise when you bring some contrast back to the image (that's the "graded skin test", for which I also supply histogram and vectorscope, and the curve that I used for grading)


With these tools, I could see what my usual picture styles do to the image: I could see that Technicolor does not digg much farther into the highlights than any other picture style, and it does bring back some more information from the shadows, but again it's just a tiny bit; and I could see that Marvels Cine comes with contrast=-3 for a reason: if you change it to -4, you get a weird gamma curve.
Then, with those same tools, through a trial and error process, I created the Similaar suite of picture styles: Flaat 09 through 12.
They are all modified versions of the Portrait picture style (not surprisingly, I find it delivers the best skin tones), with contrast = -4 and curves that try to do something similar to what S-Log does on the Sony F3.
What's different in versions 09 through 12 is how aggressive those curves are (how far they digg into the shadows), and how many stops of DR they get (which is what their name means):
Flaat_09 is just the vanilla portrait picture style, with a curve to smooth the gamma response
Flaat_10 brings up the shadows a bit, and gets the same DR as Technicolor CineStyle (10 stops)
Flaat_11 pushes the shadows up some more (already quite aggressive: use with care)
Flaat_12 includes a hugely aggressive curve that tries to maximize the captured dynamic range
These picture styles use the available color space in an efficient manner, are easy to grade, and deliver nice skin tones. Even with my very limited grading skills. Just use a luma curve (or RGB curve and desaturation if your software doesn't have luma curves) as the first step of your grade, and move on from there. Ease as pie. Even I can do it.
Most of them deliver more latitude than any other option I've seen (including Technicolor CineStyle and Marvels Cine). But they do that by bringing up the shadows: you get to see what's there, but it will be noisy. In the case of Flaat_4, it brings over one stop back from previously clipped shadows, but even at ISO 100 the heavily lifted shadows may display quite a lot of noise: you'll have to push them back down in post, but at least they're not clipped (like they are with every other option), so you have more control on how you treat them. Also, beware: when shooting with the most extreme Flaat options, the reduced color space and bitrate that's left for the midtones and highlights can create (in some scenarios) some banding and/or macroblocking (e.g. on bright skies and such).
I'm carrying in my camera Flaat 09p through 11p. The other one is too extreme and I only use it for very special situations.

You'll find the detailed results at the botoom of this page, but before that this is a comparison of the gamma curves induced by different picture styles (as extracted from the virtual chart that works in 1/3 stops):

Flaat 09 vs Flaat 10 vs Flaat 11 vs Flaat 12


Flaat 09 vs Neutral with contrast=-4


Flaat 09 vs Portrait with contrast=-4


Flaat 10 vs Marvels Cine


Flaat 10 vs Technicolor CineStyle




You can DOWNLOAD the Similaar suite of Flaat picture styles for Canon DSLRs here.


These picture styles are heavily optimized for my T2i, but they work just as well on all the Canon DSLRs that I've tested them with (including the new 5D Mark 3).




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