Last week we discussed story and not getting caught up in all the tech/gear frenzy. Now, I want to provide a cinematographer’s on Technicolor’s new CineStyle picture style. Having a picture style that will give us more latitude and enhance our visuals is a great thing, but it’s the person behind the capture device that makes it sing. You have to know how to light as well as understand mood, contrast, composition, and exposures.
I don’t want to sit in the corner as the crotchety old DP and say, “Well Sonny, that HD is for the birds.” There are many people that call themselves cinematographers but are they? Do they have the experience to back it up, or do they rely on the colorist in the DI or telecine bay to do their work for them?
Canon 5D Format
The reason I gravitated toward this format was two-fold. First, it was the right tool to tell the story of Act of Valor. Second, it put the power back into the hands of the cinematographer. I found myself filtering again for a specific look that I wanted to bake in. I treated the Canon 5D like reversal film stock, which means you have to get it close. What you see on the back LCD is what you get. That excited and inspired me because it was fresh, new, and innovative.
Who thought we all would be capturing drop-dead gorgeous footage from a 2.5 lb. prosumer still camera? The fact that I have to get it right with all of the right exposures on the day, challenges me. This is what the photochemical process was like before the DI color bay.
That said, I love a little wiggle room and that is what Technicolor has designed with their CineStyle. They have engineered a beautifully balanced color space. CineStyle delivers the most latitude out of the Canon 5D camera, period, a standard.
CineStyle Picture Style
Now let’s talk tech for a minute. Dealing with flat picture styles are very difficult to expose. So here are my suggestions.
Set your picture style to Neutral when exposing and lighting your image. Once you’re set to record, slide over to Technicolor’s CineStyle without adjusting exposure. This will give you a LUT (lookup table) so that you can properly expose your flat picture style and give you the best wiggle room in post.
This Neutral is just a base. Say you want your film to look like bleach bypass then download that picture style. If you want it to feel like Ektachrome or cross-processed, whatever your creative vision for the project, start with that, then slide over to the CineStyle. When you download the CineStyle Technicolor
Obviously, you can design a picture style that your film, commercial, music vid, etc. wants to look like: Ektachrome, cross-processed, bleach bypass, whatever you dream up. However, this is what you have to light to and expose with.
This is the look that comes loaded with CineStyle. It suggests you alter your saturation because your picture profile comes up:
I have done a simple set of three pics. That way, you can see how it works with the CineStyle at 0 -4 0 0 and with the Picture.
Technicolor’s suggestion of desaturating their picture profile a little bit.
- Sharpness: 0
- Contrast: -4
- Saturation: -2
- Color Tone: 0
Notice the added detail in the blacks and how the red is taken down several notches. This CineStyle is amazing and I’m finding much cleaner results in the post-color correction process.
Picture Style with Color Science
Have at it; soak it up; relish in the fact that someone designed a picture style with color science behind it. It is not something that someone cooked up on their laptop, which is the road I took.
With this format, I feel that there are way too many choices. This is good and bad all at the same time. There needs to be a set of standards. In order to create at your full potential, you do need boundaries and rules. At the ASC we have been striving for excellence and quality control throughout every aspect of photography and filmmaking for over 80 years. We live and breathe it. So now there is a picture style standard that has Technicolor’s name on it.
How To Work with CineStyle
Another standard to get very familiar with is rec. 709. This is the benchmark that all HD video is color corrected with. It’s a color space designed years ago to give you the most accurate color and contrast rendition when going to film with HD files.
This soon became the industry standard to light and expose with while using a flat picture style like what Technicolor made. You need a LUT (lookup table) that throws contrast, color, and saturation into this very flat, mundane style.
Try lighting and exposing with this CineStyle and you will soon find yourself underexposing your 5D footage. My suggestion is to go with a picture style that you want your film to look like dialed into your camera. This is what you light and expose with. Then, before rolling you slide over to CineStyle and record flat to get some wiggle room.
Technicolor’s CineStyle is a Tool to Hone Your Skills
Every cinematographer’s journey is unique and based on individual preference. Technicolor has given us a gift from the gods. For the cinematographer-in-training, it’s a great tool to hone your skills and gain confidence in the results. But, remember you will make mistakes. I have done it a thousand times and many of those times the screw-up was a new experiment. The others completely boned me. HUGE.
Roberto said, “Whatever camera you put in my hand, I will make work. I don’t have to know anything about it. The frame lines are the same.”
Now, that’s coming from probably one of the best Steadicam operators in the business today. Needless to say, I see his point. On the other hand, we as cinematographers, have to light it, and knowing the limitations of the format is very important.
The Bottom Line
Generally, picture styles can bury you if you don’t choose the right one for your project. But your ability to know how to light and understand exposures comes with experience. Film experience. Don’t be afraid of falling backward. Because it takes that confidence to move forward.
At this point, film is still the ultimate capture medium. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about that. What the Canon 5D gives you is the ability to think outside the box.
We are not in the mass movie business anymore. Use it to liberate yourself as a cinematographer, to challenge you, to inspire you, to say, “I will find another way.”
This is why the Canon 5D rules. Put it in places that were never before imagined. Trust no boundaries with your creative ideas. Although, have a set of standards that guide you.
Carpe diem!!! Seize the moment, seize the story, seize the exposures, and seize the light. By training and building your experience, you will very well seize the day.
Looking for mentorship in the film industry? Schedule a 1-on-1 meeting with DIT and Colorist Derek Johnson today! This is where you can get expert advice from an industry professional on your career or a particular project.
Derek Johnson is a Digital Loader/DIT with credits in commercials and films like Need for Speed, Nightcrawler, The Ridiculous 6, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Out of the Shadows.
Since 2014, Johnson has worked as a freelance colorist and commercial projects that include Cartoon Network, The History Channel, and Jeep. Other color work includes the documentary The Undocumented Lawyer (streaming on HBO) and Broken (ABC series) as well as music videos and short films.
Johnson works as a Digital Imaging Technician and colorist on feature films, television, and commercials where he values each project as an opportunity to collaborate and learn. As of 2020, Johnson also works at Streamland Media as a Software Operations Specialist supporting numerous feature films and episodic projects. Taking a holistic approach, Johnson pulls from his vast knowledge of set work and post-production to help inform his work.