5 steps to color perfect c100 footage using LUTs

Why is the C100mkii a ridiculously awesome camera? It’s not the fluid ergonomics, the built-in ND filters, or the camera’s snappy autofocus. Your audience can’t see how you got the footage; they just see that you did get the footage. And the footage is what’s epic. Canon’s color science is why we pay the medium bucks for the EOS Cinema series cameras. But to get the most from your footage requires a little work. By following these steps, you’ll get 12 beautiful stops of highlight-holding dynamic range, every time you press record. Here’s how.

Before shooting:

1. Set minimum ISO to 850. Unlike with a traditional DSLR, choosing a lower ISO will NOT result in a better image on this camera. Instead, it will rob you of dynamic range. So always always always set a minimum ISO of 850. In low light you can go higher – much higher, in fact, and get great results. But never go lower.

2. Shoot Canon Log (CP Cinema Locked). This is the only way to get the full 12 stops of dynamic range out of your camera. The footage will initially appear flat when you view it. But you have plenty of quick options for giving it snap, crackle and pop by applying LUTs. More about that momentarily.

3. Enable View Assist. The image on your LCD will appear flat, and to fix that and give you an approximation of the final image while shooting, you’ll need to turn on the view assist. It’s located in the LCD menu. TIP: I add this and several other settings to the custom menu, which makes finding them much quicker than hunting through the menus.

After shooting:

4. Use a LUT. A LUT (Look Up Table) is an automatic color correction designed specifically for your camera, which is applied to your footage in post. Which LUT to use? I recommend these free EOS Cinema LUTs from Able Cine. To apply them to your footage, you’ll need an inexpensive plugin like the $29 LUT Utility. These will work as a plugin to the NLE of your choice (i.e., Premiere, FCPX, etc).

5. Adjust LUT intensity to get desired look. Using LUT Utility, you can adjust the effect from zero to 100 percent. I often find that dialing in 60-80 percent of the effect is just about right.

Here’s an example, an interview shot in front of a window. The challenge is we’d like to make her skin look awesome, while at the same time retaining as much highlight information as possible in the background. So we shoot in CP Locked, and…

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 11.56.56 AM

Above: CP Locked footage looks flat prior to grading.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.11.14 PM

LUT applied (no other color correction). As you can see above, this instantly does wonders for our footage. But it still needs a little work.

Getting the most from LUTS

To get the most dynamic range (that is, visible detail in your image from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights) choose the CxxxLog10toWideDR_Full option (the one applied above).

To get punchier results, and more life in the skin tones, try one of the other two (the ones beginning with ABNorm- and JR45-), continuing to choose the -WideDR_Full option for each.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.23.27 PM

 

ABNorm_CxxxLog10toWideDR_Full appliedAdding this LUT makes our image appear too crushed, in my opinion, and slightly over-saturated. There are two ways to correct that while retaining the punchier color of the effect. You can lighten the image (in this case, by pushing up the midtones) or you can reduce the LUT intensity.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.31.34 PM

Mid-tone brightness increased to compensate, above.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.33.28 PMFinally, reducing the intensity of the ABNorm- or JR45- LUTs, which tend to overly saturate and crush the image, allow you to dial in just the right amount of correction.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.36.41 PM

 

The final results. Notice how lifelike the skin tones are, and how the important detail in the background is preserved. Besides applying the LUT, the only color correction I’ve applied to this frame is a slight boost in the midtones.

Conclusion: Using a LUT, we can very quickly get everything out of our c100 footage that the camera is capable of giving us. Vibrant skin tones, crisp blacks, and 12 stops of dynamic range that allows us to hold detail in brightly lit areas of our frame, such as the background used in this example.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend my time thinking about the content of my films than how to color grade them. Using a C100 and a LUT, you can have both.

31 thoughts on “5 steps to color perfect c100 footage using LUTs

    1. Jeff

      It’s really sad that we’ve come to believe this looks good. It’s even sadder when clients buy into it. But I do regularly get the chance to show clients what a real colorist on a decent camera can do with well shot footage. It’s a sin that you and others constantly push not losing highlights. I can’t tell you how many times shots have been ruined by some knuckle head bringing exposures down so low to save a sky that they crush everything into oblivion. The correct answer is to add a light! If you can’t add a light then rotating the subject can help. If neither of those work then choose what matters and let the highlights go and stop shooting crap. Fortunately I get to work with the old school film shooters who understand the science of light and color temperature. It’s a dying art along with quality shooting/shooters.

      Reply
      1. Dan McComb Post author

        Hi Jeff,
        Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As it turns out, the example frames above have rather a lot of light added. We were using an Arri M18 HMI as our key for the shot.

        Reply
        1. Chad

          The dude is right–though he’s clearly one of those snarky old grumpy chip on the shoulder something or others. Your shot is crap and it’s crazy to try to convince someone that it’s ok, although it’s probably perfect for doing what you’re doing as a tutorial (hopefully it isn’t for a job). Also, the girl should probably make an appointment with her primary care doctor because I think she may need a referral. Seriously.

          And, by the way… if you’re shooting raw or a format like ProRes HQ, old wah-wah guy, and you have color balance between that outdoor scene and your subject you can sling those tones to perfection and balance without bleeding those whites out to rays of magnesium. But of course you know that because you’re lucky enough to work with the old film guys who know better. I don’t know why I’m giving you shit, actually. I totally agree with you about everything. Maybe it just bugs me that I’m more like you than I imagined.

          Reply
  1. Jason

    Fantastic advice from real-world shooting Dan.
    I’ve only just ‘discovered’ your website and Vimeo channel and I’ve been pouring through your blog tips and watching the footage you’ve shot and really thankful to have found your site…Your footage looks amazing and the stories you’re creating for clients are wonderful.

    I’ve just recently fallen in love with the art of story and video, turning an interest and passion into a business. I’ve taken Adam Forgione’s StoryTellingUnleashed 2 day course in Toronto (great guy producing great stories and films), purchased Dan Miller’s Storybrand.com course to improve my narrative skills, and just purchased a C100 Mark ii, 24-70L 2.8 and 70-200L 2.8 lens, Fiilex P360 3 light kit, Sennheiser G3 ENG wireless, Atomos Ninja Assassin, and a Cinevate 32″ slider and using the Christmas holidays to get comfy with the gear as I begin to help clients share their stories…(as you can imagine, I’m trying to find every online resource I can about the C100 Mark ii and how to set it up for optimum results…so…again…thanks for all that you’ve been sharing online). The name of my company is 41 Frames, and what inspired me to choose that was finally giving myself permission to pursue a passion and use my strengths to help others while learning new skills along the way to accomplish that…If each year of my life thus far (41) was a frame in a movie, it took 41 frames (years) to get to that part of the story where I can now freely go help others share their journey…and so it begins… 😉

    Warmly,

    Jason – Toronto, ON Canada
    41 Frames

    Reply
    1. Dan McComb Post author

      Hi Jason, great to make your online acquaintance – I grew up in Richmond Hill, but it’s been years since I visited Toronto. I also took Adam’s workshop when he passed through Seattle a few weeks ago, and picked up some great business-building tips from him. Love your business name, and congrats for jumping into something new in your 40s. I was 43 when I got into it (49 now) and after 6 years of working very hard it’s really paying off for me. I wish you the same. Best of luck with every frame you shoot and happy new year.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        Brilliant to hear all of that Adam and thanks for that. Great to hear some of your journey into this whole world as well.

        I’ll send you a DM on LinkedIN so we can keep in touch. Being a Richmond Hiller, you’d be amazed at the growth in the GTA and the development along the T.O. waterfront now…condos and business buildings overlooking the water EVERYWHERE…definitely hit me up if you’re ever back in town and we’ll grab pints and chat about business and gear.

        Cheers,
        Jason

        Reply
  2. Hugh Clark

    Hi Dan,

    I stumbled across this post when looking for LUT’s for Canon Log for my C100.
    This was really helpful with other aspects of maximizing my C100. I am a little limited in having a vintage mac that doesn’t support the LUT plug ins.

    I’m curious to know why you put such emphasis on the ISO 850 minimum. I’d not heard/read that before?

    Also I’m regularly shooting with my 5D mrk ii and C100 and trying to match the two for interview shoots.
    C100 with L series 70-200 for CU and 5D with L 24-70 for Wider. Any tips for matching these two cameras?

    with thanks

    Hugh

    Reply
    1. Dan McComb Post author

      Hi Hugh,
      If you dip below the base ISO of 850, your dynamic range is reduced significantly, which means you’ll lose highlight detail in your shots. Here’s a link to an article that explains the why behind it: https://www.cinema5d.com/exposing-with-native-iso.

      Whenever you want to match two cameras, you have to make the best camera look as bad as the worst one. You can’t do it the other way around, unfortunately! So in this case, you would set the picture profile on the C100 to match your 5D. There is one preset profile that is available in the C100 by default, which you can select. I can’t remember what it’s called, “DSLR” or “Standard”, if I remember correctly.

      Reply
  3. Glenn Whorrall

    Hi Dan,

    I’ve been shooting on a C100 (mark 1) for a good 3.5 years and so far have done my best to avoid shooting C-Log! I originally invested in a Ninja and tried it on a project, but since then have shot solely on WDR in the AVCHD codec and have been happy with the results-to-time-investment ratio… recently saw two great films shot in C-log on a C300 – ‘Blue Ruin’ and ‘Cartel Land’ which make me want to experiment with it again… do you have any tips on exposing C-Log? Almost persuaded to pick up a used C300 mark 1 🙂

    all the best,

    Glenn

    Reply
    1. Dan McComb Post author

      C-log is the way to go if you want max dynamic range that this camera is capable of. Re: exposing c-log, just overexpose by half a stop and you’ll be all set. Do your own tests and you’ll see why – it brings the noise in shadows down a bit and gives you nice image for grading.

      Reply
  4. Todd

    Hey Dan, thanks for the tutorial. I was experimenting with shooting in the C-LOG profile in AVCHD on my C100mkii. I’m taking the footage into Premiere, exporting a timeline as XML, and then importing that file in to Davinci Resolve. It looks like Resolve is having trouble locating the AVCHD files. I did associate the hard drive where the media is stored with Resolve in the preferences. Do you know a way around this? Not sure how this is supposed to work as it’s my first time using Resolve (formerly using Speedgrade or Lumetri inside Premiere). Thanks -Todd

    Reply
  5. Jeff

    Thanks for the list of tips! I’ve tried a few of able cine’s and others custom profiles but I still find the Wide DR (default settings) to be best for run and gun work just because it seems easier to expose than Log — even with V assist, spot and waveform in use. It is hard to know what to expose for in log when you don’t have time to use a card – the face if there is a face, the dark or the bright? I noticed FCPX has Canon Log built in now (though it’s a bit hard to find in the info metadata settings) but there is no slider to apply the amount of the LUT…

    Reply
      1. Ed Bodkin

        What is the best way to know exactly what an extra ‘1/2 stop’ would be. Histogram or something else? Thinking in a run and gun situation.

        Thanks for the info. I am a new fan.

        Reply
  6. Paul C

    Hi Dan, I hope I’m not to late to the party and you can answer a question for me. If I shoot in clog on the C100 mkii using your settings, in post, do I have to apply a lut or can I just color correct the clog footage? And if I can color correct rather than applying a lut, is it still beneficial to shoot in clog. Thanks for your time.

    Reply
    1. Dan McComb Post author

      Hi Paul,
      You can absolutely color correct the footage yourself, and yes, it’s definitely beneficial. Going that route just requires more skill and experience to get good results. LUTs are a shortcut.

      Reply
  7. Paul K

    Dan,
    Great site and a useful resource. I’m sure there are more experienced videographers out there but we are all at different stages and there is always more to learn. This happens to be perfect for my level and I appreciator the time and effort into putting out the content.

    Thanks
    Paul

    Reply
  8. Dylan Harrison

    Thanks for the article Dan. I’ve been struggling to get Clog LUTs to work in FCPX with my C300 in cinema mode… everything coming out massively overexposed once LUT is applied… but I realise now it’s probably because I’ve come from DSLR land and been setting my ISO to 320 (minimum). I’ll experiment with shooting cinema mode at ISO 850 and see if I get a better result? How do you like my chances?

    Reply
    1. Dan McComb Post author

      Hi Dylan, I think maybe there is something else going on here. Setting your ISO to 320 will reduce your dynamic range, but it should not cause your image exposure to blow out like that. Can you walk me through the steps you’re taking in FCPX?

      Reply
  9. Falko

    “Hi Paul,
    You can absolutely color correct the footage yourself, and yes, it’s definitely beneficial. ”

    First of all, thanks for your nice blog. But the remark you did ist not totally correct. If you shot in C-Log, you need the correct LUT to delog the material at first. A LUT is not like a MLUT only a monitoring option, but is needed to bring the footage in the right color space. Then you can just correct as you wish. Just to throw in some color correction is not how C-Log Material should be treated.

    cheers, Falko

    Reply
    1. Mark D'Agostino

      Hi, Falko,
      I’ve been color-correcting with Lumetri and getting great results without applying a LUT, (I shoot in with CLog). However, I am always looking to improve. I find your comment intriguing and wonder if you’d mind expanding on the reason for applying a LUT first as a necessity.
      Thanks!
      Mark

      Reply
    1. Dan McComb Post author

      Thanks Falko – it was directed and edited by Mark Bashore, a very talented creative who I’m lucky to collaborate with occasionally. I shot quite a bit of the footage and did some post work on it.

      Reply

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