Learn how to ensure correct exposure and consistent color when you shoot and color grade FiLMiC Pro LogV2 by using the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Video.

FiLMiC launched FiLMiC LogV2 back in December 2018. I wrote one of the first reviews for FiLMiC LogV2 on Cinema5D. Since then I’ve spent months trying to perfect a workflow that delivers consistent results when shooting with the latest generation iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR.

It has been a tough journey, mostly because Apple’s aggressive AI tone mapping and “smart HDR” implementation is on a constant mission to derail my efforts to lock down the image.

FiLMiC Pro’s new FiLMiC LogV2 does a lot to bring consistency to Apple’s latest devices, and it does a good job of locking things down as much as Apple allows, but some of the dynamic image processing can’t be turned off, and will continue to cause issues.

Often the best approaches are the simplest, and this certainly seems to be the case with regards to how to shoot FiLMiC LogV2 on the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR. The method I’m presenting here is nothing new, and has been used by DP’s and imaging technicians since the arrival of the digital cinema camera.

Usually, no-one would bother to use a chart when shooting with a phone camera, but desperate times call for desperate measures. What may be considered overkill by some, has proven to be the only way I can achieve consistent results with my iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR.

You can read more about exactly what FiLMiC LogV2 is here: What is FiLMiC LogV2? and my thoughts on the future of imaging technology: Computational Imaging, Mobile Computing and the Future of Photography.

A Color Managed Workflow for FiLMiC LogV2

Color management while shooting video, and in post production is nothing new. It’s a critical part of every high-end color pipeline. Precision color reference charts have been used to ensure color consistency since the very beginning of digital video, especially for cinema and cinema-style production.

Using such an approach when shooting with a smartphone however is quite unusual. I get more than the occasional funny look from bystanders when I’m flashing my color chart everywhere I set up for a shot.

Since Apple have made it impossible to trust exposure and color from shot to shot, relying on a chart as a unchanging fixed point of reference for white, black, grey, and the primary, and secondary colors is the best way forward.

It’s also very easy, and very repeatable, and as long as shots have been exposed correctly, virtually guarantees perfectly balanced, perfectly matched color when you come to color grading your work.

FiLMiC LogV2 Color Managed Workflow Video Tutorial Part One

Part one of my two part video tutorial shows you how to use the X-Rite ColorChecker Video Passport chart while shooting.

FiLMiC LogV2 Color Managed Workflow Video Tutorial Part Two

Part two of my two part video tutorial shows you how to use the X-Rite ColorChecker Video Passport chart while color correcting.

FiLMiC LogV2 Tips

These are the most important things to take away from the tutorial videos.

When Shooting:

  • Use the white balance target to set and lock your white balance before shooting.
  • Make sure the chart and main subject(s) are lit by the primary, key, or brightest light source, or the light source you are exposing for.
  • Expose for your primary, key, or brightest light source, and lock exposure.
  • Make sure the entire chart is visible in frame and is fully lit, not in shadow or partial shadow.
  • Re-set your white balance and re-shoot the chart for every new location and significant change in camera position.

When Color Correcting:

  • Use a power window to mask out everything but the chart.
  • Use the RGB parade scope or waveform to correct white balance and white level (Align RGB levels at +/- 90% IRE).
  • Use the RGB parade scope or waveform to correct black balance and black level (Align RGB levels at 0-3% IRE).
  • Use the RGB parade scope or waveform to correct middle grey balance and middle grey level (Align RGB levels at 40-50% IRE).
  • Use the Vectorscope to align the six color chips using Hue vs Hue, and Hue vs Sat curves (Ensure 2x zoom is enabled on the Vectorscope settings).

Following these points should ensure that each shot is correctly balanced to Rec709, and further creative color grading, including the use of Rec709 LUTs can be performed on subsequent nodes.

Challenging Lighting Conditions (When the chart won’t work)

There are many lighting conditions when the chart won’t help you to color correct precisely using the scopes because it’s impossible to light the chart properly, or there is no true white light, or only mixed light sources.

If the light illuminating the X-Rite Colorchecker chart is not a high quality full spectrum white light source, the color chips will not reflect the correct hue and saturation values and won’t read as correct references on your vectorscope.

Some scenarios are below.

  • Shooting directly into your primary light source, such as capturing a sunrise or sunset (the chart would be far underexposed in shadow in this case).
  • Any backlit situation where your subject is in shadow or silhouette (as above).
  • Night street scenes.
  • Scenes lit my colored neon or any colored light source.
  • Dimly lit interiors with brightly lit windows (if you expose the chart properly for interior ambient light, brighter areas in background… such as windows will be overexposed).

Unfortunately, without a reference that is consistent in shot, you’re back to manual correction in these situations.

However, there are things you can do in all of the above situations to remove some variables that can cause inconsistencies, and make manual color correction an easier task.

Use a white balance preset

In the above scenarios, instead of using the white target on the ColorChecker Video Passport to set and lock white balance I would recommend in most of these cases using a white balance preset. If you lock your white balance to daylight (5000K – 5600K) then cooler light sources will appear white, and tungsten or warm color light sources will appear quite yellow. If you want a cooler tone, you can use a tungsten preset and warmer light sources will appear white, and cooler light sources will appear quite blue.

Make sure your ISO is locked

This is a universal rule regardless of lighting conditions. Lock your ISO at a level that gives you an acceptable exposure without too much video noise. I seem to be getting acceptable results up to ISO 100, sometimes higher with the iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR, but generally the rule is to keep it as close as possible to the lowest ISO.

As long as ISO and color temperature values are known and unchanging, you only have Apple’s dynamic tone mapping to contend with when correcting and shot matching. This brings me to my final point below.

Shoot the chart anyway

As long as there is at least some consistent light, you can still shoot the chart, not to use in post as an absolute reference, but only to compare the values of the various chips as they appear from one shot to another. This may help you to manually correct the unavoidable exposure shifts that happen outside of your control due to Apple’s dynamic tone mapping.

Concluding Thoughts

A color managed workflow from shoot all the way to post may seem time consuming at first, but it becomes second nature and virtually guarantees a near perfect primary color correction and color matched sequences that you can then grade creatively however you like.

It’s well worth investing in the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Video chart and practising this whole workflow until it becomes a natural part of your production and post workflow.

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