Creating True HDR Tone-Mapped video with an HDSLR in post production

by planetmitch5 Comments

Stephen Lee Carr has sent us his latest HDSLR true HDR Tone-Mapped video – made in post production so it doesn't require dual cameras and isn't done as an HDR timelapse. He has described much more about how this video was made in his blog – but we'll throw in a few tidbits below.

HDR seems to be a love it or hate it kind of processing for stills – and to see it put into video opens up a new arena – especially since it doesn't require any special tools. The question is what does it do for you? Sound off in the comments!

Redrock Micro

The Canon Rebel T2i/550D HDR video

True HDR Tone-Mapped Video (Canon T2i/550d) from Stephen Lee Carr on Vimeo.

A Lesson 5 Entertainment Production

Filmed, Tone-mapped, and Edited by Stephen Lee Carr

For more information, please visit:

Music by Noah Daniel Potter:

Shot entirely with one Canon EOS Rebel T2i/550d in Paris, France; Chambord, France; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA

Additional filming by Pamela Carr

You can also watch in HD on YouTube here:​user/​SLC17?feature=mhum#p/​a/​u/​0/​ZPZ4KcNncJ4

Some excerpts from Stephen's blog

This short test video has been a long while in coming, as I finally got the film to a point (with both the visuals and audio) where I was really satisfied with the results. (I must also give my amazingly, stupendously talented composer, Noah Potter, credit for really bringing these images to life. I am in his debt. Please check out his great website, and please use him for your film/TV projects. He is a professional talent of the highest order.)

So, first things first: this video is not, and never was, intended as an HD-DSLR camera test. I'm not here to test the Canon T2i's moire, aliasing, rolling shutter, and compare resolution charts, etc. If you want that, go here and here–there is a plethora of information on all of the above. As I'm a network television editor, producer, and motion GRFX designer by trade, this was really just a fun side project; a skunk-works endeavor that attempted to combine two of my passions–filmmaking and HDR photography. This video is, and always was, rather, a challenge to myself: to make ordinary, average HD video footage (from a $700 HD-DSLR) look like properly tone-mapped HDR photographs, like this stuff. For me, this film is more art than science.

I used a variety of video clips from my T2i, most of them handheld. Why handheld? Because it proves you can use this technique with just about any single video source. You DO NOT need dual cameras, set side by side, or an expensive beam splitter with and, to quote the great Stu Maschwitz, “Backrubs from supermodels” (although that couldn't hurt), or any other such equipment. I also used handheld footage to differentiate this technique from time-lapse HDR video, which is an entirely different process altogether. HDR time-lapse is created from HDR photographs. This is ordinary, oftentimes shaky, video footage from one camera.

The other challenge to myself was to devise a true tone-mapped HDR video workflow that was actionable in a real-world setting–and that wouldn't drive me stark raving mad. It wasn't easy at first, but I came up with some pretty good solutions (and many that can be improved upon, I'm sure). Truth be told, this technique WILL NOT give you 6 stops more latitude on your T2i or even 4. I also really want to stress the tone-mapping part of all this: there's a difference between capturing something with more dynamic range, like this awesome Epic HDRx clip, and giving something an HDR tone-mapped look, like my video. To date, there is no software that will give video this tone-mapped look, although I'm sure it's being worked on as I write this. (Read my last blog post for more of my thoughts on all this.)

So why do it then? That's very simple: I think it looks flippin' cool. And this is where we may diverge. Many people HATE the look of HDR tone-mapped photographs (and video). I happen to absolutely LOVE them. I love how it evokes a stronger feeling, I love the process of creating them, and I love the look. It's not some Photoshop plugin trick. It's reality–times 10. You are seeing everything. That's why the clip of that guy (me) drinking that beer looks kinda “Uncanny Valley” crazy. It's real and not real at the same time, and it's maybe even a little unnerving. But I like that. I like the extremes of this technique. The Chateau Chambord shot in the video is sort of boring and flat, but with the HDR tone-mapping applied, it looks like something out of a fairy-tale (to me). I wouldn't necessarily use this technique on an entire feature film (unless you wanted to make some funky Richard Linklater “A Scanner Darkly” sorta thang), but it could work wonders on an opening title sequence, a dream sequence, a music video, commercial, Charlie Sheen, etc. You could also use this technique in a more subtle way to really make your video pop and add lots more detail in the shadows and highlights.

For all the info on tools etc. please go read the entire story. Also – let Stephen know if you want him to go into more details about his process (post that request in his comment section!).

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)

Zeiss Cinema Lenses


  1. i’m not the biggest fan of that level of HDR but i will admit i’d love to play around with b&w HDR images.

  2. Pingback: It’s not you, it’s me. « Geek Hybrid

  3. Pingback: Canon T2i/550d HDR Video Has Arrived! « Stephen Lee Carr's Blog

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