Danish moviemaker Michael Medgyesi has formulated a revolutionary cinematic photo style for the Panasonic Lumix GH4 and it is already making waves. The primary difference between his and other cinematic photo styles? It is based on Portrait.
The second? It results in far less time in post-production spent getting skin tones looking just right. I am excited, impressed and can’t wait to try it out for myself.
GH4 Optimal Film Setting – works in stills too
Via Michael Medgyesi's Vimeo:
This is – sort of – the documentation of my setting (the thumbnail is 6400 ASA).
Kindly see for the actual setting and reasoning: supertone.dk/#!GH4-Optimal-Film-Setting-works-in-stills-too/c24o4/8E18836A-F271-4A14-AF0D-C575B9D5F4B6
Do not be alarmed due to the lack of Panasonic lenses used for this test – I love all of mine (6). But the test is also a test of the amount of digital noise that the lenses leaves in the work flow, and I have used manual focus to eliminate the potential for mis-focuses in the different sequences. That is – if you view the full ASA range test here – try to imagine how difficult it would be to review the results if the focus point varies: vimeo.com/112699788
See full video description here.
Conventional photo style wisdom — “flat is everything”
The rationale was that flat picture styles equate to longer dynamic ranges than the camera’s default settings. To some degree that is correct. But there was a downside, that more time needed to be spent in post-production and that many moviemakers did not have the required color grading skills.
While flat picture styles benefited both ends of the dynamic range — high values and shadows — the upper middle part of the curve — skin tones — seemed to suffer.
So an aftermarket for free and commercial picture styles sprang up. A major selling point for many of them was how well they rendered skin tones. The list of alternative picture styles for Canon cameras and other DSLRs seems to grow each time I google for them. Today, for example, I came across Canon Video Camera X look, Cine Vision Plus, Cineplus, Film Picture Style by Ive Lotus, Marvels Cine Picture Style, Prolost, Similaar Flat, and several by Visioncolor.
There are more of them out there and some I don’t have direct links to are listed in these two articles:
- Pro Video Coalition – A Guide to Picture Profiles in DSLR Video
- Philip Bloom – Preston Kanak – Canon DSLRs: some of the best picture profiles out there
When the Panasonic Lumix GH4 appeared it seemed that conventional wisdom prevailed and it came equipped with two log-like photo styles, Cinelike D and Cinelike V. Cine style mavens began modifying them, making them even flatter, reducing their saturation, modifying their noise reduction and changing their sharpness amongst other changes. A countermove appeared based on the Natural photo style. But skin tones seemed to suffer still and time spent in color grading continued to mount up.
But what about logarithmic?
Did the answer lie in a true logarithmic picture style instead? Perhaps. After all, many pro-level camcorders come with at least one logarithmic profile as does Sony’s A7s with its S-Log 2.
The excitement spread like wildfire when Matt Allard of News Shooter spotted a logarithmic photo style, V-Log, on a Japanese photographer’s GH4 at Inter BEE 2014. “This Log profile,” Allard wrote, “is similar to the one in the much more expensive Varicam 35.”
V-Log and its Varicam color space counterpart V-Gamut failed to make the cut in January’s GH4 firmware update. Allard had been informed by Panasonic that they “were just testing it”. The GH4 he spotted at Inter BEE 2014 had been running beta firmware.
There is no guarantee that V-Log may ever make it to the GH4 though Panasonic is one camera maker more likely to listen to its customers needs and wants. The V-Log plus V-Gamut combination will be revolutionary if it finally arrives in a future firmware update. Even V-Log alone would be welcomed by many.
But it appears that another, quieter, photo style revolution has been bubbling up right under our noses. [bctt tweet=”A Danish moviemaker came up with a revolutionary photo style for the Lumix GH4. We’re excited!”]
A GH4 photo style revolution from Denmark
I first got wind of this other revolution from comments under a recent Shane Hurlburt GH4 lens lens test – B&H Review: Micro Four Thirds Lenses that add Cinematic Imagery to your GH4. Astromann’s comment linked to a page on a Danish moviemaker’s website, titled GH4 Optimal Film Setting – works in stills too. The name of the moviemaker is Michael Medgyesi.
There is plenty to read and digest, then try, in that page and the Vimeo page linked via the movie at the top. This reply by Mr Medgyesi to a Vimeo user impressed me:
My setting is already pretty much at the primary grading stage, so go for LUTs that are “looks” as opposed to the LUTs that you need to salvage the flat idea. As the setting is almost “printable”, you save a lot of time grading, and a lot of time rendering, because the filters need are much easier to use, and much “lighter” to render.
The essence of Mr Medgyesi's approach lies in basing it on the GH4’s Portrait photo style, one that many other users seem to have skipped over. In reply to another Vimeo comment, he said that “Portrait was the best suited, having the brightest mid tones.”
“All the other Film Types had some flaw or the other compared to Portrait,” he concluded. Basing a cinematic photo style on the GH4’s Portrait photo style makes a great deal of sense given that most moviemakers using the GH4 will feature people and thus skin tone in their movies.
Such personalizations are perfectly appropriate. Mr Medgyesi has explained that his own variant is based on the fact that he owns and loves Russian-made and vintage German lenses with what he describes as 1940s movie looks in their optical renditions — a Zenit Helios 44-2 58mm f/2.0, a Jupiter-8 50mm f/2.0 and an Ernst Leitz Elmar 90mm f/4.0 lens from 1956. More contemporary, sharper lenses may demand small modifications.
Mr Medgyesi also writes about the need for his variation to account for the nature of Scandinavian skin:
When set to zero – we turn pink, whilst Asians turn “white”, so we have to turn down the pink in order to remain “neutral” – leaving Asians “yellow”. It is a conflict between “reality and “fashion”.
I have barely put Mr Medgyesi’s revolutionary GH4 photo style settings to the test yet but I am raring to go as soon as I am out in the cold, grey streets of Sydney in this rather winter-like summer. I can barely wait.
The positive comments by other users who tried the same settings as Mr Medgyesi or have varied them slightly have me very excited indeed. Like others I have come up against the limitations of conventional flat profile wisdom. I urge you to watch, read and try them out so you can see for yourself.
Meanwhile here is a simplified recipe for what Mr Medgyesi seems to have simply named his “Film Setting”:
- Photo Style = Portrait
- Contrast = +3
- Sharpness = +1
- Noise Reduction = 0
- Saturation = -5
- Hue = -2
- Highlight/Shadow = -5/0
- I.Dynamic = 0
- I.Resolution = 0
- Master Pedestal = 0
- Luminescence Level = 0
Optional modifications you may wish to consider include changing the Hue back to 0 if your subjects are not Scandinavian and setting Sharpness at 0 if using contemporary lenses.
Best of luck and happy shooting!
(cover photo credit: snap from the video)