Getting the Best, Most Gradable Visuals from Your GH4: V-Log L or Customized Cinelike D Plus Dedicated LUT?

by Karin Gottschalk1 Comment

Panasonic’s optional, paid-for, V-Log L logarithmic function for their popular movie and stills hybrid mirrorless camera the Lumix GH4 has bestowed mixed blessings, according to some purchasers who have been sharing their thoughts online.

Other GH4 owners keen to hand over the cash have expressed frustrations with actually obtaining their own copy of the big white box. The big, white, air-freighted box, that is, that contains a slip of paper with a key code printed upon it, and some instructions. I haven’t seen one yet, but have seen the unboxing photos shared by purchasers.

V-Log L Availability Still Varies

The Panasonic US web page for the V-Log L Upgrade Kit DMW-SFU1 still has the product down as a back order with an estimated ship date of mid-November at a cost of US$99.99. B&H Photo’s product web page lists it as a special order item and is selling it for US$99.95, with variable availability.

Prices and availability appear to vary throughout the rest of the world with GH4 owners in some countries unable to find local stockists.

I was lucky enough to be loaned a GH4 with V-Log L ready installed thanks to Panasonic Australia and their PR agency, and have come to my own admittedly partial conclusions. Partial due to being able to shoot only in 8-bit 4:2:0 mode in-camera so far.

Still frame from V-Log L footage shared by cinematographer Nick Driftwood before V-Log L was released. No grading appolied.

Still frame from V-Log L footage shared by cinematographer Nick Driftwood before V-Log L was released. Current recommendations are to add one or two stops more exposure to reduce noise. No grading applied here. Click to view full size in another browser tab or window.

V-Log L-Savvy LUTs

I covered one aspect of using V-Log L in a recent article for planet5D.com titled ‘V-Log L LUTs by Cinematographer James Miller of DeLUTs: First V-Log L LUTs Set for GH4 Hits the Ground Running.British cinematographer James Miller had released one of the first commercial V-Log L-oriented LUT sets and using a few of the more than 200 LUTs in it revealed some of the problems other users have been reporting, specifically green-magenta macro-blocking.

I had been hoping to borrow an Atomos Ninja Assassin during the two-week loan V-Log L period so I could properly put it to the test by recording in 10-bit 4:2:2 as well, but am currently awaiting the rest of the necessary gear from Atomos.

The prime question I have been wanting to answer for myself is, does it make a substantial difference to the quality of V-Log L footage if one records in 8-bit or 10-bit? The second question: is the low-end noise often seen in 8-bit footage significantly reduced in 10-bit?

One far more technically-savvy moviemaker than I has managed to do some initial in-depth tests of V-Log L in both bit depths and I highly recommend reading his first article.

VariCam 35 3DLUT V-Log to V-709 (Ver.1.00) applied along with an s-curve. Click to view full size.

Panasonic's free VariCam 35 3DLUT V-Log to V-709 (Ver.1.00) applied along with an s-curve. Noise is particularly noticable in the sky and may have been reduced had exposure been greater by one or two stops. Click to view full size.

Digging Deep Into the V-Log L Tech Stuff

In ‘V-Log L on the GH4: don’t panic’ written for Pro Video Coalition, Adam Wilt of Cine Meter and Cine Meter II for iOS fame, subtitles his article ‘Do you need 10-bit external recording for V-Log L? That depends…’ and discloses that further in-depth tests are planned for mid to late November, schedule permitting.

Meanwhile a number of other moviemakers have been putting V-Log L through the paces to varying degrees of success, recording and post-processing their footage in a number of different ways. Some of the movies being shared show excellent results.

Some Great V-Log L Footage to View

Here are a few worth watching to see what V-Log L can do:

I look forward to seeing more featured and documentaries shot in V-Log L appearing soon.

A quickly created LUT provided by musician/moviemaker/software developer Oleg Sharonov. Mr Sharon is the developer of the excellent LUT software, 3D LUT Creator.

A quickly created LUT provided by musician/moviemaker/software developer Oleg Sharonov. Mr Sharonov is the developer of the excellent LUT software, 3D LUT Creator. Click to view full size.

I note that some V-Log L purchasers have announced they are putting their GH4 kits on the market, planning on replacing them with the Sony A7sII, citing the new camera’s S-Log 3 log profile, larger sensor and ability to shoot at high ISOs with less noise than the GH4 is capable of.

Is Noise Really An Issue?

But if noise is an issue, it may be wiser to simply apply a good denoising plug-in. We use Pixel Film Studio’s ProDenoise, Photon Pro and Neat Video with Final Cut Pro X at our home studio. Other highly recommended noise reducers include Red Giant’s Denoiser II and don’t forget the excellent real-time noise reduction functionality in Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve Studio 12.

One thing is certain. With the choice now of the GH4 of V-Log L log or Cinelike D Rec. 709 in all its many and various customizations, there is no one-size-fits-all answer and GH4 users will continue to experiment with getting the best out of what remains a well-beloved, affordable, very portable and capable stills and video hybrid.

As I saw with my initial V-Log L footage with DeLuts V-Log L LUTs applied, some LUTs will show up 8-bit V-Log L banding and magenta-green macro-blocking while others will hide them altogether. The same applies to noise. Even earlier tests applying then-available V-Log L LUTs to footage shared by V-Log L beta testers indicated the same.

Making a Success of V-Log L

Clearly, making a success of V-Log involves finding the best combination of exposure and grading, just like making the best of Rec. 709 footage. During revision of this article, Jeff August, Lead Colorist, Color by LookLabs, reported that the Panasonic VariCam V-Log camera patch has proven “good to go for V-Log L”.

LookLabs’ SpeedLooks Studio Log 4 LUT set workflow is a two-step process involving applying camera patches to convert footage color space into LookLab’s own VS-Log intermediate color space. Second step is applying their many cinematically-inspired looks LUTs.

With SpeedLooks LUTs classified into six looks sets, there are plenty to choose from when grading for a range of emotions in any extended movie project. Initial conversion of footage shot on a range of cameras via camera patches levels the playing field before looks grading begins, saving you plenty of time and labor.

Expect to see more V-Log L-savvy LUTs appearing from other vendors very soon. New Zealand’s Rubber Monkey has already released a Panasonic GH4 + V-Log camera pack for their popular Film Convert product range. Film Convert exists as a standalone product as well as plug-ins for all popular NLEs and color grading software from Adobe After Effects through Final Cut Pro X to DaVinci Resolve and Avid.

Taking a Very Different Tack

While some GH4 owners have been working on getting the best out of V-Log L, others have turned their attention back to Rec. 709 photo styles aka gammas, specifically Cinelike D.

I have reported on customizations of Cinelike D and other GH4 photo styles in previous articles for planet5D.com, but the latest effort has come from a Queensland-born, Berlin-based Australian director/cinematographer/writer and, apparently sometime actor, named Paul Leeming.

Here are the links to those previous articles by the way:

Mr Leeming of Visceral Psyche Films revealed he had been working on getting great results from customizing Cinelike D then applying an input LUT in the DVXUser online filmmaking community and then released the Leeming LUT One. Go to the ‘GH4 Leeming LUT One – the best LUT for the Panasonic GH4’ thread in the DVXUser Panasonic GH Cameras forum.

Leeming LUT One is available for US$15.00 at the Visceral Psyche website along with a manual showing how to modify Cinelike D, balance your color and apply the LUT.

Mr Leeming describes Leeming LUT One like this:

A single LUT that works across all white balances, provides the best colour, the best dynamic range and the least amount of colour noise for the GH4, which can be used with all GH4s, regardless of whether or not they have V-Log L installed, saving you $99 and giving you a superior image as well!

I have been using Leeming LUT One alongside V-Log L and can see the pros and cons of each approach. Both respond well to getting your exposure correct and to application of looks LUTs. And for those not wishing to commit to V-Log L, a newly-released movie by Joseph Foreman shows how well Leeming LUT One works in practice.

Go to ‘Claire “Fury” Foreman – Fighting Spirit Feature’ here. And please take note of how well Leeming LUT One footage handles subsequent grading. That skin tone and fluorescent yellow top look remarkably true-to-life.

Another Benefit to Another Path

Another benefit to taking the Leeming route is its applicability to all Cinelike D-capable Panasonic Lumix cameras including the recently released GX8. And, let’s not forget, the Panasonic AG-DVX200G 4K Handheld Camcorder, which comes with Cinelike D and V-Log L as well as Filmlike 1, 2 and 3 and the Cinelike V familiar to GH4 owners.

Based on what I saw of the DVX200 at SMPTE2015, I suspect some current GH4 users will also consider adding the DVX200 to their kit on a purchase or rental basis and that kit may already include other, more affordable or older Cinelike-D-equipped hybrid cameras.

My own recent tests of the Panasonic Lumix GX8 shows it makes a great second or B-roll camera as well as an excellent stills camera and would be an asset on-set and in its own right.

For more about the Panasonic DVX200 and its implementation of V-Log L and other photo styles I highly recommend Matt Allard’s three-part series at News Shooter written while using a pre-production camera and Panasonic’s free Varicam 35 3D LUT V-Log to V-709, version 1.00.

One thing I have noticed while reading online discussions about V-Log L and Cinelike D is that there appears to be some confusion about the differences between LUTs, photo styles, scene files, log, Rec. 709 and many other aspects of shooting and grading.

One of the more useful articles that I have found online was also written by Mat Allard and is linked to below. Meanwhile, I wish you all the best in your own explorations of V-Log L and, for that matter, Cinelike D.

Getting the Most Gradable Visuals from Your GH4: V-Log L or Customized Cinelike D Plus LUT? Click To Tweet

LOOKS, PICTURE PROFILES, LUTS AND LOG – WHY, WHEN AND HOW YOU SHOULD USE THEM.

Via News Shooter:

First of all let’s break down the difference between a LUT and a Look, scene file or Picture Profile.

Looks, Picture Profiles and Scene Files:
The majority of cameras available today are designed to be able to record a rec.709 video-compliant signal. The reason cameras do this is that rec.709 is the current television broadcast standard. Rec.709 produces video that could air on television without any post-production color grading. Rec.709, sometimes known as BT.709 was implemented in 1990 with the introduction of 16:9 broadcasts. Rec.709 compliant signals are broadcast in an 8bit colour space and squeeze all the camera information into around 5 stops of dynamic range.

Back in 1984 RCA introduced the first CCD imager in a television camera, the CCD-1 and it wasn’t long before CCD cameras would eventually have dynamic range capabilities that would exceed both the display dynamic range and the Rec.709 gamma function. Today’s professional cameras allow you to go way beyond the limits of standard HD (rec.709) to get more dynamic range, without straying too far from the HD standards. These new cameras allow the user to make adjustments to the image that alter the cameras response to things such as colour, contrast, black levels, and knee. You can also make adjustments to the sharpness and detail of the image. These in-camera adjustments are usually referred to as Picture Profiles, Scene Files or Looks. Usually a camera manufacturer will include a variety of these in their cameras, and most of them can be adjusted by the user. Some manufacturers have introduced cameras with “hyper-gamma” or gamma modes with a film-like response, which stretch the gamma curve even further to get more dynamic range. …

Read full article at News Shooter “LOOKS, PICTURE PROFILES , LUTS AND LOG – WHY, WHEN AND HOW YOU SHOULD USE THEM”

Note: it is our policy to give credit as well as deserved traffic to our news sources – so we don't repost the entire article – sorry, I know you want the juicy bits, but I feel it is only fair that their site get the traffic and besides, you just might make a new friend and find an advertiser that has something you've never seen before

(cover photo credit: snap from Karin Gottschalk)


Additional Stories You Will Want To Read:

Comments

  1. BenjaminJosephCorwin

    Hi all,

    First off, I wanted to say that this is by far the best article I’ve seen out of the many posts about V-Log L. However, it still isn’t addressing the remaining problem about having a solid COLOR CORRECTION V-Log L to Rec.709 LUT. Yes, COLOR CORRECTION people, not COLOR GRADING. Literally everyone agrees that the Varicam V-Log to Rec.709 LUT from Panasonic yields an overly red finish. So what else is there to choose from if we want to get the most accurate colors possible? So far several people have even experimented with using Arri Alexa LUTs, but they are having to correct for a slight push into the greens. At any rate, Rec.709 conversion LUTs are meant to be camera specific, so any drift into using Rec.709 LUTs that are built for other camera log profiles is obviously not the best way to go about things. So you guys tell me, is there any colorist out there that can definitively say that he has built a LUT, specific to V-Log L, that gets it exactly right for color reproduction? If so, please tell me! So far I can’t find anything in this sea of stylistic film emulations!

Leave a Comment