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White Levels in Feature Films


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#1 Daniel Meier

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Posted 26 September 2017 - 08:49 AM

Hey Folks,

I've been experiencing this for a few times now. On some feature films the white levels seem to bee pulled down a bit.

They look very muted due to this.

 

Here are some examples from the movies 'Prisoners' (2013) and 'Jacobs Ladder' (1990):

https://www.dropbox....QZzAofGsTa?dl=0

 

While looking at the frames of 'Prisoners', you can clearly see, that even the brightest, blown-out highlights (muzzle flash, windows, etc.) aren't at 100 IRE.

They fall at 80-90% most of the times.

 

Whereas on the other hand 'Jacobs Ladder' (1990) has got its white levels at proper 100%.

 

Is there a technical or artistic reasong behind this? 

And during wich production state is this happening? Whilst shooting, in the DI, during DCP export?


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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 26 September 2017 - 09:13 AM

The choice of while levels is up to the colourist and the DP. The latter is usually involved with the grading, so producing the look of the film

 

"Jacobs Ladder" would've had a photochemical finish, however, for the video release you're checking the DP may not have been involved with the transfer to video, it may have been left to the colorist.. 

 

Choices are creative and colourist may wish to have some detail in the highlights, so they don't take them up to 100 IRE.  There's no rule that you have to go all the way up to peak while.


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#3 Daniel Meier

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Posted 26 September 2017 - 09:52 AM

Thanks Brian. M theory with this was that maybe the white levels were taken down a bit, since the audience would have a more comfortable viewing experience (they wouldn't get blinded by highlights as much).


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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 26 September 2017 - 06:34 PM

"Prisoners" was shot with an Alexa  camera and that could be a factor in how they graded that film.


Edited by Brian Drysdale, 26 September 2017 - 06:34 PM.

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#5 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 26 September 2017 - 11:22 PM

What source are you getting these stills from? If the source isn't official, sometimes the contrast gets flattened in compression.


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#6 Daniel Meier

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 08:53 AM

Jacobs Ladder stills where taken straight from the Blu-Ray.

Prisoners was screengrabbed of of Amazon Prime Video Player.


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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 10:01 AM

You should compare blu-ray to blu-ray...


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#8 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 10:03 AM

You've got a possible inconstancy there, a screengrab could be rather different to a video straight from a  Blu-Ray.


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#9 Bruce Greene

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Posted 27 September 2017 - 10:54 AM

Jacobs Ladder stills where taken straight from the Blu-Ray.

Prisoners was screengrabbed of of Amazon Prime Video Player.

I was watching, I think it was "Comrade Detective" on Amazon.  The video levels displayed incorrectly. Blacks were lifted and whites lowered, as if, it had been converted to "video levels" twice.  I needed to adjust the display blacks down and the whites up to normalize it.  Perhaps this is what you're seeing.  It was clearly a mistake in encoding for streaming.  On computer displays (mine was a tv), there is also the issue of browser color management. Some browsers make corrections from the playback to your display color space, some don't.  And it may also depend upon whether there is a "tag" on the file that you're streaming.  So... as David said, "Blu-Ray to Blu-Ray" it should be.


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#10 Alexander Disenhof

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Posted 29 September 2017 - 11:44 AM

David is right in saying that you should compare blu-ray to blu-ray. That said, with the Alexa I very rarely put my highlights at 100%. I find to get the mood I'm looking for I often put my highlights around 70%.
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#11 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 29 September 2017 - 03:59 PM

David is right in saying that you should compare blu-ray to blu-ray. That said, with the Alexa I very rarely put my highlights at 100%. I find to get the mood I'm looking for I often put my highlights around 70%.

That's probably on target for most situations.  I wouldn't put things past that point in camera but then in post you can lift it if necessary. 

 

Same with titles.  When doing titles or even backgrounds that are meant to appear as pure white.  I would let the opacity go to 80% or so.  Just shy of pure white and it looks way better.  Pure white is kinda harsh in general.  Unless you want to blind the audience for an effect of some kind.


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#12 David Mawson

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Posted 29 September 2017 - 04:43 PM

I was watching, I think it was "Comrade Detective" on Amazon.  The video levels displayed incorrectly. Blacks were lifted and whites lowered, as if, it had been converted to "video levels" twice.  

 

Comrade Detective looks strange, but isn't it meant too? The joke is that it's supposed to have been filmed in the Eastern Bloc in the 80s.


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