Tips on HD


David Mullen, ASC
Originally appearing on the CML site it is reprinted with kind permission from David and the CML.

When shooting digitally and recording to a fairly compressed format like HDCAM / DVCPRO-HD, I sort of subscribe to the “fifty-fifty” thinking (although the true breakdown may lean more towards in-camera than post) by which I mean “get close to the look you want in terms of the original photography / recording and finish the look in post.” You don’t have to get 100% of the look in-camera if it is more efficient, especially time-wise on the set, to complete the look in post. On the other hand, the compression of HDCAM, for example, limits how far you can push an image in post before you start to pick-up artifacts, and some types of image manipulation are more artifacty than others.

For example, adding more contrast, which may involve crushing the shadows and/or clipping the highlights, is probably best saved for post, whereas lowering contrast, increasing shadow or highlight detail, should be done in-camera with proper lighting / exposure.

If you are unclear as to how to manipulate the Color Matrix, then yes, I would get a DIT involved. As far as doing a silver retention process to the final prints, there will be some desaturation and increase in contrast in the shadows, with deeper blacks, so keep that in mind when shooting and when doing the final color-correcting. I recommend doing a test before you finalize any color-correction decisions. Luckily if you choose Technicolor’s ENR or Deluxe’s ACE print process, you have a lot of flexibility in controlling the degree of silver retained, although on a reel-by-reel basis, not shot-by-shot.