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Video Controller Versus 
Color Correction in Post

Engineer in Charge (EIC)
Tech Manager
Video Engineer
Video Painting Engineer
Video Controller
Video Shader
Digital Image Technician

 

Using a Video Controller versus color correction in post is a question I am often asked.

There are many factors to be considered in the debate and involved with the proper decision and what is presented here are generalities. 

To be considered:

 

 

Budget

Every production has budget restrictions.  

Shows that break their budget into production and post-production often have difficulty justifying the cost of the added equipment and personnel to properly set up and shade the cameras in the production budget, yet in post-production the color correction budget usually far exceeds that of the cost of a qualified Video Controller/Engineer properly adjusting the exposure and color matching of the cameras.  

When a show starts with properly shaded and colored matched cameras. the post process is cheaper, faster and generally much more pleasing in final output.  This does not completely eliminate color correction, as often the final look is tweaked to satisfy one or more looks and feels for the show.

In general when a portion of the color correction budget is applied to production using a video controller and associated equipment, the overall cost of the show is reduced, and post-production is sped up, with far better results.

 

Camera Mix

Most Reality, News, Sports, and Documentary shows  use a mix of cameras to acquire their raw footage.  Many times sophisticated cameras such as the Sony F800 are mixed with Industrial or Pro-sumer Cameras, causing the look to be startlingly different.  

But some cameras, such as the Sony F800 and Sony EX3 have the ability to be colored and irised by a Video Controller, allowing him or her to match the cameras with great precision.  The connection to the remote control can be wired or wireless as described below.  

There are Cabled and Wireless remote systems that allow the Camera Operator to break away into Run and Gun mode in seconds, and yet maintain color matching.  The operator now becomes responsible for proper exposure and correct filter selection, but the cameras are now very closely color matched.  

When Go-Pros and consumer cameras are included in the mix, these can be color corrected through color correctors and some frame synchronizers, but there is no control of the Iris, so exposure can be compromised.  Color Correctors can be cost-prohibitive, unless the Director and Producers wish to monitor and record them on external devices or cut to them in a multi-camera production situation.  

Shooting Environment

For the purpose of this discussion there are six basic Multi-Camera Shooting environments:

1)  Studio
2)  Studio with Run and Gun Breakaway 
3)  Remote  
4)  Remote with Run and Gun Breakaway
5)  Exterior Controlled
6)  Exterior Run and Gun

The Studio environment is the most common in which it makes full sense to employ a Video Controller and associated equipment.

Turnaround Time

 

Video Colorist or Grader Access

 

Recording Format 

 

Media Storage 

 

Radio Control  

 

Run and Gun 

In addition, if one or more cameras breaks away from the main shooting sequence, they maintain a basic color match that often allows them to be edited together with little or no need for color correction.  It now becomes the responsibility of the Camera Operator to control the Iris and filter selection, so errors can still occur.
 
 
 
 

If the video is damaged, it may not be recoverable.  A properly trained Video Controller carefully monitors each camera, making the necessary color and exposure adjustments so any adjustments in post are minimized.

 

There is a hard fact that cannot be ignored.  If the acquired video is over exposed or the video settings are greatly distorted, there is no possibility of full quality recovery.

The determination should be based on the following facts.  

If you are shooting with 2 or more cameras under controlled lighting conditions and the program has several hours of recorded material, a Video Controller will save you thousands of dollars in color correction fees.  If the cameras

On the other hand if the lighting is not controlled and there are a lot of high contrast circumstances, such as windows without silk or other light control tools are in the back and the foreground is lacking enough punch to deliver even balance of light, then Color Correction is your best choice.  Color Correction will allow you to address these issues in post, but it will greatly increase your budget.

If you are shooting with a mix of different brands and models of cameras, such as GoPros or other consumer level cameras, then Color Correction is going to be the best way to go.  But if these cameras are mixed with a set of broadcast cameras, then the video controller gives you a cheaper and faster post-production, 

there are several broadcast quality cameras shooting the same subject, mixed with POV and consumer cameras, then they should be under the control of a Video Shader, and the  

Post Houses are typically biased because a good portion of their income can be derived from color correction, and there are times when color correction is the best way to go. 

 

 
Whether it is a mobile system, flight pack, or studio application I have the skills and experience to design and install the most sophisticated audio and video systems that fit your demanding criteria.  

I carefully review your logistical and creative needs and determine the most cost-effective approach to your application.  I then propose what equipment is best purchased new or used versus renting on a periodic basis.

I always design the systems for versatility, as your current needs will change over time and the system you build today must be able to accommodate future production requirements.

Because video and audio equipment is constantly evolving it is very important that the latest technology be employed for the best return on the dollar.  I am always reviewing and learning about new equipment and how it can be employed in future systems.  Sometimes, it is best to purchase used equipment for certain functions to reduce investment risks as the technology which is valid today has a very limited life cycle.

I collaborate closely with all other vendors so the system fits neatly into the facility with ample power, cooling, and space.  

Whether you have a budget or need one prepared for a mobile, studio, or flight pack operation, I can design a system that is specific to your needs keeping within your long-term investment goals.

 

 
One of the  major advantages of a Video Controller on a multi-Camera Reality show is the Video Controller provides real time feedback to the Lighting Director or Director of Photography.  When an area of the set or location is too bright or not bright enough, the Video controller lets the LD or DP know and adjustments can often be made, greatly improving the look of the acquired video.
There must be a distinction made between a Video Controller, Video Engineer, and DIT when it comes to reality shows.

Most Broadcast Quality Cameras have hundreds of menus and sub menus.  Some are irrelevant for many productions, while they may be very important for others. Only a properly qualified Video Engineer, and some Video Controllers posses the knowledge to make the cameras match precisely, and only if given the time to do it.  These adjustments will save you thousands in color correction, and give the Color grader a fighting chance to precisely match the cameras from scene to scene.

But remember, unless the cameras are remotely controlled by a qualified Video Controller, the Camera Operator is exclusively responsible for proper exposure and the selection of the correct filter wheel.

THE DIT

There is a misconception that a DIT can properly set up a camera in a multi-camera situation, whether it be in a studio or EFP/ENG environment.  

Almost ALL DITs lack a fundamental understanding of how a camera processes video and color.  They are best at making sure all of the cameras are receiving proper time code, have the correct filter wheel selected and where applicable download the acquired media to hard drives.  NEVER let a DIT make matrix table adjustments, unless they have a proper color chart.  

 

THE VIDEO CONTROLLER

Video Controllers have far greater knowledge and understanding of color and matrix tables than a DIT.  They can accurately match cameras, when they have the right equipment  They know how to go through most of the menus and find the little intricacies that make for a more accurate color standard, greatly reducing Post color correction issues.

In a multi-camera environment in which a qualified Video Controller has paint boxes or Remote Control Panels (RCP), or MSU (Master Set Up Unit) allows him or her to iris the cameras for proper exposure, and make black level adjustments so the cameras have excellent matching characteristics.  These control devices can operate using cables or Wireless technologies.

 

THE VIDEO ENGINEER

Video Engineers bring an outstanding understanding of how cameras process video and color and are capable of matching camera w9ith great precision, given the proper time and conditions.  They are excellent at setting up the cameras so they all have the correct color elements, even if two or more different brands or models are being used.

Once the cameras are set up by the Video Engineer, the DIT can then take control of the cameras and make sure they continue to look great.  Video Engineers usually will store the settings to an SD card or memory stick, for each camera.  If the DIT screws up the settings, they can often be recalled using these memory cards.

To maximize your crew investment you should select a Video Engineer who also has strong Video Controller experience for multi-camera productions, whether it be with or without remote controls.  The money you will save in color correction costs will more than justify the added costs of an experienced Video Engineer.

 

Color and Chip Charts

A chip chart is not a color chart and should never be used to make matrix table adjustments.  A 24 or 28 color color chip chart is the only chart that allows for exacting adjustment and only under specific lighting conditions.

A 6 Color Chip Chart can be used for basic matrix table adjustments, but for precise color matching only a 24 or 28 color chip chart should be used.

An 11 step chip chart is used for adjusting video gain, black levels and gammas.  But all of those functions are predicated on accurate matrix table adjustments.

If the cameras do not have precise matrix table adjustments, some colors will be exaggerated, while others will be muted.  No matter what adjustments you make to Video Gains and blacks, it is very difficult to overcome matrix table errors, even in Post.

Every time you add gain to any color you are introducing video noise, making the picture slightly more grainy.  


24 Color Chip Chart


28 Color Chip Chart


6 Color Chip Chart


Classic 11 Step Chip Chart

   
   
   
Copyrighht 2015 Wayne Norman