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Cineflat: A Nikon Flat Picture Control for Videography

A full guide on better DSLR video is coming soon on Photograph IO. Stay tuned. Let’s face it : DSLR cameras (and mirrorless cameras now) are not only great tools for photography, but they can also be excellent rigs for video. With the advent of the Nikon D90 in 2008, being the first DSLR able […]

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A full guide on better DSLR video is coming soon on Photograph IO. Stay tuned.

Let’s face it : DSLR cameras (and mirrorless cameras now) are not only great tools for photography, but they can also be excellent rigs for video. With the advent of the Nikon D90 in 2008, being the first DSLR able to shoot HD video, more and more people have been starting to get into cinematography using interchangeable lens cameras. With their large sensors, DSLR’s allow you to get that cinematic, shallow depth of field while still retaining a great amount of control over the final result for quite an affordable price.

However, one major drawback of DSLR’s compared to dedicated motion cameras from Red, Arri or Blackmagic is in their mediocre, at best, output. While high end motion cameras costing tens of thousands of dollars can shoot in near-lossless, Apple Prores 442 or even RAW video, most DSLR’s are limited in their output quality by the highly compressed codecs used not to mention a lower bitrate. Some of these limitations are hardware based (i.e. overheating, processing power), while some others can be cured by software and firmware. Unless you have a D800 or 5D Mark III capable of clean HDMI output, chances are that your output video is compressed.

But there is a way of improving this. Canon cameras have historically (and still are to some extent) been better than Nikon at motion photography. Not only do they have higher bitrates, better firmware (full manual video) and hacks (Magic Lantern), but they also have professional, flat picture styles specifically made to maximize dynamic range in video (Technicolor’s Cinestyle).

What about Nikon owners?

Although you could manually dial down contrast and saturation in camera, one of the most popular Nikon flat picture controls out there for cine is Tassinflat mady by Ulysse Tassin. While shooting using a flat picture control will look flat and contrast-lacking straight out of camera, flat footage will actually retain a greater amount of detail and dynamic range when it comes down to editing and color grading later on, which is great. Another popular profile is Alvaro Yus.

But there is now another contender in flat cine profiles for Nikon DSLR’s : Cineflat.

What is Cineflat?

Cineflat is our own Nikon flat picture control made for cinematography. Just like any other custom flat profiles out there, our flat profile is based on the principle of a logarithmic curve to maximize dynamic range in-camera for better color grading. You then apply an S-curve and color grade your footage to restore a standard look in post-prodution. Also, there is no sharpening applied and saturation is set at 0 in order to minimize video compression artifacts.

Why use Cineflat?

To increase dynamic range in video files and faciliate color grading in post-production. Cineflat will allow video to have about 11-12 stops of dynamic range on Nikon DSLR’s, compared to 10 for Tessinflat, 9 for Nikon’s neutral and portrait profiles and 8 for Nikon’s standard, vivid and landscape profiles.

What is different about Cineflat (compared to other flat picture controls out there) ?

Photographio’s Cineflat Nikon picture profile is designed to maximize dynamic range at both the shadows and at the highlights. Theoretically speaking, a logarithmic curve of gamma 0.45 (2.2 inverse) should be enough to get a logarithmic (aka flat) transmission on any camera. However, no sensor has perfect light transmission and therefore a simple gamma curve is not enough. Also, there are other things to worry about when it comes to shooting compressed video, such as highlights clipping and shadow detail. Therefore unless you are shooting RAW video, modifying the standard gamma curve is necessary to get optimal results.

0.45 Gamma
This is a standard 0.45 (2.2 inverse) gamma curve needed to produce a logarithmic sensor response. However, notice how prone the highlights are to clipping, which is absolutely something to avoid in compressed video codecs.

Don’t get us wrong; Tassinflat and all other profiles out there are still excellent flat, logarithmic picture controls. However, Tassinflat’s custom curve was specifically engineered to prevent highlight clipping, at the expense of dark shadows. Alvaro Yus, another flat cine profile, improved on Tassinflat’s shadows by focusing on shadow detail instead, at the expense of highlights. We thought, why not combine both?

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 3.42.23 PM
Tassinflat, although logarhitmic in the shadows, has a strong reverse curve in the highlights area to minimize clipping.
Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 3.42.42 PM
Alvaro Yus is based on a 0.5 (2.0 inverse) gamma curve for better shadows but near-linear highlights, prone to clipping.

Therefore we launched Nikon Picture Control Editor (an unofficial, online version) and modified Tassinflat’s curves (which is itself based on Nikon’s neutral profile) for a better shadow response while still maintaining the reverse curve in the highlight zone. Our goal here was to do a logarithmic curve while still preventing highlight clipping. Theoretically at least, compressing both the highlights and the shadows should yield the best results in terms of dynamic range. After measurement, we found out that Cineflat indeed brings up about 1 extra stop of dynamic range compared to Tessinflat.

We also made sure that there was no tonal overlap (e.g. shadows brighter than highlights, or that mushy HDR look) even with such a strong curve. Also, do note that our curve will tend to overexpose by 1/2 to 2/3’s of a stop. This allows shadows to be further boosted while slighly exposing to the right to maximize SNR (which is basically tech speak for minimizing noise), similar to the exposing to the right technique (ETTR) in stills photography.

Our own Cineflat profile, based on a modded Tessinflat curve. Notice how the shadows are much more boosted in Cineflat.
Our own Cineflat profile, based on a modded Tessinflat curve. Notice how the shadows are much more boosted in Cineflat.

That being said, there are some caveats on our Cineflat curve. First of all, a heavy amount of shadow pulling is especially prone to noise even when exposed to the right, so you might want to denoise the footage in post-production first.

Also, there is a strong argument that while dynamic range compression is vastly superior to whites/blacks clipping created by high-contrast curves, too much tonal compression might also means a slight loss of detail. Why? Because compression, remember, is applied to a whole picture or video, not just to highlights and shadows. Although midtones are much less compressed generally in both photography and videography, lumping too much data there isn’t the ideal solution either. The amount of data loss in the midtones is however, minimal. While the difference in low dynamic scenes was negligible, I was able to recover a lot more data with less noise from Cineflat’s flat picture control compared to Nikon’s default standard picture control when it came down to mid and high dynamic range scenes.

Comparison pictures

Here’s some comparison pictures between Cineflat, Tessinflat and Nikon’s standard picture control. All three pictures from each set were shot using the exact same exposure in manual mode. Click on them to go in Lightbox view. Also, a video comparison is on the way.

Cineflat
Cineflat
Tassinflat
Tassinflat
Nikon Standard
Nikon Standard

And here are some indoor shots; underexposing Cineflat and Tassinflat’s pictures to match Nikon’s standard profile will reduce a lot of the noise seen :

Cineflat
Cineflat
Tassinflat
Tassinflat
Nikon Standard
Nikon Standard

The bottom line

When it comes to DSLR footage, a flat look is a must to preserve the most detail possible. For Nikon users, there are a few options available under the form of picture controls : Tassinflat, Alvaro Yus and now Cineflat. Tassinflat has great highlights, Alvaro Yus great shadows, and Cineflat tries to make a compromise between the two at the cost of being the flattest profile of the three.

While in most of the cases you won’t notice any significant difference after color grading between Cineflat, Tassinflat or Alvaro Yus, our Cineflat profile will have a slight edge if you tend to shoot regularly in high dynamic range scenes (mainly outdoors). A 3D LUT file for Davinci Resolve designed for Cineflat is on the way, but as for now, a standard S-curve should do the trick to “deflatten” the output.

Download

https://www.dropbox.com/s/sb2bd3s8dvd4cqn/Photographio%27s%20Cineflat.zip?dl=0

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If you found Cineflat useful, please share it to other Nikon videographers out there who might need it too, and don’t forget to check Photograph IO regularly for more photo and video tips and techniques 🙂


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84 replies on “Cineflat: A Nikon Flat Picture Control for Videography”

Jack, you simply uncompress the whole .zip file and copy the contents on the root of your SD card. You then go to Manage Picture Control and load it from the SD card. Hope this helps!

It should be added that to get this to be seen by the camera firmware the whole file structure needs to be copied over from the SD card.

So … /NIKON/CUSTOMPC/PICCON01.NCP – not just the data file.

Also for those not familiar with the process, you need to go to the Shooting Menu on your camera, then navigate down through Manage Picture Control menu item, to Load/save, then Copy to camera -> … and then ‘OK’ it.
You will then be promoted to add the data file to a free memory slot – pick whichever one you want that is still free/empty.

I had the same problem John. I solved it by extracting the files straight to the SD card I was going to use on the camera. If you copy the files instead it does not decrypt them for you.

Thanks a lot ! A new video profile for video is always a big bonus for Nikon users !

Already i shoot in tassinflat + the Tassin Lut with great results and i will try your CineFlat who seems promising !

Do you think that there will be a specific Adobe premiere Lut for your profile ?

PS : i don’t know if you are using the NikonHackers bitrate patch but it’s a must have too 😉

Yup, I do have the NikonHacker bitrate patch on my D5100. It’s unfortunate that I cannot see the playback on the back of the LCD (despite having a Sandisk Extreme Class 10 card) 😛

I have just tried it on my D600,

had been using Flat 11 for a long time and I must say you guys did an amazing job with this picture control.

Thanks a lot!

It has more DR and the curve produces more natural tones to my eye.

I achieved better results by lowering the saturation (-2).

Diego, I’ve been shooting with Cineflat for about 6 months now, and what I’ve learned is that you really do need to expose to the right. Overexpose your mids and lows and drop it down with your luma curves in post. Its amazing how much light detail is preserved. I never seem to clip highlights anymore. If you have a monitor with a luminance waveform or histogram this is easy to expose for during a shoot.

Taylor, as FCP X doesnt have individual curves slider adjustement, the best way of deflatting would be by adusting the highlights/mitdones/shadows sliders. That being said, I do heavily recommend you download Davinci Resolve if you are serious about color grading. Not only is it free, but it is the industry standard, too 🙂

Thanks for the tip, I have been using DaVinci for a few projects just adds quite a bit to the workflow. Thought it would be great to do it all in FCPX. Could you recommend a tutorial on de-flatting footage in DaVinci?

Todd,

Sorry for the inconvenience. I have recently reinstalled my Mac and moved my Dropbox files a bit. It should work fine now 🙂

Hi!
Thank you for sharing your profile with us.
Does this also works for the D750?
I think there is a change in the profile setting. D750 does provide local and global contrast… ist this covered with this tool?
Thanks

I can’t get this to load into my D600 and it’s driving me nuts! I’ve been making videos and have known that the native settings are not acceptable and I’m looking to change it with this awesome profile. I copied the downloaded file into the root of my SD, tried it in the native folder, tried everything! Someone please help me get this onto my camera I’d be insanely grateful!

Thanks!

Yes I reformatted the card and made sure not to put the file in the DCIM folder. So it would just sit in the root of the card. I also tried putting the file in the DCIM folder with no results as well! Would love to DL this please help 😉

Andrew,

I’m sorry you’re having issues. Just to make sure, do you have any firmware modifications on the D600? It might be last resort, but resetting the fimware (careful not to brick!) *might* solve the issue.

PS : In the meantime, have a look at our latest post and have one of those pictures (for free, of course)! You deserve it.

As far as I know there are no firmware mods to my camera. Maybe have a demo on how to properly load this profile? I’d really love to use this.

Sure! And what exactly is the problem? Is it detected on the camera or do you have troubles importing?

Yes, it should work for stills, but give that cameras have RAW, I don’t see any reason for using it for stills 🙂

I just got a hold of this yesterday, and I’m finding it to be utterly amazing. That said, I’m still waiting for/looking for an effective LUT to take it to the next level (at the moment, I’m going for a 1960s Technicolor/Eastmancolor look). Any word on an AE LUT for this profile or do you have any suggestions for a suitable replacement in the meantime?

LUT is in definitely in the works! However, we’re very busy, so the best you should to is to subscribe to this blog to be notified as soon as it comes out!

Hi, I installed on the Nikon D600 flaat 10, flaat 11 and cineflat. Cineflat is. for me, the better. But what LUT can apply effectively in Premiere pro CC2014 with Lumetri ??? The LUT “log” or “rec.709” ??? Thank You

Wow! I tested your profile. Did a few video shots and color corrected it in DaVinci, Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Nuke and Avid! I must say that it’s just amazing! So easy to get any look we want! Especially, Cinematic ones!

I’ll definitely will recommend you with all my photographers friends!

just installed this as I’ve been getting nagged at by my editor (he uses a canon 550D with magic lantern and moans that the flattest profile I could set on my D800 just isn’t flat enough. hopefully this will keep him happy. if not, I’ll just tell him to ditch his 550D and buy a quality camera like my Nikon 😀
cheers

Thanks for using Cineflat! Tell me what you think about it 🙂 and if you’re new to the blog, check out our other articles too!

The only thing that would make this picture control better is if it became compatible with VisionColor’s ImpulZ LUTs.

Someone asked if this works with a D3300. Does it? Also, since when is DaVinci Resolve free? Other than a certain method of downloading it, I thought it cost big bucks. I grabbed it once, but evidently the graphics card on my 8 month old computer can’t handle it. Anyway, more interested in the D3300 question.

It appears the D3300 doesn’t give you the option of loading profiles to it. I can only “reset shooting menu”, not manage it.

Nikon removed the ability to add picture profiles on low-end models? Sorry to hear that …

Yes, apparently so. At least I can get a fairly flat image using Neutral and turning everything down. And I’m not a pro anyway. I mean, hey, I’ve got a D3300, fer cryin’ out loud 😉

I have a D 750. Are there comprehensive instructions that I missed on how to load this on to the camera? I have never loaded a color profile, and literally have no idea how. Nikon’s website it’s helpful either.

Does it work on D5100? Cause I did everything but it still says “No picture control file found on memory card”, I’m going crazy

Thank for all your efforts. Dose this allow us to capture RAW footage as the canon user claim they can with Magic Lantern or its a color corection profile that allows more flexibilty

For those of you asking for a LUT, I created a LUT file by simply inverting the Cineflat curve so you get linear output. This is great for previewing your content, however to get the best result, I recommend grading the footage instead.

You can download the LUT here:
http://cl.ly/2g1s123T0u0B

It’s very easy to create your own LUTs, I use Photoshop but there are many alternatives. If you want to modify the curve to your likings, here is the photoshop file:
http://cl.ly/0V3J3E2r371P

I can’t install cine flat on my D5200 camera. I just copied the whole contents on the SD, but when I go to the Manage Picture Control it doesn’t show anything. Help.

Yes, in low light shoots, if we shoot up ISO anything more than 500 it ends up with lot of noise. So I switched back to default neutral profile, was worried whether it will be noise in Post.

Hi!

I have some questions about Cineflat and hope you can help me:
1- Does it also works for photographs or only for shooting video?
2- Does it works for Nikon D90?
3- How can I simulate this profile to load as a camera calibration profile in Lightroom and have a more consistent workflow?

Thanks!

Hi,

I have Nikon D3100, firmware version 1.02 (the latest) and I did everything as described (moved the whole folder, not just the file) and still nothing happens when I turn my camera on and go to the menu etc.
Can anyone tell me what I’m doing wrong?

Thanks.

I have done a bit of investigation and unfortunately (for me and you) you cannot load alternative custom picture NCP files on Nikon D3000 series cameras. Considered the base model, there is no option to allow the loading of NCPs into the camera. You have to go to D5000 series cameras or upward before this option is available.

Anyone have issue with cineflat? Well i tried it for my music video project which i shoot outdoors and it destroyed all my shot. It makes my shot look like its been compressed to h264. I’ve been shooting few music videos, i did the same routine as before but i am pretty confident with cineflat so i did not make test shot. Any help?

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