Lumix GH3: Color Grading With LUT Utility and Grading Breakdown

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 9.22.15 PMIn all of the digital video I’ve done over the past two years, virtually the only manipulation I ever applied in order to enhance the image has been to reduce contrast, color saturation and in-camera sharpening. When it came to editing, any adjustments were solely to correct for over- or underexposure. It has only been in the past couple of weeks that I have radically reconsidered my working methods, thanks to the excellent tutorials by Denver Riddle at Color Grading Central. At the same time, I added two tools to my arsenal which have vastly improved the quality of my clips: a shoulder rig, which almost completely eliminated any micro jitter, especially from Panasonic’s 35-100mm f/2.8 zoom; and a set of neutral density filters by Tiffen, which allow me to use my zooms at their optimal apertures – somewhere between f/3.5 and f/7.1.

GH3: Best Picture Style Settings
In these pages, I’ve discussed at length the hoops GH3 shooters had to jump through to get pleasing skin tones from the sensor – grievances which I had been perhaps too hasty to dismiss as the result of faulty white balance or incorrect exposure. As a consequence, I decided to go out myself and shoot as many faces as I could, with as wide a variety of skin tones as possible. At first I was satisfied with the results, as were others I’d shown them to: but the more I examined them, the less they pleased me. I began to notice all the imperfections, and no matter how I tried, I just couldn’t seem to get the look I was after. That’s when I discovered Denver Riddle’s tutorials and his very affordable LUT Utility plug-in. Because it is recommended using the Natural setting (in the GH3’s picture profile settings) for use with these LUTs, I went ahead and made the switch, turning down contrast and saturation another notch just for good measure but keeping most settings conservatively between -3 and -4. It’s entirely possible that the issues many filmmakers were experiencing were due to blindly turning all factory settings down to -5, resulting in the washed-out look so many complained of.

Shooting Technique
I said earlier that the shoulder rig greatly improved my shots, but that has not come without a cost. Whereas before, I would leave the apartment armed with my GM1 and GH3, reserving the smaller camera for wide shots and the larger one for telephoto, the added bulk of a stabilizer has made this all but impossible. Moreover, unable any longer to use the EVF, I am constrained to using the camera’s less than ideal monitor, making determining correct exposure and focus problematic. On top of all that, changing lenses and filters has become an arduous chore. One unexpected benefit though is how subjects respond to seeing me rigged out with this elegantly machined aluminum contraption. In fact, people seem more eager to have their picture taken now than when I carried only a camera and spare lens.

In addition to the rig, the ND filters and changing picture style settings, one other modification has significantly increased the number of useable shots I get in an outing: selecting facial recognition in the focus menu. While not a magic bullet – the lens still hunts and will maddeningly lock onto faces in the distant background or corner of the frame – it is nonetheless an improvement. In the very near future I’ll be acquiring a set of primes and learning to focus manually. I’ve also become quite proficient at using the Kelvin meter for judging white balance, in spite of the monitor’s glaring deficiencies.

The following is my first video using LUT Utility’s Kodak 2393 Film Emulation LUT. The occasion was a weekly market that is held in the parking lot of the Galaxy Cinema, Nguyen Du street in district 1, Ho Chi Minh City.

And this video shows off my very limited color grading abilities.

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