A Beginner's Guide to Why You Should Be Shooting Video in Log

If you're just starting out shooting video, you may have heard of log profiles. This great video will give you a practical breakdown of why you should consider shooting with them and what to do if your camera doesn't have them.

Coming to you from Travel Feels, this helpful video shows why you should consider shooting your video work in log and how to do it. We all know that shooting stills in raw enables far more post-processing latitude than JPEGs. However, the situation is a bit more complicated with video, which is where log comes in. Log is short for "logarithmic," referring to the mathematical curve in use. Essentially, the A/D converter applies a curve to the exposure data before it's compressed and written to memory, thereby shifting the shadow data closer to the midtones and highlight data, giving the shadows data more bit depth and thus more flexibility in post. You can think of log as a sort of compromise between raw video and a fully baked-in video profiles. Whereas true raw video (which log is not) is tremendously unwieldy to use, the relatively flat rendering of log helps to capture more dynamic range and enables greater post-processing latitude. Essentially, log gives you the most flexibility to adjust the file after capture.

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Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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We've found log to be more trouble than it's worth in most scenarios... and it's definitely a lot of trouble!

For the cameraman, most cameras don't give you a proper (de-logged) preview, making things like exposure and focusing harder. Some newer cameras and field monitors do handle this better, though.

If you don't need it, it will noticeably reduce the image quality, since it's cramming way more dynamic range into the same video codec... when you de-log it, everything becomes grainier. It's not like raw in this way; raw stores more information without losing any data. Log video actually throws out MORE of your most valuable data so it can store a bunch of highlights and shadows that you probably won't ever use.

Running the extra Lumetri layer slows down post-processing, and Lumetri can be flakey in Premiere Pro.

The extra dynamic range can be useful in some scenarios, but not in most. When you do heavily recover the highlights or shadows, it often looks unnatural (think bad HDR). If you have a great colorist who carefully masks everything, you can overcome that... but most people don't know how to do that, or couldn't justify the time required.

Just my take!

Excellent comment.

I agree sorta. Raw and Log are two different things. Raw is like being naked, and log is like wearing a skin colored suit.
Either way, unless you do it for a living, just don’t do either. You know what?nevermind, do whatever makes you happy.

Very interesting. So what video profile do you shoot, Tony?

Hey Bob,

Raw video is just like a raw image file: it's the unprocessed sensor data (though it's sometimes compressed). However, imagine generating 30 or 60 raw images a second, and you can see why it becomes an absolute nightmare to store and process. It also can't be viewed on any monitor because it contains only one data value per pixel; the data needs to be demosaiced to produce an RGB triplet for each pixel so a monitor can display it.

Log video on the other hand is a finished video format; it has things like white balance baked in. The idea is that by shooting in an extremely desaturated and tonally flat format, the resultant file has much more latitude to go in whatever direction the editor wants. Because the the A/D converter moves the shadows (which are low bit depth and thus low information) into higher ranges (and thus more information and more flexibility to adjust things before the file falls apart) before the video file is created, that extra range is baked into the file. The key is that it's done before the creation of the file.

Log video works on a similar principal to Dolby B and Dolby C on audio cassettes back in the 70s and 80s. The dynamic range of the sound was compressed during recording, then expanded during playback.

Log video recording compresses the dynamic range of light, rather than sound that Dolby B & C used to. The footage then needs to be expanded in post processing, just as audio recorded with Dolby B/C needed to be expanded upon playback.

Hope that helps - I suspect you're of a vintage where it will help, Bob Brady 😀

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