DSLR Cinema, Cinema Raw, and Cinematic Journalism

by Kurt Lancaster

Bolex LightPost from Pomfort a quick and powerful color grading tool for any cinemaDNG raw cinema camera

The team at Digital Bolex collaborated with Pomfort to create their own color grading software, LightPost, for their D16 camera. After using Adobe Camera Raw and Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve on several projects, I would highly recommend getting LightPost if you are short on time and/or are overwhelmed by software complexity. Bottom line: It’s easy to use and contains a powerful algorithm.

It isn’t just for the Digital Bolex D16 camera, however. I imported footage from a project I shot with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (shot in Film mode) and a Canon 5D Mark III using Magic Lantern’s raw module, and I didn’t have to make any adjustments (other than adjusting some exposure). The footage looked good, as is.

The algorithm in LightPost is probably the best in the industry, therefore I recommend using this software for color grading when you want to work fast and especially if you do not want to face the complexity of Resolve or Camera Raw.

BMPC in LightPost
Here a still from a short documentary, “Magic Vegas”, I shot on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera in Las Vegas on Dec. 14, 2013. The grade was completed in LightPost:

BMPC_ungraded

The ungraded look from BMPC footage being brought into LightPost. Overall, it’s a good start.

Here’s the graded shot in LightPost:

BMPC_correctedNotice that I’ve adjusted the exposure, brining it down nearly a full stop and I’ve increased the color temp from 3400K to 3600K. For the sake of this project, the look is how I want it with no further tweaking. The algorithm in LightPost delivers a strong grade.

Here’s the short film:

In addition, find the one shot not recorded in raw, but in ProRes 422 and notice the comparison. ProRes 422 is not much better than H.264 and you’ll need to get your look locked in camera before shooting, since you won’t have much headroom in post to fix issues or engage a strong color grading process. (Another post about raw versus ProRes, forthcoming.)

Canon 5D Mark III Magic Lantern Raw in LightPost
Here’s another example, this time from Canyon de Chelly (pronounced “shay”) in Arizona, using Magic Lantern’s raw module. The first image raw after converting to CinemaDNG using RAWMagic software:

5DIIIML_rawAs you can see, the image is underexposed, but overall the color is accurate. It looks really good. I keep the color temp, as is.

Here’s the graded version:

5DIIIML_correctedI’ve increased the exposure just over half a stop, knocked down the tint by 1 value, and adjusted the soft contrast to 0.981 (1 being neutral). I did not get similar results went testing with DaVinci Resolve (at least, not this easily).

Here’s the complete short, “Canyon de Chelly”:

There’s noise in the shadows and I don’t feel Magic Lantern raw is quite as robust as CinemaDNG coming out of the Blackmagic cameras or the Digital Bolex, but if you nail the lighting right, it does look really nice.

Digital Bolex D16 in LightPost
The software was designed for this camera, so I expect it to look good, but in a beta test of the software (and the beta build of an uncalibrated camera), the image accuracy was hard to attain and I had to use Adobe Camera Raw to make the grade, “Venice Beach Breakdance”:

With the new version of the software and a calibrated camera, the comes in as strong as the other cameras, as can be seen from the footage shot by Philip Bloom, below and available on his website. (I have not received my D16, yet, so I’m relying on his footage, which he graded in Resolve, to use in LightPost.)

Here’s the ungraded shot as it comes into LightPost:

Bolex_raw

It looks good. The colors are there, but the exposure needs to be increased a bit.

Bolex-corrected

The results work with an increased exposure of nearly 1 stop and an adjustment of soft contrast to 1.452.

Without scopes, it’s hard to tell if the range is nailed, but by exporting to ProRes 4444 into Final Cut, I can make minor adjustments without the image falling apart, as can be seen below:

Bloom_Bolex_FinalCut_grade

I make some minor adjustments with exposure to widen up the midtones a bit. I’m not going to upload the video on this, since it’s only one shot and Bloom’s video is available. But it shows that the D16, the BMPC, and the 5D III with Magic Lantern’s raw module, integrates footage easily and accurately into LightPost.

Overview of LightPost
Here’s a quick overview of the software:

Copy Room

Orgazize CopyThe Copy Room is designed to import files directly from the camera or allow you to create a backup from existing files from a hard drive. You can select hard drives and see the metadata from the clips you copy.

Organize
The Organize room allows you to edit the footage as well as to create a project and import folders and files. You can import files directly into project folders from files on your hard drive without going through the Copy room. The timeline is located center, below, as well as preview metadata from clips and to skim through shots (marking in and out points).

Orgazize

Color
The Color room is the heart of the raw process.

Color

Here, you can select your clip on the left, and then color grade through a variety of tools, from color temperature and exposure sliders to color wheels. Minute changes can make great impacts (especially when using tint). Moving among the different sliders is key as you make changes. I adjust color temperature and exposure first and then make smaller changes among the highlights and shadows (red, green, and blue). If you need to sharpen or soften the image, use the Sharpen and Haze sliders.

Export
The Export room allows you to choose the hard drive and folder for the export, as well as its format, from mobile apps to full out ProRes 4444.

Export

If you plan to make any adjustments to the grade, choose Post (ProRes 4444), since ProRes 422 will fall apart when  you grade in your editing software.

The bottom of the screen provides additional details and choices:

  • Codec
    Codec
  • Size
    Size
  • Resizing
    Resizing
    Also, take note of checking the In/Out Points if you want it to only export what you’ve already chosen. Also, there’s an embed audio feature if you’re recorded audio (I have not tested this). There’s a few options for debayering, but I’ll admit ignorance on this and kept it at “Default (GPU)”.

In conclusion:

Pros:

  • Killer algorithm, allowing you to import footage from not only the Bolex D16, but also Blackmagic cameras and Magic Lantern raw without needing to make any major adjustments. (I assume it’ll work fine with KineRAW and -MINI, as well, since they’re using the CinemaDNG format.)
  • Easy to use with a simple interface.
  • It’s supposed to bring in raw files directly from Magic Lantern (for Canon DSLR users), but my test failed on this account. (Check in later a fix on this.)

Cons:

  • Missing video scopes. A work around involves exporting in ProRes 4444 (ProRes 422 will fall apart) so that you can make minor adjustments in your editing software using the video scopes to get the footage within the specs you need.
  • Missing “undo” function. It’s just ice to have when you want to go back a few steps without using reset buttons.
  • Price at $129 isn’t bad, but it would be nicer at $49!

They do offer a 14-day free trial (which will put a watermark on your exported footage).

If you’re looking for ease of use and become bewildered by complex grading software, Bolex LightPost by Pomfort may be the best software on the market, today.

——-

Kurt_Lancaster1_smallKurt Lancaster is the author of DSLR Cinema and Cinema Raw: Shooting and Color Grading with the Ikonoskop, Digital Bolex, and Blackmagic Cinema Cameras, coming out from Focal Press in Spring 2014. He teaches filmmaking and multimedia journalism at Northern Arizona University.

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 9.10.56 AM     Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 9.11.15 AM

Category: Articles
  • Blake says:

    Kurt,
    Thanks for this article. I have a question. I woke up early morning here in Tennessee to purchase the Bolex D16 the day it was released for presale.
    I’m a PC user. No fanboy, that’s just what I use right now. The Lightpost software is attractive to me. I appreciate terms like “quick” and “powerful”, especially when used together.
    I have a nice custom PC for video editing, but if Bolex digital is partial to Mac OS already, I’d be willing to bob into the Apple barrel.
    I’d like to use this software, but having no Mac, and also knowing you need horsepower on your computer to do anything HD editing-wise, I can’t really approach Apple gently, financially. I know Apple cost money, but I’m editing video, so we’re talking lots of dollars.
    Is there any way to approach Apple for using Lightpost without getting a Mac Pro? I wish a Mac Mini or loaded Macbook Pro would do, but I’m afraid I’d be limiting myself from the start without a good dedicated GPU.
    Thank you,
    Blake

    January 21, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*