What is 'Log' and why do we shoot in it?
What is Log?
First off, log isn't the leftovers of lumberjacks! To explain what log is, we must first dive into some camera basics...
Dynamic range is the name given to the number of 'steps' between black and white. A higher dynamic range means more shades of grey between black and white, which in photography and videography means an image that retains more detail in the shadows and the highlights at the same time.
A “flat image” retains more information in the highlights and shadows - the shadows are lighter and the highlights are darker, giving you an image that lacks contrast and looks “flat”, giving it an almost greyscale look.
So...What is Log?
Log is a non-linear curve applied to the exposure your camera is processing before the image is compressed and recorded. It is specially optimised for digital motion picture cameras to maximise the performance of the image sensor by allowing it to process more detail at either end of the exposure spectrum.
Recording in log has both positives and negatives, but to showcase the opposite of log, videographers shooting on linear profiles such as Rec. 709 often have to choose whether to sacrifice details in the highlights or shadows, especially when shooting in outdoor locations as the profile struggles to balance the contrast between light and dark. Log allows you to retain those details; creating a flat image, with a higher dynamic range.
You may also hear it referred to by a number of different names, such as 'S-Log' or 'V-Log'. These are simply the names used by different manufacturers who alter their log curves to suit their cameras. S-Log is for Sony cameras, V-Log for Panasonic - however, the end result is the same.
Why does Log matter?
So if you wrapped your head around that, let's talk about why log matters and what it could bring to your footage.
As mentioned, the major benefit of log is being able to capture more details that might otherwise be lost in compression during harsh lighting conditions. It also allows more freedom in post-production colour correction as we don't need to worry that our correction will make the highlights or shadows of the image extreme or overblown, giving your footage an overall sharper and cleaner look.
"Log is designed to help with dynamic range...where there will be a loss of details in the shadows or overblown highlights."
After colour correction Before colour correction
So why don't we always shoot in Log?
Shooting in log isn't always crucial. Log is designed to help with dynamic range; it makes sense to shoot in this style when filming in particularly difficult lighting situations. However, in controlled lighting situations, such as studios, recording in log isn't always necessary. If we are shooting a product in-studio against a greenscreen, we would professionally light the area, giving us ultimate control over the whites and blacks, often not requiring log. Contrastingly, recording an interview piece-to-camera outside on the streets gives us very little lighting control, and this is where we would be more likely to use log.
Another benefit of shooting in a linear profile over log would be to reduce the time in post-production. If we shoot a project in log, every file needs to be corrected to match a standard colour profile which consumes more time in the post-production phase. If your project needs to be turned around quickly, often log isn't the way to go.
However, we often find filming on location is better in log, particularly in rooms or areas where there is likely to be a lot of white. The image above was shot in the kitchens of a bakery and was very whitewashed with lots of harsh, overhead lighting. Filming in log allowed us to colour grade to make the products pop against the white, without overexposing the background of the shot.
Will my video look better if it's shot in Log?
This very much depends on the style of video you require. For a project that requires filming in settings where lighting is hard to control, log might be the best option. In areas that have a white backdrop and harsh lighting, our team would usually recommend this shooting method. However, product-specific videos filmed in-house would not often require this.
If you're ever in doubt, feel free to reach out to a member of our team with any queries, and they will work with you to find a solution that fits the needs of your project.