by Olaf von Voss | 21st November 2016
Blackmagic Design has just released a new firmware update for their Video Assist line of monitors / recorders which introduces LUT support as well as new codecs and visual aids. Some of these previously available for the 4K model only, such as false color, are now being implemented in the 5″ model, too. Firmware 2.3 for Video Assist The Blackmagic Design Video Assist line of monitors / recorders certainly aren’t the most expensive, and neither are they considered the best ones out there. But we live in modern times, and since these recorders are essentially computers with a screen, firmware updates are here to help. Firmware Version 2.3 adds a ton of new features to the Video Assists out there, including LUT support, more codecs and more visual aids for the original 5″ Video Assist. First up, LUTs. Now, this is a huge improvement! I was actually considering buying the 4K model, but the lack of this single feature had kept me from actually pulling the trigger. For most of my work, I acquire footage in some flavour of a LOG profile, and judging a shot by looking at such a flat image can be quite dull. That’s why I think LUT support is essential for any external monitor, recorder or combination of the two. You can add up to six custom LUTs to each unit, and can load them in as needed. So you are able to get, for example, both a technical Rec.709 LUT for your LOG curve of choice as well as a stylistic LUT which will be your final look. Perhaps as a result of the Blackmagic Design Video Assist not being the most expensive piece of tech out there, some users have complained about a slight greenish tint in the image. Although the best solution would be some kind of tint slider within the software, another possible solution could be a custom LUT designed to address this issue in particular. Hook up the Video Assist to DaVinci Resolve, tweak an existing LUT slightly towards magenta and you’re all set. Codecs, Wrappers and Visual Aids Blackmagic Design has now added various codecs and wrappers (previously available for the 4k version only) to the original 5″ Video Assist, too. There are now different bitrates available for the DNxHD codec: 220, 145 and 45. Also, the MXF wrapper is now available for those DNxHD codecs, making it easier for AVID users to get the footage into their system. codec options available for the Video Assist For both versions, an improved focus assist tool has been implemented, giving you a choice between different focus-in-color modes as well as peaking. Gimbal users out there will recognise the need for a manual setting for the the orientation of the screen, a feature that has been added to this firmware update as well. False color is now available for the original 5″ Video Assist, too. I think they should have added this feature as soon as it became available for the 4K model, but it’s here now and that is certainly a good thing. false color scale There is an updated manual for the Video Assist available here. Full Rundown of Improvements To summarise, here is the full list of changes and improvements: Add LUT monitoring Add MXF wrapper to DNxHD for the Blackmagic Video Assist Add different DNx bit-rates – DNxHD 220,145 and 45 for the Blackmagic Video Assist Add False Color monitoring to the Blackmagic Video Assist Add expanded options for Focus Assist to include Red, Green, Blue and White as well as Peaking Add manual control for screen orientation Add extended HDMI luminance range Improves screen colorimetry Improves fan audible noise What do you think about this firmware update? Is this worth a closer look, or would you stick with higher end monitors / recorders such as the Atomos Shogun, the Odyssey 7Q+ or the Video Devices PIX E-7?Read more
by Olaf von Voss | 12th May 2016
If you are used to working with professional monitoring equipment on set or in post, it’s more than likely that you’re familiar with the concept of false color for controlling exposure or for matching different shots. Tomasz Huczek from timeinpixels.com is nearly (see update at the end of this article) done with version 2 of his OpenFX plugin for you to benefit from false color within Davinci Resolve and other applications alike. What is false color? False color is a concept for examining exposure in a given shot, just like a zebra pattern only far more advanced. When activating false color mode on a certain monitor, the incoming video signal will be processed in a way that well-defined areas of brightness values are mapped to a specific color range. As you can see, the clouds are a bit overexposed in this example For example, everything above 90% brightness will be colored in red, skin tones (depending on your given scene maybe at around 70%) will be displayed in gray and so on. That way, you’ll get an oddly colored image, but you can spot overexposed parts in the blink of an eye while checking for correct skin tones at the same time. Depending on your workflow, looking at the given image is far easier rather than looking at scopes as you’re able to see both, your video feed and the exposure overlay at the same time and in the same window. OpenFX plugin The plugin, developed by Tomasz Huczek, brings this functionality to Davinci Resolve in the form of an OpenFX plugin which means it works in other programs like Scratch, Nuke, and Sony Vegas, too. The plugin can be extremely helpful in the process of matching shots in terms of consistent contrast and lighting ratios in an edited sequence. It’s available for both Windows and Macintosh platform and the best thing: For now, it’s free of charge. (see update at the end of this article) False color in DaVinci Resolve 12.5 The workflow for DaVinci Resolve would be this: select the false color OpenFX effect from the OpenFX tab in the upper right corner of your screen when working on the color tab. Drag it onto a node and you’ll see the effect immediately. Personally, I would use a dedicated node just after the first node which contains primary corrections. That way, you can match different shots and add more artistic secondary grades later on. Also, you can toggle the node which contains the false color plugin on and off to see the plain image when done with false color mode. You can adjust each value to your liking, so the plugin is very flexible, yet pretty simple to use. Still in beta (not anymore – see update below) One thing to remember is that the current version of the OpenFX plugin (ver. 2b1) is still in beta. That means certain features are still missing, such as presets. Presets can be very handy as they are designed to mimic false color modes of popular cameras and monitors such as the RED false color scheme or the smallHD scheme for example. That way you can use the color scheme you are used to the most. The first version of the plugin had this functionality, so it is more than likely to see it in version 2 as well. smallHD false color scheme with IRE values Tomasz told me that the final version is pretty close but since he is the only developer these things take time, for sure. If you like what this plugin can do for you and your workflow, please consider donating a small amount. Help me out to bring an even better plugin in the version 2.0. The list of the desired features is long and all the development requires a lot of time. By donating you allow me to spend more free time on this project and deliver the upgraded version to you sooner! Right now, Tom is working hard to release version 2.0 with support for presets and configurable ranges for 0 IRE, 100 IRE and range defined by user (or predefined for skin tones). Plans for the future Latest news is that Tom started working on a plugin version for Adobe Premiere and After Effects, so if everything is going according to plan, he will release the beta version for the Adobe software together with the official 2.0 Open FX version for Resolve, Nuke and Sony Vegas. Make sure to check out Tomasz’s site (timeinpixels.com) for downloading the plugin, as well as his photography portfolio. You can download the latest version of DaVinci Resolve here for free. UPDATE (Mar 08, 2017) Tom was quite busy since the release of this article! As of today, version 2.3 is out and it packs a lot of features, check it out here. The whole plugin has been revamped from ground up and there’s a new pricing model, too. There is still a free version available but it’s limited to the RED false color scheme. The more powerful and highly customizable version is $8.99 (OFX or Adobe CC). If you need both of these versions, you can purchase a bundled version for $14.99. Featurewise the 2.x version includes: a vast varitey of false color schemes (RED, Flanders, SmallHD, Arri, Atomos, Blackmagic Video Assist) fully customizable colors and ranges highlight and shadows seperation adjustable transparency new in v2.3: Saturation map (instead of luminosity) As you can see the plugin is no longer free of charge but to me, for less than $10 it’s quite a lot of value. Tom has put together a nice roundup of all the features and usages of this nifty plugin, after digesting this guide you will agree with me, I’m sure! Links: Homepage | Download site | Guide to the false color pluginRead more
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