Anyone who shoots and delivers should take note of a new “digital stock” offering that can give you an especially unique look for a minimal amount work. philmcolor is a series of motion picture film inspired Creative 3D LUTs designed and optimized for RED’s new Image Processing Pipeline 2 (IPP2). These digital stocks are the result of nearly a year’s worth of work, and have been created to help provide incredibly powerful, customized and unique looks for digital footage.
The advantages found within philmColor are all about creative possibilities and what you can do with these crafted looks for IPP2. The version 1.0 release you get a total of 103 LUTs which break down into four categories: baseStocks, ghostStocks, printModels, and toneAdjusts. They offer and allow users to create a huge variety of looks, which production pros have only begun to explore.
We caught up with philmcolor creator Phil Holland to learn a little bit more about what when into the creation of these digital stocks, as well as how he envisions professionals will be able to utilize them. We also discuss his career, the differences between the four categories of LUT’s, what’s next for philmcolor and plenty more.
ProVideo Coalition: Tell us a little bit about your career. You’ve got extensive experience on both sides of the camera, so can you talk a little bit about what that perspective means to your outlook and the sort of projects you pursue?
Phil Holland: I’ve had a strange journey in the motion picture industry. It’s been unique as pre-production, production, and post production have always been a part of my life. I was fortunate to get my start working on large budget feature films and found myself handling 4K film scans and laser recordings in the late 90s which led to becoming a Digital Colorist and eventually Digital Imaging Specialist during a time when much of that world was new and evolving. I was able to look rather deeply into motion picture film and had the privilege of shooting and working with many different formats from S16 through IMAX 15-perf. Once digital began surfacing as a viable option for film in the 2000s, I was super excited by the potential it held for our industry as a new medium. Initially though, the biggest struggle was to make digital “feel” like film.
I didn’t set out to become a Cinematographer early on, but through a deep curiosity towards motion picture based storytelling inspired by much of the developing technology in the industry I found myself using so many different cameras and lenses over the years which allowed filming opportunities for VFX Unit photography on many projects. I spent all of my twenties knee deep in the world of bleeding edge production and finding creative ways to use all sorts of technology to get the job done. This world was changing constantly and it seemed around every corner there was a new challenge. This experience began to invade my own desires towards visual storytelling, which eventually led to the big jump to becoming a Director and Cinematographer.
These days I find I’m mostly shooting special projects for larger clients with the occasional commercial shoot. As of late I’m focusing on more narrative work with a smaller feature length project and one special exhibition project. I’m always asking the question how can this technology, these tools, help tell this story? It’s a question that inspires and sometimes frustrates, but it is indeed something that’s asked on a daily basis in order to bring my vision to life.
How have you seen the tools professionals use on a daily basis change and evolve? Have you seen this evolution create opportunities or force certain companies/people to compete in a race to the bottom?
Digital has completely changed the face of this industry. In my case, since I was early to adopt or explore newer digital cinema cameras it’s led to a great deal of opportunities. However, at the same time during these last 2 decades there has been an incredible rise in media productions. There’s all sorts of content being shot at damn near every budget level. Combined with affordable higher quality camera gear, this has had both a positive and negative impact on companies and individuals. One thing is for sure though, digital has sped up the process on and off set in terms of dailies through final completion of a project as well as the general shooting process.
Competition is fierce and so many are hungry for opportunity. It’s a balancing act for many these days, even for those fortunate enough to work on larger scale projects. In some ways it’s not a total race to the bottom as there are indeed different market segments. But rates are always subject to getting pushed around. Most experienced cinematographers stick to their guns on their rate and proceed that way to avoid much of that chaos.
I understand you’ve been shooting 8K aerials of late, so what can you tell us about that type of work? And as long as we’re talking 8K, what does it mean to you to capture footage at such an incredible scale?
Shooting IMAX quality aerials, specifically the ones in the last 3-4 years, has been an utter joy. All of my work in the air lately has been shot on RED. Exploring these epic vistas in 5K, 6K, and now stunning 8K is just wonderful. Having the ability to film in VistaVision as a format size with the RED Weapon Dragon 8K VV has provided the wonderful intangibles that come along with filming larger format motion pictures. For me there’s something so special about the draw and motion cadence to large format cinematography. I’m also fortunate to have the Weapon Helium 8K S35, which brings some flexible practicality in using some of the more common lenses for aerial work.
What can you tell us about the inspiration behind philmColor?
philmColor was born out of some interesting conversations with fellow cinematographers. At the ASC Awards in 2015 there was a spirited conversation between a few DPs about how we treat each new digital sensor as it’s own “film stock”. I thought to myself that with the flexibility of digital it would be nice to have several “stocks” in camera. Last year, 2016, Panavision and Light Iron showcased the DXL camera and Light Iron Color which explored that concept a bit. That was around the time when I started working on the concept of “digital stocks” for RED Digital Cinema Cameras. The goal really is to provide filmmakers with more motion picture film inspired options when it comes to creating their images.
Do you see this fitting a need or niche that filmmakers have identified? Or perhaps one that hadn’t been previously specified?
I think filmmakers these days, when you consider how much effort is put into selecting lenses and filtration, are always looking for ways to craft a more unique look. In the past we have had film laboratories, different processes, and different film stocks to explore. These days we have Digital Colorists who can unlock so much of the footage’s potential. philmColor is designed to put more of a film-like mindset into the equation to bring that base stock and processing mentality back into the mix of things.
philmColor LUTs are purpose designed to be used with RED IPP2 and REDWideGamutRGB/Log3G10. Was this a practical decision or something that simply fit what you wanted to do?
I was fortunate to be apart of the early testing on RED’s new Image Processing Pipeline 2 and identified the potential of it’s flexibility. Graeme Nattress, RED’s Lead Color Scientist, put a lot of thought into these changing times where we finish out to SDR and HDR. This is challenging from the post perspective, but IPP2 helps simplify that. philmColor is purpose designed for IPP2 and can be used in camera or in post on your REDCODE RAW footage. I wanted to create something a bit more unique tuned towards RED cameras specifically and not just another LUT pack. After a lot of testing over the course of about 10 months we have exactly that. Something that can be used in a variety of ways for projects finishing to SDR or HDR. Simple and flexible.
Tell us a little bit about the 4 categories of LUTs you’ve created. baseStocks, ghostStocks, printModels and toneAdjusts obviously all have their own look and feel, but what should users be aware of in terms of how they can be utilized to full effect?
Taking a bit of influence from film, I wanted to break up philmColor into a few categories. The baseStocks tend to be stronger looks. Some based on film, some based on the final looks of other films, some based on grades I’ve done for films even.
ghostStocks are bit more of a “color science” influence. These provide subtle transformations towards the color and tonality of an image. The color models here are a bit of everything, including a couple of subtractive methods.
printModels are designed to be a more of a “print output” to your digital negative. Each printModel has it’s own unique flavor and you can explore pushing out flatter through punchier looks. I like to grade a bit with the CDL with these printModels on top to carve out a unique look.
toneAdjusts are simple utilities for the most part to do specific things to an image. Like pushing midtones up or pulling highlights down. However, there are useful general shooting curves in there too. Check out those cineTones. Some might find that they just like the look of those to base their image on as they retain RED’s color base, but provide a unique tonality.
For anybody who uses these philmColor Creative 3D LUTs they should know they were crafted and designed to be used on any REDCODE RAW image. And most are designed with 18% gray in mind, so they won’t effect your exposure practices negatively and won’t compete against RED’s In Camera Exposure Tools. In fact, everything is designed to play nice here. There are a couple that I do call out in the manual that do special things, for instance Day For Night Helpers that might bring the exposure down a bit to produce the traditional take on DFN.
How difficult is it to get up and running with philmColor LUTs? What logistics do production and post professionals need to know?
philmColor is pretty darn easy to get into. The fastest way to get going is to download the latest beta of REDCINE-X PRO and import them in the Creative 3D LUT Manager. From there you can quickly toggle each one on and off really quickly to preview each look. You can also do some grading in addition to the philmColor LUT via Curves, Contrast, and CDL adjustments. You can also tweak your Exposure/ISO and Color Temperature to help craft your desired look. Since these are designed for IPP2 and mostly designed for 18% gray these are designed to provide stylized usable looks straight away.
Is there a specific type of professional you’re trying to reach with this product? If so, what would you say to them in terms of the difference this can mean to them on a given project?
I think the powerful thing about philmColor is it’s useful for anybody who is working with a RED camera or REDCODE RAW material. The professional I’m attempting to reach is anybody who has ever desired to have a bit more film-inspired stylized look to their footage from the get go. You can use these to base your color grade on, you can use these to finish your footage straight away. You can use these in camera even to provide a more pleasing filming experience on set. A good example is actually the Day For Night philmColor LUTs. I like to expose my shot properly, then toggle on the DFN looks to show the client what they might see after the final grade. That’s a utility sort of mindset, but one of the many uses of these LUTs for sure.
What’s next for philmColor?
I’ve been asked for years to produce LUTs publicly and for me it’s about providing something that everybody enjoys using. I already am working on a few more stocks that will be released later this year. For anybody who purchases philmColor they get these and any updates for free. So this will be something I’ll be adding to time to time. I’ve been enjoying the feedback from studios and shooters already. It’s actually rather invigorated me in to dedicating a bit more time into producing more for them.