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How to shoot Videos on Cloudy Days

Shooting quality video footage on cloudy days can be complicated if you use cameras or drones with low bitrates and small sensors. Especially if you film in a flat color profile, or even in LOG it becomes very hard for the camera to save all the details.

Why is it hard for cameras to save videos in flat color profiles?

The reason is that the compression of the codec that saves your video data can’t recognize fine details so good. So it mushes out your video footage. Imagine 3 pixels next to each other. In a contrasty profile, each pixel looks very different, so they have very different color values. In a flat color profile, two of the pixels might have similar color values or maybe they’re so flat that they get the same. That can especially happen in the 8-bit color space as there are far fewer color values available.

Now the compression of the codec your camera uses does its job. The codecs try to save space by only saving the data of the image that changes over a certain amount of frames and they combine areas that look the same. Because of that, the pixels that are close to each other and have about the same values could be interpreted wrong by the compression. So you lose detail in your footage.

Do you see that straight out of the camera?

You usually won’t recognize that straight out of the camera because the compression algorithms today are very good at saving the footage as it looks defined by your picture profile. The issues become visible when you color grade your footage. Then you can see color artifacts in certain areas or you recognize that detail in some areas is lost. That can, for example, happen easily in trees that are a bit further away.

So how can you make sure that your camera captures the video footage in high quality?

Fortunately, there is a little trick by adjusting the camera settings that you can use to make it easier for the compression to recognize even fine details and save them. So that you have an easier time color grading it in post.

All you have to do is to raise the contrast under the picture settings in your camera. Important when you do that is that you should only raise it so much that you don’t clip your shadows and highlights. That would also mean that you lose information in your video footage.

To make sure that you don’t clip your shadows and highlights, simply turn your histogram on.

On the histogram, you can see how far the curve stretches. If it touches the left part of the histogram, you crush your shadows and if it touches the right side of the histogram, you clip your highlights.

So just make sure you raise your contrast only enough to be a little bit away from the left and right side of the histogram.

If you also use a low saturation setting, it can also make sense to raise the saturation a bit. Especially if you’re shooting at a place that doesn’t have many colors, it can help you a lot.

Using these tips on cloudy days or generally, if you shoot under flat light conditions will make your color grading a lot easier. Your camera can now save more details in the video file, so that makes everything easier for you.

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Pascal Basel
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