Editing HDR correctly – the user's perspective
HDR adds a layer of complexity to post-production and grading, but it also brings a new level of freedom. "It gives you more detail in the highlights, so that's where you can have fun with it," says Sonny Sheridan, who is probably best known for his work as colourist on the UK TV series Lucky Man and 24 Hours in A&E, and has won an RTS Craft & Design Award for Best Picture Enhancement. "If you're shooting someone next to a window, you can keep all the information in the scene outside the window and still have a good exposure on the person inside. That would be very difficult to achieve in SDR. You now have more details and subjects in an image to help tell the story.
"The main challenges I find in grading HDR are managing the highlights on practical lights and, for example, actors standing next to bright windows," Sonny continues. "I have to use a power window to lift the person up from the window and use a luminance key to bring the brightness down in the window. This is to get the balance right, so the person in the foreground is not overshadowed by the high luminance in the window. You need to get the balance right with how bright you go – just because you can go up to 1,000 nits, it doesn't mean you should. Sometimes the best HDR is subtle HDR."
There are additional factors to be taken into account when working out an HDR workflow, Sonny adds. "The main considerations are the source camera acquisition formats and the master delivery specifications – for example, if we are delivering in Rec 2020 or DCI-P3, Dolby Vision, HDR10, HLG and so on.
"Colour management is really important. For scripted drama there is often a single camera format involved, so I would work through a LUT from my acquisition colour space to my target. However, if there is a mix of two or more camera formats, I might choose to work in an ACES workflow so that everything will be unified in my timeline, retaining the widest latitude possible."
Several Cinema EOS cameras, including the EOS C300 Mark III and EOS C500 Mark II, natively support the ACES pipeline, making for a more efficient workflow.