Can I use 8 bit to record S-Log?

My opinion is that while 8 bit, 422 can be used for S-Log, it is not something I would recommend. I’d rather use a cinegamma with 8 bit recording. 10 bit 422 S-log is another matter altogether, this is well worth using and works very well indeed. It’s not so much whether you use 444, 422 or maybe even 420, but the number of bits that you use to record your output.

What you have to consider is this. With 8 bit, you have 240 shades of grey from black to super white. of the 256 bits available, 16 are used for sync, white is at 235 and super white 256 so black to 100% white is only 219. With Rec-709, standard gamma, on an F3 you get about an 8 stop range, so each stop of exposure has about 30 shades of grey. When you go to S-Log, you now have around 13 stops of DR, so now each stop only has 18 shades of grey. Potentially using 8 bit for S-Log, before you even start to grade, your image will be seriously degraded if you have any flat or near flat surfaces like walls or the sky in your scene.

Now think about how you expose S-Log. Mid grey sits at 38% when you shoot. If you then grade this to Rec-709 for display on a normal TV then you are going to stretch the lower end of your image by approx 30%, so when you stretch you 18 steps of S-Log grey to get to Rec-709 you then end up with the equivalent of only around 12 shades of grey for each stop, that’s less than half of what you would have if you had originally shot using Rec-709. I’m sure most of us have at some point seen banding on walls or the sky with standard gammas and 8 bit, just imagine what might happen if you effectively halve the number of grey shades you have.

By way of a contrast, just consider that 10 bit has 956 grey shades from black to super white. the first 64 bits are used for sync and other data, 100% white is bit 940 and super white 1019. So when shooting S-Log using 10 bit you have about 73 grey shades per stop, a four fold improvement over 8 bit S-Log so even after shooting S-Log and grading to Rec-709 there are still almost twice as many grey shades than if you had originally shot at 8 bit Rec-709.

This is a bit of an over simplification as during the grading process, if your workflow is fully optimised you would be grading from 8 bit to 10 bit and there are ways of taking your original 8 bit master and extrapolating additional grey shades from that signal through smoothing or other calculations. But the reality is that 8 bits for a 13 stop dynamic range is really not enough.

The whole reason for S-Log is to give us a way to take the 14ish stop range of a typical linear 12 bit camera sensor and squeeze as much of that signal as possible into a signal that remains useable and will pass through existing editing and post production workflows without the need for extensive processing such as de-bayering or RAW conversion. So our signal which starts at 12 bits has already been heavily processed to get it from 12 bits to 10. Going from 10 bit down to 8 is a step too far IMHO.

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2 Responses to Can I use 8 bit to record S-Log?

  1. Yes, I agree. Having just completed a TVC where black on black rendered via an 8 bit record as a black tidal pattern ( read: Banding), I would strongly recommend 10 bit for S log…..or the Gemini 4:4:4 if you can!! A much better option for the F3!

  2. Pingback: GH2 Film Modes and ISO « dirkvoorhoeve

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