Monday, May 9, 2016

Shooting into the sun (not all that bad)

Some of you may already have seen my video about the city of Darmstadt. Just to make something clear before I start: I simply did not have time to see the Woog (if you live in Darmstadt, you’ll know what that is); the Rosenhöhe would have been, I would guess, not at its best at this time of year; and to the guy who said he could have fixed me up with a visit to the European Space Operations Center if only he’d known in advance I was to be in Darmstadt — many thanks, and the sentiment is more than appreciated (because that would have been seriously cool), but this is why I really want to find a way to be able to do this as my real job instead of squeezing it into my free time.

Still, since some of you seem to interested in the nuts and bolts of videomaking — a skill I’m still more or less learning by doing — I thought it would be good to start talking some behind-the-scenes stuff. Today: what happens when you have to shoot into the sun.

Here’s a still straight from the camera: it’s a shot of the main building of the Technical University.

It doesn’t look too good, does it? Here’s why: it was a gloriously sunny day, and this shot was taken almost directly into the sun. The entire façade is in fact in shadow; to try to compensate, I set the camera’s white balance to “cloudy”, which at least made the colours less blue. That didn’t help much beyond that: everything looks flat and washed out. You can also see that there is some dust on the camera lens, which I should have cleaned first, but there was nothing I could do about that post-production.

It took me the whole day to cover as much of Darmstadt as I could; returning later when the sun was in a different position wasn’t an option. So I had to tweak it in the video editor as best I could.

First of all, with the colours all washed out, I slightly increased the saturation. This makes the colours more vibrant, less grey, but if you overdo it, the result can look artificial and ugly. My video editor allows me to set the saturation anywhere between -100 (no colour at all) to +100 (LSD trip), and I took it to +36:

The difference is barely noticeable, but it is there. There’s slightly more colour now, but it still looks washed out: there aren’t enough dark tones. So I next increased the contrast, to 73 on a scale of 0 to 100:

This gives me much more contrast between shadows and highlights, but now the bright parts of the image are too bright. If I simply reduce the brightness, the image would go all murky; so instead, I reach for a useful tool called selective brightness. I can choose whether I want to adjust the highlights, the midtones or the shadows. My problem here is that the bright areas are too bright, so I select highlights and set them to -41 brightness. This darkens the bright areas of the image but leaves the rest untouched:

And there you have it. The sky still looks white instead of the bright blue it actually was — I can’t fix that — but I think the whole image looks much better now. At least it looks like it did to me when I was standing in front of it.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe, because I am half blind...They look the same except for the third one...the trees look more precise and colorful...