Best Nikon Picture Control Settings for Videography

BestPictureControlSettingsNikonDSLRVideoD800

When you ask around for the “Best Picture Control Setting” you’re bound to get many different responses – even among experts. However, we’ve tried a few different picture styles over the years and have settled in on what we like. While this is specific to Nikon Picture Control settings, similar settings can be used for Canon.

Phillip Bloom (and may other amazing cinematographers) suggest shooting in flat or superflat settings, which dial down sharpness and contrast to zero and then dial back saturation a couple settings.

We prefer a modified picture control setting somewhere closer to what Shane Hurlbut or Joe Simon may shoot with, which only dials back the contrast by one. Hurlbut actually keeps contrast at the default zero and drops the saturation down by one.

Here are our settings and our reasons why.

Sharpening: 0
Contrast: -1
Brightness: 0
Saturation: 0 (default)
Hue: 0 (default)

Sharpening: 0
This is the one standard you’ll see across any videography picture control recommendations for Canon or Nikon. A little bit of sharpening in post can be used to firm up details for something published on YouTube or Vimeo, but if you plan to put anything on DVD or BluRay for a larger screen, sharpening in-camera starts doing really ugly things to your image. Side note: If you use a screen shot for your DVD/BluRay menu and edit in Photoshop or Lightroom, be sure not to apply sharpening to your image for the same reason. On the big screen a sharpened image looks like crap.

Contrast: -1
We shoot with the D800 and we primarily film weddings. The D800 has amazing dynamic range, and while we don’t want to crush the blacks or blow-out the whites – getting in-focus shots while using Live View in the fast-paced setting of a wedding day is more important. The more contrast you can see in live-view, the more accurate your focus will be. On a hot, sunny day trying to see your focus point is hard enough – let alone if you were to have no contrast to your image.

Brightness: 0 (default)
We leave this as-is. We manage our brightness through ISO and Aperture in manual mode.

Saturation: 0 (default)
This is where we may be a little bit different from the rest. The D800 puts out such great colors, and with the contrast down just a touch, we like where the overall image sits when we go into post-production grading work. There are experts who want more lee-way in post-production, but for us, we prefer less grading work that would only be spent getting similar colors to what this setting already does by default.

Hue: 0 (default)
As with Saturation and brightness, the default Hue setting works fine and any fine-tuning of color is done via white balance selection or even a custom white balance.

Do you use something different? Leave a comment for us and let us know what you think is the best (or most useful) Nikon Picture Control Setting for video work.

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