Can I use 8 bit to record S-Log?

workshops-275 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 where possible. 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 and most other cameras you get about an 8 stop range, so each stop of exposure has about 30 shades of grey. The stops above middle grey where faces and skin tones are have the most shades, often around 50 or more. Then you hit the knee at 90% and each stop only has a handful of shades (why over exposure looks bad).

When you go to S-Log, you now have around 13 stops of DR (14 with S-log2 and S-Log3), so now each stop above middle grey only has approx 18 shades. 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 14 stop range of a high end 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. This isn’t to much of a problem if you have a 10 bit recording, but with an 8 bit recording making it work well is challenging. It can be done, but it is not ideal.

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4 thoughts on “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. “With Rec-709, standard gamma, on an F3 you get about an 8 stop range.”

    In another article you state REC 709 has a 5 stop range. I’m guessing the range is 5.5 stops going to 109%. So how can the F3 have an 8 stop range? One answer would be the F3 uses its Knee to add 2.5 stops. This answer makes sense to me, but is it correct?

    Put another way, when one reads REC.709 supports X stops, we know X can be 5 stops (0 to 100%) or 5.5 stops (0 to 109%), but what reasonably can be the maximum value of X? The answer seems to be how much DR can a Knee add. It looks like with the F3 it can add 2.5 stops. Can a Knee add 2.5 stops?

    1. Yes that’s correct. Rec-709 is actually a display standard and it has a display range of 6 stops. Most cameras that have a Rec-709 compatible gamma curve fit in about 5 stops below 90% and then have a knee at 90% and squeeze in 3 or 4 stops in the last 10 to 19% (depending on whether the camera goes to 100% or 109%). A knee can add a lot more than 3 stops, it can actually go all the way to the limits of the sensor with some cameras, but the amount of compression needed to go beyond about 4 stops results in nasty looking highlights.

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