HELP! There is banding in my footage – or is there?

I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth bringing up again as I keep coming across people that are convinced there is a banding issue with their camera or their footage. Most commonly they have shot a clear blue sky or a plain wall and when they start to edit or grade their content they see banding in the footage.

Most of the cameras on the market today have good quality 10 bit codecs and there is no reason why you should ever see banding in a 10 bit recording, it’s actually fairly uncommon in 8 bit recordings unless they are very compressed or a lot of noise reduction has been used.

So – why are these people seeing banding in their footage? 

99% of the time it is because of their monitoring. 

Don’t be at all surprised if you see banding in footage if you view the content on a computer monitor or other monitor connected via a computers own HDMI port or a graphics card HDMI port. When monitoring this way it is very, very common to see banding that isn’t really there. If this is what you are using there will be no way to be sure whether any banding you see is real or not (about the only exception to this is the screen of the new M1 laptops). There are so many level translations between the colourspace and bit depth of the source video files, the computer desktop, the HDMI output and the monitors setup that banding is often introduced somewhere in the chain. Very often the source clips will be 10 bit YCbCr, the computer might be using a 16 bit or 24 bit colour mode and then the  HDMI might only be 8 bit RGB. Plus the gamma of the monitor may be badly matched and the monitor itself of unknown quality.

For a true assessment of whether footage has banding or not you want a proper, good quality video monitor connected via a proper video card such as a Blackmagic Decklink card or a device such as a BlackMagic UltraStudio product. When using a proper video card (not a graphics card) you bypass all the computer processing and go straight from the source content to the correct output. This way you will go from the 10 bit YCbCr direct to a 10 bit YCbCr output so there won’t be extra conversion and translation stages adding phantom artefacts to your footage.

If you are seeing banding, to try to understand whether the banding you are seeing is in the original footage or not try this: Take the footage into your grading software, using a paused (still) frame enlarge the clip so that the area with banding fills the monitor and note exactly where the edges of the bands are. Then slowly change the contrast of the clip. If the position of the edges of the bands moves, they are not in the original footage and something else is causing them. If they do not move, then they are baked in to the original material.

2 thoughts on “HELP! There is banding in my footage – or is there?”

  1. You mentioned M1 laptop, does it have the banding problem or not?
    Also can the MacBook Pro screen be calibrated to use as a grading monitor in the field? Sometimes that is all that I have available when traveling.

    1. No, on my M1 mac, on the built in display I have never seen banding where there is none. However if I did see banding I would still want to confirm with a proper pipeline to a proper monitor before assuming the banding is real.

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