Detail Correction, Crispening, Aperture and Image Sharpness

First off let me say that there is no “right way” or “wrong way” to set up a scene file. What works for one person may not be to anothers taste, or suit different applications. For me, my requirements are a neutral look, not over corrected or too vivid, but retaining a pleasing contrast range. I hope, as this thread develops to explain a little bit about each of the settings and what they actually do in the hope that it will make it easy for you to adjust the scene files to suit your own needs. I hope others will jump in with their suggestions too!

So first of all I have been looking at the sharpness of the image. The principle settings that affect this are the Detail and Aperture settings.

Detail enhances rapid transitions from light to dark within the pictures by exaggerating the transition with the addition of a black or white edge. So it only really works on object outlines and larger details (low frequency). The circuitry that determines where these edges are uses an electronic delay to compare adjacent pixels to see whether they are brighter or darker compared to each other. Because of this any rapid movement within the frame stops the circuitry from working. If you have picture with a lot of detail correction and you do a pan for example the image will appear to go soft as soon as the camera moves as the detail circuitry can no longer determine where the edges within the image are and thus applies less detail correction. A good way to visually gauge how much detail a camera is applying to a clip is to look for this. With a good high resolution camera, set up well, it should not be all that obvious, but a low resolution camera that uses lots of detail correction to compensate will exhibit lots of softening on pans.

As well as adjusting the amount of detail correction (Detail Level), you can also adjust the ratio of horizontal and vertical correction, the maximum brightness or darkness of the applied edges (white and black limit). The thickness of the edges (frequency), the minimum contrast change that the correction will be applied to (crispening) and you can tell the camera not to apply detail correction to dark areas (level depend).

The other setting that effects picture sharpness is Aperture. Aperture correction is a high frequency boost circuit, it simply, in effect, enhances transitions from dark to light or light to dark in fine detail and textures such as fabrics, skin, hair, grass etc. It’s operation is not as obvious as “Detail” correction, but if overdone it can make textures sparkle with flashes of white or black, all very un-natural.

An important note about image detail is that if you have too much of it for the given image resolution then you get problems such as aliasing and moire which manifest themselves as rainbows of colour or buzzing, jittering areas in the picture. If you want to know more about this look up Nyquist theory. This is one of the reasons why downconverting HD to SD and getting a good picture can be harder than you might think as you are often starting out with too much detail (but that’s another topic on it’s own).

So… on to the PMW-350. Out of the box it’s really sharp. The camera has full 1920×1080 sensors, so even with all detail correction turned off the image is still pretty sharp. However most viewers are used to seeing picture with some detail correction, so if you turn it all off, to many it looks soft. If you were going for a really filmic look, detail off and aperture off would have to be a serious option. For my customers though a little bit of subtle “zing” seems to be what they like.

I found that these settings worked well for general all-round use.

Detail Level -14?H/V Ratio +20 (helps balance horizontal and vertical resolution)?Frequency +35 (makes the edges thinner, if your doing a lot of SD you may want to go the other way to -50 so that the edges can still be seen in SD)?White Limit +35 (limits brightness of white edges)?Black Limit +30 (limits darkness of black edges)

Aperture -20

If you are doing a lot of grading and work with low key scenes (large dark areas) you can use the level depend and crispening settings to help prevent “detail” being added to any picture noise. This makes any noise less apparent.

A starting point for this would be:

Crispening +35?Level depend +20

For normal light levels these are not needed with the 350 IMHO. If you are shooting with more than +6db gain then raising the level depend to +60 will help with noise.

18 thoughts on “Detail Correction, Crispening, Aperture and Image Sharpness”

  1. thank you for your verry interresting informations.
    i have a question!
    can you explain me how to give more colour to the pdw 700, for me it would be important to give 25% colour than the standard setting ,the material goes direkt into the edit, without correction. how to set the matrix user? all setting the same like 10 or 20 or so?
    greetings from austria

  2. First of all thank you for the great blog Your’e having
    I use the ex3 and i get a rather soft image how can i sharpen it so it look more of the 350 image
    thank you

    1. It will never look exactly like 350. The 350 is a better camera with a bigger sensor and lower noise. The main difference is the noise, the EX3 has smaller sensors so tends to have more noise and this softens the picture. If you try to sharpen it then the noise becomes more apparent and overall the picture looks worse.

    1. Best for what? Best according to who? There’s no such thing as a best profile as everyones needs and tastes are different. The profiles I have created for the PMW-200 work fairly well in the X160/X180.

  3. Hi
    I have a Sony PMW-350
    do you know how I can get the view finder on the camera sharper please
    my friend as the same camera,but his view finder is sharper
    I have tried the buttons around the front,but no joy.

    any help would be very welcomed


  4. Please provide me settings for PXW-160. Does this settings work for PXW-160 ? I mostly shoot weddings & events.

  5. Appreciate your work.

    For the aperture setting, you put it at -20. What would be the issue with putting it at +20?

    Can you really tell that much of a difference if it is -20 vs +20?

    Just curious because someone else recommends +20 as the best setting and yours is just the opposite.

    Thank you!

    1. Aperture acts as a high frequency boost, so effects very fine details and textures. If it is set too high you will start to see flickery edges on very fine details as well as more noise in highly detailed parts of the image. This can give many codecs a hard time and if you re-encode or transcode the footage, with each pass it may look worse and worse. This can then be further exaggerated if the TV or monitor adds additional sharpening. With digital cameras aperture correction can be added just as well in post as in camera. Start off with too much however and it’s impossible to remove later on.

  6. hi dude, i am using pxw 160, i m shooting indian wedding, my camera looks less sharp compare to sony pmw 150,
    any setting please

    1. They are two very different cameras so they will look different. You can turn up the detail correction on the PXW-160 to boost the artificial sharpening to make it look sharper and match the over sharpened PMW-150 image.

  7. Some cameras seem to have much better resolution than others, even though they are all HD. What factors go into making a crisp image (seeing the pores in skin). Most national TV spots have terrific looking resolution. Is it really helpful to shoot in 4K and down res. Should you edit in 4K and down-res the final product or edit the 4K in HD? I have an FS7. How close to an F55 image can I expect?

    Thank you for all that you share. It’s most helpful.

    1. Resolution or sharpness? They are two different things. Contrast has a dramatic effect on the apparent sharpness of an image and most of the in-camera sharpening methods work by boosting contrast on edges. However add to much and things get ugly very fast. A lot of high end TV work is graded very carefully and contrast will be used to make the images look sharp. Old standard definition DVD’s of movies can often look very sharp due to the high contrast lighting used in a lot of film production.
      An FS7 can be nearly indistinguishable from an F55. But a huge amount of the look of either comes from lens choices, lighting etc. The electronic adjustments are only ever going to make the smallest of difference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: