One of the great features that I find in RED cameras is the ability to swap OLPFs on-the-fly. It really gives you another level of flexibility in choosing the right tool for your shooting condition. In Red’s new DSMC2 bodies, swapping OLPFs is even easier than before, and I find it to be another step in their commitment to keeping the Red as modular as possible. I would have no problem swapping OLPFs on set in the middle of shooting; it’s quick and very easy to do — even you’re 2nd AC could do it!
Currently, Red offers 4 OLPFs, which have pretty descriptive names. You shouldn’t have a hard time figuring out what each one is good for.
- Standard – Red’s newest OLPF that combines the characteristics of Skin Tone-Highlight and Low-Light
- Skin Tone-Highlight – Helps preserve skin tones and highlights in bright conditions
- Low Light Optimized – Helps reduce noise and retain detail in low light situtations
- H2O – For underwater
In this particular test, I wanted to see how the Standard OLPF compared to the popular Skin Tone-Highlight. I’ve been told it has “Alexa-like” highlights, but can it make that much of a difference?
Testing Methodology and Parameters
This test was conducted alongside my previous RED Scarlet-W vs. Panasonic VariCam LT so all the same variables and shooting conditions apply. Please see the previous post for a more detailed breakdown. Conducted by cinematographer Toshi Kizu and starring Shavvon Lin.
As a need for some baseline exposure and guideline for comparison, the camera was rated at 800 ISO for both OLPFs. You may choose to rate OLPFs at different ISOs, but as a control, I felt 800 ISO was fairly standard for most shooting conditions. RegLogFilm was also applied to give a starting point for post-production, but of course some might choose to process it otherwise.
I’ll try to keep it short, but yes, the Skin Tone-Highlight OLPF definitely helps in highlights and overexposure. Even at N+8 1/2, there’s still some detail in Shavvon’s shirt as well as the color checker where the Standard is completely gone and clipped. Highlights details are better retained, and conversely, it does worse in the shadows with more noise, as expected. I’m also still on the fence about how it renders color. To me, it looks a little more green that I would like (especially when applied with RedGamma4 or Rec709), but that warmth to the skin tone is something that will please people. Personally, for general use, I like to stick with Standard. I’m sure there will certainly be some cases where the Skin Tone-Highlight will shine, maybe if you’re shooting all day exterior, but Standard really does fit in most cases for me.
One thing to keep in mind is how you choose to rate your camera depending on your OLPF. I’ve heard that many DP’s like to rate Skin Tone-Highlight at 400 ISO or 640 ISO which is definitely a valid choice. It’s really up to you and your shooting scenario; that’s what makes RED’s modularity such a fantastic feature.
There’s a clear color shift when comparing the Skin Tone-Highlight to the Standard OLPF. STH is much warmer, you can really see how the skin pushes towards yellow. As you would expect, it’s reflected in the vectorscope as well. Slide it back and forth to see how the color moves towards warmth.