Unified Color announces HDR-Express

And you thought we already have enough HDR tools. Think again.

HDR is increasingly expanding into the consumer field. While there are several options out for pros, the new trend is to make things easy and accessible. Unified Color has already proven with HDR Expose and 32 Float that they're on the frontier of quality HDR editing. But for a quickie edit that's often overkill and takes too much time. Instead of scaling back the pro features, Unified Color rather diversifies their product palette.

HDR Express reduces the complexity to only few sliders. I was skeptical, of course, but after a hands-on session it turns out this is actually great.
  • it's lightning fast
  • very intuitive
  • has visual presets
  • slider names and their effects feel familiar right away
  • always-on halo reduction
  • really really really fast. really.
  • full size processing all the time, WYSIWYG with no surprises afterwards

Highslide JS

The controls behave like common Lightroom adjustments, except with much more room to play.
  • Brightness = LR Exposure
  • Highlight = LR Recovery
  • Shadows = LR Fill Light
  • Contrast = LR Clarity mixed with a Local Contrast boost (this is my favorite slider, actually)
  • Black Point, Saturation and White Balance are exactly what you expect.

HDR Express is a great addition to the arsenal when Fast&Easy is your thing. Do I miss all the advanced stuff like targeted color tweaks, sharpening and veiling glare removal? Sure, for my hero shots I do. But when I have 30 HDR images on my plate to be delivered tomorrow, HDR Express will get the job done with minimum compromises on quality.

Did I mention that it's fast? Part of the new speedy processing core will eventually make it into HDR Expose, which would be highly appreciated.

It will be available in December for $85, or for current customers $50. If you're in New York you can get a demo at PhotoPlus Expo Booth #673. The rest of us can read the Press Release and the new product page.

View Comments

Dolby launches Professional Reference Monitor

Yesterday I had a chance to witness the launch event of Dolby's new Professional Reference Monitor PRM-4200 at the W Hotel Hollywood. That's right, Dolby makes monitors now. It's 100% manufactured by Dolby themselves, and they take pride in that.

This monitor is the first product they made out of the tech acquired with BrightSide Technologies and their famous HDR display. In fact, Dolby has advanced it like crazy, now there are just as many people working in Dolby's Imaging division as in the traditional sound department.

They use RGB LED backlights now to make sure it shows the widest possible color gamut with a straight linear response. But more importantly, they figured out how to integrate it into a real-world production pipeline. You can put the monitor in different modes to emulate every sort of display from consumer TV to theatrical digital projection. It supports 3D LUTs directly, in the industry-standard cineSpace format. You'd simply put it on a Flash drive and stick that in the break-out box.

But what am I talking, just watch my witness cam:

Dolby Reference Monitor in the HDRLabs Channel on Vimeo.

It's just the nature of the beast that a video from my puny D300s on your pitiful computer screen is no comparison to seeing this monitor in real life. The awesome demo machine Susumu Asano is showing us is a professional 2k-4k color grading suite from Digital Vision, the Nucoda Filmmaster. I was told that's the system Pixar finished Toy Story 3 on, ILM has one as well, and I bet I know what these guys will be shopping for next. Another demo booth had live footage running from the new ARRI Alexa camera, which is incredible on its own and probably subject of future post.

Considering Dolby traditionally licenses technology out, you can probably connect the dots where this leaves the consumer market. Keeping control of the ultimate reference design and getting it first into the hands of movie industry professionals is a smart thing to do. Over time this might solve the chicken-and-egg problem: Real HDR media is useless without a true HDR display, and a true HDR display cannot be fully appreciated with LDR content only. Now we can at least master content with wide-gamut and high dynamic range, so it will look great on every screen to come.

More info on dolby.com (yes, front page!)
View Comments

HDR video done tastefully

You might have seen the Soviet Montage clip that was recently making waves on the internet. While impressive to be shot with two Canon 5Ds simultaneously, it was tonemapped with a sledge hammer for no apparent artistic reason. "Because we can" doesn't count in my book.

In the meantime new HDRx footage from the Red EPIC surfaced. This is just a flat transfer with no visual enhancements whatsoever, but impressive for being shot all in-camera on a single sensor. The HDRx mode is now confirmed to come to the Red Scarlet, although that goes along with an unexpected increase in price.

By far the most creative use of HDR video is in this short movie by Patryk Kizny. Although shot with "traditional" HDR timelapse bracketing, it's treated with much care and tonemapped tastefully. A clear demonstration how HDR video in the hands of a skilled artist can turn it into pure gold.

Autumn. A short timelapse film from Patryk Kizny on Vimeo.

By the way, the crazy cool robot dolly in that video is a pre-production unit of the DriveCam Slider. Patryk seems to be the maker, ramping up for business. Check out some of the other movies on Patryk Kizny's website, especially don't miss the snaillapse.

View Comments

New sIBL collections: Dutch Skies 360 Vol.3 + 3DTotal

Bob Groothuis did it again.

Time after time Bob went out on that mole in Scheveningen, Netherlands to capture the most spectacular skies for you. Completely unobscured skies they are, horizon to horizon nothing but clouds and sky. Just what you need to wrap around any arbitrary 3D scene you like.

If Volume 1 and 2 were awesome, Dutch Skies Volume 3 turns out to be Killer! To give you a taste of it, Bob is giving away one complete sky package as sIBL-of-the-month. It's a whopping 225 MB download, and now imagine 39 of these delivered on 2 dual-layer DVDs. That's what you'll get in the new DS360 Vol. 3:

[ Download the DS360 Vol.3 Catalog - 22 MB ]

You can actually win this collection when you enter Bob's render contest. And while you're there, check out his Interview with Gerardo Estrada.

... but wait, there's more:

3DTotal releases Medieval City Collection

Highslide JS

CG Vespa by Torsten Pflug.
Lighting setup completely automatic with Smart IBL, using a sIBL set from 3DTotal's new Medieval City Collection, rendered in Maya using Mental Ray.

I'm completely thrilled to announce that UK's Number One CG artist community joins the Smart IBL revolution.

3DTotal is known for providing high quality textures, that you can really use. I used them a lot in the past, actually, because they are always clean, artist-approved, and high resolution. Their first sIBL-DVD is no exception: it's a Medieval City Collection, ready to become the backdrop for your ZBrush'ed orcs, elves, or hobbits. Or, if your name is Torsten Pflug, your photoreal CG Vespa.

Make sure to watch the demo movie on the bottom of the shop page, it's probably the sweetest quick introduction to Smart IBL I've ever seen.

As it has become a tradition for new sIBL vendors, 3DTotal donated some free sample sIBLs for our archive. How awesome, thank you!

View Comments

Girocam: New 360 camera system spotted at Photokina

What looks like James Bond's coffee mug, or a Matryoshka doll from the future, is in fact a new compact panorama camera called Girocam.

Highslide JS

The Girocam Prototype, spotted on the Photokina show floor by Dieter Bethke. It's unclear if this is one is even operational, it's missing all the shooting mode indicators that you can see on the Girocam website.

3 fisheye lenses apparently share one imaging sensor, everything hard-mounted into one device, so you'd have zero alignment issues.

It can shoot panoramic video and take 7000x3000 (= 21 MP) panoramas with HDR bracketing. There's also a standard tripod thread mount on the bottom and a remote control. Although the maker doesn't seem so clear about the specs yet, calling it 30 MP panorama capture. The Girocam website doesn't look finished either, repeating the same (rather unconvincing) renderings of the device over and over again. Not a single photo or sample panorama. And for some reason it appears to come bundled with a ... rubber duck?

The Girocam is made by Giroptic, a french company that formerly specialized in mirror-on-a-stick capture devices. So this fisheye setup is definitely a step up in quality for them, no matter how awful and small these fisheye lenses really are. Certainly the quality won't compete with a real DSLR+Fisheye setup, but if you're a VFX on-set or real-estate photographer shooting 50+ HDR panos a day, this puppy might become your best friend. I want one anyway, and if it's just for the rubber ducky.

Tipped by Dieter Bethke.

View Comments

RED defines EasyHDR™ and HDRx™ in relation to Epic

RED's leader Jim Jannard has just posted an update on Reduser.net forum linking test footage which was taken in Las Vegas showing off Epic's HDR mode. He defines EasyHDR and HDRx as:

EasyHDR™- done in camera with "Magic Motion".

HDRx™- done in post with either "Magic Motion" or "MNMB" (More Normal Motion Blur).

If you've shot video at night with neon lights blinking like this scene you will instantly be amazed at the dynamic range that is being compressed. Best to check out the forum post and read the pages and pages of responses to get the gist of what's coming :)

UPDATE: September 23rd 2010
Amazingly detailed breakdown of Epic HDRx information posted on Pro Video Coalition by Adam Wilt. He spent 3 hours with Jim Jannard, Jarred Land and Deanan DaSilva (all Red.com staff) getting detailed information about Epic HDRx.
View Comments
Next Page