Why Log? Part 1

In a previous post, I quoted someone who dropped off a drive and said, “We shot log.” The term “log” gets used a lot. For some, it means a lot, and for others, it’s just another term they need to use if they want to be considered a professional.

As someone with both still and motion backgrounds, I think it’s interesting how different still photography and video can be. Usually, with still photography, the photographer is trying to capture exactly what he sees. The still editing process is about making sure the final image matches the original.

Cinematography, on the other hand, is about capturing as much image data as possible on set. Once the edit is finished, the footage goes through a color grading session to set the look. Still photography rarely has a color grade step in the workflow.

Shooting log is another example of the difference between motion and still. When I talk to still photographers about log, they nod a bit but then ask, “Why not shoot raw?” Raw gives you access to the data coming off the image sensor with minimal processing so you can manipulate that data more easily.

But a response to the “raw” question brings up some numbers. A still photographer may shoot 1,000 to 10,000 images on a location assignment. That seems like a lot to manage. A cinematographer might shoot 172,800 frames. That’s how many frames there are for 2 hours of shooting at 24 frames per second. If you shoot a documentary, you’ll shoot millions of frames or more.

There’s no magic when you capture with a cinema camera. You still have individual frames to process, output and store. That’s why some cameras don’t record raw in their standard configuration. Adding that capability increases the cost and complexity. And, just as with still files, on the edit side, raw files are big. That means you need a lot of storage, especially if the cinematographer doesn’t stop the camera often when she shoots.

Raw files also require a lot of processing capability in order to display footage at captured speed. As a result, raw files frequently change your workflow. If your workstation isn’t up to it, you’ll have to create lower resolution proxies.

So, while people do shoot raw, a lot don’t. But they still want the raw “control” of the image. Shooting log gives cinematographers more of that control versus shooting in the camera’s native picture profile or “look.”

Next time, what shooting log really means and how it can affect the edit.