Part I: Project settings
Part II: BT.2020 or P3-D65 Limited?
Part V: RAW
Part VI: The Grade
Part VIII: Why HDR Production Monitors Matter
Note: The information in this guide is continually revised and expanded and the reader is urged to check back occasionally for updates. The current recommendations are valid as of macOS Monterey version 12.3.1, DaVinci Resolve Studio 18 beta and Desktop Video 12.2.2. RED Komodo project settings have been added to Part V: RAW.
Since publishing our exhaustive workflow for HDR10 in Final Cut Pro, we’ve been inundated with requests to do the same for DaVinci Resolve – and with the introduction of customizable HDR color wheels that allow extremely precise exposure and color adjustments from super blacks to specular highlights in Resolve Studio 17, a terrific NLE just got even better! It’s baffling how to this day the single greatest contribution to cinema since the talkies remains woefully neglected by many in the filmmaking community and that there exists in 2021 no one-stop source with concise, accurate, up-to-date information for the enthusiast on the acquisition, processing and delivery of HDR video. Moreover, of the exceedingly few HDR tutorials that can be found on the Web, many have inaccurate, incomplete or outdated information. Our goal was to make this tutorial as intelligible as possible, with the aim of inspiring even more filmmakers to discover the incredible universe that is HDR. In part one, we’ll cover (1) how to set up your a7s III; (2) project settings you’ll need to grade HDR10 in Resolve; (3) Blackmagic Design Desktop Video settings; and (4) how to configure your LG OLED for use as an HDR grading monitor.
Far from being just a gimmick, HDR is an entirely new language with its own unique vocabulary and an expanded tonal range, allowing for immense expressive possibilities. Yet much of the HDR content on video sharing platforms and streaming services like Netflix is virtually indistinguishable from SDR. And some HDR YouTube videos are so oversaturated, so grotesquely bright, so utterly lacking in contrast, with hideously blown-out highlights, that they resemble monstrous caricatures – yet unaccountably, they amass hundreds of millions of views – while at the same time exercising a corrupting influence on the taste of the general public. Click here to read more about HDR brightness levels and how shooting for HDR differs from SDR. For an example of superb HDR cinematography and grading, we can’t recommend the exquisitely lensed Netflix thriller The Spy highly enough.
Here’s how to set up your Sony a7s III.
In picture profile, select either S-Gamut3/S-Log3 or S-Gamut3.cine/S-Log3. For what it’s worth, S-Gamut3.cine/S-Log3 is the most common color space used on Sony FX9, F55, FS7, F5 and FX6 Netflix productions (which also happen to use the P3-D65 color space in post-production). We’ve also been informed that key mastering engineers at Sony Pictures in Culver City recommend selecting the S-Gamut3.cine/S-Log 3 settings in Resolve.
For further examples illustrating how to expose correctly using the false color guide of the Ninja V, click here.
To sync audio with the Ninja V, be sure to check out this post!
Note: For the best results, we really recommend shooting RAW, not XAVC S-I internal.
In spite of bizarre claims made in some online tutorials, MacBook Pro and iMac displays may not be used for grading HDR video. Furthermore, it is not advisable to connect either directly to an HDR monitor or television set without an I/O box. Nor should one be relying on a field monitor like the Shogun Inferno for color grading. Focus and resolution should only be judged on a screen that is sufficiently large to allow viewing at 1.5 times picture height. Suitable displays include the Asus ProArt PA32 UCX and LG OLED televisions. Apple’s Pro Display XDR is not recommended, as one can pick up as many as three Asus monitors or four 55″ OLED televisions for the cost of one XDR display with stand, nano textured glass and 3-year extended warranty. You might also consider adding a consumer reference display.
Data levels should almost always be set to video. “The easiest way to tell is to send a pure black frame to the TV with your output set to video levels (not in HDR, in SDR). If the screen shows an elevated black level, it’s expecting a full range signal, if it’s as black as it gets, it’s video”. – Samuel Bilodeau
We can also confirm whether our clips are being properly displayed by asking ourselves (1) do clips that were exposed to the right look dark? and (2) when viewing the same clips on the timeline of another NLE, such as Final Cut Pro, do the clips look brighter? If your project was set to Full and the answer to both questions is yes, then you’ll want to switch data levels to Video. Just as, when importing the same ProRes 4444 file into Final Cut Pro and DaVinci Resolve with output color space set to Rec.2020 PQ, they both have virtually identical color, contrast and brightness on our MacBook Pro Liquid Retina XDR miniLED with reference mode set to P3-ST.2084.
“HDR mastering is for X” lets you specify the output, in nits, to be inserted as metadata into the HDMI stream being output, so that the display you’re connecting to correctly interprets it. Set the “nit” level (cd/m2) to whatever peak luminance level your HDMI connected HDR display is capable of. Under Lookup Tables, be sure to select Tetrahedral interpolation, as it outperforms Trilinear – although, when it comes to HDR WCG, traditional LUTs are nowhere near large enough to avoid artifacts, particularly when it comes to dark and saturated images.
To prevent power windows from appearing on your external monitor, go to View > Window Outline and check Only UI.
To use the HDR capabilities of an Apple MacBook or iMac built-in display or external HDR capable displays such as the Apple Pro Display XDR in order to preview HDR content directly via the Resolve viewer, observe the following steps. Note: the feature is only available on macOS 10.14.6 and above and DaVinci Resolve 16 and above.
While no one should be using the Resolve viewer for color grading on their Mac, this feature does have a number of advantages: (1) it makes it possible to edit HDR footage with actual color and contrast; (2) you can show the client/friends/model what you’re working on when on location or when there’s no HDR display around and (3) it makes previewing HDR content on a MacBook possible.
The time can’t come soon enough when we’re able to see an actual HDR image in the viewer on Macs with miniLED displays.
Update 12.2021 The Apple Liquid Retina XDR miniLED display has arrived!
UPDATE: DaVinci Resolve Studio 17.4 adds Native HDR viewers and 120 Hz playback on supported MacBook Pros.
For sure, you’ll want to calibrate your LG OLED before using it as an HDR grading monitor.