Canon Picture Styles: Shooting Flat or Not?
When Technicolor released the CineStyle picture profile last year it immediately became a hit amongst Canon DSLR videographers. After all, this is Technicolor. These folks have extensive experience in color science, image processing and digital intermediate. So after this introduction the following may come as a surprise to you. The thing is, unless you know exactly why you are using CineStyle, then chances are you will get better results by not using it. This article talks about dynamic range and picture styles, and attempts to explain the Why’s behind the previous statement. Also, we are focused here on Canon picture styles but the principles apply to any DSLR or video camera with 8-bit video.
Scene dynamic range specifies the ratio between the luminance of the brightest whites and the darkest blacks in a scene. Similarly, camera dynamic range specifies the ratio between the luminance of the brightest whites and the darkest blacks that the camera can capture. In photography this range is usually measured in f-stops (or exposure values, EV) which is a logarithmic measure (with base 2). Each successive stop is double the light. So a dynamic range of 10 stops means a contrast ratio of 210:1 or 1024:1.
Current digital sensors have some pretty good dynamic range capabilities. The ARRI Alexa and Red MX sensors capture dynamic range well in excess of 13 stops. The dynamic range of the APS-C sized Canon 550D/t2i sensor is about 11.5 stops and the dynamic range of the full frame Canon 5D mark II is around 12 stops.
The RAW data of a Canon DSLR camera is 14-bit. This means that the analog-to-digital conversion on the sensor yields 14-bit values (between 0 and 16383). This is enough to represent accurately dynamic range spanning 12 stops when encoding it linearly. This is all nice and good, but unfortunately for videographers that’s not the signal we get out of the camera.
Most digital cameras feature settings for picture styles. These are sometimes called picture profiles or creative styles (on some Sony cameras). The picture style defines some parameters for the image, most notably color handling. But in this article we are more interested in another property of custom picture styles.
The raw image of the camera is in linear space. Which means image pixels record luminosity in a linear fashion. The picture style specifies a curve which is applied to this input image in order to make it presentable. This is usually some sort of S-shaped curve to make the image more contrasty: shadows and highlights are compressed. Custom Canon picture styles further enhance this behaviour by allowing curves to be applied on top of the default curve. And these additional curves are what we are interested in here.
See, Canon DSLRs (and all DSLRs, for that matter) capture consumer grade video. By design, video from DSLRs is not meant to be tinkered with but displayed directly on consumer displays. Consumer displays are almost universally 8-bit displays, with some of them actually having 6-bit panels and dithering colors up to 8-bit. Unsurprisingly, consumer level video is 8-bit too. Blu-ray discs, for example, have 8-bit video. Canon DSLR video is also 8-bit. And that’s where picture styles come into play.
The picture style tells the camera how to put all that RAW dynamic range into 8 bits (with gamma encoding on top of it). Back in the 90′s Kodak made the Cineon system for scanning and digital intermediate of film. The digitized data was 10-bit and the guys at Kodak actually came to the conclusion that 8-bit was good for representing around 6 2/3 stops, or less than 7 stops of dynamic range. Encode more range, and you start getting banding issues in the grading process. Digital cameras now routinely output between 8 and 9 stops of dynamic range in 8-bit video and jpegs. This is mostly achieved by rolling off the highlights and pressing down the shadows. Most of the coding space is reserved for midtones. This is the well-known S-curve. So in this encoded dynamic range of 8-9 stops there is good detail in, say, 5-6 stops in the mids.
The camera sensor has lower signal-to-noise ratio in the blacks and higher signal-to-noise ratio in the whites. This is because noise is more or less evenly distributed on the sensor but there are less photons hitting the sensor in the darker pixels. For this reason, the 8-9 stops of dynamic range baked in the encoded video (or still picture) are taken from the upper end of the RAW dynamic range. This ensures cleaner image. Incidentally, that’s also the reason RAW images usually have more exposure latitude for pushing shadows up than for pulling highlights down.
The case of flat picture styles
Flat picture styles try to emulate how film negative captures the scene. Modern negative stocks can capture full detail in some 11-12 stops of dynamic range. Compare that to the 6 detailed stops in 8-bit video meant for display. On top of that, there is even more exposure latitude in the rolled off highlights above the shoulder and in the dark tones below the toe. Because equal negative density is allocated to each stop, the film is said to work in Log space (from logarithmic). This may be somewhat confusing at first, but bear in mind that the f-stop axis is already logarithmic: each successive stop is double the light of the previous stop. Having that much dynamic range captured in full detail allows the cinematographer a lot of latitude in the way the scene is shot. Exposure errors can be fixed and decisions about the overall tone of the shoot can be deferred to post-production. The film is then printed on a contrasty release stock which returns contrast back for presentation. (You can read a more detailed introduction on film dynamic range here.)
Flat picture styles aim to allow for similar exposure latitude and post-production flexibility. To increase the recorded dynamic range in general, and to have good detail throughout this recorded dynamic range. Flat picture styles do this by distributing the coding space equally over the exposure range: each stop of light is being encoded by the same number of values. So, an ideal Log distribution is a straight line. For example, if we want to encode 10 stops in 8 bits, we will have around 25 values to encode shades in each stop. In practice, the curve is rarely totally flat because there is too much noise in the low end of the range. Lifting the blacks also lifts the noise. So allotting a full bucket of values for them would be a waste of coding space. That’s why the extreme darks get compressed a bit even in flat picture styles.
One clarification, before we go further. Flat picture styles should not be seen as a way to increase dynamic range. In fact, they may not increase DR at all and still be useful. Usually there is some dynamic range increase over the factory picture styles. These additional stops (or a fraction of a stop) are almost always in the shadows, and they are noisy, compressed and lacking color fidelity. There is no real detail in there; just some notion of tonal change, at best. The real gain is in the stops which are already there at the bottom of the curve in the factory picture styles. The flat picture style just expands them and makes the detail in these stops available in post. In that sense, flat picture styles increase the usable dynamic range.
As you may have guessed, it is not only dances and songs in the case of flat picture styles. They have a serious weakness. The 8-bit coding space simply sucks for representing extended dynamic range. The more dynamic range you encode, the less precision there is in tonality distribution in the usable dynamic range. That means that video shot with flat picture styles breaks faster when pushed in post; posterization (banding) happens sooner when stretching the range around. In a sense, what we get in exposure latitude, we lose in tonal precision and gradation. So, flat picture styles offer a trade-off, and not the solution to all problems.
The flat picture style is in essence a production format. The same way as Super 35 negative film or RAW video are production formats. Flat picture styles are meant for post and not for presentation. Usually, the image needs to get some contrast treatment to make it presentable.
The Technicolor CineStyle picture style was developed by Technicolor in order to assist their digital intermediate process. Cinematographers often utilize different cameras on a shoot, including Canon DSLR cameras. And Canon DSLR video doesn’t mesh well during DI with scanned film negative footage and footage from high-end digital cameras that shoot Log space video. That’s why they developed CineStyle to have the output of the Canon DSLR in Log space. It came as a surprise to Technicolor that so many people actually donwloaded CineStyle. The recommended settings for Technicolor CineStyle are -4 Contrast and -2 Saturation. And it also comes with an optional LUT which can be used in most NLEs or compositors and applies a S-curve to the image to make it presentable.
I’ve measured the dynamic range and values distribution of CineStyle through multiple exposures of a Danes-Picta BST13 reflective grayscale chart with steps of 1/3 stop (a copy of Kodak Q-13). This test does not pretend for scientific accuracy but nevertheless gives a pretty good idea of what’s happening with the image. The test was done with a Canon 550D/t2i but the results should apply to any Canon DSLR camera.
There are a couple of peculiarities about Technicolor CineStyle. Both can be seen in the chart.
First, somewhat controversially, CineStyle sets the black point at 16. The values [0..15] are practically unused. Second, and not as obvious, the whites are brought down significantly. There are still values recorded all the way up to 255, but a whole lot of the value range is dedicated to the highest 1/2 stop. This is quite the opposite of the typical knee and knee slope approach to handling extreme highlights. It is worth noting that there is no official info from Technicolor setting things straight about this. There is a notice on their site, saying “a detailed white paper and case study will be developed in the near future”. But it’s been there for ages with no white paper on the horizon (at the time of writing this).
Various explanations exist for this range distribution. Mike Seymour advocates the idea that lifting the black point is reducing noise by allowing negative values (with respect to black at 16) and having the smoothed average exactly at black (read his post for details). This makes sense but there are problems with the idea. For one, even at high ISO settings with lots of sensor noise there are only rarely any pixels with values below 16 (and none below 14 in my tests). Another popular explanation says that the h.264 codec doesn’t like small values. That’s why lifting the blacks to 16 preserves them from being butchered by the codec. Finally, there is the idea that lifting the blacks and limiting the whites is simply done in order to put all the important info in the broadcast legal range of 16-235. Even though there are values all the way up to 255, important whites are pulled down below the 235 limit.
My take on this matter is different. I am convinced that the lifted black point is entirely connected to film and digital cinema Log workflows. For example, in 10-bit film scan formats like Cineon/DPX the black point (D-min) is placed at 95 for reasons that I won’t delve into here (it is concerned with the uneven grain structure of unexposed/underexposed film). Converted to 8 bits this would be around 24. Incidentally, D-min is around 4 2/3 stops down of mid-gray (18% gray). In my measurements of CineStyle’s distribution 4 2/3 stops below mid-gray came at around value 25. This theory also explains the limited precision (due to the relatively small inclination) in the straight portion of the curve resulting in apparently badly used precision in the extreme whites. Both the lifted black and the low gamma of the curve are needed for seamless intercutting of footage from Canon DSLRs with film scans and digital cinema Log footage without any significant import pain. Which is the reason for the creation of CineStyle in the first place.
And there is, of course, the possibility that Technicolor did the blacks lifting for very specific reasons connected to their DI workflow. Hopefully, the white paper will materialize some day to clear this point. But whatever the reason, limiting the useful value range doesn’t look like a good idea when recording video in 8 bits. This decreases the already precious space allotted to each stop even more and invites banding artifacts in post. Still, many videographers use Technicolor CineStyle because, well, it’s Technicolor. But there are better alternatives in the Canon DSLR world. At least in the likely case that you are not doing your DI at Technicolor.
One side effect of the lifted black point is an increase in perceived noise. Pushing black up to 16 also lifts the noise always present in the shadows and makes it brighter and thus more visible. This is not noise created by CineStyle, the noise exists in other flat picture styles too. But being darker makes it harder to notice.
Other flat Canon picture styles
Even before Technicolor CineStyle there were flat picture styles attempting to increase the useful dynamic range. The easiest option is to use one of the lower contrast factory Canon picture styles – Neutral or Faithful – and decrease the Contrast setting down from the default 0 to -4. You can see Faithful at -4 Contrast in the chart above. The curve of Faithful becomes flat later than CineStyle but keeps being flat all the way to the limit of 255. This means more range for each stop in the mids and the highlights, compared to CineStyle. CineStyle has more detail in the shadows and the extreme highlights though. Neutral looks identical to Faithful in terms of dynamic range. The difference is in the color treatment. Neutral is closer to Standard, and Faithful is closer to Portrait. Canon claims that Faithful offers colors closest to the original scene colors. Note that the difference in contrast between Standard, Portrait and Landscape on one side, and Neutral and Faithful on the other, is small. In fact, Canon says it is mostly due to color tone balancing.
When the basic styles at -4 Contrast are not enough for the job, other custom picture styles may come in handy. Marvels Cine is one of the oldest attempts for a flat picture style. It is currently at version 3.4. This version is based on the Neutral Canon picture style. And it is created to allow for correct exposure evaluation through the Canon DSLR LCD screen. This is a common disadvantage of flat picture styles: by lifting the range they brighten the LCD screen of the camera. This makes exposure judgement through the screen difficult. Some people actually compose and setup exposure in another style (Standard, for example) and switch to the flat style for recording.
The Flaat family of picture styles is more recent. It includes 4 picture styles – Flaat_09, Flaat_10, Flaat_11, Flaat_12 – claiming 9, 10, 11 and 12 stops of dynamic range respectively. But remember what we said above. Dynamic range and usable dynamic range are two different things. Digging too deep in the darks is not recommended due to both noise extraction and loss of tonal precision in the mids. These styles have the flattest curve from the shadows to the highlights compared to both Technicolor CineStyle and Marvels Cine. Flaat_10 and Flaat_9 are the styles most will be interested in, as they offer good flat tonal distribution without excessive noise in the shadows. The Flaat picture style family comes in two variations: one based on Neutral and one based on Portrait. This is handy, considering how color handling is the main (but sometimes forgotten) reason for selecting a specific picture style in the first place.
Skin colors are one area which can be affected negatively by flat picture styles. Having the right skin hues won’t help much if tonality is lost due to insufficient tonal precision in this range. Lacking gradation in the range of the skin tones is a highway to plasticky skin. This is the reason Marvels Cine v3.4 supposedly keeps the linearity of the values (does not flatten them) in the most common range for skin.
Not shooting flat: getting the desired look in camera
The position of this section in the article may seem illogical. Why haven’t we started with not shooting flat in the first place? I believe that only by getting acquainted with the shortcomings of flat shooting one can truly appreciate the alternative.
Getting the desired look in the camera has been a popular mantra amongst cinematographers for decades and also a reason for pride, considering how this is a significant demonstration of skill and knowledge. Utilizing specific film stocks to achieve a specific look was a main part of the process. In the digital realm picture styles can be thought of as the analog of film stocks. By selecting a specific picture style and playing with the style’s parameters one can create various looks. While the factory Canon picture styles offer some decent variety and will work for lots of people, there are tons of custom picture styles online, each targeting a specific look, including simulations of popular film stocks like Kodachrome, Velvia, Ektachrome.
The point is, getting as close as possible to the final look during the shoot will limit the need for adjustments in post. And post hurts the image. The heavily compressed 8-bit video simply is not meant to be abused in post.
DO’s and DON’Ts
- Getting the look you want in-camera is the best solution. This means less tinkering in post, with less possibilities for breaking the image. It just so happens that this is not always possible. Nevertheless, when shooting in controlled conditions and for simple projects that should be the default option.
- Shooting flat is a trade-off between usable dynamic range and tonal precision throughout that range. Try to use the most contrasty picture style that does not clip or limit important highlights and does not excessively compress blacks. This ensures the best possible tonal precision.
- Don’t bother with CineStyle unless you intercut with film or digital cinema footage. For better tonal precision stick to Neutral/Faithful (and contrast set depending on the scene) or Flaat_10.
- Flat picture styles are mostly useful in scenes with lots of contrast and lots of details. Having large gradients in the frame may pose problems with banding in post when you try to add some contrast back to the image. Don’t be afraid to shoot flat, just be ready for the consequences. Shooting flat when the scene is low contrast makes no sense as you will compress an already limited range even further. Avoid that.
- Flat picture styles can be thought of as a production format. But it may still be acceptable to shoot flat if your goal is low contrast look. Even then, it is easier to take contrast out in post than the opposite.
- Don’t be afraid to play with the Color Tone parameter of your picture style. This tweaks skin tones from Magenta/Pink to Yellow and can help when skin does not look right.
- Mixing picture styles for a project can work, but may also introduce matching problems in post. Stylistic differences between sequences is a good reason to use a different picture style. Difference in scene contrast is a good reason for that only if the two picture styles match in color.
- Picture style color is at least as important as dynamic range, if not more. There are so many videos with crappy grading out there that it is not even funny (hello, Magic Bullet Looks). Test picture styles before committing to them. Canon’s Digital Photo Professional can apply any picture style to a RAW image, so it is easy to see for yourself. Don’t just use a style because it is popular, or because you’ve seen a nice video shot with it. Test. Know your image before you’ve even taken it out of the memory card.
This entry was posted by cpc on April 17, 2012 at 11:13 am, and is filed under Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0.You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.
Very nice and clear article. I have 3 custom profiles
1. neutral contrast -4 (prolost settings) when Magic Lantern shows zebras in both highlights and shadows I switch to
2. cinestyle. Didn’t use is very often so not much experience but I will switch to flaat 10
3. flaat12 for even more dr. It never came to this up till now. So never used it.
I actually prefer Faithful over Neutral for its blues. Not that fond of its skin tones though: Faithful can push skin hues too pink.
Flaat_10 is pretty nice and with a very predictable distribution which makes it easy to grade.
Sometimes it is better to just leave blacks of whites where they fall, even if they clip and not worry too much about zebra alerts. This is especially true if you are going for a descently contrasty look anyway. No need to have precious bits taken from the mids if you are gonna press the shadows back down in post.
There is also the pain of matching the range through different shots in a sequence if they were shot with different styles (even with matching colorimetry, like Neutral and Flaat_10n, for example). While it is perfectly possible (and in fact – optimal – image-wise) to get every shot with the perfect possible DR distribution, matching these together and making sure important tones fall at the same values in the end is a time consuming task.
I added a link to your article here.
Is there any particular reason you recommend flaat over the more popular Marvels Cinestyle or even Cinegrey?
I like how Flaat is very straightforward in its curve which makes it easily manageable in post. Marvels is probably more sophisticated, but may need more tinkering. With Cinegrey I have no experience.
I will just shoot with Faithful/Neutral if I don’t need the shadows really open though. All flat styles seem to introduce some minibanding. It is not quite clear exactly on what stage, in what color space (and with what data precision) they are being applied during the in-camera processing.
Great blog!! Please keep updating on a regular basis. I think you’l find you are filling a HUGE void. So much disinformation out there. Having said that I feel I need to chime in with regards to PS preference. If used properly, I would maintain that Cinestyle gives by far the best results if any grading is being done. The 2 major errors people make in using Cinestyle are
1-underexposure, which is an easy mistake given the raised black levels and washed out look
2-Using the same extreme custom settings as used with other ‘flat’ p-styles (ie Contrast -4, Saturation -2 or worse)
My experience has been that if you expose correctly AND use settings dialed to 0 or at most -1 each for Contrast and Saturation, the results obtained are in almost every case the best possible for any serious colour grading. Have you ever tried to keep-reveal any significant shadow detail when using FLAAT or Marvels or any of- the other ‘dime a dozen’ P-styles? I’m not saying DON’T use them, its just that I reserve their use ONLY for scenes that are already low in contrast. Just my two cents!
Thanks for the kind words.
Underexposure is always bad. It was generally bad with film, and it is bad with digital cameras. There is too much noise down there.
But I don’t think Cinestyle has more detail in the shadows than the others. It kinda appears this way cause of the lifted black level. I wouldn’t really bring the shadows up in post with any flat style, they’ve already been pushed enough by the PS. If they need more pushing, then most likely the exposure wasn’t right in the first place.
And I’d still use Neutral/Faithful when a serious amount of grading is expected – Cinestyle just doesn’t have the fine shades in skin. Its softness can be a positive for some applications, though.
The popularity of brought down saturation probably originated from Stu’s preferences back when he proposed Neutral with -4 Contrast and -2 Saturation. Seems like he likes slightly desaturated images. The problem with picture style desaturation is similar to picture style low contrast: you will get banding in chroma when you increase it in post, the same way you get banding in luma with returning contrast. It is generally better to remove saturation in post, rather than add it back. I also find that Sat at -1 works well for most purposes.
Thx for your perspective. :)
Thanks for the info, like other have said there is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there; you seem to put things in a clear light.
But what about sharpness? Is it better to add it in post or in camera?
Most DSLRs derive their video from the sensor image by skipping lines. This introduces false detail and a lot of aliasing. Sharpening in the camera will only sharpen these artefacts. Probably best to set it to 0 and sharpen in post if needed.
And what about underexposing the image to get all the highlights, and then pushing mids and a bit of shadows back in post? I tried it and it looks pretty good, like HDR, with very saturated colors.
Most flat curves are noisy by nature since they are designed to maximize dynamic range in technical sense. Pushing the underexposed image can reintroduce this noise in the mids. If you underexpose, you risk putting important tones like skin too low on the curve and losing skin density in the noise and in the toe of the flat curve, which can be very problematic as flat curves lack density in the first place. This is a major reason that flat curves like s-log and c-log are being overexposed all the time in practice.
That said, as long as it works ok for you, then it is fine. :) Requirements vary from one person to another, so nothing is cast in stone.
I think that a lot of people who “shoot flat” haven’t taken the time to understand enough of the technical side of things to make an educated decision; there are way too many YouTube videos saying “hey, shoot super flat and you’ll get ‘the film look’ to happen SUPER GOOD in post!” This article does an amazing job of covering the most important parts that less technically knowledgeable users are missing.
I’d like to toss in a few additional bits (no pun intended.) The compression algorithm used in all modern consumer cameras and camcorders for video is called MPEG-4 H.264 AVC. It partly works in the same general way that JPEG works: discarding detail that human eyes aren’t likely to notice. Unfortunately the infamous so-called “YouTube compression” that is blamed for significantly reducing visual quality of some videos is the exact same compression used by your consumer-grade DSLR or camcorder. The thing about AVC is that it has a ton of “knobs” that can be tuned to change how it works; some “knobs” make the resulting video incompatible with older devices; some would boost quality but also increase the time needed to compress beyond what can be done in 1/30 of a second in a cheap ASIC chip so they don’t tend to be used by consumer cameras at all.
Another thing that people don’t realize is that consumer AVC video is recorded in a “chroma subsampling” pixel format called 4:2:0, where 100% of pixels have their luminance (brightness) information recorded but the COLOR INFORMATION (chrominance) resolution is HALVED IN EACH DIRECTION. That means color is only sampled once for every 2×2 block of pixels. You can see the problems caused by this discarding of 3/4 of the color information when you take SD footage and try to use a green screen and chroma key; the boundary between the subject and the green screen gets “blurred together” by the subsampling and it’s not so easy to get a clean chroma key. HD footage has the same problem but 1080p has more than double the pixels in each axis which sort of cancels out the halving of color information.
This all matters a lot when you change from “looks good in-camera” picture styles to these flat styles that supposedly make things look better. Anyone who has watched a heavily compressed DVD rip has seen MPEG-4 macroblock banding in dark frames and other low-contrast areas. Some advanced AVC encoders have a knob called “psychovisual rate distortion” that can be used to push more of the available encoding bits into these low-contrast areas, but consumer cameras can’t really optimize this for all situations, so they make up for it with higher overall bit rates (think about a 24 Mbps consumer video to a 1 Mbps DVD rip; even with 6x the info in 1080p vs 480p, the 24x bit rate can encode 4x more of the video info that would otherwise be discarded.)
Despite higher bit rates, the visual problems are still there, and pushing up low-contrast areas in post will not only reveal more noise, it’ll also make MPEG-4 macroblock banding much more obvious. This comes full circle when you combine “shoot flat (low-contrast)” and “MPEG-4 causes banding in lower contrast areas.” By shooting flat on a camera using an 8-bit 4:2:0 MPEG-4 AVC output codec, you’re making that consumer-grade camera discard A LOT MORE visual information than it would if you had just used a “neutral” style. The histogram breaking up is going to be a problem with any extremely flat picture style, but the last thing you need is to introduce barely visual banding artifacts on purpose, THEN boost their contrast AND break up the histogram to cause even worse banding.
If you have a fancier camera that does 10-bit or 4;2:2 encoding then it might be less of an issue; if your camera outputs huge raw video files or dumps to an uncompressed video recording box, you can do this flat thing all day long, but if you’re reading this then you don’t have $15,000+ for such a fancy pile of gear. Know the limitations of what you have and test the extremes in post of things like custom picture styles before you put something important in that format and find out the hard way that you can’t use the footage the way you had intended. Work smarter, not harder!
Thank you for the thoughtful comment.
One way to (at least partially) counter the lack of color info with chroma subsampling is shooting higher resolutions. For example, shooting 4K with 2K end result in mind will deliver a bit denser final image because of oversampling. Actually, this is probably the only decent way of shooting flat images on a consumer or prosumer level equipment.
What settings do you usually use when using Faithful?
Been a while since I last shot a Canon DSLR camera, but in general — Sharpness all the way down; Contrast either at 0, or down a bit (esp. if you plan to do serious post); Saturation at 0 or -1.
I think the picture style Autumn Hues from Canon produces the most faithful skin tones, I will try it with the contrast dialed right down.
Take your exposure off a gray card if you are using a flat picture profile, use the cameras metering on that card. Then you don’t have to rely on judging the correct exposure by eye through the screen. It will save you having to switch picture profiles all the time.
or use the histogram in the camera ………..
but judging by eye is unreliable.
Does this all apply to mirrorless cameras because the a7iii only shoots 8-bits however many people use it with profiles such as s-log?
I have an A7s and I don’t use s-log on it. However, on 4K cameras you might get a little bit of tonality back by downsampling to 1080p, as outlined here: http://www.shutterangle.com/2014/shooting-4k-video-for-2k-delivery-bitdepth-advantage/
Hi! Excelent article. Helped me a lot to get more deep into this problem. I’m interested how it is when using H.265. When I use Technicolor Cinestyle on Canon 7D Mark II and then tweaks colors in post, the quality goes down. But I shot a “movie” on Samsung S7 Edge (1080p) with Filmic Pro using their flat profile and H.265 codec. Then I color corrected and color graded the video and the result is great.
I haven’t used a Samsung S7, but their flat profile is likely better tuned for the limited coding range. There are other flat/log profiles, like Canon’s original c-log, which are optimized for 8 bits, so this isn’t a surprise.
Now, H.265 will obviously offer better quality (for the same size) compared to H.264, so this may also be a factor.