AF100 Custom Scene File

Out of the box, the camera’s “Cine-D” setting works reasonably well. However, I noticed two issues: harsh clipping of highlights, and plastic-like skin textures. I also noticed that, because Cine-D emphasizes dynamic range, the image tends to look muddy and underexposed.

While reading Barry Green’s excellent book, “The AF100 Book,” I was intrigued to learn how the various scene settings in the AF100 actually work. After some experimentation, I created my own custom scene file (creatively named “Alex 1”). Here’s what I did, and why I did it.

Operation Type: Film Cam – This simply means that the camera uses film-style settings (such as ISO instead of GAIN), and shoots at 24p as a default.

Rec Format: PH 1080/24p – This is the highest quality the camera can capture, and that’s what I want.

VFR Mode: Off – I can turn this on and off from the back of the camera, and defaulting to “Off” is a good idea because the camera does not record audio in VFR “On” mode.

Detail Level: +2 – I’m not 100% convinced that this is the best setting, but I do like to have a sharp image, so this is what I’m using for now. If I start having issues with noise, I will turn this down to “0” or perhaps “-1.”

V Detail Level: 0 – This is additional detail between vertical lines. I don’t see any reason to add this, so I keep it at “0.”

Detail Coring: -2 – Turning Detail Coring up will reduce noise and smooth skintones. Sounds great, in theory, but in practice I find that it gives a very electronic, plastic-like look to surface textures. Since I don’t like skintones that look like plastic, I’ve turned this down.

Chroma Level: -3 – This camera captures very chroma-rich images, which is great. But, since too much of a good thing is no good, I’ve turned this down a bit to suit my taste. I can always boost it in post.

DRS: Off – This is “Dynamic Range Stretching,” which also sounds like a good thing until you realize how much noise it introduces to the image.

Gamma: B.Press – I chose “B.Press” rather than one of the “Cine” settings for three reasons: first of all, it has the lowest inherent noise of any of the Gamma options; secondly, it does pretty much what I usually have to do in post – lower the shadows and boost the midtones; third, and most importantly, it allows me to use a “knee” setting, which the Cine settings do not allow.

Knee: Mid – This is the key to curing the AF100’s harsh, clipped highlights. Instead of capturing all the possible detail until 100% and then cutting off abruptly, the Knee setting electronically tapers off the highlights starting at about 90%. The difference on any particular portion of an image is subtle, but the cumulative effect is a softer, more film-life progression of highlights to pure white.

Matrix: Norm2 – As Barry Green describes it, “Norm2 offers brighter colors … a little less green, and a little more blue across the color spectrum.” Sounds good to me.

Skin Tone Dtl: Off – Go away, Ken and Barbie!

Interestingly, as soon as I started shooting with this scene file, my first thought was, “Hey, this looks like a 5D Mark II.” The blacks aren’t as crushed as they are with the 5D2, but the overall impression does have a bit more of the 5D “pop” that we’ve come to know and love.

  8 comments for “AF100 Custom Scene File

  1. March 22, 2011 at 3:04 am

    Awesome, dude! Thank you for this post!!! Been working with the AF100 and really trying to wrap my head around these subtleties!

  2. benjhutchison
    March 22, 2011 at 9:26 am

    So since you’ve bought the af-100, what would you suggest to someone who is in the market to buy their first camera? Do you go 5d or Af-100? I know there is a major price difference but I can’t tell if the two even out once you get all the accessories you need to get the 5d working as a video camera. Thoughts?

    • March 22, 2011 at 10:49 am

      Just to get started – camera + a decent lens – the AF100 is going to be more expensive than the 5D. Once you add in a bunch of accessories, it probably evens out. The biggest hidden cost is going to be 5D audio. The AF100 has built-in pro audio, but with the 5D, you’re going to need some external gadgets to get decent sound.

      If you’re more interested in getting beautiful visuals (i.e. for music videos, travel/lifestyle projects, etc.), I would recommend the 5D. It’s easier to get great shots with that camera, for a variety of reasons (primarily the full-frame sensor). If you’re more interested in commercial/narrative filmmaking, I would recommend the AF100, because the built-in audio saves a ton of time and stress, and you don’t have the 12-minute “shot clock” that the 5D imposes.

  3. booncino
    April 28, 2011 at 3:48 am

    Hello! Thank you very much for this configuration which improves considerably the quality of the AF100. Now, the camera is better of my Cannon. Thank you again!!!

    • April 28, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      You’re very welcome! Thanks for taking the time to let me know that it worked well for you.

      : )

  4. May 24, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Excellent info Alex. I am 1/2 thru Barry’s book since receiving it and my AF100 last Thursday. This helps simply the info for me. Thanks much and I will keep my eye out for more AF100 info. I also have a 5DMII but am finding video WAY more enjoyable on the AF100 due to my application.

    Also, have started on your eBook. Great, boiled down info. For those that have not seen this, please visit Alex’s site www[dot]vide35[dot]com

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