How To Create A Sekonic DTS Profile For Your Light Meter [VIDEO]
Summary: Ryan takes you step by step through his system for creating camera profiles for your Sekonic light meters. He also created light meter profiles for you to download for free: an Arri Alexa profile, a Canon C100/C300/C500 profile, a Red Epic profile, and a Sony F65 profile.
Length: 29:50 minutes
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Now that you’ve shot your exposures using the Sekonic Profile Chart, it’s time to create your profile and calibrate your meter. In this video I’ll show you the process that I go through, step by step.
Ryan’s 3 Step System:
I’ve noticed that the Sekonic DTS software tends to be a little conservative in how it processes files and it also has some difficulty processing log based files. And more cameras these days shoot log and if you are using a camera that shoots in raw, generally, you want to start out grading using the log profiles that you can access within those raw cameras. And the Sekonic DTS software is not setup well to work with those types of files.So I’ve developed a three step system that allows me to use those log files and develop profiles that I feel accurately reflect how the camera performs.
And the three step process that I use involves exporting, evaluating, and processing the files. For the exporting step I’m just exporting out the stills from a number of different applications. And I’ll export out JPEG’s or TIFF’s. If I export out a TIFF it will be 8-bit, uncompressed. And as I export out my stills, a little tip that I think is important to mention is that you should implement as well is to put the camera settings in the file name. This will come up later in the training – it just makes it a lot easier to remember the exposure settings if you’ve lost your notes, or as you are inputting different values in the Sekonic DTS software. If the exposure is in the file name, then you don’t have to pull up any notes, you’ll be all ready to go.
If you are using a raw camera, a Red Epic, a Red Scarlet, a Blackmagic Cinema Camera, there is a number of them out there. Anyway, I highly recommend that you export out the files using the software that is supplied by the camera manufacture. So for example, if you are shooting with a Red, use RedCine-X Pro, if you’re using the Blackmagic camera, use DaVinci Resolve. You want to limit the number of times things are being exported, compressed, and re-compressed. So use whatever software the camera manufacture supplies to export out the highest quality images that you can from these tests.
And as you export out those images, make sure that you use whatever camera settings that you prefer to use with that camera. So for example, if you want the widest dynamic range, then chances are you are going to export out a file that is in the log format. Or maybe you have a specific picture profile that you have created for your camera and you really like how it looks, and that’s how you use it most often, then export out still images from that camera using the profile. That way the end profile that you create will reflect how you use the camera.
Then, after you have exported out your still frames, now it is time to evaluate them. Even though that is kind of the point of the DTS software, to evaluate it. I’ve found that there can be a difference between the technical evaluation, and the creative evaluation. So I go in and evaluate things form a technical standpoint, and also from a creative standpoint. By a creative stand point I mean, what are my own personal preferences and likes, and how does that influence how I develop my own profiles. Something may be technically one way, but I may not aesthetically like it. So that is where the creative element comes in. And that’s why I evaluate things.
Then I’ll finally go in and process the files using the Sekonic DTS software. And using this three step process allows me to create files that let me know where the technical limits are, and also let me create a profile that fits my personal aesthetic and preferences.
Step By Step:
So let’s dive on in here and see how this process works. Now I’ve already exported out these stills, they came out from RedCine-X Pro and we are going to use them directly in the Sekonic DTS software. But however, even though these came from the Dragon, I’m going to quickly throw them up here in Final Cut Pro X so that you can see some technical details, but I’m not re-exporting them out from here. That’s already been done.
Looking at our -8 exposure here, as we take a look on the waveform, we can see that there is pretty much nothing here. It’s all just barely above the noise floor. I’d even say this is the noise floor. There is nothing technically here. As I take a look at the screen, however, I can see all of these chips. So even though everything is technically in the noise floor, there is still recoverable information. Not that I would ever use it, because it is horrendously in the noise floor. But it is technically there.
So what I’m going to do is to number these chips. This is Chip #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 and so on until Chip #25 here in the bottom. So we’ll call Chip #1 just barely out of the noise floor. And visually, I can see all the way down to Chip #19. And I’ve already created a text document, but as I go through this on a normal shoot, I create this text document to keep notes along the way. And so I’ve got my -8 exposure right here, and the waveform tells me that Chip #1 is at or just barely above the noise floor. And then by eye, I can go down to Chip #19. So that’s what those numbers are about.
And now I’m going to go to exposure -4 and I can see everything clearly here, from Chip #25 unto Chip #1. So aesthetically there is a lot going on. But technically let’s take a look at the waveform. And it looks like the waveform again is telling me something just a little different. It looks like everything is down where there isn’t a whole heck of a lot of information until I get to Chip #21, which is just barely above the noise floor. And then Chip #20, and Chip #19. So we’ll call Chip #21 at the bottom end. And I personally am a little bit more conservative with noise, so I’m also going to go with Chip #19. So we will mark those in my document.
So we are here at -4, and at Chip #21 the waveform says it is technically there, and then Chip #19 is where I feel more comfortable by eye. So that’s my own personal preference right there for the bottom of the exposure range. Oh, and just in case you are wondering what in the world I am doing here, I am looking for the bottom of the dynamic range from both a technical standpoint and from an aesthetic or creative stand point. So the technical stand point is the waveform. And the creative is what I’m judging by my eye. So we’ve got our middle exposure, we don’t need to worry about that at this point.
Our +4 exposure, looks like I can see all of our chips from #25 to #1. And based off of this gradient I have going on here, it looks like Chip #1 hasn’t clipped yet, but it is getting close. I’ve got texture and detail all along the way. And I still have texture here [in Chip #1] but it is starting to get close to not having texture. So if you’re used to the zone system, this would be getting close to Zone 9. So I’m going to mark that one. We’ll go over here and mark that nothing is clipped. But I among going to choose Chip #1 by eye. So that’s where the upper end is going to start for my personal preference.
And then we are over to the +8 exposure. And as you can see here, everything is pretty much overexposed and clipped. Except we have Chip #25, and Chip #24, where there does appear to be some tone and texture. And then Chip #23 that is definitely gone. From Chip #23 and up is gone. And let’s take a look at the technical readings. I do have some detail here in Chip #25, also a tad of detail in Chip #24, but it’s almost blown out. And then we’ve definitely lost detail here in Chip #23. So that’s what is going on in the over-exposure from a technical standpoint and my own personal preference. So I will mark that as well in my text document. So +8, Chip #23 is where things are clipped. And by eye, it also looks like things are clipped at Chip #23.
So now we know from a technical and aesthetic point of view where things are at, now we need to get values to use in the Sekonic DTS software because it is going to ask me for some 8-bit codes. So now I have previously loaded in those same exposures into Photoshop here. And now I’m looking at the -8 exposure. And again going back to my notes to reference those, I want to look at Chip #1 as well as Chip #19.
So Chip #1 here, I’ve created guides here to make it easier for me to make an accurate selection. If you are wondering on how to create those guides, you just click up here, hold and drag down. And that is nice and handy. I did that to make a box around chip 1 and chip 19. Now choose the selection tool. Make my selection of Chip #1 and now I go into Image => Analysis => Record Measurement. Or I can do Shift-Command-M. So as I take a measurement, it gives me these numbers down here.
So this is 18, so Chip #1 is at 18, which I’ll document in my file here. So I put 18 here in the PS column. PS stands for Photoshop, so that’s the Photoshop value of Chip #1. And now I’ll do the same for Chip #19. And I’ll do Shift-Command-M to get another measurement. It looks like that says 15. So I’ll add 15 to my document. And now I’ll go though and do the same thing for the rest of these exposures. I’m not going to bore you with that. So I do the same for -4, 0, +4, and +8. And it is key to get the center reading, Chip #13 of the 0 exposure for the mid tone value.
One little note about my +8 exposure is that I want to make sure that I can suck everything I can out of my over-exposure range. So what I will do is first I’ll take a measurement of what I think is over-exposed. So shift-command-M. And then I’ll take a reading of something that is definitely overexposed and clipped. On this exposure, Chip #1 is at 10 stops overexposed. So I’m going to go Shift-Command-M. And now I’ll compare these two values. So the one I thought was clipped is at 240, and the one that is definitely over exposed is also at 240. So I am good to go now that I know both those chips are over-exposed and clipped. I know that I am going to be getting all the detail I can out of my camera.
Then I write all of those settings down- all of those values that I have gotten, I put them in my Photoshop column. And now what I’ll do is I’ll go back and highlight where my extremes are. The lowest extreme is 15. That’s the lowest Photoshop value I got. Then my own personal preference, even though technically I might be able to go that low, personally I don’t want to. So I’m going to put 21, as my personal bottom range. So 15 is technical, 21 is my own preference. And then 83 is my mid tone. And then the next one up, where clipping starts to happen, is at 233, which is my own personal preference. It’s where I want to give myself some buffer. And then we’re off to 240 which is the absolute technical top end.
So now I can go in and hide Photshop. And I’ve got the Sekonic software preloaded here. So now all those funny readings I had you take, this is where this is going to make a little more sense.
So we go into our options and choose the Dynamic Range Clipping Point Values. Oops, sorry about that [Pressed Cancel] wrong button. Okay, so the default values are at 245 and you can read the rest here for yourself. And these work great for other cameras, but for log values, or log profiles, all these values are different as you just saw. And so if I were to use these defaults, the profile I would get wouldn’t be as accurate as I need it to be.
So that’s why I took all of those Photoshop values. So we can start plugging those in. My top range is at 240, my clipping point is at 233, which is where it starts to roll off into over-exposure. The mid tone value is at 83. And the clipping point minus is… And that’s where I decided that my personal preference is at 21, so I’ll put that here. And then the dynamic range minus, so that’s the last value that is able to be recorded, which was 15. So again, the 240 is the technically precise number, and the 15 is another technically precise number, that’s the lowest and highest it would go. This clipping point plus and minus is more personal preference kind of stuff. So now we click ok.
Now we’ll go in and create our new profile. We’ll go to Advanced Mode because we’re advanced here. And then I’l choose the Exposure Profile Target II Chart, since that’s what I shot the exposures with. And because I’m working with a camera that has a wider dynamic range, something that is more then 10 stops, I’m going to use extended mode. If you are working on a more limited camera, like a DSLR, or and older camera, you are going to use the normal mode. Take your three exposures, your +3, 0, and -3, and use that. However, I have a camera with a wider dynamic range so I use the extended mode. And now I’ll click next.
I’ve got ambient mode selected, since that what this was shot in. Click next. Now you may end up with cine mode off. If you do it will be a little confusing for you because this is all in photography terms. If you’re a photographer, then it will not be confusing to you. But I’m not a photographer, so this makes more sense to what I’m used to working with. So now we need to input the light readings we took during our shoot. So as you can see, this is where the notes come in handy yet again.
And I’ve got all my readings right here, so sensitivity goes to 800, frame rate is at 24, Shutter angle is at 358. Yes, I know it says 358, not 360. Where did those two extra degrees go? I don’t know, I don’t know why they don’t allow you to put 360 on that. I think that is kind of silly. But those two extra degrees are not going to make a difference. Maybe you can sneeze on your light meter and then everything will be accurate. But don’t sweat over that. And 358 over here. And for the incident mode we’ve got 32 and 9 tenths. And the reflected reading is at 45 and 3 tenths.
And now we have our incident and reflected readings in. The whole reason why we are doing this here is that this will help the profile to calibrate the spot meter to the incident meter. So that they will all match up. Which is actually really handy. That means you don’t have to send your meter in to be calibrated. This whole process here calibrates your meter for you. And we’ll click next.
We are looking for our exposures as you can see I’ve got them all organized here into my JPEG folder within my extended folder. This is using the Dragon Sensor. And I have all, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 exposures here. I did take 7 exposures. So I did the +3 and -3 exposures just incase I was wrong about the dynamic range of the camera. So I just get rid of those 2 exposures and put them up a level, and keep the 5 exposures in this folder. Now I’ll click open.
Unfortunately, since this is video, there isn’t any metadata, so we all cry and weep a little, because now we have to enter the data ourselves. So we click this little box here. And we change our shutter angle to 358. And now we change our aperture to, oh, it was already input for me because I already did this. Anyway, so we change our aperture to 2.8. Which is rather handy because if I didn’t know what it was, it’s right here in the file name. So that is nice and handy. Click okay.
Now we enter our light output correction value. The reason why I need to do that is because of these notes I took here. So the light compensation value is -8. The reason why it is -8 is because I was using 8 stops of ND filtration. The reason why i chose to do that is so that I could keep my aperture consistent throughout this entire test. A lot of lenses get more contrasty or less contrasty depending on how much you stop down or open up. So the aperture can actually effect the dynamic range just a little bit. So I prefer to shoot at a constant aperture. I also like to shoot my films at a constant aperture. So anyway, sorry for that little sidebar. But that’s what the -8 is about.
So I need to add a -8 light compensation. Now the software knows that this is my mid tone or normal exposure. Now I go on to my +4, hit that little box. What shutter angle? Oh yeah 358 degrees right there. That comes in handy again. 358. Aperture’s already set. Now I click ok. Take a look at my notes, the +4, the light compensation is -4. So now I go -4, enter. And I’m on to my +8 value. I change this to 358, and there we go. Light compensation stays at 0, because I took all of the ND out of the lens. That made it super easy to shoot this profile.
Now I’m on to my -4 profile. I’ll check that little box, and leave that at 2.8, because it is still at 2.8. However, my shutter has changed to 22.5. So now I’ll scroll on down to 22.5 and I hit Okay. And I still have the same ND in the lens, so I need to do -8 and hit Enter.
And now I am on my last exposure. A quick little note about this, I think I can only go to -10. Nope, just kidding. So maybe -9. Ah-hah. Okay. So the lowest that it will let me go is -9. However as you can see, I have a light output correction value of -12. So what do we do? Well we are going to do a little Tom Foolery here. So we are going to make that a -8, which gets me almost there. And then we’ll change this. We’re still at 22.5, so I’ll find that for the shutter. Our aperture is at 2.8. So if I were to click Okay here, I would get a wrong profile created because this is now the same exposure as the -4. So I need 4 more stops to get me to where I need to be at. So let’s change the aperture. Let’s go 1, 2, 3, 4 stops down. So now I am 8 stops under for this exposure. I hit Okay. Now all my exposures and metadata are correct. Click Next.
Now we go to, drag and drop, yada, yada. If you’re lucky the software will automatically find this for you. But I’m not lucky that often, so I usually have to do this all manually, which you get to enjoy watching. La, la, la. And there we go. And now were on to… Hopefully you shot all of this with a tripod which makes the rest of this really easy. If you didn’t you are going to have to adjust these with every frame. But I was on a tripod so I don’t need to worry about that. Now we’ll click Next.
Now it’s measuring and calculating. And here is a little funny thing. This little alert – I have yet to be able to create a profile that’s been shot in log without this alert coming up. So it is basically telling me that the levels that I set earlier don’t really exist. And yada, yada, help me out a little… anyway, all that to say ignore this. All the profiles that I have created and used over the years using a log format with this profile system has worked well for me. And that little alert, even though it can’t find it, everything works anyway. So just ignore it.
We will take a look at what’s been created here. So those values that I entered in earlier, 240, 233. Take a look at them over here. So my levels 240, 233, and then 26 is actually the lowest that it could find on it’s own. So those other values of 15 and 21 got nixed out since it couldn’t find those values in there. However, that’s not a problem for me. What I want to do now is a bit of customization. So this is what the software created based off of the information that I gave it. However, I want to tweak it a little bit further.
So the response here always stays the same. So there is nothing I can do about that. But what I can change are these goal posts.This red goals post is where it has absolutely clipped. And this green arrow is what I’m going to use to give myself a little bit of protection in the highlights, so that they roll-off just a bit smoother. And I can have a bit more of a filmic image if I make sure I expose correctly. So I’m going to lower that down a touch here. So this gives me a bit of a softer roll off here. If I move this up and I have all my highlights in this little range there isn’t a ton of roll-off room. So I like to build in a little more protection. So that’s why I move this guy down.
On the other end, I also like to know where the lowest value is in my exposure range. So I’ll take my green arrow here and I’m going to move that to -5. So right here, yeah, there is a lot more room in the shadow area. I could bring up those values if I wanted, but they are too noisy for me. So I’m going to build in some extra protection by putting this at -5. And I’m actually going to move this guy here. I’ll move him to -7. To give myself even more protection. Yeah, sure it’s technically there, but it’s not usable at all. At least I don’t think it is.
So I have now adjusted these to fit my own personal preferences. So when I go in and use my light meter to expose my image, now what I’ll do is I’ll make sure that all the important information that I need detail in is within -5 to just over 6 stops. So as long as all of my crucial information that I want texture and detail in is in there then I know I’ll get a nice, beautiful looking image. I will have additional room in the shadows, and I should also have a nice roll off into the highlight area. So yeah, there is a lot more dynamic range between the red posts, but the green posts keep me safe as far as the crucial detail. So what’s important in-between the green, and everything else is additional gravy that makes it look that much better. And then I’ll click Save.
And if you download any of the profiles that I’ve created from my site that have log in the name, or rather the ones that do not end in “-R” are just the default profiles that the software created. The ones that end in “-R” are the ones that I’ve modified. You may or may not agree with my own modifications. So modify at your own will. I like the profiles I created, so those are the ones that I use. So that’s pretty much how you go about creating and using the Sekonic DTS software.
Now that you’ve created a custom profile for your meter, not only have you calibrated your camera to your light meter, but you’ve also calibrated your meter. So you don’t need to bother with sending it in to the factory to have it calibrated. Which is great because you always know that you have a reliable light meter to take your exposure readings or to prelight your set.
If you have any comments or questions, leave them in the comment section below. And then come join me in the next video.
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