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Exposing for skin tones on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K using Blackmagic RAW

When I’m capturing video of people, a primary concern is getting the skin tones exposed correctly. When working with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (BMPCC 4K) and Blackmagic RAW (BRAW), what I’m finding is that using Blackmagic’s false color mode along with their recommended exposure values for skin tones, along with some minor tweaks, works very well.

Since I also use the Atomos Shinobi for framing, focus and exposure, I needed to map the Blackmagic false color recommendations to the Shinobi false color scheme. Note that if you don’t use the Atomos Shinobi, then you can use the BMPCC 4K false color mode and information below for exposing skin tones.

What’s false color?

False color is a way to represent different exposure values on the screen. It use different colors to represent a range of values. Different cameras or monitors use different colors to represent exposure values. By using false color you can see quickly what is over or underexposed. In this case, we are using a set of color ranges that represent the best exposure values for skin tones.

Turning on false color on the BMPCC 4K

The excerpt from the BMPCC 4K User Manual below shows you how to turn false color on and off from the rear screen of the camera.

You can also use button 1 (defaults to false color) on the top of the BMPCC 4K.

So in the Blackmagic user manual for the BMPCC 4K, here’s what they have to say about exposure for skin tones. Of course, this is just a starting place and you need to do your own fine-tuning to find what works best for you.

False color overlays different colors onto your image that represent exposure values for different elements in your image. For example, pink represents optimum exposure for caucasian skin tones, while green is a good match to darker skin tones. By monitoring the pink or green false color when recording people, you can maintain consistent exposure for their skin tones. Similarly, when elements in your image change from yellow to red, that means they are now over exposed.

Turning on false color in Atomos Shinobi

To turn on false color on the Atomos Shinobi, click on the button that looks like this one at the bottom of the Shinobi screen (screenshot from user manual). You can toggle it off and on.

Matching the false color ranges for skin tones in Atomos Shinobi

As I tested the BMPCC 4K false color range with different people, I found that it works well and since I use the Atomos Shinobo for framing and focus, I also wanted to use it to set exposure using Atomos’s false color range, so I experimented until I found the color range in the Shinobi false color that gave me similar results for skin tones.

Here’s the range that has worked best for me depending upon how dark or light the skin tone is. This chart is from an Atomos Support page. My suggestion is to start with what I have here and then experiment until you find the best range for you.

Here’s an example image that shows the Atomos Shinobi false color (left) and the resulting exposure from the video (right).

So there you go. This is what I’ve discovered so far and I hope that it helps you in finding what works best with your videos for exposing skin tone.

  • You’ll find the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K here.
  • You’ll find the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6K here.
  • You’ll find the Atomos Shinobi here.
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