Handling Over-Sharpening: How to Soften Footage Without Losing Detail

January 2, 2019

Drone footage adds tons of production value to projects. But the cameras often suffer from over-sharpening. Get tips for fixing this problem.

Day 2: 25 Insights in 25 Days 2019 New Year Marathon!

The Curse Of The Drone: Over-Sharpening In-Camera

Over the past decade, drones have gone from developing technology and niche use-case to an incredibly common tool used in filmmaking worldwide. In the world of documentaries, reality TV, and non-fiction TV – almost every show uses drone footage these days.

While the technology has developed a lot, and people have come up with many creative uses for drones and drone footage – one major problem still plagues colorists and post-production professionals: These drones usually have utter garbage for cameras!

These days it feels like everybody has a drone – even me!

The problem

While productions love to use drone footage for the unique perspective it can add, very few productions can afford a heavy-lift drone carrying an Alexa or RED camera. Instead, prosumer drones with built-in or small action cameras are seeing a lot of use in the TV world. These cameras suffer from a lot of challenges, including:

  • Many only record 8-bit
  • Many record highly compressed codecs
  • Small sensors and lenses make for low image quality
  • Footage is often excessively sharpened in camera

The Solution

In thisĀ Insight, I specifically tackle the sharpening issue. Shots with heavy sharpening, when put in context with shots that don’t have heavy sharpening, can stick out like a sore thumb. As colorists, we know that the flow from shot to shot is crucial for getting the most effective grade. One oversharpened shot can easily ruin a sequence.

Not just for drone footage

These techniques and tools aren’t limited to only drone footage. The techniques we explore apply to any over-sharpened footage that needs help fitting into a project.

In the video below we explore a few different options to “take the edge off” an over-sharpened drone shot. I share methods I think don’t work because the image looses too much detail. I also walk you through a less conventional technique that does a fantastic job removing sharpening without sacrificing detail.

In futureĀ Insights – I’ll explore fixing some of the other problems colorists grading drone footage have to deal with.


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