Filmic, clipped blacks (outdoor + daylight + wide angle lens)

Been experimenting a bit with filmic (rgb) and find I’m having trouble controlling black clipping. The scenes are high dynamic range and exposed to protect highlights. I have looked at various examples etc but still have issues getting reasonable results.

Workflow as follows (basecurve etc off):

  1. White balance
  2. Center histogram with exposure (avoid clipping)
  3. Filmic scene settings to capture dynamic range. Already it’s difficult to avoid clipped blacks despite not having clipped blacks before filmic. The settings that prevent clipping are usually extremely washed out with a low grey lum and very low black rel exposure. Getting to the point of no clipping blacks is quite unpredictable despite the rather simple controls. The over all dynamic range judging from white and black rel exposure is by now way beyond the capabilities of my camera.
  4. Filmic look settings to try to coax image into looking a bit better. Changes in the look generally require switching back to the scene tab (or exposure) because the look curve push data back into black clipping before the image has much visible contrast at all. Generally I can’t seem to avoid some black clipping, which is quite easy with other tools.
  5. Color balance to add a bit of saturation back (110% or so seems about right)
  6. Further tone equalizer to move tones around.

My problems seems related to how the middle grey luminance and the black relative exposure are related to the tone curve. The toe is such that it forces a lot of pixels into black before the overall image looks ok.

I’m getting interrupted here and have to leave the computer. Will come back later. Anyone seen similar difficulties and have some tips and tricks to share?

You can lessen the contrast or turn down the safety, I believe. But it’d be better if you shared the raw or at least show a shot.

Yup will dig out a raw. Not at that computer atm. Thing is that filmic always shifts the histogram left with my files. Keeping it centered is difficult. I thought the workflow was intended to first set up scene then apply look but I find that I have to go back and forth a lot to avoid clipping.

Hard to pick a file! :confused:
This file is licensed Creative Commons, By-Attribution
(Creative Commons, By-Attribution)

I haven’t actually tried that one very much but won’t be using it elsewhere and it’s pretty steep DR wise so thought it might be a good choice.


People really need to understand what clipped means…

Stop the rampage and wait for my filmic video, which should be recorder tonight. :slight_smile:


I’m going by the under/over exposure indication in darktable as well as my eyes. The above file is probably hard clipped but many aren’t.

The under/over exposure indicator shows you the top and bottom 1% (or whatever threshold you set) of the histogram. It doesn’t show you clipping. But if the bottom 1% covers large areas of the picture, then there are good chances some parts of these areas are clipped. But it’s not what the indicator shows anyway.

Here is what I get from your pic in just a couple of clicks:

filmictest.dng.xmp (6,5 Ko)

Is it close to what you expected ?

Thanks for giving it a shot! For what I’m after it’s a bit to flat and this is the point where I can’t seem to control the result to give contrast back without crushing the blacks.

Increasing contrast or moving the grey luminance will crush blacks mercilessly. The file has quite a lot of shadow detail which I’d like to keep whilst still being very dark.

Seems like you should treat the shadows and highlights separately for contrast using a mask. I’d generally use the tone curve set to LAB independent for this, but use whatever you’d like.

Indeed, if you want to balance one zone compared to another, you will need to use a local tonemapping strategy (exposure with masks or tone equalizer). Filmic is a global tonemapping.

This is what I get by mixing both strategies (local and global tonemapping) with tone equalizer and filmic:

filmictest.dng.xmp (7,9 Ko)

The interesting thing is that the image displays “better” tonal mapping before filmic. With no tonal adjustments in the pipe there is more contrast and less crushed peripheral data. Turning filmic on an off demonstrates what I mean. Naturally we’re left with a very dark foreground but the traditional method of a tone curve lifting the toe a bit works quite well. Reducing the effect of the tone map in the blacks is not straightforward with filmic.

Writing the above i realised I should experiment with the opacity and see what it gives.

If it‘s better without global tonemapping using filmic, why do you want to use filmic?

I’m trying to find out where filmic might be appropriate. If it’s my skills or the underlying algos/assumptions that make it seem inflexible for the kind of high contrast images we’re discussing here.

The highlight behaviour seems to work quite nicely but for my use case you’re right, it looks like I should use other tools.