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Incorrect black/white ratios - tackling the problem with colour in Uncharted 4

bishoptl

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Jun 6, 2004
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My good friend and colleague Adam Myhill is an accomplished film DP and games guy, who made a brilliant post on how the color grading in Uncharted 4's latest trailer could use improvement. If you're interested in going behind the curtain on how increasing dynamic range can help pop a more realistic look in AAA games, I highly recommend you give this a read.

http://www.adammyhill.com/blog/


Photorealism is about mimicking reality. Reality has a massive dynamic range. If you’re going for photorealism, you need to spend all that limited 9.5 stops of dynamic range that this monitor you’re looking at can do, otherwise it’s going to look washed, like old film, or a heavy Instagram effect. Spend the signal to the limits.

Here’s another frame with some hot sun hitting the rocks as well as deep shadow values on the left. In real life, the dynamic range would be in the hundreds of thousands to one. Your DSLR camera shooting RAW would capture 20,000:1 or around 14 stops of dynamic range. You could tone map / color correct it into into the display space of 700:1 or about 9.5 stops of dynamic range for a nice punchy image which looks photorealistic, obviously.

In this frame, just a little over half of the dynamic range in a standard video signal is used. There’s bright sun reflections and dark shadows, so it should be higher than that. The highlights aren’t bright, the shadows aren’t dark.

After a little massaging, the very darkest of the shadows now hit black and the hottest highlights are just about at white. It’s like a grey film has been wiped away.
 

bishoptl

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Jun 6, 2004
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They're not crushed, however. The colour correction still provides detail that gets washed out with the Xbone's hardware setup. Look at the hanging ivy on the left side of the cliff, for example. In fact, look at the cliff on the lower right portion of the screen - you can arguably make out detail in the shadow for the colour-corrected version than the original.
 

Hexa

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May 31, 2013
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So crushed blacks like on Xbox One? No thanks.
Did you even open the article? Or even read the OP? Its nothing like that. You want more colors. Not less. More detail ideally. Though manipulating it to fit a larger color range even without more detail looks better, as shown.

Anyway, I think this more so than the OP shows a massive difference. o_O

There was a similar discussion in the thread for the demo. Could it just be a bug?
 

Xav

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Dec 12, 2006
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The game isn't out for like another year and already we're telling Naughty Dog how to colour correct their games?
 

Team Vernia

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May 18, 2007
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So crushed blacks like on Xbox One? No thanks.
Oh come on. That's not crushed blacks. Also, the XB1 issue has been corrected for most games coming out now. CoD:AW seems to be the only recent offender.

The game isn't out for like another year and already we're telling Naughty Dog how to colour correct their games?
It was a major gameplay reveal and many people weren't impressed with it and I believe it's largely due to the contrast ratio.
 

patapuf

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Nov 18, 2011
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I'm not sure i got everything in the blog post.

How work intensive would it be to implement a wide dynamic range across a whole games and what's prevented games from doing it so far?

It doesn't sound like this would cost performance.
 

Aeana

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Jul 10, 2006
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The game isn't out for like another year and already we're telling Naughty Dog how to colour correct their games?
Well, doing it after the game is released would be far less useful, don't you think?
 

Stumpokapow

listen to the mad man
May 21, 2006
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The game isn't out for like another year and already we're telling Naughty Dog how to colour correct their games?
yes, a professional DOP and colourist is offering input on the use of dynamic range in games, including unreleased games, to make good-looking games look even better.
 

Adaren

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Jan 3, 2013
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I like the idea of more games using a wider range of colors. However, I think it's much easier to apply this technique to a screenshot than an actual game. If Drake turns the corner and encounters a pitch black panther, then it'll need to be darker than the shadows in the scene. To accomplish that, the dark shadows will have to be lighter than they are in the touched up image.

Doesn't mean that a wider range of colors is a bad idea, but it's not as easy as simply stretching the color spectrum with a post-processing effect.

EDIT: or is the "dynamic" part of dynamic range saying that, upon encountering the black panther, the shadows would lighten?
 

adelante

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Dec 28, 2005
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As someone who edits photos/ does photo compositing for a living, this is awesome stuff. Thanks for sharing!
 

RoboPlato

I'd be in the dick
Oct 29, 2006
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Excellent piece

Too many games have issues with color correction clipping detail or just simply not favoring the assets well. Love reading stuff like this.
 

Squozen

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Nov 12, 2010
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No offence intended but these shots seem to be pushing for dynamic range at the expense of subtlety and mood.
 

RoboPlato

I'd be in the dick
Oct 29, 2006
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Are there more articles along the lines of this? I've read a lot in regards to cinema but I'd love to see more related to gaming.

The game isn't out for like another year and already we're telling Naughty Dog how to colour correct their games?
Uncharted 4 is probably one of the better reference points for this article since it's clearly aiming for a Hollywood-esque color pallet and composition. The Order would be a good choice as well.
 

Gamer345

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Oct 8, 2014
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the earlier they know, the better
Like ND would look at objectives like this to determine the outlook of their game

They already have plans set out for the development of the game and go on how they want it to look

Even the footages shown changing the dynamic range dont look any better, they just make the color on the main focus pop while everything else looks the same, thats not realistic
 

John Kowalski

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Oct 31, 2013
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among the creatures of the night
Yeah, i noticed that the trailed seems rather washed out and desaturated, with practically no shadows. I thought it was just the video, because i remember the uncharted games having very nice saturated colors and contrast. Hopefully the game will rectify that.

I personally would rather they crush those blacks because i love that shit.
 

Handy Fake

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Three Mods posting on the first page. I thought there was a universal law against this happening - something to do with the thread collapsing in on itself and becoming a quantum singularity.
 

chaosaeon

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Was it ever said that it couldn't have been either an RGB full/limited issue on the display that was used, or simply that the game is a year (or more) from release ? I feel like ND of all people wouldn't miss something that affects the whole picture. Maybe they're still tweaking time of day in the levels, gamma etc or haven't finished changes to the lighting or something.
 

hesido

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May 23, 2013
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www.hesido.com
This is in line with the art-direction explanation for the supposed downgraded look. In a cut-scene where the camera is in directors control and what is happening on screen is set in stone, they can adjust the tones and contrast to their liking, however, in dynamically lit scene where you have muzzle flashes, bombs going off, camera in players control, it's a different ball game.

This is not to say that ND can't tackle such a thing (and maybe they are already analyzing frames in realtime and dynamically doing the remapping, but there's maybe always room for improvement or maybe it's just their artistic choice for that particular segment)

Edit: Also, muzzle flashes affecting the lighting in direct sun light is something that many games get wrong. They have close to no diffuse effect in a sun lit parts of a scene due to the sun overpowering any other light source. (It may have a nuanced effect in indirectly lit parts)
 

benny_a

extra source of jiggaflops
Apr 25, 2009
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Maybe they have some kind of piss filter over the whole frame just like Battlefield 4 had that blue filter?
 

Wavebossa

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Oct 28, 2014
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Tell me you are joking or I would assume you have been dropped on your head
I'm not joking, assume whatever you want. There is nothing wrong with someone in the field looking at a trailer released to the public and offering his professional opinion on it.
 
Aug 19, 2006
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I took some screens from gamersyde's video and looking at a histogram they appear to be limited range with no values below 16, even in the dark flooded cave area. Is this normal for trailers/gameplay video?
 

antipode

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Jun 2, 2005
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That's an interesting post - but I think in some cases, the author is trying to undo a subjective choice the developer chose when tone mapping.

The author makes the case that his corrections look more "photorealistic" - but that's actually not the correct use of the term. "Photorealism" technically means "looks like how reality looks captured on a photo" - i.e. an image with certain imperfections. Something that looks like it was captured on Kodak film with limited dynamic range, or even an imperfect lens (like "godrays" or lens flares) can still be considered photorealistic.

FWIW, the tone mapping engineer for Uncharted 2 gave a talk on GDC, and he;s algorithm was trying to capture the look of old Kodak film - the look you might get on the original Indiana Jones films for example. He gives a blog post with the algorithms here: http://filmicgames.com/archives/75
 
Sep 13, 2007
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The game isn't out for like another year and already we're telling Naughty Dog how to colour correct their games?
What's with the "it's not out until _______" mantra? A game might be in the process of development, but that's not a very good catch all excuse for anything that could stand to be improved. You might just as well say it's not worth discussing seemingly positive aspects of games until release because they're subject to revision. I think it's valid to debate the intent behind matters of presentation like this, regardless of what side of the fence you fall on. Once media is released into the public arena analysis is fair game, and I'm not sure why people assume devs are always going to identify every potential issue and wave a magic wand that addresses it sometime between the present and when a game goes gold. Discussion is aways good, especially if it's informed. In fact, that's the entire point of a message board.
 

Metfanant

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Jun 23, 2010
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So crushed blacks like on Xbox One? No thanks.
triple face palm.....

No, these would not be crushed blacks. If you bothered to read even just the OP and not the whole post you would notice it says that the DARKEST of the shadowed areas are now BLACK, while the absolute BRIGHTEST of the highlighted areas are now white...

that would still preserve all of the detail in between just fine...

CRUSHED blacks result from when not just the darkest areas of the scene show up as black, but the next darkest, and so on...

Also, the XB1 issue has been corrected for most games coming out now. CoD:AW seems to be the only recent offender.
its only "fixed" in the sense that developers are accounting for the FUBAR gamma curve and adjusting their games accordingly...

Looks better in the second pic. Is it not possible to manipulate this at home with TV settings to a certain extent? Honest question
yes, it would be possible to replicate these results this to an extent with your TV settings, BUT by doing so you would then be throwing off the calibration for other games that dont have the same settings as UC4...

I truly believe that the UC4 footage was off in some way and that the final product will be more inline with the reveal trailer
 

Gamer345

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Oct 8, 2014
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I'm not joking, assume whatever you want. There is nothing wrong with someone in the field looking at a trailer released to the public and offering his professional opinion on it.
There is something wrong when you haven't seen the final product but already judging it like what was shown is the end all

Its ridiculous how this is common with games these days

And that is what it is, just an opinion. As I have said game developments plans are usually set on what the studio what's the game to look like based on resources and capability of the hardware, saying ND should increase color to look better when the final footage might (more or likely) end up better is ridiculous
 

moniker

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Jul 28, 2009
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I assumed the trailer was just incorrectly encoded with 16-235 range instead of 0-255.
 

B-B-Bomba!

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Three Mods posting on the first page. I thought there was a universal law against this happening - something to do with the thread collapsing in on itself and becoming a quantum singularity.
It works differently when a mod starts the thread afaik
 

Wavebossa

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There is something wrong when you haven't seen the final product but already judging it like what was shown is the end all

Its ridiculous how this is common with games these days
Read to OP again, you are clearly missing the point. A professional is looking at something that was released and saying, "Hmm if they changed this, it could look like this"

He isn't judging the final game. This isn't a game review... he is judging the trailer that he saw as someone who works in the field and saying this could have looked differently, perhaps better.

EDIT: Jk Banned
 

RoboPlato

I'd be in the dick
Oct 29, 2006
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There is something wrong when you haven't seen the final product but already judging it like what was shown is the end all

Its ridiculous how this is common with games these days

And that is what it is, just an opinion. As I have said game developments plans are usually set on what the studio what's the game to look like based on resources and capability of the hardware, saying ND should increase color to look better when the final footage might (more or likely) end up better is ridiculous
There's absolutely nothing wrong with looking at what we've seen and weighing in on how it could improve. I've said several times that I'd like to see motion blur added to emphasize the excellent animations, is that wrong?
 

Cuyejo

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Jun 25, 2013
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There are some gamma issues on TLOU remastered for certain areas not present on the PS3 version that to this day haven't been patched, hoping this oversight doesn't translate to UC4.
 

_machine

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that may be the case, but at the same time, just because something is encoded in the limited range doesnt mean it has to look washed out. Blacks should still look black. They don't in the UC4 stage demo...
But that's what limited range does; it cuts both black and white values and if you encode a direct capture rendered in 0-255 and make it 16-235 you end up with washed out blacks and whites.