All Things Color for Film and Digital Cinema
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Posts Tagged ‘18 Percent Gray’

Video Waveform Visualization and Creation

As an addition to the prior post on waveforms here we examine a more visually descriptive way of showing how a video waveform is created and therefor how it can be interpreted.

Fig:1 Waveform and Live Image

Above we can see a standard Live Video Feed and its represented waveform.

Below I have created a 3Dimentional Luminance map of the same live feed. In this representation every pixel on the image is represented on the z-axis as a luminance value bw 0 and 1023 video code values. The ‘lighter’ or more intense the pixel value the higher it appears on the z-axis.

Fig: 2 Luminance Relief Map  Face On

As I rotate this image in 3D space, around the y-axis, you can see the luminance values more clearly represented as a Height map in the 3 Dimensional space.

Fig: 3 Luminance Relief Map Rotated 45 Degrees

When finally rotated a full 90 Degrees we end up with the Waveform interpretation.

Fig: 4 Luminance Relief Map Rotated 90 Degrees

Adrian Hauser

18 Percent Grey …. “Middle Grey” and Magic Numbers


    For a while I have been pondering the function of the 18 percent grey card. Why 18%, what is its historical reference…ect.

    After a lot of reference reading I came up with the following ….

    Traditionally 18 % refers to the statistical average reflectance of a photographed scene. ‘Normally’ exposed skin tones also generate an average incident light reading of about 18%.

    Photographically, if you were to make a set of 11 patches starting with 100% reflectivity and each subsequent patch was halved in reflectance, you would end up with a logarithmic scale where the light intensity is being halved each patch. The seventh step, middle grey, would yield a photographic Status M Neg density value of 0.7

    Using our Density math described in previous posts we know Transmission = 1/10^Density   

    Therefor    T=1/10^0.7= 0.18      AND       Transmission is directly proportionate to Luminance L*. Not boring you with the math the result is 49.496.

   So    0.7 Density = 0.18 Transmission = 50% Luminance(L*).



Fig.A - Status M against Status A Density

Fig.A - Status M against Status A Density



  Interestingly If we map our 21 step sensitometry readings of a 21 strip grey scale test wedge over Neg and Print densities we see that 0.7D is the cross over point !   See Fig.A









Looking at the image below, Fig.C, you will notice that this point of around 18 % grey is the mid point at which the cineon Log file is expanded when overlayed with a Print emulation 3DLookUp table. Both Mid Grey LAD Patch’s are almost identical as seen on the corresponding waveform Representations. 






Looking at the graph in Fig.C one can also see the reference point of 18 % on each of the mapped targets averaging around 50% luminance. Interestingly with this chart I have mapped Cineon Log levels against the 2.2 and 2.5 video gamma transfer functions and CIE Luminace L* values. They are all relatively close to each other in their Logarithmic encoding. I can see im going to have to rewrite this as its going to get messy from about here on in, although quite fascinating. 2.5 gamma looks like its the best match for CIE L* but somehow we got stuck with 2.2. Near enough is good enough I guess. It was decided back in the 8Bit video days that to help save on visual data that video/TV could also have a perceptual gamma encoding, once again mimicking the eyes response to nature. A gamma of 2.2 was decided apon.