Retaining all your shadow detail is pretty important; without it you’re left with muddy or grainy video clips. Working on your clips in post can recover some of that shadow detail, but there are a lot of different techniques that you can use. If you haven’t developed your own method for recovering shadow details yet, there’s a great tutorial from Miesner Media that goes through a step-by-step tutorial for recovering lost shadow contrast in Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve 14.

In the tutorial, Theo Miesner tries to recover a serious amount of shadow detail inside Davinci Resolve 14, hoping to save save a clip that he shot on a Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 4.6K for a trailer. Note, that Miesner shot with a higher bit depth in order to pull off his correction, so if you’re shooting on an old Canon Rebel T3i, his tutorial will likely not work for you.


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The shot starting out has a pretty low shadow contrast. “You can't really see what going on,” Miesner says. “There’s nothing really that’s the focus of the shot.” Having little detail in your shadows causes your clips to look flat and your key subjects begin to blend in with the rest image, which doesn’t make for a very eye-pleasing, or professional, aesthetic. So it’s key to retain as much detail as possible.

Miesner begins his shadow recovery using Resolve’s ‘Scopes’ and ‘Curves’ panel. Adjusting the curves will give the areas he’s selected more contrast. However, as Miesner adjusts the curves to regain some of the clip’s shadow detail, it becomes much noisier — but that’s nothing he can’t fix using the temporal noise reduction effect.

After playing around with his shadows and highlights a little more, he is left with a fairly good-looking image that’s way more pleasing and interesting than what he started with.

Again, there are many different methods and techniques that you can use regain the shadows in your clips, but if Miesner’s way of doing it speaks to you, try it out for yourself.


Sean Berry is a blogger and Videomaker's Associate Editor.


  1.  My problem is not generally with shadow detail. It is frequently caused by too much light. I live in New Zealand's South Island in an area well known for the ferocious power of it's sunlight. Worse, part of my time is spent shooting video of bird-life with spectacularly white plumage, which fairly invites blown-out highlights. One solution has been to adopt 'Log' formats and extensively modify tones in-post. It might seem to be the opposite of the 'Meisner' way of doing things, but it does have many similarities, except at the opposite end of the tonal scale.

    I shoot with a Panasonic 'Lumix' GH-5 equipped with a re-purposed Tamron 70 to 210mm lens from the 1980's. That lens peaks in it's performance at f8 to f11, and that is the aperture range it is set at, semi-permanently. Aperture control , then has to be by means of a variable Neutral Density Filter. The results of my efforts are the usual insipid greyishness common with 'Log' formats. In Da Vinci 'Resolve 12.5', I use the 'curve' to bring things back to some semblance of order. Usually, to tame the extreme whites it is necessary to slide the top of the curve towards the left, as far as seems necessary for a start. I use, amongst the 'Resolve' scopes, 'Waveform' which duplicates the GH-5's internal viewfinder waveform display quite acceptably. Usually I may pull the lower part of the curve down until the bottom of the waveform is slightly above the lower margin, and likely on the verge of  'crushing'. The aim is to allow the full dynamic range of the camera's sensor to be utilised. Frequently that is not needed and it is necessary to 'play-it-by-ear', in fog for example.

     The interesting thing, is that there is no 'correct' exposure. Spectral highlights may be allowed to intrude just above the 80 percent level where they tend to crowd together using VLog L. Setting the 'zebra' display to 90pc is a good precaution, simply adjust whites until the 'zebra' effect begins to show, then back off a little. If camera panning or tilting is anticipated, be sure to cover the full scope of a shot in the area where it might possibly finish up as well. All of this may seem to have little to do with recovering darks in shots, but my requirement puts that into reverse. I salmost invariably finish up with  more  of a vertical curve than might be expected, with just a hint of 'ess' towards the upper and lower limits. Blown-out highlights in bird-shots have, thankfully, become almost a thing of the past, which I put down to having control over the situation, from even before the time that the video begins to 'roll'.

    New Year Greetings, from New Zealand.

    Ian Smith





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