Crooked Path Flat – Picture Styles for Canon DSLRs

CrookedPathFlatLOGOHere’s a list of what’s offered and descriptions about each.

The purpose of using a flat picture style while shooting video is useful if you plan to color grade the footage in post production. The picture style is not intended to be used as an in-camera method of color. You will notice that the Crooked Path Flat picture style will make the image very de-contrasted. This is done by editing the gamma curve to record detail in the shadows and the highlights that would normally be lost. This gives you ultimate latitude in post for color grading a beautiful finished movie.

When you are on set and getting ready to roll, it is important to NOT use flat picture styles while setting ISO, exposure and lighting. The picture style is SO FLAT that you cannot tell if you are properly exposed. It’s important to use a picture style (either one of the preset styles, one that you can create, or the CPF Graded style) that closely matches what you and your director’s desired final graded image. It’s okay if it’s not perfect in the camera…just close enough so that you can gauge your lighting and exposure settings properly. Then, right before you are ready to roll camera, switch to the Crooked Path Flat style.


Shot with Extreme Contrast in Camera:



Shot with Flat, Added Extreme Contrast in Post


There are some downsides to using ANY flat picture style.  If you planning on adding some serious contrast, you will notice noise and artifacts in areas that have a gradient texture like sky or walls.  You will see a phenomena commonly referred to as “banding,” which is essentially the artifacting in the compressed H264 codec being ENHANCED…which is not good.  What is happening when you shoot flat… is the compression creates, for example, 15 steps or shades in a gradient instead of 40 that would normally be there if you shot with the NEUTRAL picture profile.  So when you grade this flat video and add contrast, the software doesn’t add more “steps” to the gradient bumping it back up to 40…instead it just contrasts the 15 steps that were recorded.  This creates a more drastic difference beetween step 1 and 2, and 2 and 3, and so on.  The result is enhanced artifacts and “banding.”

Check out this quick article and video which demostrates this phenomena really well:


Yes and no.  I still shoot flat when I’m certain there no smooth gradients and/or I’m not planning on pushing contrast to the extreme in post.  I mean you really have to push the contrast to see the banding.  Also, flat profiles work really well in high-textured environments like a forest in the daytime.  Just be careful and go into it with this awareness and you’ll be fine.  I still think my Crooked Path Flat profile is the best around, and think it looks much better after grading than grading the Neutral profile.

I also created the Crooked Path Flat 3.0 series, which is a completely re-worked set of picture styles that are “safe” for post grading, extreme or not.  If you’re confused about which to use, I recommend using 1.0 and 2.0 for non-gradient situations and high-texture environments.  3.0 is for all-around use and gradient situations.  The best advice I can give is to TEST THEM OUT for yourself.  Decide what is best for you and your situation.

Current Picture Styles:

Crooked Path Flat 3.0

  • Based of the FAITHFUL profile.  Faithful is just like NEUTRAL only adds a touch more saturation to the highlights and midtones, and also pulls the midtone and highlight exposure down very slightly.
  • Curve is not extreme, and is very gradable in post.
  • Totally removes any muddy/terracotta/plastic look to faces.
  • Totally removes any noice issues (assuming you’re properly exposed).
  • Default Sharpness is set at 2.  This is a very subjective area. In our testing, we noted that any setting below +2 seems to almost blur the image. Anything above +2 seems to be artificial looking. +2 seems to be perfect. We’ve also noted that the in-camera sharpness is much cleaner and un-artificial looking when compared to using the unsharp mask in after effects. It is recommended that you lower only if seeing moire issues.
  • Default Contrast is all the way to the left.  We don’t recommend changing this.
  • Default Saturation is at zero.  In 8bit 4:2:0 colorspace, it’s best to keep it here and adjust in post.  Lowering will cause lost information.
  • Default Tone is +2.  In our testing the 5d seemed to bias toward red in the skintones.  This is to compensate for that.  Adjust to fit your needs.

Crooked Path Flat 3.0 (HiLight Helper)

  • Exactly like 3.0, but pulls the curve down in the highlights for that extra help in maintaining highlight detail and/or keeping them from clipping.

Crooked Path Flat 3.0 (Graded)

  • Gives you an in-camera preview of how 3.0 will look after grading is applied.
  • Adjust the contrast and saturation levels to fit your desired end-graded video.
  • Used this profile while adjusting aperature, ISO, and lighting, then switch over to 3.0 (or 3.0 HiLight Helper) when you’re ready to record.

Crooked Path Flat 2.1

  • A VERY FLAT picture style to give you ultimate latitude.
  • Adjust contrast to taste.
  • Based off the “standard” picture style to give better skintones.
  • Made the default SATURATION level ZERO.  It’s important to keep the color setting at zero and adjust in post.  In the 5d’s 4:2:0 8-bit colorspace, you are losing color information if you drop this below zero…and you can’t ever get that information back.
  • Made the default SHARPNESS setting +2.  This is a very subjective area.  In our testing, we noted that any setting below +2 seems to almost blur the image.  Anything above +2 seems to be artificial looking.  +2 seems to be perfect.  We’ve also noted that the in-camera sharpness is much cleaner and un-artificial looking when compared to using the unsharp mask in after effects.  It is recommended that you lower only if seeing moire issues.

Crooked Path Flat 2.1 (High Gamma)

  • This is the exact same style as my Crooked Path Flat style, but with the entire gamma curve shifted higher.
  • This is useful for extremely dark settings when the extra gamma can help get detail across the entire range of the sensor.  Prone to noise…so be careful.

Using my picture styles on a recent trip to Arkansas:

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