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How to fix terrible video quality in post (or what I learned from the $200 camera challenge)

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Turn this:


Into this!


I entered two terrible quality cameras in the $200 camera challenge and somehow didn't come last, so here's what I learned.  In case it's useful to someone :)


  • Low quality cameras have poor codecs and low bitrates, which typically have trouble with a lot of movement.  Therefore I used a tripod for every shot instead of hand-holding.  This also gives you more options for temporal NR in post too.
  • Go for the 180 shutter by either using an ND or by simply filming in low light.  How can you tell if it's 180 shutter?  Wave your hand in front of it and see how streaky it is.  or alternatively, if your camera is very low resolution and subjects aren't moving too much, then the sheer size of the pixels will completely obscure whatever shutter angle you have!  Win!!

In post:

  • Edit in your desired output resolution, not the one you shot in..  dodgy 4K image?  Output in 8K today!
  • Think about converting to black and white.  This gives you 4 times the effective resolution!!
  • Camera only shoots 30p?  Excellent - conform to 24p in post and get slow motion for free!!  Most NLEs can slow audio slightly too, so if it works for the vibe of your project then go with it.
  • Digital compression is awful and a give-away you're not shooting RAW or film, so is over-sharpening that you can't turn off.  Therefore, blur the image in post.  You might want to consider blurring only the edges of things, and you should experiment with blur size and blur strength too.  I typically find a sharp diagonal line and blur until it looks like a straight line instead of a jaggy digital mess.
  • Use noise reduction, both spatial and temporal.  It will make the image blurry, but that's also what you want because of above, so go nuts.  The image might look smooth, but we'll add grain later, so don't worry about it.
  • My footage had a bunch of compression artefacts that flickered on and off on each alternate frame and was very distracting (and awful).  De-flicker plugins can work wonders.  Just play with the types and presets until it's gone.
  • Colour will probably be awful, so either make it black and white (which also gets around the awful coloured fringing) or desaturate heavily.  You can also do heavy chroma NR to get rid of colour flickering.  Also feel free to use advanced colour controls such as Hue vs Hue to get rid of nasty colours, or use masks to selectively desaturate colours you don't like.
  • Get rid of digital looking clipped highlights by controlling and artificial highlight rolloff via curves.  Someone complimented me on the highlight rolloff, which was totally created in post.
  • Use music, pick your shots well, and try and distract from IQ by using content, composition, lighting, and other 'tricks' 😆😆😆
  • Can't afford a nice vintage lens or camera has a fixed lens?  Add halation by masking only the brightest parts of the image, adding a big blur, then put over the top of the image at a low opacity.
  • Add grain to finish it off.  Film has grain and film is awesome, so therefore....  plus, YT kills grain and will put heavy bands on smooth areas so you really should add some.  I recommend doing a grain test video with different strengths so you can see what YT does it various amounts of it.  It takes more than you think to show up in YT, a LOT more.

Here is the curve that gives that highlight rolloff and deep shadows....


Here's another before/after image.



and here's my reveal post with the final and SOOC videos:

Hopefully that's useful to someone!  Feel free to ask questions :) 

and I still think I can make a P4K look like a BMMCC or BMPCCv1 so if you have both and can shoot something with both then let me know.....

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