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A Comparison of Premiere Shadow / Highlight Alternatives (for those experiencing the flicker bug)

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Bob RichardsonA Comparison of Premiere Shadow / Highlight Alternatives (for those experiencing the flicker bug)
by on Aug 17, 2015 at 1:00:39 am

A bit of history: There is a flicker bug in Premiere (even CC 2015) when using the legacy Adobe Shadow/Highlight plugin.

If you want to chat about the bug, try to get Adobe's attention, deny its existence, offer up your own home remedy, or vent as to whether or not Adobe support is a "bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes" (HHGTTG reference), please refer to these popular threads elsewhere:

Adobe Forums:
Shadow/Highlight flickering
https://forums.adobe.com/thread/758937

Creative Cow Forums:
Shadow/highlight - is Colourista2 good replacement?
https://forums.creativecow.net/thread/3/962230
(Answer, probably not...)

This bug recently hit me pretty hard. I was using CC 2014, and out of desperation upgraded to CC 2015 (I'd been holding off, many projects on the agenda) in order to try the new Lumetri color features.

While overall, the new Lumetri tool is highly useful, it's shadow/highlight implementation leaves much to be desired. The legacy plugin provided such better results.

Now, you may be asking, why use the buggy legacy plugin when you could learn other color tools or simply edit curves? It's because of the way Shadow/Highlight works - it's not just adjusting curves, but doing an analysis of adjacent pixels. In Photoshop, this is much the same, and you can even specify a radius of pixels to examine.

In extreme cases, the result almost looks like HDR, although the main purpose is to rescue photos/footage with severe exposure issues.

(And of course, we can always strive to expose properly in the first place. But the world can always present us with "challenging" lighting situations or flat out accidents.)

Bearing all that in mind, today I did a comparison of all the methods I could find for shadow/highlight processing, to help others who may be evaluating alternatives or seeking to understand the problem.

What follows is a series of 8 images, all the same still from some problematic footage (blown out background, dark primary subject), with different corrections applied...

1. Ungraded original.
2. Legacy Adobe Shadow/Highlight plugin.
3. CC 2015 Lumetri plugin, using Highlights, Shadows settings only.
4. CC 2015 Lumetri plugin, using Exposure, Contrast, and Saturation settings only.
5. Colorista III Highlights, Shadows settings (Trial version, big red X on output.)
6. Premiere Luma Curve plugin.
7. For comparison, Photoshop Shadow/Highlight adjustment
8. For comparison, Lightroom Highlights, Shadows adjustments

Further commentary after the pics:

















1. Ungraded original.

Well, a problematic exposure situation, to be charitable.

2. Legacy Adobe Shadow/Highlight plugin.

Although extreme and leaning toward an "HDR Look" for the face, it does preserve the detail/contrast in the face while bringing out the mountains in the background and the colors of the outfit. If only it didn't flicker on export, it would save the shot (mostly).

3. CC 2015 Lumetri plugin, using Highlights, Shadows settings only.

Here, Lumetri basically acts as a curve adjustment at the extremes, rather than a process that examines pixels. Moving the sliders to extreme values doesn't bring out the mountains quite as much as the legacy plugin, and doesn't brighten up the dark garments sufficiently. Even worse, the result of the process is that the face gets completely flattened out.

4. CC 2015 Lumetri plugin, using Exposure, Contrast, and Saturation settings only.

All is not lost with the Lumetri plugin... by reducing Exposure and Contrast, and increasing Saturation to compensate, a reasonable image can be obtained. Although the legacy plugin is much quicker to operate and achieves better detail in the garments and face.

5. Colorista III Highlights, Shadows settings (Trial version, big red X on output.)

The Highlight portion of this plugin is basically useless (for this application, at least) - it just flattens out and darkens the sky, revealing no detail. The mountains are nearly completely lost and everything looks overcast and gray. Shadows does a little bit better, but it makes the trees behind the railing look posterized. The facial detail is still there but the overall image is flat and unsatisfactory. Glad this $200 plugin had a trial version! I know there are many praiseworthy features to this plugin, but a Shadow/Highlight alternative is what I'm looking for here.

Colorista does have a "Pop" adjustment that works very similarly to "Clarity" in Lightroom, but didn't help this image when added to the mix.

6. Premiere Luma Curve plugin.

In other threads, many have suggested working with curves. This is the best I could come up with in 5 minutes of fiddling. It does bring out the mountains in a similar way, but the trees look posterized and there's not as much detail/variance in the garments as in the legacy plugin.

7. For comparison, Photoshop Shadow/Highlight adjustment

Photoshop CC 2014 achieved a very similar result to the legacy plugin, with proportionately similar values. It might be possible to export a series of frames, apply shadow/highlight in Photoshop, then re-import them in to Premiere, but that's a lot of work compared to the legacy plugin which used to provide the same results.

8. For comparison, Lightroom Highlights, Shadows adjustments

Lightroom 5, although operating with different values than Photoshop or the legacy plugin (positive and negative values can be used in Lightroom), achieved a similar result.

Interestingly (and frustratingly), the new Lumetri color plugin in CC 2015 has been described by many (including Adobe) as Lightroom-like. But in this example, Lightroom is clearly doing more advanced processing with highlights/shadows, and the values input to Lumetri are different than Lightroom. Thus, it is not possible to take familiar/favorite values from Lightroom and plug them into Lumetri.

Conclusions:

There is not yet an alternative to the (buggy) legacy Shadow/Highlight plugin that provides the same or substantially similar results.

Lumetri's highlights and shadows sliders aren't useful in extreme situations (flattens skintones)

A serviceable image can be achieved by playing with Curves or Lumetri's Exposure/Contrast/Saturation, but some colors will flatten out or look posterized.

Thus, Adobe must must must would be doing it's customers a valuable service by repairing the legacy plugin, or by enhancing Lumetri to be genuinely more Lightroom-like in this regard.

Your comments are welcome, and suggestions of other alternatives to try are particularly welcome.

I will be submitting these tests to Adobe in the hope that this bug will finally be addressed.


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Duke SwedenRe: A Comparison of Premiere Shadow / Highlight Alternatives (for those experiencing the flicker bug)
by on Aug 17, 2015 at 2:15:28 am

You probably already know this, but if you don't, you'll appreciate it. I'm assuming you work with big boy footage (as opposed to me with my h.264 compressed baby footage) Even still, I get great results. Did you know, that you can open a clip in Photoshop, tweak it in Camera RAW to perfection, save that one frame as a .TGA file, then open the clip and the .TGA file in Speedgrade and apply the Photoshop adjustments to the entire clip using the "match camera" procedure?

You can then export the look to Premiere Pro without having to render at any point.

If you already knew this I'll slink away quietly, but if you didn't give it a shot. You'll be amazed.


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Bob RichardsonRe: A Comparison of Premiere Shadow / Highlight Alternatives (for those experiencing the flicker bug)
by on Aug 17, 2015 at 5:14:28 am

Thanks for the tips... My footage isn't usually "big boy", in this case AVCHD from Panasonic/Lumix GH2s. (I suspect that interframe-compressed formats such as H264, AVCHD, XDCAM and even .VOB are at the root of many problems in Premiere, actually.)


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Duke SwedenRe: A Comparison of Premiere Shadow / Highlight Alternatives (for those experiencing the flicker bug)
by on Aug 17, 2015 at 12:03:04 pm

Sorry. I just assume everyone on this board works with Spielberg ;-)

btw, other than the color flicker when using morph cut I don't recall having any quality issues with my footage, and I've got a less than state of the art computer with an Intel 3D graphics card!


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Randy WheelerRe: A Comparison of Premiere Shadow / Highlight Alternatives (for those experiencing the flicker bug)
by on Aug 23, 2015 at 5:30:36 pm

I've been using the Shadow/Highlight filter for many years without any flicker on 1000's of hours of film transfers that need details lifted out of the crushed shadows and some minor to major highlight recovery. In the timeline, you need to make sure to not have any video on the tracks above or below when using this filter. I do use a title (for masking borders with black rectangles on the left/right sides of the film edges) above the video without issue.

So, for a test, put one video on the timeline and use the Shadow/Highlight filter in Manual mode since Auto will cause flicker. Don't nest anything and put in a new timeline with video above or below as this will probably cause flicker. Also don't make a transition between 2 video clips when using this filter since the clip with this filter applied will flicker.

If you need to stack tracks of video clips then your best option is to export at a high quality format to burn in the filter effect and reimport to put in a timeline with those stacked video clips.

Here is a video example that used the Shadow/Highlight filter:







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