Canon T2i/550d HDR Video Has Arrived!

Thank you, everyone, for stopping by the blog and for your patience in waiting for my HDR tone-mapped video! This short test video has been a long while in coming, as I finally got the film to a point (with both the visuals and audio) where I was really satisfied with the results. (I must also give my amazingly, stupendously talented composer, Noah Potter, credit for really bringing these images to life. I am in his debt. Please check out his great website, and please use him for your film/TV projects. He is a professional talent of the highest order.) Check out the film below (please use full screen):

So, first things first: this video is not, and never was, intended as an HD-DSLR camera test. I’m not here to test the Canon T2i’s moire, aliasing, rolling shutter, and compare resolution charts, etc. If you want that, go here and here–there is a plethora of information on all of the above. As I’m a network television editor, producer, and motion GRFX designer by trade, this was really just a fun side project; a skunk-works endeavor that attempted to combine two of my passions–filmmaking and HDR photography. This video is, and always was, rather, a challenge to myself: to make ordinary, average HD video footage (from a $700 HD-DSLR) look like properly tone-mapped HDR photographs, like this stuff. For me, this film is more art than science.

I used a variety of video clips from my T2i, most of them handheld. Why handheld? Because it proves you can use this technique with just about any single video source. You DO NOT need dual cameras, set side by side, or an expensive beam splitter with and, to quote the great Stu Maschwitz, “Backrubs from supermodels” (although that couldn’t hurt), or any other such equipment. I also used handheld footage to differentiate this technique from time-lapse HDR video, which is an entirely different process altogether. HDR time-lapse is created from HDR photographs. This is ordinary, oftentimes shaky, video footage from one camera.

The other challenge to myself was to devise a true tone-mapped HDR video workflow that was actionable in a real-world setting–and that wouldn’t drive me stark raving mad. It wasn’t easy at first, but I came up with some pretty good solutions (and many that can be improved upon, I’m sure). Truth be told, this technique WILL NOT give you 6 stops more latitude on your T2i or even 4. I also really want to stress the tone-mapping part of all this: there’s a difference between capturing something with more dynamic range, like this awesome Epic HDRx clip, and giving something an HDR tone-mapped look, like my video. To date, there is no software that will give video this tone-mapped look, although I’m sure it’s being worked on as I write this. (Read my last blog post for more of my thoughts on all this.)

And (almost) none of this has to do with production. This technique is all about post-production, my specialty. In fact, the absolute best way to start down this road is to learn how to tone-map HDR photos really, really well. Start here. You can then simply apply all of the same photographic principles to your video footage. That being said, this technique will NOT work with all video clips. I did my best to use a variety of clips, all with some major light and dark areas to see what was possible, but you do have to shoot decent footage. And this is where the production part comes in: you must shoot a VERY flat image. The flatter the better, just like with color-grading this stuff. With an HD-DSLR (Red Epic and Arri Alexa may be exceptions, although I need to test them), you must not blow your highlights and you must not crush your blacks in camera. Keep it ugly, keep it grey, keep it simple.

So what are some of the glaring issues when using HD-DSLR footage and this technique? Aliasing, moire, resolution. Do the clips in my HDR test have moire? Yes. Do they have aliasing? Yes. Is the resolution great? No. Is there noise and blockiness in parts of the image? Yes. Does the T2i have these issues already? Yes. Will this technique solve any of these problems? Absolutely not. In fact, creating tone-mapped HDR video footage will probably (definitely) exacerbate all of these problems.

So why do it then? That’s very simple: I think it looks flippin’ cool. And this is where we may diverge. Many people HATE the look of HDR tone-mapped photographs (and video). I happen to absolutely LOVE them. I love how it evokes a stronger feeling, I love the process of creating them, and I love the look. It’s not some Photoshop plugin trick. It’s reality–times 10. You are seeing everything. That’s why the clip of that guy (me) drinking that beer looks kinda “Uncanny Valley” crazy. It’s real and not real at the same time, and it’s maybe even a little unnerving. But I like that. I like the extremes of this technique. The Chateau Chambord shot in the video is sort of boring and flat, but with the HDR tone-mapping applied, it looks like something out of a fairy-tale (to me). I wouldn’t necessarily use this technique on an entire feature film (unless you wanted to make some funky Richard Linklater “A Scanner Darkly” sorta thang), but it could work wonders on an opening title sequence, a dream sequence, a music video, commercial, Charlie Sheen, etc. You could also use this technique in a more subtle way to really make your video pop and add lots more detail in the shadows and highlights.

So what tools did I use? In order of importance:

– After Effects


– Final Cut Pro/Avid (or your NLE of choice)

If you don’t have a basic understanding of any of the above, this technique is going to be very difficult to pull off–you need to know them all. (You will be round-tripping between these programs again and again.) I happened, through much experimentation, to find a cocktail that worked for me, but I know it can be improved. Also, here’s some more software that I found indispensable:

Magic Bullet Denoiser (to eliminate much of the, you guessed it, noise and blockiness in the footage)

GBDeflicker (to tone down, what else, flickering in the footage)

The above software are not critical, but they will certainly make the finishing work on your HDR video a heckuva’ lot easier and make your image look a helluva’ lot nicer.

A few notes about the clips used in the video, all of which were shot full HD, 24p in the Canon EOS Rebel T2i/550d‘s video mode with various photographic lenses:

CLIP 1: I filmed this last spring on a busy Paris street while vacationing with family in France. (Parisians, please tell me where this street is!)

CLIP 2: I filmed this while back home in Minnesota last September at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, Minnesota. (This is truly an amazing place. Visit if you can!)

CLIP 3:  Same family vacation to France. I filmed this while wandering around the grounds of Chateau Chambord in Chambord, France. (Stunning location. You can see my HDR photography of this same scene here.)

CLIP 4: I filmed this while taking a walk along Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles. It was a blustery day, so it made for some nice whitecaps on the waves.

CLIP 5: Who’s this guy?? That’s me. I made myself the human HDR guinea pig for this test. My sister Pamela shot this footage of me while we–my mom and two sisters–drank some good booze and soaked up the scene around Montmarte in Paris. (I apologize for the dark circles under my eyes in this clip. We hadn’t been in France too long at this point, so I was jet-lagged and under-slept. Beer helped. :P)

That’s about all I can think to say about the video at the moment. If there’s enough interest in the film, and the technique I used to create it, I would consider recording a video tutorial of my workflow. With the demands of my day jobs, I don’t have lots of free time, but I think doing a tutorial might be fun. So, please let me know in the comments below.

Thanks again for watching the video and stopping by to read the blog–your interest means a lot to me and is much appreciated! With that, watch out for more HDR video and more of what’s next to come from my bag of tricks. (And keep your eyes peeled for changes to the blog, as this site will continue to evolve in the weeks, months, and years ahead!) This is an exciting time to be a filmmaker indeed. 😀

– Stephen

*UPDATE: Featured on Planet 5D, THE resource for all HD-DSLR news! Check it out HERE!

    • Dudi
    • March 23rd, 2011

    Definitely do a tutorial !

    • Eike
    • March 23rd, 2011

    I would love to see a tutorial!

    • Eike, cool! Glad to see there’s so much interest in the technique out there. Much appreciated!

  1. Hi Stephen,

    Nice, some of the shots are really impressive. But it is more like a “HDR look-a-like”, right? No real HDR images.

    • Nino, thanks so much for stopping by the blog and giving your input! You do bring up a great point. Please check out my first blog post in which I discuss just this thing–the differences and similarities of HDR and HDR tone-mapping:​2011/​01/​31/​canon-t2i550d-hdr-video-is-coming/​

      Like any HDR tone-mapped photo, tone-mapped HDR time-lapse or HDR video is simply the outcome, or symptom, of manipulating an 32-bit HDR file. So, really, all HDR media should, perhaps, be called “tone-mapped” images? What do you think?

      In creating the video, I indeed necessarily had to create an HDR file from every frame then tone-map that file into a 16-bit tiff. Unlike a RAW photograph, the T2i’s heavily compressed h264 video does not have a massive dynamic range. But, there’s a little bit of range, and therein lies the trick.

      This is an interesting topic, and I’m glad the video can be a part of the discussion! Thanks again for your interest, Nino. Much more to come! 😀

  2. Tutorial!

    • Preston, if you all keep asking for it, I think you might just get it! ;0) My regular post work keeps me really busy, but I think doing a tutorial could be a lot of fun. Thanks again for watching and stay tuned!

    • phnsk
    • March 23rd, 2011

    Great job. keep on. please make a tutorial about that.

    • phnsk, thank you so much. I believe I may indeed make a video tutorial detailing my workflow. If I do, it won’t come immediately. This video alone took months for me to produce, as it was a side project. But, we’ll see, maybe this will give me the kick in the pants I need to move a little faster. 😀

  3. tutorial would be really nice, thank you

  4. +1 on a tutorial!

    • thisfatefulhour
    • March 23rd, 2011

    tutorial desired greatly! nice work

  5. Awesome job Stephen. I am extremely interested in the tutorial to get the HDR look. Thank you, best of luck in all your endeavors.

    • Alexander, thanks! It appears that you, and many others, are interested in a tutorial, which is great news. I appreciate you watching and your very kind words! 😀

  6. Yes, definitely need to do a tutorial. The B&W stuff looks like infrared film.
    Nice work!

    • Greg, my interest in recording a tutorial is growing, but I won’t be able to do it right away. I will do my best to get it up online in less time than this video took! 😛 Yeah, I really like the B&W stuff too. Has an even dreamier feel–I think the crop helps too.

      Thanks again and stay tuned! ;0)

  7. Cool! I’ve been thinking about many of the questions you’ve raised. My guess is you could shoot an averaged exposure with super flat settings and then from the same clip, make two clips emphasizing the hi-lites and the shadows with curves in AE. From there, generate sequential stills and process them through Photomatix Pro.

    One thing that’s been on my mind is how to generate an HDR image from a night time-lapse. 30 second Bulb exposures are not conducive to AEB:( So, I thought – maybe – the above technique might work. Thoughts?

    Thanks for your site and info… Your work is SWEET! And yes, a tut would be great:)

    • Bill, thanks so much! I really appreciate your kind words as well as passion and enthusiasm for this kind of work.

      And your workflow model is very close, bit it’s even a bit simpler than that! Great guess. I love to see people reverse engineering the process. Lots of engaged, interested filmmakers out there! Thanks for watching! 😀

    • Ruah
    • March 23rd, 2011

    Tutorial PLS!

    • Paul Gale
    • March 23rd, 2011

    Tutorial Please!

    • Phil
    • March 23rd, 2011

    i love your idea, keep on going, and a tutorial would be – of course – veryvery welcomed!

    • Phil, thanks for the encouragement and so glad you enjoyed. This video was a labor of love, but there was LOTS of labor involved. But, I did get this process down pretty concisely, so a tutorial is very likely.

      I might even set a tutorial challenge:1,000 Twitter followers by the end of March then a tutorial? What do you think? Here’s my Twitter handle: @StephenLeeCarr.

      Thanks again and stay tuned! ;0)

  8. wow, unbelievable post work and dedication to accomplishing this, i’m hip to the workflow excepting AE, hoping to try this someday, very impressive successful conversion. i’m feeling that the workflow would be excessive and convoluted on a good day tho, so hopefully someday we’ll have a stand alone app to do it for us much like photomatix does it for photogs. wicked good work man!

    • Nate, thank you, man! I really appreciate your comments. 😀

      At first, the workflow was entirely convoluted but got progressively easier. And, Photomatix’s batch processing was just as critical for this. . . . (but an all-in-one plugin within AE would be amazing).

      Thanks again and keep your eyes peeled for more goodies!

  9. Please share your process. Loved what I saw and would like to know how to do it.

    • Dailey, thanks so much! Give me a little time, and I’d love to get a video tutorial online for the community.

      I might even set a tutorial challenge:1,000 Twitter followers by the end of March then a tutorial? What do you think? Here’s my Twitter handle: @StephenLeeCarr.

      Thanks again!

    • JPM
    • March 23rd, 2011

    it’s the rue Saint-Jacques taken from the Boulevard saint-germain angle. This street leads towards the sorbonne university and the luxembourg park. Near the Pantheon..
    You’re welcome for the tutorial…

    • Wow, JPM, thank you for that. Now that you mention it, that sounds very familiar. We were indeed staying in the Saint-Germain area of Paris.

      I might set a tutorial challenge:1,000 Twitter followers by the end of March then a tutorial by some time in early to mid-April? What do you think? Here’s my Twitter handle: @StephenLeeCarr.

      Thanks again for watching! 😀

    • James
    • March 24th, 2011

    + another one for a tut please!

    • Arthur Kemp
    • March 24th, 2011

    I loved the video tests you did, bravo! I would love to see a tutorial if you can make time for it.

    • Arthur, thank you!! I will do my best to make time for a tutorial, as there really appears to be a dedicated community of filmmakers interested in this process. All of which gets me very excited. Thanks again!

  10. Quit being such a tease and detail your workflow already.

    • Marshall, haha. I know how you feel–really! I have learned much from tutorials, and believe they are a critical learning tool. That being said, I want to make sure I make the best, most in-depth tutorial as possible. Hang tight for the time being because when I do post the workflow, it will be very thorough.

      Thanks so much for your interest! ;0)

  11. Yes tutorial! Beautiful, outstanding work! Please email me when it’s live. Thanks!

    • Brandon, thanks! I really appreciate your kind words–it’s much appreciated. Please subscribe to the blog, or follow me on Twitter (@StephenLeeCarr), to get the latest updates!

      In fact, I might set a tutorial challenge:1,000 Twitter followers by the end of March then a tutorial by some time in early to mid-April? What do you think? Here’s my Twitter handle: @StephenLeeCarr.

      Thanks again for your interest! 😀

    • Carlos
    • March 24th, 2011

    I was really hoping to see a tutorial here! Please do one.

    • Hey, Carlos, thanks for watching and your interest in the project! Your support and enthusiasm is much appreciated.

      Didn’t have time to get a tutorial out this time, as I just didn’t have the time, and I wanted to gauge viewer interest. Well, the interest is certainly there!

      Give it just a little time, and I will get a tutorial up online. My day jobs are demanding, as it took a few month just to get this test video online.

      Also, I might set a tutorial challenge:1,000 Twitter followers by the end of March a tutorial by some time in early to mid-April? What do you think? Here’s my Twitter handle: @StephenLeeCarr. Can you help me reach this goal?

      Thanks again, man, and stay tuned! 😀

    • Andrew Michael McMillan
    • March 24th, 2011

    Tutorial would sweet

    • Andrew, thanks for the feedback and interest in the video!

      I might set a tutorial challenge: 1,000 Twitter followers by the end of March then a tutorial by some time in early to mid-April? What do you think? Here’s my Twitter handle: @StephenLeeCarr. Can you help me reach this goal?

      Thanks again! ;0)

    • Andrew Michael McMillan
    • March 24th, 2011


    • Veki Venom
    • March 24th, 2011

    Tutorial, Tutorial! ehehehhe pllleeeeaaaassee

    • Lol, thanks, Veki! I love your enthusiasm. The interest in the video, and process behind it, is truly awesome.

      Thanks again for watching and hang tight, as there’s lots more to come. . . . 😀

  12. Needless to say, we are eagerly waiting for a how to tutorial because we want to use this technique to add some spice to our property videos.

    • Robert, I’m very glad to hear this. The interest level on the blog is really outstanding. That being said, I will do my best to get a tutorial up soon. It’s something I really need to plan carefully so it’s as informative as possible.

      I might also set a tutorial challenge: 1,000 Twitter followers by the end of March then a tutorial by some time in early to mid-April? What do you think? Here’s my Twitter handle: @StephenLeeCarr. Can you help me reach this goal?

      Thanks again, Robert! ;0)

  13. Please do a tutorial!

    • Yenaphe
    • March 24th, 2011

    The parisian street you see on the vidéo is Rue Saint-Jacques, and you must have been filiming it from the cross road where Boulevard Saint-Germain, Rue Saint Jacques et Rue Dante crosses.

    Very nice results by the way. Congrats from a parisian dude 😉

  14. Yes, please do a tutorial! I’ve taken RAW video from a RED ONE, done the one up, one down one neutral – exported this as a tiff sequence, done a batch convert in Photomatix and never come anywhere near to what you have – plus the files were massive!

    And shooting flat? Telling the camera not to capture information seems wrong! Isn’t that like recording a musician without bass and treble? Surely it’s better to capture the whole spectrum and flatten it later?

    • PJ
    • March 24th, 2011

    Stephen, I’m glad to see someone taking the time to find another route to this artistic look making it’s way to video. I live in Ohio and there are plenty of beautiful areas where I’d love to try your process on my footage.

    Please try and find whatever time you can to get a tutorial out there for others to follow and you never know…it could make you famous 😉

    Great work and thanks so much for sharing! Can’t wait to try it myself.

  15. hi, i like your website and experiments, very inspiring. Cool that you can pull off the HDR look with one h264 file. Personally I like the effect to be applied more subtely, to enhance local contrast, so I am very interested in your workflow. I always shoot as flat as possible so it would be nice to see what it does. Are you exporting 16 bit tiff sequence from afx, then batch applying photomatrix hdr adjustment, and then making a movie out of it and post it in AFX again?

    • Tiffany
    • March 24th, 2011

    Wow – great techical exploration and creative resolution … not to mention effort. I hope you find a niche outlet for your experiments.

    • Julio
    • March 24th, 2011

    Very cool! Please post a tutorial.

    • Tony Lee
    • March 25th, 2011

    TUTORIAL!!! YEAH!!!!

    • Evan
    • March 25th, 2011

    A tutorial sounds great! And twitter challenge or not, i would LOVE to see the workflow for this.

  16. Really liked the look, especially what it does to the B&W. Add me in for the tutorial vote.


  17. I made a HDR tonemapping video by myself. I would like to know your workflow. Maybe we can communicate via Mail.

    My first result:

    There will be more footage in the near future.

  18. Tutorial, please!

    The color work is really nice, but the B&W, ai yai yai that’s like Agfa Brovira 6 done just right.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Michael Sammons
    • March 25th, 2011

    Hello Mr Carr,
    Thank you very much for creating this video. HDR photography has been my passion for several years now and since I just recently purchased a Canon 7D I have gotten into it much more. I use Photomatix Pro as well as Dynamic Photo HDR and Artizen HDR from Canada. Plus Photoshop CS5, of course. I have also just recently started using Red Giant Software’s Quick Look’s software for video and OnOne Software’s PhotoTools 2.6 Pro.
    I have been writing various pro photographer’s, HDR software companies, and people creating HDR photography of one type or another looking to build relationships/friendships for several months now.
    I would like to email the links to your blogs and from the different sites of yours to all of these people AND especially ALL of the HDR software companies that I am familiar with to see about seeing how many creative idea’s or methods we can come up with for creating HDR video/art. With your permission of course.
    I absolutely love the visionaries, such as yourself and a few other photographer/videographer’s that I have been coming into contact with recently and I can hardly wait to see what the next year will bring.

      • bob
      • March 26th, 2011

      This is starting to sound more and more like self-promotion, than any effort to share this technique. Seriously, how long can it take to write a few paragraphs about workflow?

    • Bob Epp
    • March 26th, 2011

    A tutorial would be great!

  19. Thanks for the video and pointing us in the right direction. I’ve wanted to do an HDR vid but I am a photog and don’t know where to start.

    Your future tutorial, I hope, would be done in easy to follow steps.

    • Noe
    • March 27th, 2011

    Definitely please please tutorial?
    (any tests with a stable picture shot on a tripod? Do the flick/alias issues get any better? Thanks Stephen!

  20. Looking forward to see tutorial. great video, inspired. Nice music as well.

    Thanks for sharing

    • Francisco Rios Anderson
    • March 30th, 2011

    Thanks for share your artwork. Like you said “For me, this film is more art than science”.
    It´s an aesthethic point of view to work with the image. And it´s amazing to do in post!
    It´s remind me the super 8 footage. I agree with the idea about work with an entire proyect with this look is maybe too much. But who knows? It´s depends of narrative and it´s great to have this tool to work. Bye bye…

    • Alex
    • March 31st, 2011

    Please, tutorial will be appreciated a lot!!!
    I am doing HDR stills, but I am filmmaker, always wanted to blend cinematography with HDR.
    Thanks again.

    • richie griffin
    • March 31st, 2011

    very beautiful

    • Shreyas
    • March 31st, 2011

    Tutorial! tutorial!

    • Silvano Pisoni
    • April 3rd, 2011

    Wow! Although I struggle to understand English 😦 I found the great idea of HDR-VIDEO. You’re doing a great job and I think all those who follow your blog you are truly grateful. Wait for the tutorial, maybe with subtitles in Italian !!!!! 😉 ahahah

  21. Brilliant!
    I’ve been looking forward to seeing this done win video. It really puts the creative controll in the hands of the creator and I don’t have to send out to a color house!
    I’d love to know the steps.
    I’ve been anticipating LR to move in this direction. Since they have presets for still images developing and now catalog your video clipes the natural progression would be to do the same for video.
    Very cool
    Steve Anderson

    • glen brown
    • April 6th, 2011

    i cannot wait to see how this is done, i think it looks just awesome, very exciting, im brand new to dslr video with a 60d and im loving everything about it !

    • Noah
    • April 7th, 2011

    Great video! I really enjoyed to look of the shots! A tutorial, if you have the time, would be greatly appreciated by the community! Keep up the awesome work!!!

  22. I’m gonna try this with Photoshop’s tone mapping and my Panny TM700. I’m very interested in using this effect subtly, because of the wonderful looks that are made possible when fully utilising a cameras dynamic range.

    Looking forward to a tutorial, amazing work!

    • Izzy
    • April 15th, 2011

    Dude. You HAVE to do a tutorial on this. Looks simply incredible. Good job.

    • Tiago Espindola
    • April 18th, 2011

    Great Work!!! Congratz!
    So please do the video tuto about your workflow!!! Plz!!!

    Greatings from Brazil!

    • Jonny Hair
    • April 21st, 2011

    Great video, can’t wait for your tutorial, am looking forward to integrating some hdr video into a short film 🙂
    Well done!!!

  23. hi, im from ecuador and i just saw ur work and im very impressed. i would love to see a tut, please answer to our quotes! lol

    • Tal
    • May 17th, 2011

    Definitely looks looks flippin’ cool !!!!!! 🙂
    is a tutorial still in the planning ?
    definitely interested!!! THANKS !!!

    • Singh
    • May 20th, 2011

    lol you can’t expect him to answer every comment im surprised he was able to answer as many on the first two days !

    Great work, another vote here for the tutorial !

    • Alexandra
    • May 25th, 2011

    Hi Stephen,

    first of all: Great work- it looks absolutely wonderful!!!
    Second; as I happen to write my bachelor-thesis about the possibilities of faking the look of hdr-video-material, I am really curious about the details of your workflow. I understand that you probably don’t have time to do a video tutorial, but maybe you have any kind of information about how you did this in particular (any links or other sources?). Any hint at all would help me a lot 😉

    Greetings from Austria,

  24. Interesting stuff here indeed.

    Not sure which is more interesting – Your promised HDR wokflow secrets OR the fact that some believe this is all an elaborate act to gain a decent amount of public promotion.


    • dustin
    • August 4th, 2011

    great stuff, really, it looks awesome and i cant wait 😀 so so cool well done 😀
    but don’t hold us in suspense. you know loads of people follow you. we need the tutorial. if it helps, we’ll make you feel good even after the post.

    • Steve Ward
    • August 26th, 2011

    Is there a tutorial available yet?

    • Charlie Frye
    • September 5th, 2011

    Stephen I accidently stumbled upon the same effect using vReveal’s contrast controls. The processed vid had flickering and other artifacts, I was lost and ran into your video. Thanks for sharing your workflow. Saved me lots of time. I used windows movie maker live, virtual dub, deflicker and denoise filters to edit and clean up the video. Here is the link to the video

    • Patrick Lundberg
    • October 4th, 2011

    Hey man, this is excellent. I’ve been wrecking myself trying to do the same exact thing, but my results have not been nearly as successful. I’d kill for a tutorial on this workflow, I have two projects lined up that this would be invaluable for.

  1. March 23rd, 2011
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