Sony Venice – A close look at the dynamic range and noise.

With Sony Venice X-OCN files to download!

I have been working with Sony’s colour science guru Pablo at the Digital Motion Picture Center at Pinewood, looking at the outer limits of what Sony’s Venice camera can do. A large part of the reason for this is that Pablo is developing some really nice LUT’s for use on dailies or even as a grade starting point (Pablo tells me the LUT’s are finished but he is waiting for approvals and feedback from Japan).

As part of this process we have shot test footage with the Venice camera for ourselves and also looked long and hard at test shots done by other cinematographers. Last week we were able to preview a beta version of the cameras dual ISO modes. This beta firmware allowed us to shoot tests at both 500 ISO and 2500 ISO and the results of both are equally impressive.

I can’t share any of the test footage shot at 2500 ISO at this stage. The firmware is still in it’s early stages and the final version may well perform a little differently (probably better). But I can share some of the footage shot at 500 ISO.

Please remember what we were exploring was the extreme ends of the exposure range. So our little test set was set up with some challenges for the camera rather than trying to make a pretty picture.

We have deep, deep shadows on the right behind the couch and we also have strong highlights coming off the guitar, the film can on the shelves and from the practical lamp in the background. The reds of the cushion on the couch look very different with most Rec-709 cameras as the colors are outside the Rec-709 gamut.

Another aspect of the test was to check the exposure rating. For this I used my Sekonic lightmeter to measure both the incident light and the light reflected by the Kodak grey card. My light meter gave me T4 at 1/48th for 500 ISO and this turned out to be pretty much spot on with what the scopes told us. So straight away we were able to establish that the 500 ISO exposure rating appears to be correct. We also found that when we stopped down by 2.3 stops we got the correct exposure at 2500 ISO, so that too appears to be correctly rated.

Once the base exposure was established we shot at 2 stops over and 2 stops under, so from T2 down to T8 using a Sony 35mm PL prime. We used the XOCN-ST codec as we felt this will be the most widely used codec.  When looking at the files do remember that the 16 bit XOCN-ST files are smaller than 10 bit ProResHQ. So these are files that are very easy to manage. There is the option to go up in quality to Sony’s linear raw codec or down to X-OCN LT. XOCN-ST sits in the middle and offers a nice balance between file size and image quality, it being very hard to find any visual difference between this and the larger raw files.

The files I’m providing here are single X-OCN frames. They have not been adjusted in any way, they are just as shot (including being perhaps a touch out of focus). You can view them using the latest version of Sony’s raw viewer software or the latest version of DaVinci Resolve. For the best quality preview, at this time I recommend using Sony’s Raw Viewer to view the clips.

Click here to download these Venice Samples

If you find these files useful please consider buying me a coffee or beer.


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pixel Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.

So what do the files look like? First I recommend you download and play with them for yourself. Anything I do has to have a LUT,  grade or other process applied so that the linear data can be viewed on a normal computer screen. So it’s better to take a look at the original files and see what you can do with them rather than just accepting my word. The images here were create in DaVinci Resolve using ACES. ACES adds a film type highlight roll-off and uses film type levels, so the images look a touch dark as there were a lot of low light level areas in the test shots.

Venice at T4 The base exposure for the test.

Venice-base-T4_1.1.1-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T4 (From ACES). This was the “base” exposure for this test. Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice at T8 – 2 Stops under exposed (As exposed).

Venice-T8-uncor_1.4.1-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T8 (2 stops under). Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice at T8 – 2 Stops under exposed (Brightness corrected to match base exposure).

Venice-T8-norm_1.4.2-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T8 (2 stops under). Brightness match to base exposure via metadata shift. Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice at T5.6 – 1 stop under exposed (brightness corrected to match base exposure).

Venice-T5.6-norm_1.5.1-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T5.6 (1 stops under). Brightness match to base exposure via metadata shift. Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice at T4 The base exposure for the test.

Venice-base-T4_1.1.1-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T4 (From ACES). This was the “base” exposure for this test. Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice at T2.8 – 1 stop over exposed (brightness adjusted to match base exposure).

Venice-t2.8-norm_1.2.1-1-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T2.8 (1 stops over). Brightness match to base exposure via metadata shift. Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice at T2.0 – 2 stops over exposed (brightness adjusted to match base exposure).

Venice-T2-norm_1.3.2-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T2 (2 stops over). Brightness match to base exposure via metadata shift. Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice at T2.0 – 2 stops over exposed (as shot).

Venice-T2-uncor_1.3.1-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
Venice at T2.0, 2 stops over, as shot. Click on the image to enlarge.

NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:

I shouldn’t rush these tests! I should have set the focus at T2, not at T4. Focus is on the chart, not the dummy head. It would have been better if the eyes and chart were at the same distance.

It’s amazing how similar all the shots across this 5 stop range look. Just by adjusting the metadata ISO rating in Resolve I was able to get a near perfect match. There is more noise in the under exposed images and less in the over exposed images, that’s expected. But even the 2 under images are still pretty nice.

NOISE:

What noise there is, is very fine in structure. Noise is pretty even across each of the R, G and B channels so there won’t be a big noise change if skewing the white balance towards blue as can happen with some other cameras where the blur channel is noisier than red or green. Even at T8 and 2 stops under the noise is not unacceptable. A touch of post production NR would clean this up nicely. So shooting at 500 ISO base and rating the camera at 2000 EI would be useable if needed, or perhaps to deliberately add some grain. However instead of shooting at 500 ISO / 2000 EI you might be better off using the upper 2500 base ISO instead for low light shoots because that will give a nice sensitivity increase with no change to the dynamic range and only a touch (and it really is just a touch) more noise.

If shooting something super bright or with lot and lots of very important highlights  I would not be concerned about rating the camera at 1000EI.  For most projects I would probably rate the camera at 500EI. If the scene is generally dark I may choose 400EI just to be a touch cleaner. With such a clean image and so much dynamic range you really can pick and choose how you wish to rate the camera.

Venice has more dynamic range than an F55 and maybe a bit more than the F65. Most of the extra dynamic range is in the shadows. There is an amazing amount of picture information that can be pulled out of the darker parts of the images. The very low noise floor is a big help here. In the example below I have taken the base exposure sample and brought the metadata ISO up to 2000 ISO. Then I have used a luma curve to pull up the shadows still further. If you look at the shelves on the left, even in the deep shadow areas it’s possible to see the grain effect on the dark wood panels. In addition you can see both the white and black text on the back of the grey book on the bottom shelf. Yes, there is some noise but my meter put these areas at -6 stops, so being able to pull out so much detail from these areas is really impressive.

Venice-deep-shadows_1.1.2-1024x540 Sony Venice - A close look at the dynamic range and noise.
An amazing amount of information still exists in even the darkest shadow areas. This image adjusted up significantly from base exposure (at least +4 stops).

In the highlights the way the camera reaches it’s upper limit is very pleasing, it does seem to have a tiny roll off just before it clips and this looks really nice. If you look at the light bulbs in this test, at the base exposure, if you bring the highlights down in post you can see that not all of the bulb is completely over exposed they are only over exposed where the element is. Also the highlights reflecting off the guitar and film can on the shelf look very “real” and don’t have that hard clipped look that specular highlights on other cameras can sometimes have.

Another thing that is very nice is the colour tracking. As you go up and down in exposure there are no obvious colour shifts. It’s one of the things that really helps make it so easy to make all 5 exposures look the same.

The start up time of the Venice camera is very impressive at around 6 to 8 seconds. It’s up and running very quickly. The one stop steps in the ND filter system are fantastic. The camera is very simple to use and the menu seems logically laid out. It’s surprisingly small, it’s not much bigger than a PMW-F55, just a little taller and a little longer. Battery consumption is lower than most of the competition, the camera appears to consume around 50w which is half the power consumption of a lot of the competition. It can be run of either 12v or 24v. So all in all it can be rigged as a very compact camera with a standard V-Lock battery on the back.

Looking forward to shooting more with Venice in the very near future.

 

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