Storm Chasing and Canada Workshops.

I’m off to Canada today for workshops in Montreal tomorrow at INIS (301, boulevard De Maisonneuve Est) Thursday May 26th, 1pm – 5pm and then at  6:30pm – 10:30pm.

Then in Toronto at SIRT, Monday May 30th 1pm – 5pm and 6:30pm – 10:30pm.

From there I go to Vancouver Film School on Wednesday June 1st, 1pm – 5pm and 6:30pm – 10:30pm. 

More details about these free workshops are here: https://www.sonybiz.ca/pro/lang/en/ca/article/broadcast-socan-alister-chapman

After that it’s down to Cinegear in LA for some more workshops there before heading up to Denver for a 10 day long storm photo and video workshop. While getting ready for the trip I came across a few clips from last year that I had not put up on youtube yet, so here they are:

PXW-FS5 Firmware Version 2 Released.

Firmware version 2.0 has just been released for the Sony PXW-FS5. This update adds the automatic ND filter option as well as zebras that go rom 0 to 109% so now you can use Zebras with grey cards for S-Log and raw exposure…… Oh yes, of course you need firmware version 2 if you want to get the raw option for your FS5.

The raw option allows you to record 12 bit linear DCI 4K (4096×2160)  at up to 60fps to a compatible external recorder as well as 120fps 4K raw in a 4 second burst plus up to 240fps slow motion 2K.

Also the GPS will now work (provided you have the handle attached), so footage can be geotagged for future reference and the cameras internal clock can be synchronised to the GPS time signal. This may be useful for multi-camera shoots as at least the time on each camera will be exactly the same.

Here’s the link to the firmware.

Digital Cinematography Workshop – Singapore.

I’m running a 2 day intensive digital cinematography workshop at Singapore Media Academy on the 28/29th of June.

This workshop is going to be great for anyone that want’s to get the very best from their camera equipment covering aspects such as scene files and picture profiles. How to use different gamma curves to create different looks. How to shoot with log and raw and how to create stylised look with LUT’s (Look Up Tables). There will be an introduction to grading and post production as well as a look a the ACES workflow. There will also be an introduction to 4K and HDR production.

Grants are available through MDA Singapore for residents and some other categories to cover the full course fees.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Big Sky News Investment in Sony XDCAM.

PXW-X400Sky News in the UK have decided to invest in a new ecosystem using a number of different Sony XDCAM camcorders in a move to future proof their news production. All the cameras chosen feature Sony’s built in streaming and ftp functions.  To go with the cameras Sky are also investing in a number of PWS-100RX1 live streaming receivers that feature Sony’s QoS system that ensures high quality images even when using low quality data connections.

The cameras chosen include the PXW-X400 shoulder camera (which from next year can be upgraded to 4K with a new sensor system). The PXW-X200 and the PXW-X70 (also 4K capable).

According to the Sony Press release:

George Davies, Head of Operations at Sky News UK said: “Sky News is constantly looking to improve its news service and customer experience. Core to Sky News is the ability to increase speed to air with accurate information. IP is now an integral part of the news infrastructure and the cameras we are purchasing will allow a revolution in the workflow for Sky News in the field. The Sony cameras and network system will allow Sky News to have permanently connected cameras with bi-directional information to ensure we get the pictures back but also have metadata to ensure we know what they are and where they are from”.

For more details click here.

Storm Photo and Video Tour. 1 Place left.

Shooting a Supercell Thunderstorm
Shooting a Supercell Thunderstorm

I have one spot still open on my storm chasing photo and video trip.

This is NOT a trip where we will try to get as close to a tornado as possible. The aim of this trip is to capture some of the incredible beauty of mother nature when she is angry. So we will be trying to capture incredible stormscapes, lightning, supercell storms and maybe tornadoes from a safe distance (at least 1 mile). Full details are here: http://www.xdcam-user.com/tornado-chasing/

Supercell Thunderstorm in South Dakota
Supercell Thunderstorm in South Dakota

You will get to spend 10 days between June 6th and June 16th with me as your guide and mentor. I will help you get the very best images. There is no guarantee that the weather will play ball and there will be long hours in the car travelling. But if you spend a week in “tornado alley” in June and are prepared to travel, then it would be very unusual not to see some incredible weather and storms. If that happens then we will make good use of the time shooting some of the spectacular scenery that states like Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas have to offer. Use the contact form if you are interested in joining me.

Bennigton Kansas Tornado from about 2 miles away.
Bennington, Kansas Tornado from about 2 miles away.
Dying Supercell Thunderstorm at Sunset in Nebraska.
Dying Supercell Thunderstorm at Sunset in Nebraska.

Using S-Log2 and S-Log3 with the Sony A6300 (with LUT’s to download).

Sony_A6300The new Sony A6300 is making quite a stir. This compact interchangeable lens camera has an amazing feature set that is very similar to the features found on it’s bigger brothers the A7sII and A7RII.

As a video camera it’s also capable recording using the XAVC-S codec in  both HD and UHD(4K). It can even shoot at 120fps in HD.  It also has picture profiles so you can tailor the look of the pictures or to suit different shooting conditions. The Cinegammas are very useful for challenging lighting conditions as they offer an improved highlight roll-off. As well as the Cinegammas the camera also has the S-Log2 and S-Log3 log gamma curves as well as S-Gamut, S-Gamut3 and S-Gamut3.cine.

Log gamma curves are very different to conventional gamma curves. Conventional gamma curves (like rec-709 or Cinegamma) are designed to produce a pleasing on screen image without any post production work (although the cinegammas do typically benefit with some tweaking in post). To do this conventional gammas keep the mid-range contrast compatible with conventional TV’s and monitors, so the picture has natural contrast when viewed on a TV. Then to help deal with bright highlights conventional gammas use some kind of highlight roll off or knee to increase the brightness range the camera can capture without effecting the mid range.  Unfortunately this means that the highlights are somewhat compromised, looking very flat, lacking contrast and this is often what gives video the “video look”. In addition it also means that if you are over exposed when you shoot, the picture will look bad and no amount of post production correction will ever make it look good. Most TV camera operators will be very familiar with the phrase “protect your highlights”, meaning don’t over expose, if anything under expose a tiny bit to keep the highlights looking good.

Log gamma curves such as S-Log2 and S-Log3 are very different.  They extended the dynamic range that the camera can capture. To do this they no longer try to be directly compatible with conventional TV’s and monitors and just focus on capturing the biggest possible range. The pictures will be made compatible with the TV or monitor via adjustments made during editing or in post production. So working with S-log2 and S-Log3 is a two step process – shooting and grading (grading is the term used for adjusting the look of an image in post production).

Because log gamma no longer needs to have a contrast range that matches the display range, more dynamic range can be squeezed into a conventional recording codec. It also means that there is no longer a need to use any highlight roll off or knee, so there is a lot more picture information in the highlights and brighter parts of the image. As a result exposing log gamma extra brightly is not normally a problem and in many cases brings lot of advantages. Log gamma curves do have a shadow roll off that mimics the real world shadow roll off. As a result log gammas really don’t like being under exposed, instead they prefer to be over exposed. So unlike conventional gamma where we “protect the highlights” with log gamma you need to “protect the shadows”. Under exposed log looks bad. It will lack color and it will be noisy and grainy.

For most camera operators it’s quite disconcerting to start shooting very slightly over exposed as it goes against everything you’ve learnt about shooting with a conventional video camera. But trust me, shooting 1 to 2 stops brighter than the recommended levels given by Sony on the A6300 (and any other Sony Log camera) will normally bring the best results.

I wrote a guide on how to do this with the Sony A7s here: http://www.xdcam-user.com/2014/08/exposing-and-using-slog2-on-the-sony-a7s-part-one-gamma-and-exposure/

The very same techniques can be used with the A6300, A7SII and A7RII. The A6300 etc also have S-Log3, but as these are 8 bit cameras (even when using an external recorder) I would still recommend that you use S-Log2. Besides, viewing and monitoring S-Log3 is tough as the pictures look even flatter than S-Log3.

If you follow the link below you will find a set of LUT’s (Look Up Tables) that can be applied to A6300 footage in post production to give different looks. There are some film-look LUT’s and 709 (normal TV look) LUT’s and in each case there are LUT’s for normal exposure as well as footage exposed 1 stop and 2 stops brighter. If a LUT name includes “1OVER” this means that the LUT is designed to work with footage that has been exposed 1 stop brighter than the levels given by Sony. My recommendation is to shoot at between 1 and 2 stops bright. For both S-Log2 and S-Log3 this would mean setting zebras to 70% and exposing a piece of white paper so that zebras are just starting to appear on the white paper.

If you find these LUT’s useful please consider buying me a coffee or a beer. I’m not paid to write these articles. For the LUT set I would appreciate a Cocktail, but am happy with whatever you feel is appropriate or affordable.


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To download the LUT set please click the link: Alisters A6300 Mega LUT Kit

 

News from NAB – What on earth is XDCAM AIR?

Well I didn’t know what “XDCAM Air” was so I had to ask. In a nutshell XDCAM Air is the name Sony are giving to the wireless and network functions of there more recent and forthcoming camcorders and it’s a cloud service especially for XDCAM.

So XDCAM Air covers things like proxy streaming from a camcorder, ftp uploading and the Sony QoS (quality of service) system that allows you to get great streaming image quality over less than ideal network conditions. Plus remote control of a camera or cameras over a wireless network.

But not only is XDCAM Air about existing capabilities, it is also about future possibilities with the introduction of remote NLE editing of content stored on a camera connected via the internet to the NLE. Other future possibilities are things like firmware updates and some engineering tasks over the Internet. As an example if your camera is playing up and engineer could be given remote access to the camera to look at any error codes or error logs stored in the camera. While the engineer might not be able to fix a hardware issue remotely it may mean that firmware bugs can be identified sooner or patches applied remotely. Perhaps one day I will be able to upload picture profiles or scene files directly to camera son the other side of the world.

News from NAB – Sony PXW-Z450. 4K, 2/3″ shoulder cam, X400 to get 4K option.

The new Sony PXW-Z450  UHD ENG shoulder camcorder.
The new Sony PXW-Z450 UHD ENG shoulder camcorder.

So this is interesting. Sony have launched a new shoulder camera at NAB, the PXW-Z450. On the outside it looks much like any other ENG style shoulder camera, it’s almost a clone of the recently launched PXW-X400.

On the inside though this is a UHD, single chip (I believe), 2/3″ CMOS camera. It records to SxS cards (or XQD via an adapter) using the XAVC codec in UHD and HD at up to 60fps as well as MPEG2 HD422 (XDCAM HD422) up to 30fps.

The PXW-Z450, looks just like any other ENG shoulder camera.
The PXW-Z450, looks just like any other ENG shoulder camera.

As the sensor is a 2/3″ sensor (Exmor R, back illuminated)  it takes regular B4 2/3″ ENG lenses, but being a 4K sensor you are going to need a really, really good lens. You don’t want to be using some old SD lens on this camera.

It will have full wireless capability including streaming over WiFi or via a 4G dongle of XAVC proxy  files and even has an “Online” button for live feeds. There’s a slot for a drop in radio mic receiver and 4 control dials for the 4 audio channels.

There’s an SDI input for recording from external sources, so great for news pool applications where you may need to record footage from other cameras or sources.

It will be supplied as a body only and can be used with the HDVF-EL20 or HDVF-EL30 Oled viewfinders.

DSC00656It won’t be available until the end of the year (which is possibly why there isn’t too much PR for this particular launch) and the camera at the show is a very early pre-production unit, so difficult to asses what the final image quality will be like at this stage. However the camera includes S-Log3 and Hybrid Log Gamma for HDR productions, so clearly the engineers are expecting the dynamic range to be very good.

In addition next year (2017) there will be an upgrade kit to convert the PXW-X400 to UHD. I’m assuming this kit will include a new optical block to swap out the sensor as well as new firmware for the X400 to enable UHD recording.

News from NAB – PXW-FS5 Auto ND and Raw.

The New Sony PXW-FS5
The New Sony PXW-FS5

Sony’s little PXW-FS5 is slowly maturing. The next firmware version  will add support for automatic operation of the cameras variable ND filter. The Auto ND function can be used in conjunction with Auto Iris to get an incredible automatic exposure compensation range. Great for day to night timelapse etc. The Auto ND function has to be assigned to one of the cameras assignable buttons before it can be used, but it’s a great feature to have.

In addition Zebras will go down all the way to zero. So you will be able to set zebras to 50-55% for log skin tones or 41% for S-log3 grey card exposure etc.

GPS will work too!

All of the above will be free. For an extra $600 you will be able to get the raw output option. This will allow the camera to record to an external raw recorder in full DCI 4K (4096×2160) at up to 60fps. Yes, that’s right 60fps! In addition there will be a 4 second HFR burst capability that will allow you to record 4 seconds of 120fps 4K raw. If all that isn’t enough then in 2K you will have high speed recording at up to 240fps. However there won’t be any non high speed 2K modes, so no regular 30fps 2K raw.

Just like the FS700 and FS7 the raw is 12 bit linear, so not as good as an F5 or F55, but still a very nice option to have. All of this should be coming some time in June. Don’t forget for raw you will need an external raw recorder such as the Convergent Design Odyssey or the Atomos Shogun.

 

News From NAB 2016 – Firmware Update for 18-105mm Lens.

Sony have released a firmware update for the 18-105mm lens that is available as a package with the FS5. The update addresses some of the focus tracking issues that some lenses appear to have. To update the lens firmware you need to go to the support page of Sony consumer:  http://www.sony.co.uk/support/en/product/SELP18105G

and download the update package. You will need to have the lens mounted on a camera and the camera connected to a Mac or PC. Full install instructions are provided after you click on the Mac or PC download link buttons.

Camera setup, reviews, tutorials and information for pro camcorder users from Alister Chapman.