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What’s wrong with my viewfinder, my old camera had a much better viewfinder!

This is something that keeps popping up all over the place and it’s not just one camera that attracts this comment. Many do, from the FS5 to the FS7 to the F55, plus cameras from other manufacturers too.
One common factor is that very often this relates to the newer super35mm cameras. Cameras designed to give a more rounded, film like look, often cameras with 4K or higher resolution sensors.
I think many people perceive there is an issue with their viewfinder because they come to these new high resolution, more rounded and film like cameras  from traditional television centric camcorders that use detail correction, coring and aperture correction to boost the image sharpness.
SD and even HD television broadcasting relies heavily on image sharpening so that viewers perceive a crisp, sharp image at any viewing distance and with any screen size (although on really big screens this can really ruin the image).
This works by enhancing and boosting the contrast around edges. This is standard practice on all normal HD and SD broadcast cameras. Especially camera that use a 3 chip design with a prism as the prism will often reduce the images edge contrast.
As most people will prefer a very slightly sharpened HD image or a heavily sharpened SD image over an unsharpened one, it’s sharpened by default. This means that the images those cameras produce will tend to look sharp even on screens that have a lower resolution than that of the camera because the edges remain high contrast even when the viewing resolution is reduced and as a result look sharp.
Most current manufacturer supplied LCD EVF’s run at 1/4″ HD with 940 x 560 pixels (each pixel made up of an RGB 3 dot matrix). In addition many of the 3rd party VF’s such as the very popular Alphatron are the same because they all use the same mass produced, relatively low cost panels – panels that are also used for mobile phones and many other devices. 
 
The problem then is that when you move to a camera that doesn’t add any image sharpening, if you view the cameras image on a lower resolution screen the image looks soft because — it is. There is no detail correction to compensate. Incidentally this is why often these same cameras can look a bit soft in HD and very soft in SD compared to other traditional or detail corrected cameras. But, that slightly softer, less processed look helps contribute to their more film like look. This softness and lack of sharpening/processing is particularly noticeable if you use the focus mag function as you are then looking at an enlarged but completely un-sharpened image.
 
It could be argued that the viewfinder should sharpen the image to compensate. Some of the more expensive viewfinders can do this using their own sharpening processes. But the image that you are then seeing is not the picture that is being recorded and this isn’t always ideal. If it is over done then it can make the entire image look sharp even when it isn’t fully in focus. Really you want to be looking at exactly the image that the camera is recording so that you can spot any potential problems. But that then makes focussing tricky.
 
There are a few 3rd party viewfinders such as the Gratical that have higher resolutions. The Gratical and Eye have screens that are 1280×1024, but in normal use you only use 1280×720 for the image area. This certainly helps, but even the 1:1 pixel zoom on these can look soft and blurry as you loose the viewfinders peaking function when you crop in.
 
Sony’s Venice and the F55/F5 can use Sony’s new DVF-EL200 OLED viewfinder. This costs around £4.5K ($6K) and has a 1920×1080 screen. It’s a beautiful image, but even this needs a fairly good dose of peaking to artificially sharpen the image to be able to see that last critical bit of focus. Again when you zoom in the image looks soft and a bit blurry (even on a Venice) as the camera itself is not adding any sharpening. The peaking function on the DVF-EL200 is quite sophisticated as it only enhances the highest frequency parts of the image, so only sharp edges and fine details are boosted.
 
Go back to the days of black and white tube viewfinders and these used tons of peaking to make them useable. Traditional SD and HD cameras add sharpening to their pictures, but most of our modern large sensor 4K camera do not and as a result often the viewfinder images appear soft compared to what we used to see on older cameras or still see today on cameras that do sharpen the pictures.
 
All of this makes it hard to nail your focus, especially if shooting 4K. Even with a DVF-EL200 on a Venice I struggle at times and rely heavily on image mag (which is still difficult) or better still a much larger monitor with a good sun shade and if necessary some reading glasses to allow you to focus on it up close.

So before you get too critical of your viewfinders performance do also consider all of the above. Try to see how another similar viewfinder looks on your camera (for example an Alphatron on an FS7). Perhaps try a higher resolution viewfinder such as a Gratical, but don’t expect miracles from a small, relatively low resolution screen on a modern digital cinema camera. This really is one of those areas where you can’t beat a big, high resolution screen.

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Venice Look LUT’s For 14 stop cameras A7, FS5, FS7, F5, F55 etc.

Hello all. So after numerous problems for some people trying to download the official Sony s709 LUT for Venice, I decided to create my own Venice Look LUT’s. These LUT’s have been created using image matching techniques plus some small tweaks and adjustments to make the LUT’s work well with the 14 stop cameras.

Venice is a 15 stop camera with a new sensor and as a result the official s709 LUT’s are not quite right for the current 14 stop cameras like the FS5, PMW-F55, FS7 and even the A7 series. So the LUT that I have created is slightly different to allow for this.

The end result is a LUT that gets you really close to the way Venice looks. It won’t magically turn your FS5 into a Venice, there is something very, very nice about the way Venice handles the extremes of it’s dynamic range, plus Venice has Sony’s best colour filters (similar to the F55 and F65). So Venice will always be that one very nice step up. But these LUT’s should get you close to the default Venice 709 look. This LUT should NOT be used with Venice as it this LUT is restricted to 14 stops.

Of course do remember that the default look and indeed the official s709 LUT was designed as a first pass look. An instant viewing output for a DIT or for on set viewing. It is not really meant to be the final finished look. It would be normal to grade the Venice material, perhaps from scratch rather than using the s709 LUT for the final output. But, s709 is what comes out of the cameras SDI connectors if you use the default LUT/Look. This is what this LUT set mimics, with some tweaks for the lower cost cameras.

This is one of the largest and most comprehensive LUT sets I have ever created. There are versions designed specifically for grading in Resolve or other grading suites. The bulk of the LUT’s are designed to be used with S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine. There are monitoring versions with offsets for use in monitors such as the Atomos range. I have created a set with offsets for both the Zacuto and Small HD viewfinders and monitors and finally I have also created sets of LUT’s for use with S-Log2 so users of the original A7s or those that wish to shoot with S-Log2 on an 8 bit camera are not left out.

The LUT’s work best with the PMW-F55 as this has the closest native color to the Venice camera, but I think they work really well on the rest of the Sony range.

If you find the LUT’S useful, please consider buying me a beer or a coffee using the “Buy Now” button below. There are different drink options depending on what you feel is fair, it takes time to prepare these and there are costs associated with hosting the files. I’m not paid to run this website and every little bit helps and is greatly appreciated.

If you don’t wish to buy me a coffee, that’s cool. But please don’t host the files elsewhere. Feel free to link back here and share the link, but please don’t distribute these anywhere else.

Here’s the link to the zip file containing the my Venice Look LUT set:

Click Here to download Alister’s Venice Look LUTs V2


Type



pixel Venice Look LUT's For 14 stop cameras A7, FS5, FS7, F5, F55 etc.

Sony Venice LUT.

Sony’s new Rec-709 style LUT for the Venice camera is now available. This Lut was designed to work with the Venice camera to provide a new film like look with beautiful highlight roll-off.  In it’s current form it only works with S-Log3/S-Gamut3.cine material, although you could use the excellent LUTCalc app to create different versions.

Although designed for Venice the LUT works really well with footage from the FS5, FS7, F5 and F55 etc.

You can download the base LUT from here until the end of July. https://dmpce.cimediacloud.com/mediaboxes/8374a677e6224da2a170bd841f64302d

Miller CX18 Tripod Head and Sprinter Legs.

My all time favourite tripod has to be my Miller Compass head on my Miller Solo Legs. This has proven to be an excellent all round tripod that is both light weight and extremely portable.

But for my recent Venice shoot I needed something a little bit more substantial so I decided to give the new Miller CX18 head on a set of Miller Sprinter II two stage carbon fibre legs.

20180420_155347-e1526234607109-576x1024 Miller CX18 Tripod Head and Sprinter Legs.
Miller CX16 Tripod with a Sony Venice.

The CX18 head is not radically different to any other tripod head. But it is a great, silky smooth tripod head. It uses the same type of fluid damping mechanism as my Compass head with 5+0 steps of silky smooth pan and tilt damping selected by click stop rings on the head. One thing that does differentiate the CX range from previous Miller heads is the range of the counterbalance system. My Compass head only has 4 counterbalance settings for a range of payloads from 2Kg to 9kg (4lbs to 20lbs). The new CX18 head has 16 levels of counterbalance and covers a payload range from 0 to 16kg (35lbs). So it can handle a greater payload range with finer more precise steps.

20180420_155421-1-1024x576 Miller CX18 Tripod Head and Sprinter Legs.
Miller CX18 head showing the 16 step counter balance control, 8 steps on the big ring plus a +1 step control switch.

The counterbalance steps are selected via a main counterbalance selector ring which as 8 steps and the a secondary control adds an extra half step, giving a total of 16 steps. So even when swapping lenses on the camera between primes and zooms it would only take seconds to find the right counterbalance level.

The camera plate on the CX18 is a side mount plate, so you just angle it into the recess on the top of the tripod and it snaps down into place. No need to have to line up a sliding plate. This makes it much faster to release and reattach the camera if you are in a hurry.

Talking of being in a hurry. The Sprinter II legs feature lower leg release catches that are operated by levers that are attached to the lower leg clamp by a rod. This means that you don’t have to bend down to the bottom of the tripod leg to release the catch. Instead the large release catches for both stages of the tripod legs starts off up by the tripod bowl making them easy to grab and release when you are in a hurry. This is a really nice feature for new shooters.

20180420_160747-e1526234840980-576x1024 Miller CX18 Tripod Head and Sprinter Legs.
The Sprinter II tripod. Note how the leg lock catches are never lower than the top of the first stage.

The 100mm bowl sprinter legs are very stable with very minimal twist or flex at the bowl even when extended to a good height. the mid level spreader makes them really easy to use on uneven ground.

So if you are looking for a tripod with a pretty decent payload that doesn’t weigh a ton but remains nice and stable do take a close look at the CX18 head and Sprinter II legs. Miller’s tripod heads really are some of the smoothest tripod heads out there. My Solo is 5 years old now and just as smooth as it was the day it arrived.

The CX18 worked well with the Venice camera, although to be honest a fully loaded Venice is a pretty big lump to put on this size of tripod. However the CX18 took it in it’s stride and helped me get some silky smooth pans and tilts in some pretty windy conditions.

Sigma FF High Speed Primes.

The main lenses I used for my recent Sony Venice shoot in Arizona were the  Sigma Full Frame High Speed primes in PL mount.

These are really really nice lenses!

20180418_110628-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Sigma Full Frame fast prime lens set.

As they cover a full frame sensor such as the one in Sony’s Venice high end digital cinematography camera these are pretty future proof lenses. They are all fast lenses with most of them opening up to T1.5. At T1.5 you have a 20, 24, 35, 50 and 85mm lenses and at T2.0 you can go as wide as 14mm and as long as 135mm.

They are of all metal construction, the build quality is absolutely first class. As soon as you pick one up it just exudes quality. They are not light weight lenses, coming in at between 1kg and 1.3kg in PL mount form, but that weight gives you the confidence that these are lenses that will last. Lenses that will stand up to daily professional use on a film or documentary shoot.  They are dust and moisture sealed, which is probably just as well as on this shoot there was a lot of blowing sand and dust. Our on set photographer was having problems with sand and grit in his lenses by the end of the shoot, but the Sigmas just shrugged it off.

The focus and aperture markings are very clear and easy to read they even glow in the dark! The focus ring rotates through a full 180 degrees and both the focus and aperture rings have standard 0.8 pitch teeth for follow focus controls etc. The gear rings are all the same distance from the mount so there is no need to move the follow focus when changing lenses.

20180418_110645-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Sigma 85mm Full Frame High Speed prime.

The lenses are available with PL, E mount or EF mounts. The set I had were fitted with PL. The mounts are not user interchangeable, but you can have the mount swapped by Sigma if you do find that you need to change it for some reason.

I shot several scenes with the 20mm lens using the Venice’s full frame 6K x 4K mode. Examining these images in post production reveals that the 20mm is really sharp right out into the corners. I also shot with the lenses wide open in some pretty dark places and even wide open they stay tack sharp. Take a look at the image below, it’s really sharp. If you click on the image you can enlarge it to view it at close to the original 6K resolution.

Horseshoe-bend_1.1.6-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Frame grab from Venice. Horseshoe bend, Page Arizona. Sigma 20mm FF prime. Click on the image to enlarge.

Shooting night scenes with the 135mm wide open also gave beautiful results. When shooting with a shallow DoF all the lenses have a very pleasing bokeh. This is perhaps in part thanks to the use in all of the lenses of a 9 blade, rounded diaphragm aperture system.

When changing focus mid shot breathing is minimal and the focus ring is silky smooth. A really nice touch is the use of a damper at the focus stops so there is no noise if you hit the end stops.

Vegas-night2_1.1.2-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Frame Grab from Venice, 2500 ISO, Sigma 24mm. Click on the image to expand.

During the shoot I used the 20,24,35,50,85 and 135mm lenses and they all performed really well. Looking at the footage in the grading suite it looks sharp and there are no nasty distortions. I did notice a touch of barrel distortion with the 24mm but this is to be expected with a wide lens on a full frame sensor. All the lenses matched really well, the colour remaining constant throughout the whole range. The look from the lenses was very neutral. Lens flare was extremely well controlled and I didn’t notice my blacks becoming washed out in high contrast situations. When shooting into the sun or at a direct light source any flare that I did see was normally quite pleasing.

The shot below was obtained shooting towards the sun when it was very low in the sky, yet the lens behaved flawlessly retaining deep blacks and a very high contrast image.

horse-riding_1.1.14-1024x576 Sigma FF High Speed Primes.
Frame grab from Venice with Sigma 135mm FF lens shooting into the sun in a very high contrast scenario. Click on the image to enlarge.

These lenses helped me capture some truly beautiful images with the Venice camera. I’ve long been a fan of Sigmas more recent lens designs. I have several of the Sigma Art Lenses and these have always performed exceptionally well. These prime lenses take things one step further putting world class optics into housings designed for manual control and the rigours of professional film and video productions. They are very competitively priced, especially when you consider that these are full frame lenses. I really hope to be able to use them again on future shoots. They really are top notch lenses and the images I captured with them look gorgeous.

 

Shooting With Sony Venice.

I recently completed a week long shoot with a Sony Venice in the USA, so I thought I would tell you about my experience. The camera I used had a beta of the dual ISO firmware so it could shoot at both the native ISO of 500 and the second native ISO of 2500. This was particularly useful for the shoot as a lot of the filming was done in some very dark places.

I can’t show any of the footage to you yet. But I will be able to link to the finished films once they are released a little later in the year  by my client. I have to say straight away that I think the footage looks pretty amazing.

The first location was Las Vegas. I shot a number of views of the Las Vegas strip from the balcony of my hotel room in the Cosmopolitan hotel. These were pretty straight forward thanks to the cameras dual ISO capabilities. One of the shots was a day to night sequence, shooting locked off shots during the day and then at night to be blended together to go from day to night. The day time shots were done at the base 500 ISO and then the night shots done at 2500 ISO.

Vegas-night2_1.1.2-1024x576 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Frame Grab from Venice, 2500 ISO. Click on the image to expand.

Sigma FF Fast Primes.

20180418_110628-1024x576 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Sigma Full Frame fast prime lens set.

For these shots I used one of the really nice 24mm Sigma full frame high speed PL primes and the camera was setup in the 6K x 4K full frame mode.

For most of the shoot we did however shoot using the s35mm 17:9 DCI mode shooting at 60fps, and we made quite a few  changes to the frame rates and frame sizes in the course of the shoot. The Sigma FF Primes are really beautiful lenses. Very well built, solid lenses that produce very sharp images even when wide open. The ability to shoot at T1.5 or T2.0 turned out to be a huge benefit on this shoot as many shots were done either at night or in some very dark locations.

20180413_171840-1024x576 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Shooting with Venice in Las Vegas

One thing to note here is that I was working on my own. Venice is set up as a camera for high end shoots where it is expected that there will be a camera assistant working with the cinematographer or camera operator. During the shoot I made many changes to the cameras frame rate and aspect ratio. These changes are most easily done using the LCD screen and hot keys on the side of the camera away from the camera operator. So there were many times when I had to walk around to the other side of the camera or spin the camera around on the tripod to make these changes. It’s not really a big deal, but it is something to be aware of if you are going to use Venice as a “one man band”.

Vegas-night5_1.1.5-1024x576 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Frame Grab from Venice. 2500 ISO Freemont Street Las Vegas. Click on the image to expand.

On the operators side of the camera there is a small LCD panel where you can change the shutter speed, ND filter, EI and white balance. But for anything else you need to either use the LCD panel on the other side of the camera or go into the main menu. Talking of the menu system – it’s very well laid out and quite logical.

20180420_155405-1024x576 Shooting With Sony Venice.
The operators side of Venice with the small info LCD.

Venice is a much simpler camera to use than the F55. In part because at the moment the feature set is still a little limited – there are no high speed modes, time-lapse, picture cache or other stunt modes. But the main reason it’s simpler is the design and layout of the main LCD and hot keys has been simplified and is better organised.

The “Home” screen has they key functions that you are likely to change while shooting – shutter speed, EI, ND and white balance. There is also a control for the frame rate, although the options for this are currently quite limited with it currently normally being locked to a single fixed speed set in the project settings. The Home screen also tells you how much space is left on your media, the aspect ratio and frame size, clip name, recording format(s), the battery status. Plus there are audio level displays for channels 1 and 2.

If you need to make any other changes to the cameras setting then you press the large menu button to bring up the main menu. This is divided into 5 sections each with it’s own hot key – Project – TC/Media – Monitoring – Audio – Info. The 6th hot key takes you into further settings for some of the menu pages.

There is a simulator for the Venice menu system here; https://www.sony.net/Products/Cinematography/Venice/Camera_simulator/index.html

Something else a first time Venice shooter should be aware of is that the cameras audio input is via a single 5 pin XLR connector. This can be set up as either a 2 channel analog line/mic input (with switchable phantom power) or an AES/EBU digital input. There are no 3 pin XLR’s on Venice so make sure you have the right cables or adapters.

While Venice isn’t a big camera, it is very dense. That is to say – a lot of electronics has been packed into quite a small body. It is…. shall we say… reassuringly heavy! I guess I have been a bit spoilt by the light weight of the F55. Venice is quite a lot heavier even though it isn’t really all that much bigger. I was shooting using the R7 recorder, recording to 16 bit X-OCN files as my primary material. With the R7 and a couple of Pag Paglink batteries on the back the camera was nicely balanced with the Sigma primes.

I was pleasantly surprised by the power consumption. A single 95Wh Paglink battery would run the camera for  over an hour and a PL150 for around 2 hours which is a pretty respectable run time for a digital cinema camera. Certainly a lot more that I would get from an F65 or Arri.

20180420_155349-e1526222971788-576x1024 Shooting With Sony Venice.
A single Pag PagLink PL150 battery will run Venice for around 2 hours.

The new DVF-EL200 viewfinder is a big step up from the DVF-EL100 often used on the F55 and F5 cameras. The image is brighter, higher resolution and the dipoter adjustment much better. Venice puts the information displays outside the picture area so the image isn’t obstructed by any text information. The large rotary encoder on the front of the viewfinder controls peaking, brightness and contrast.

Rating the camera – I had already done a few camera tests with Venice so I knew that the base ISO’s of 500 and 2500 matched well with my light meter. I also knew that there is very little noise at 500 ISO and only a little bit more at 2500.  For most daylight shots I shot at 500 ISO/500 EI. I don’t feel that there is the same need to rate the camera 1 to 2 stops lower as I do with the F55, FS7 or FS5. It just isn’t necessary for normal light levels. For some scenes that had low average brightness levels I did choose to shoot at 500 ISO/320 EI as it seemed a waste to shoot at 500 EI when the scene highlights were no where near clipping. The slightly lower Ei helped to put just a little more information into the already highly detailed shadow areas of my images. For the darker locations and night scenes I switched the camera to the higher base ISO of 2500 to gain a pretty decent sensitivity boost. When using the 2500 ISO mode I found I ended up shooting at 1600 EI to keep the noise levels very similar to the noise levels at 500 ISO/500 EI.

Vegas-night4_1.1.4-1024x576 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Frame Grab from Venice 2500 ISO, Sigma 35mm FF prime. Click on the image to enlarge.

The noise that you do get when shooting at the 2500 ISO base is really pleasing. I’m not normally a fan of any noise, my personal preference is normally for clean images as these tend to give the greatest post production flexibility. But there is something that just looks nice about the little bit of extra noise that there is at 2500. It’s very, very fine grain that is different in every frame. Dare I say it looks very film like? I need to experiment with this further, but I suspect that many people may choose to use 2500 ISO even when they have plenty of light as the noise adds some character and a pleasing texture to the shots. I’m not going to get into too much of a debate here about the merits of shooting with a bit of grain verses adding it in post. Personally I would probably normally opt to shoot clean and add any noise later, but Venice certainly brings some interesting options to the table and I would not rule out deliberately choosing 2500 ISO,  even when  there is plenty of light, to take advantage of the really nice looking noise.

Slot Canyon.

20180416_111019-1024x576 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Shooting with Venice deep in the Slot Canyon.

We shot a lot of the film in the bottom of a deep Slot Canyon. For those that don’t know what this is – it is a very narrow, very deep, steep sided twisting gully carved out over millions of years by flood water. The Slot Canyon we shot in was often only 2 or 3ft wide (1m) and around 60ft (20m) deep. In most parts sunlight never reaches directly to the bottom, so it’s often very dark. But in a few spots very narrow shafts of light just about make it to the bottom when the sun is directly overhead. This creates some areas of incredibly high contrast as beams of full desert sun penetrate into near total darkness.

Slot-Canyon-3_1.1.9-1024x576 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Frame Grab fro Venice, 2500 ISO. Deep in the slot Canyon. Click on the image to enlarge.

Venice was the perfect camera for this situation. The high base ISO mode and the 2500 ISO exposure rating allowed me to capture the dark textures of the sandstone walls of the canyon, while the 15 stop latitude meant that I could also capture the almost laser like light beams as they created intense pools of light. In addition towards the upper parts of the Canyon you get incredibly vivid reds and oranges as the sunlight reflects of the red rocks. To the naked eye it looks like the canyon walls are on fire and Venice did an amazing job of capturing these intense colours.

Slot-Canyon-2_1.1.8-1024x576 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Frame Grab from Venice at 2500 ISO. Looking up towards the sky from the bottom of the slot canyon. click on the image to enlarge.

My hotel room in the city of Page, Arizona was decorated with photographs taken in Slot Canyons. In many of the photos the shafts of light were completely over exposed with no detail or texture. I’m pleased to say that the footage from Venice almost always retained some detail and texture, even in the the most extreme cases. This for me has been one of the most impressive things about the way Venice behaves. There is something very nice about the way that Venice reaches the extreme ends of it’s exposure range, something the F55 doesn’t quite do and I really like it. Venice seems to hang n to those exposure extremes just that bit better. In addition Venice also retains an amazing amount of color information in the deepest darkest shadow areas.

Slot-Canyon-4_1.1.10-1024x576 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Frame grab from Venice. Beams of intense light pierce the darkness of the slot canyon. click on the image to enlarge.

Grand Canyon.

Another location we shot at was the Grand Canyon’s Horseshoe bend. This a well know spot and frankly, if you have good light, it’s tough to make a bad picture. This is one of those locations where everything is on a grand scale. So it deserved a big image. Time to use the 6K x 4K full frame mode and those beautiful Sigma FF primes again. In the grading suite whenever I show people the shots from Venice at Horseshoe Bend there is almost always a “wow” moment. The texture and detail in the shots is amazing and starting with a 6K image for a 4K production gives you quite a bit of room to crop in to the image if you wish.

Horseshoe-bend_1.1.6-1024x576 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Frame grab from Venice. Horseshoe bend, Page Arizona. Sigma 20mm FF prime. Click on the image to enlarge.

What about skin tones? Well we did shoot some Navajo dancers doing traditional native American dances and hoop dances. Even in the very harsh Arizona light the skin tones looked great.

Navajo2-1024x537 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Navajo dancer, Page, Arizona. Sony Venice.

With so many different locations to shoot at in one week, some of them very remote, being highly mobile was really important to us. While Venice is heavier than the F55 that I  normally shoot with, it is still an easy camera to transport. We had to lug the kit by hand across the desert to get to the Slot Canyon. I used a Miller CX18 fluid head with a 100mm bowl on a set of Miller carbon fibre legs. This is a pretty light tripod setup, similar to that used by ENG news crews. I didn’t need to go to a 150mm bowl or heavier tripod than this for this shoot because Venice is a very manageable weight and it worked very well.

20180420_155421-1024x576 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Miller CX16 Fluid head.

One  scene was a nigh time campfire scene. For  the Venice camera shooting at 2500 ISO and paired with the Sigma T1.5 primes this wasn’t really too much of a challenge. The fire was a large wood fire and it was producing enough light to illuminate the faces of the subjects in the scene. Although perhaps this could have been shot without any additional lighting it was decided to add a little bit of extra light to fill in a few shadows and add a small amount of detail into the background of the wide shots.

fire1_1.1.15-1024x576 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Frame Grab from Venice at 2500 ISO. Sigma 25mm FF lens. Stella 5000 adding a touch of light to the background.

For this I used a Light and Motion Stella Pro 5000 Led lamp. For a one man band these waterproof LED lights are really excellent. They produce lots of good quality light and can be fitted with all kinds of modifiers. For this application I used a Fresnel lens to narrow down the light cone. In addition they can be remotely controlled using a simple hand held Elinchrom remote control. This makes getting the light level just right really easy as you can look in the cameras viewfinder while dimming the lamps with the remote. It’s possible to control several lamps with one remote.

20180417_201204-1024x576 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Light and Motion Stella Pro 5000 light.
campfire3-1024x537 Shooting With Sony Venice.
Campfire cookout. Page, Arizona, Sony Venice, Sigma 85mm

I shot using Sony’s X-OCN codec recording on to AXS cards in the R7 recorder. These 16 bit linear files are surprisingly easy to work with. The compact file size was a huge help. I didn’t get through more than 2 x 512GB cards in a day, even though we were shooting 4K 60P or 6K 24p. This really helped with data management in the evenings. There’s big difference between backing up 1TB of X-OCN compared to what would have been around 5TB if it had been uncompressed raw.  Yet there are no signs of any artefacts in the material. The X-OCN files are also very easy to handle in post production, I can even preview them in real time on my laptop at half resolution. In post production the 16 bit linear files handle beautifully, revealing amazing amounts of picture information.

At the end of this shoot I am left with a big problem though. Now I’ve shot a real production with Venice – I don’t want to shoot with anything else. I have been telling myself that I will stick with my F5/R5 for a bit longer, maybe upgrade the F5 to an F55 and then hire in a Venice as needed. But now I want to shoot with Venice whenever possible. Every time I pick up a Venice and go and shoot with it I come back with images that surprise me. They just seem to look great with very little effort. So now I think I might just have to figure out a way to buy one.

Why is the white balance limited to 3 presets when using S-Log2, S-Log3 or raw?

This seems to be a source of frustration for many people shooting  raw or using S-Log2 or S-Log3 on a Sony camera. When shooting log and raw you should also be using a matching S-Gamut colour gamut if you want to get the best from the camera and this ties you into one of 3 preset white balances.

With a PXW-FS7, PMW-F5 or F55 it is possible to use custom mode to select a different colour space to mix with S-Log2 or S-Log3 and then have a variable white balance. With the Alpha cameras, PXW cameras such as the FS5 you can choose any Gamut you want in the picture profiles, but I don’t recommend this. For a start, if you don’t use one of the S-Gamuts you will be limited to Rec-709 Gamut, so you won’t be recording  the cameras full colour range. Also in custom mode there are some other things like noise reduction that you really don’t want when shooting S-log2/3 (it can cause banding).

So why is the S-Gamut white balance fixed to the 3 presets for daylight, fluorescent and tungsten? The main reason is to ensure you get the cameras full dynamic range in each colour. White balance is a gain function, it adjusts the gain of the red, green and blue channels so that white objects appear white under differing light sources. So if the light source lacks blue light – making the pictures look excessively warm – you add extra gain to the blue channel to compensate.

But the problem with this is that gain affects dynamic range. When shooting log (or raw) the camera needs to operate the sensor at the optimum gain level to squeeze the highest possible dynamic range from the it. Changing the gain in just one colour channel to shift the white balance could result in a reduction of dynamic range in the channel. This could manifest itself as colours in one channel that clip sooner than the others. This can be really hard to deal with in post production and can show up as things like bright clouds with a colour cast that isn’t in the rest of the picture.

Another potential issue is that because of the way silicon sensors work the blue channel is almost always noisier than the red and green. So you want to keep the gain in the blue channel as low as possible to prevent the pictures getting too noisy. This is particularly important when shooting log as you won’t see your end result until after the images have been graded. So manually shifting the gain of the blue channel in camera to correct the white balance could lead to footage that ends up noisier than you would expect.

So – Sony chose to fix the white balance to 3 carefully tuned presets designed to avoid this situation and maximise the dynamic range. After all, when shooting log or raw it is expected that the footage will be graded anyway, so the white balance will normally be adjusted as part of the post production process.

There are some people that advocate adjusting the FS5’s white balance via the picture profile settings, personally I don’t recommend this or feel that it’s necessary. But yes, you can do this, but just keep a very close eye on your highlights and if you can use monitor with RGB parade to make sure you have equal recording levels for your whites without one colour channel clipping ahead of the others. Also apply a LUT in the monitor that is close to your desired output so that you can keep an eye on the noise levels.

In summary – the white balance is preset to ensure you don’t encounter problems later on. You should be able to fully adjust and fine tune your white balance in post production to a far greater degree than is possible in camera anyway, so don’t worry if the WB is a touch off when shooting.

The only exception to this is the new Sony Venice. Venice has enough dynamic range and enough internal processing power to allow you to make a wide range of white balance adjustments in camera. Hopefully we will see some of this flexibility trickle down to the next generations of lower cost Sony digital cinema cameras.

Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Page, Arizona. Half way through a shoot covering everything from the city lights of Las Vegas to the Slot Canyons of Arizona. I’m using a Sony Venice to shoot most of the material, but I also have an FS5 recording to ProRes Raw on a gimbal for some shots.

20180416_181614-1024x576 Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.
Shooting in Arizona with a Sony Venice.

It’s been an interesting shoot with many challenges. Some of the locations have been a long way from our vehicles, so we have had to lug the kit cross country by hand.

day1-3 Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.
Lugging the camera kit to the Slot Canyon. Thankful that the Miller CX18 tripod is nice and light.

Almost everything is being shot at 60fps with some 120fps from the FS5. We also had a Phantom Flex for a couple of days for some 1000fps footage. For some of the really big panoramic scenes we have used the 4:3 6K mode on the Venice (at 24fps).

JS_1983 Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.
FS5 on a gimbal shooting ProRes Raw via an Atomos Inferno.

Our main lenses are a set of full frame T1.5 Sigma primes. These are absolutely amazing lenses and when paired with the Venice camera, it’s hard to produce a poor image. Our Venice has a beta of the dual ISO firmware which has been an absolute godsend as the bottoms of the deep slot canyons are very dark, even in the middle of the day. So being able to shoot at 2500 ISO has been a huge help.

20180418_110634-1024x576 Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.
Sigma Full Frame PL lenses. Beautiful!!

I will write up this project in more detail once the shoot is over. I can’t share any footage yet, but once my client releases the film I will be able to let everyone see it. However I have been allowed to post some frame grabs which you will find below.

 

Venice3_1.5.1-1024x576 Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.
Freemont Street Las Vegas, shot with Venice and 35mm Sigma.
canyon-grab5_1.10.1-1024x576 Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.
Secret Canyon Slot Canyon.Sony Venice 4:3 full frame, Sigma 35mm.
vegas-5_1.3.2-1024x576 Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.
Las Vegas by night. Sony Venice, Sigma 25mm
canyon-grab2_1.6.1-1024x576 Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.
Secret Canyon, Arizona. Sony Venice Sigma 50mm
canyon-grab4_1.8.1-1024x576 Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.
Secret Canyon, Arizona. Sony Venice, sigma 35mm.
Navajo2-1024x537 Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.
Navajo dancer, Page, Arizona. Sony Venice.
Navajo3-1024x537 Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.
Navajo hoop dancer at Horseshoe bend, Grand Canyon. Sony Venice, Sigma 20mm
Horsehoe1-1024x679 Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.
Horseshoe bend, Grand Canyon. Sony Venice, Full Frame, Sigma 20mm
riding-1024x536 Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.
Riding into the sunset. Sony Venice, Sigma 135mm
campfire3-1024x537 Vegas, Slot Canyons and Venice.
Campfire cookout. Page, Arizona, Sony Venice, Sigma 85mm

PXW-FS5 II Secret Sauce and Venice Colour Science.

At NAB 2018 a very hot topic is the launch of the FS5 II. The FS5 II is an update on the existing FS5 that includes the FS Raw output option and the HFR option as standard. So out of the box this means that this camera will be a great match to an Atomos Inferno to take advantage of the new Apple ProRes Raw codec.

Just like the FS5 the FS5 II can shoot using a range of different gamma curves including Rec-709, HLG, S-Log2  and S-Log3. So  for those more involved projects where image control is paramount you can shoot in log (or raw)  then take the footage into your favourite grading software and create whatever look you wish. You can tweak and tune your skin tones, play with the highlight roll off and create that Hollywood blockbuster look – with both the FS5 and the FS5 II. There is no change to this other than the addition of FS-Raw as standard on the FS5 II.

The big change, is to the cameras default colour science.

FS5II-1-1024x564 PXW-FS5 II Secret Sauce and Venice Colour Science.
New color science from the Sony PXW-FS5 II

Ever since I started shooting on Sony cameras, which was a very long time ago, they have always looked a certain way. If you point a Sony camera at a Rec-709 test chart you will find that the colours are actually quite accurate, the color patches on the chart lining up with the target boxes on a vector scope. All Sony cameras look this way so that if you use several different cameras on the same project they should at least look very similar, even if one of those cameras is a few years old.  But this look and standard was establish many years ago when camera and TV technology was nowhere near as advanced as it is today.

in addition, sometimes accurate isn’t pretty. Television display technology has come a long way in recent years. Digital broadcasting combined with good quality LCD and OLED displays now mean that we are able to see a wider range of colours and a larger dynamic range. Viewers expectations are changing, we all want prettier images.

When Sony launched the high end Venice digital cinema camera a bold step was taken, which was to break away from the standard Sony look and instead develop a new, modern, “pretty” look. A lot of research was done with both cinematographers and viewers trying to figure out what makes a pretty picture. Over several months I’ve watched Pablo, Sony’s colourist at the Digital Motion Picture Center at Pinewood studios develop new LUT’s with this new look for the Venice camera. It hasn’t been easy, but it looks really nice and is quite a departure from that standard Sony look.

The FS5 II includes many aspects of this new look. It isn’t just a change to the colours it is also a change to the default gamma curve that introduces a silky smooth highlight roll off that extends the dynamic range well beyond that normally possible with a conventional Rec-709 gamma curve. A lot of time was spent looking at how this new gamma behaves when shooting people and faces. In particular those troublesome highlights that you get on a nose or cheek that’s catching the light. You know – those pesky highlights that just don’t normally look nice on a video camera.

So as well as rolling off the brightness of these highlights in a smooth way, the color also subtly washes out to prevent the highlight color bloom that can be a video give away. This isn’t easy to do. Any colorist will tell you that getting bright skin tone highlights to look nice is tough. You bring down the brightness and it looks wrong because you loose too much contrast. De-saturate too much and it looks wrong as it just becomes a white blob. Finding the right balance of extended dynamic range with good contrast, plus a pleasing roll-off without a complete white-out is difficult enough to do in a grading suite where you can tweak and tune the settings for each shot. Coming up with a profile that will work over a vast range of shooting scenarios with no adjustment is even tougher. But it looks to me as though the engineers at Sony have really done a very nice job in the FS5 II.

Going forwards from here I would expect to see, or at least like to see, most of Sony’s future cameras have this new colour science. But this is a big step for Sony to break away from decades of one look and every camera looking more or less the same.  But do remember this change is primarily to the default, “standard” gamma look. It does not effect the FS5 II’s log or raw recordings. There is also going to have to be a set of LUT’s to go with this new color science so that those shooting with with a mix of the baked in look and S-log or raw can make all the footage match. In addition users of other S-Log cameras will want to be able to make their cameras match. I see no reason why this won’t be possible via a LUT or set of LUT’s, within the limitations of each cameras sensor technology.

There has been a lot of people that seem unhappy with the FS5 II. I think many people want a Sony Venice for the price of an FS5. Let’s be realistic, that isn’t going to happen. 10 bit recording in UHD would be nice, but that would need higher bit rates to avoid motion artefacts which would then need faster and more expensive media. If you want higher image quality in UHD or 4K DCI do consider an Atomos recorder and the new ProRes Raw codec. The files are barely any bigger than ProRes HQ, but offer 12 bit quality.

Given that the price of the FS5 II is going to be pretty much the same or maybe even a little lower than the regular FS5 (before you even add any options), I am not sure why so many people are complaining. The FS5-II takes a great little camera, makes it even better and costs even less.

 

Revised and improved HLG camera LUT for FS7, F5 and F55.

I have created a new and improved HLG camera LUT for the PXW-FS7, PMW-F5 and PMW-F55 cameras. This 3D LUT can be used to shoot HLG directly by baking the LUT in to the recordings in camera. This allows you to create “instant HDR” footage that just like the HLG footage from an FS5 or Z90 does not need to be graded or modified to provide an HDR image on an equipped HDR TV. Skin tones should be exposed at around 55-60% and white at around 70-75%.

Click here to download the LUT AC-HLGSL3-V2.cube

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