Interestingly the FX6 is specifically noted as NOT approved for anamorphic capture. I suspect this is down to the fact that this is a 4K sensor with no oversampling. While the PXW-FX9 is not listed as approved for anamorphic (only Venice is specifically approved) it does not have the anamorphic exclusion that the FX6 has. Perhaps the FX9 can be used on a case by case basis for anamorphic thanks to it’s 6K oversampling when using the Full Frame 6K scan mode?
Anyway, this is more good news for Sony film makers and shooters.
The FX6’s CineEI mode is designed to make shooting using S-Log3 or raw easy and straightforward. It optimises the camera so that settings such as the recording ISO, noise reduction and sharpening are all optimised for recording either S-Log3 or raw with the best possible dynamic range.
It also makes sure that the S-Log3 or raw recordings are optimised for grading. In addition you can use a LUT (Look Up Table) in the viewfinder or on the HDMI/SDI output to provide an approximation of how your footage will look after it’s been graded as well as to assist you in getting the exposure right.
HINT: What is a LUT? A LUT is a simple Look Up Table of input values that represent different levels in the recording format (in this case S-Log3) and then converts those input values to new output values that are appropriate for the monitor or display range you are using. This conversion can included stylised adjustments to give the output image a specific look.
Once you have a LUT enabled and you are viewing the LUT either in the viewfinder or on a monitor an exposure offset can be applied to the LUT to make it darker or brighter than normal. This LUT brightness offset is used to allow you to deliberately offset how bright the recordings are, this is the “EI” or Exposure Index part of CineEI. More on that later.
BUILT IN LUTS
The FX6 has 3 built in LUTs, but in addition to the built in LUTs you can load your own “user LUTs” into the camera as what the FX6 calls “Base Looks” making this a very flexible and capable system. If you want to load you own LUTs into the camera these must be 3D Cube LUT’s and should be placed in the — Private : SONY : PRO : LUT folder of an SD card or CFExpress card that has been formated in card slot 2 of the FX6. The LUT’s should be 17x or preferably 33x cube LUT’s designed for use with S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine. They are loaded via the main menu PAINT – BASE LOOK page.
As your material will require grading in post production, if you are shooting UHD or 4K you should NOT use XAVC-L because in UHD/4K XAVC-L is 8 bit 4:2:0. A much better choice is XAVC-I which is always 10 bit 4:2:2 and/or raw.
FIXED RECORDING ISO.
Once the camera is set to use the CineEI mode the recording sensitivity is fixed to either 800 ISO when in Lo Base sensitivity or 12,800 ISO when the camera is set to Hi Base sensitivity. These values cannot be changed and your recordings will always take place at one of these sensitivity levels.
ENABLE A LUT.
To take full advantage of the Cine EI mode the next step is to enable a LUT for the viewfinder and also optionally for the HDMI and SDI outputs.
The default LUT is Sony’s s709 LUT. This is the same LUT as used by the Venice digital cinema camera. s709 is designed to be a starting point for a film style look. To achieve this film style look it uses brightness levels more commonly found in feature films rather than the levels normally used in the majority of regular TV shows.
LUT EXPOSURE LEVELS
There are some important things to understand about different LUTs and Base Looks. Each LUT/Look will have it’s own optimum brightness levels. They will not all be the same. Some will be brighter or darker than others when exposed correctly, so it’s vital that you understand what levels any LUT that you chose to use needs to be exposed at.
Another LUT that the FX6 includes is Sony’s 709(800) LUT. This LUT is more closely aligned with the levels used in normal TV productions, so it looks very different to s709 and has very different brightness levels when exposed correctly.
The chart below gives the “correct” exposure values for S-Log3 as well as some guide values based on my own measurements for the s709 and 709(800) LUTs in the FX6.
Average Skin Tones
90% Reflectivity white card (add 2-3% for white paper).
MEASURING THE EXPOSURE.
There are many ways to measure your exposure when shooting using S-Log3 and LUT’s. You could choose to use a light meter, in which case the light meter would be set to match the EI (Exposure Index) value set in the camera. You can just look at the image in the viewfinder and judge when it looks right. Most of the time this is OK, but it isn’t particularly accurate. My prefered method is to use a white card or grey card and then use the cameras built in video signal monitor and the waveform display to actually measure the brightness of the grey card or white card.
If you are not familiar with a waveform display it actually really easy to understand. The bottom of the waveform is black and the very top is 109%, the brightest that the camera can ever record to. The left hand side is the left of the video image and the right is the right of the video image. The thin reference lines across the waveform display are at 0% (the darkest a video image should ever normally be), 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%.
In addition the FX6’s waveform display includes 2 yellow lines. The position of these yellow lines is determined to the levels that the cameras zebras are set to. By default the lower yellow line will be at 70% to match Zebra 1 and the upper line at 100% to match zebra 2.
MEASURING THE EXPOSURE.
The waveform display measures the signal that is on the HDMI and the SDI output. So once you have turned on the LUT for the HDMI/SDI it is the levels of the LUT that is being measured. What the waveform is measuring is indicated just above the waveform display.
To make it easier to understand how CineEI works and to show you how I like to have my FX6 setup, I find it easier to start off by turning OFF the LUT for the SDI and HDMI and measuring the exposure of the S-Log3. If you do this when the the Exposure Index (EI) is equal to the Recording or Base ISO then we can establish the correct exposure for the S-Log3 using a white card or white piece of paper and then also check the exposure of the LUT.
FIRST CHECK AND SET THE EXPOSURE INDEX LEVELS.
With the cameras base ISO set to low / 800 ISO I recommend that you set the EI levels in the main menu SHOOTING – ISO/Gain/EI as follows:
When using the CineEI mode you can change the EI several ways. The most commonly used ways will likely be via the L/M/H ISO/Gain switch or by pressing the ISO/Gain button and then using the multi-function dial (MFD) to change the EI. Do note that when you use the multi-function dial or Direct Menu to change the EI this new EI setting changes the preset value associated with the current position of the L/M/H switch.
I do not set an Exposure Index higher than the base recording ISO. The reason for this is that if you record using a high EI value your images will be noisy and grainy and could be very difficult to grade. Because you don’t ever see your final results until you get into post production, if you accidentally record noisy log you won’t really know how bad the footage will be until it is perhaps too late to do anything about it. So I set the EI for the Low Base 800 ISO as H>800EI, M>400EI, L>200EI. The difference between each of these EI’s is one stop and that makes it easier when you are checking any exposure changes.
For the 12,800 High base ISO I set the EI to H>12800EI, M>6400EI, L>3200EI.
FOR THIS EXAMPLE START AT LOW BASE/800 ISO and 800 EI.
By using the same EI as the base recording ISO there will be no offset or difference between the correct exposure for the LUT and the correct, or base exposure for the S-Log3. Expose the LUT corrrectly and the S-Log3 will be also be normally exposed. Expose the S-Log3 normally and the LUT will look correct.
FOR THIS EXAMPLE LET’S START WITH THE SDI/HDMI LUT OFF.
For this example I am going to start with the LUT OFF for the SDI and HDMI, this way the waveform display will be measuring the S-Log3. Just above the waveform it should say SG3C/Slog3, telling you the waveform is measuring the S-Log3.
Referring to the table of exposure levels above we can see that the correct S-Log3 exposure for a white card (90% reflectivity white) is 61% – if using a normal piece of printer paper I suggest using a value a little higher (around 63%) as white paper tends to be a little brighter than a proper white test card.
SETTING ZEBRA 1 TO 61%
To make finding where 61% is on the waveform I recommend setting Zebra 1 to 61% so that the lower of the two yellow zebra lines is at 61%.
So now when checking the exposure of a white card when the waveform is measuring the S-Log3 it is simply a case of adjusting the exposure until the white card is at the same level as the 61% line. Alternately you could use an 18% grey card, in which case you would set Zebra 1 to 41%, however there are often times when I forget my grey card but I almost always have a piece of paper somewhere.
So now we know the S-Log3 is correctly exposed lets turn ON the LUT for the SDI and HDMI outputs and check the exposure level of the s709 LUT.
TURN ON THE LUT.
And if we refer to the exposure chart given towards the top of the page we will see that white for the s709 LUT is 77%. So now let’s set Zebra 2 to 77% to make 77% easier to find on the waveform. Do remember however that other LUTs may need different levels, 77% is just for s709, 709(800) would require Zebra 2 to be set to 89%.
SET ZEBRA 2 TO 77% FOR s709
Now with the LUT ON for the SDI/HDMI we should see the brightness of the white card line up with the upper yellow line that represents Zebra 2 and 77%.
As you can see from the above example when the Base ISO and Exposure Index are matched, when the LUT for the SDI/HDMI is OFF and the white card is at 61% on the waveform the S-Log3 is correctly exposed.
Then when the s709 LUT is ON for the SDI/HDMI and the white card is at 77% we are correctly exposed. By having Zebra 1 set at 61% (for S-Log3) and Zebra 2 set for the white level for for your chosen LUT we can check either simply by turning the HDMI/SDI LUT ON or OFF.
USING THE 709(800) LUT INSTEAD
If you want a more contrasty looking image in the viewfinder and similar brightness levels to other video cameras – for example skin tones around 70% you might prefer to use the 709(800) LUT. When using the 709(800) LUT to measure a white card you should set Zebra 2 to 89%. It’s also worth noting that with the 709(800) LUT, if you wish, you could just leave the zebras at their default settings with Zebra 1 at 70% where just like a conventional Rec-709 video camera they will appear over brighter skin tones when viewing via the LUT.
CHANGING THE EXPOSURE INDEX TO OFFSET THE LOG EXPOSURE.
Sometimes it can be desirable to expose the S-Log3 a little brighter. For example when shooting scenes with a low average brightness level or scenes with large areas of shadows. The FX6 has very low noise levels at 800 ISO base. So for most scenes with higher average brightness levels there is no need to expose the log brighter. But there is a bit more noise at 12,800 ISO base. As a result it can be beneficial to expose the S-Log3 a bit brighter when using 12,800 ISO base.
The CineEI mode makes this very easy to do in a very controlled manner. Keeping the amount of over exposure constant helps speed up the grading process as all your material can be graded in exactly the same way.
Over exposing or underexposing Log does not change the captured dynamic range, it will always be the same. However exposing log brighter will reduce the highlight range while at the same time increasing the shadow range. A brighter exposure will result in less noise after grading.
Exposing log darker will increase the highlight range but decrease the shadow range. A darker exposure will result in more noise after grading. Because under exposed log can become very noisy, very quickly I do not recommend under exposing log, because of this I strongly advise against ever using an EI that is higher than the base ISO as this will result in under exposed log.
CHANGING THE EI ONLY CHANGES THE LUT.
When you change the Exposure Index the only thing that actually changes is the brightness of the LUT. So for EI to work you must be monitoring via a LUT.
Below is what happens to the image in the viewfinder when you have a LUT enabled (s709 in this case) and you lower the EI from 800 EI down to 200 EI in 1 stop steps and make no changes to the exposure.
As we have not changed the exposure in any way, the only thing changing is the brightness of the LUT. The recording levels have not yet changed in any way.
BUT NOW WE CHANGE THE EXPOSURE
Because the image in the viewfinder is now dark and the white card no longer reaches the correct exposure for the LUT, we now adjust the exposure. In this example I simply opened the aperture by 2 stops from f8 to f4 to match the 2 stop change in the LUT brightness. Now the image in the viewfinder looks correct again and the white card is meeting the upper yellow line again (77% as set by Zebra 2 level).
BECAUSE THE EXPOSURE IS BRIGHTER THE S-LOG3 IS NOW ALSO BRIGHTER.
Because I have opened the aperture by 2 stops to make the 200 EI LUT exposure look right the S-Log3 recordings will now be 2 stops brighter. If I turn off the LUT for the SDI/HDMI we can see that the S-Log3 is much brighter 2 stops brighter like this, the S-log3 white card level becomes 79%, so it appears slightly above the 77% Zebra 1 line.
Buy making the LUT darker by 2 stops, then adjusting the exposure upwards 2 stops to return the LUT to the original brightness we have made our recordings 2 stops brighter. This is how you use CineEI to alter the brightness of your recordings.
At Low base ISO (800 ISO) the FX6 is a low noise camera, so there is no need to routinely over expose the log as there is with more noisy cameras like the FS5 or FS7. So I normally shoot at 800 EI. When using the high base ISO or 12,800 ISO there is a bit more noise and when using high base I will typically set the EI to 6400 EI as the 1 stop brighter recordings that this will result in helps compensate for the increased recording noise.
In the examples given here I have used a white card to set the exposure. This is accurate and highly repeatable. But there will be times where you may not have a white card. At these times CineEI can still be used either by setting the Zebras to the appropriate skin tone levels for the chosen LUT (see the table towards the beginning) or by carefully “eyeballing” the brightness of the LUT image – if it looks right, it probably is right. If you are eyeballing it I highly recommend a deep sunshade or other device to exclude as much light as possible from the viewfinder.
You can also use any user LUTs that you have loaded into the camera to alter the base look when you are shooting in custom mode. For more information on that please watch the video below.
Here’s a new LUT for you, inspired by a the look of the Netfix show “the Queen’s Gambit. I’ve called the LUT “Chess”. It’s designed for use with S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine and I think it works really well with most Sony S-Log3 capable cameras including the FX6, FX9, FS7, FS5, F5 and F55 etc. As well as Sony’s video cameras it will also work with the A7SIII and other Sony Alpha cameras.
In the download you will find 2 LUTs. The 65x version is for post production and grading, the 33x version is for use as a camera LUT. While I have aimed to replicate much of the look of the TV series it must be noted that grading is only a small part of the look. Set design, the colour of the sets and costume also play a significant roll.
If you find this LUT useful please consider buying me a cocktail or other beverage. Thank you! It does take a while to develop these LUT’s and contributions are a good incentive for me to create more!
I recently did a 90 minute long livestream Q&A in association with Visual Impact. Lots of topics covered from AF to S-Cinetone. Topics covered:
S-Cinetone, Differences between the FX6 and FX9, interlace output, AF zones and touch screen, using it in low temperatures, the LCD screen, 3rd party lenses and AF, differences between FS5/FS7 etc, Dynamic range, image quality, raw output, tuning the AF, Eye AF, Scan modes and crops, SD cards and recording media, changing the custom mode look using LUTs, Adjusting the knee to make the FX6 broadcast safe, High base ISO and noise, Scene files and Base looks, clear image zoom, base ISO levels, firmware updates.
The Sony FX6 offers two different ways to format the the SD cards and CFExpress cards. These are Quick Format and Full Format.
What’s the difference and which should I use?
Full Format erases everything on the card and returns the card to a completely empty state. All footage is removed/deleted from the card and it cannot therefore be recovered later should you perform a Full Format by mistake. Because Full Format returns the card to a completely empty state removing any junk or other clutter it also ensures that the cards performance is maximised. Full Format should be used whenever possible as it ensures maximum performance. However once a card has been Fully Formatted you cannot ever recover lost files from it.
Quick Format erases the cards database about what files are on the card. Quick Format is faster than Full Format, but it does not actually remove your video files. When you then start a new recording on the card the new recording will use any empty space on the card if there is any. If there is no empty space then the new file will overwrite any existing files on the card. This does mean that in some cases if you have accidentally done a quick format you may be able to use data recovery software to rescue any files that have not already been overwritten. But file recovery is not guaranteed and should not be relied upon. As quick format does not clear all data from the card, over time the performance of the card may be degraded, so a Full Format should be performed periodically to ensure the best card performance.
It’s also worth noting that if you want to load LUT’s into the FX6, the card should be formatted in Slot B so that the correct file structure including the LUT folder is added to the card. Once any LUT’s are placed in the LUT folder the card must be placed back in slot B to so you can load the LUTs into the camera. You cannot load LUTs via slot A.
I’ve been testing a lot of different SD cards with the Sony FX6. I have been a long time user of Integral, Lexar and SanDisk cards and generally found them to perform well and to be reliable. But in my search for affordable v90 SD cards I came across a good deal on the ProGrade v90 64Gb SD cards.
I hadn’t ever used the ProGrade brand before and their pricing almost seems too low. But I decided to purchase one to test. Well I have not been disappointed. The card performs very well and has no problems at all with all of the XAVC-I frame rates up to and including 60fps.
If you try to use it to record UHD at 100 or 120fps you will get an “unsupported media” warning but the camera will try to record to the card. Most of the time the recording will be OK provided you keep the duration short and don’t try to stop and then restart recording too quickly. Of all the SD cards I have tried this seems to be one of the best.
However you will still see recording failures with this card at 100 and 120fps. Often resulting in the card suddenly becoming completely full. So I still would not recommend relying on any SD card for 100/120fps UHD. But, as I have said this is one of the better cards that I have come across and given the low price it seems like a winner.
Other cards I have been using successfully with the FX6 are:
Integral Ultima ProX v90 for all codecs including XAVC-I up to 60fps.
Lexar 1667x Professional v60 for all codecs including XAVC-I upto to 30fps.
Sony Tough CFExpress Type A 80GB for all recording modes and formats including UHD 100/120fps.
Timed to coincide with the release of the ILME-FX6 camcorder Sony have updated both Catalyst Browse and Catalyst Prepare. These new and long awaited versions add support for the FX6’s rotation metadata and clip flag metadata as well as numerous bug fixes. It should be noted that for the correct operation that a GPU that supports OpenGL is required. Also while the new versions support MacOS Catalina there is no official support for Big Sur. Catalyst Browse is free while Catalyst Prepare is not free. Prepare can perform more complex batch processing of files, checksum and file verification, per-clip adjustments as well as other additional features.
The Sony FX6 does not have the same Hypergammas or Cinegammas as found in many other Sony camcorders. However you can load a LUT as a base look in the cameras Custom Mode. See this post for details about this.
So I have prepared a set of LUTs that mimic the Sony Hypergammas with rec709 colour. These LUTs are for S-Log3/SGamut3.cine as used as the base input in the FX6. HG1 and HG2 are broadcast safe so these give you a broadcast ready option for the FX6. In addition to the Hypergamma LUT’s there is an additional ACBCST LUT. This is a broadcast safe version of the Sony s709 LUT with added contrast and saturation, suitable for broadcast and other direct to air applications.
As well as the FX6 these LUT’s will also work with any Sony camera that accepts LUTs and has S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine. They can also be used in post production.
If you find these LUT’s useful please consider buying me a coffee. Thank you!
Raw can be a brilliant tool, I use it a lot. High quality raw is my preferred way of shooting. But it isn’t magic, it’s just a different type of recording codec.
All too often – and I’m as guilty as anyone – people talk about raw as “raw sensor data” a term that implies that raw really is something very different to a normal recording. In reality it’s really not that different. When shooting raw all that happens is that the video frames from the sensor are recorded before they are converted to a colour image. A raw frame is still a picture, it’s just that it’s a bitmap image made up of brightness values, each pixel represented by a single brightness code value rather than a colour image where each location in the image is represented by 3 values one for each of Red, Green and Blue or Luma, Cb and Cr.
As that raw frame is still nothing more than a normal bitmap all the cameras settings such as white balance, ISO etc are in fact baked in to the recording. Each pixel only has one single value and that value will have been determined by the way the camera is setup. Nothing you do in post production can change what was actually recorded. Most CMOS sensors are daylight balanced, so unless the camera adjusts the white balance prior to recording – which is what Sony normally do – your raw recording will be daylight balanced.
Modern cameras when shooting log or raw also record metadata that describes how the camera was set when the image was captured.
So the recorded raw file already has a particular white balance and ISO. I know lots of people will be disappointed to hear this or simply refuse to believe this but that’s the truth about a raw bitmap image with a single code value for each pixel and that value is determined by the camera settings.
This can be adjusted later in post production, but the adjustment range is not unlimited and it is not the same as making an adjustment in the camera. Plus there can be consequences to the image quality if you make large adjustments.
Log can be also adjusted extensively in post too. For decades feature films shot on film were scanned using 10 bit Cineon log (which is the log gamma curve S-Log3 is based on) and 10 bit log used for post production until 12 bit and then 16 bit linear intermediates came along like OpenEXR. So this should tell you that actually log can be graded very well and very extensively.
But then many people will tell you that you can’t grade log as well as raw. Often they will give photographers as an example where there is a huge difference between what you can do with a raw photo and a normal image. But we also have to remember this is typically comparing what you can do with a highly compressed 8 bit jpeg file and an often uncompressed 12 or 14 bit raw file. It’s not a fair comparison, of course you would expect the 14 bit file to be better.
The other argument often given is that it’s very hard to change the white balance of log in post, it doesn’t look right or it falls apart. Often these issues are nothing to do with the log recording but more to do with the tools being used.
When you work with raw in your editing or grading software you will almost always be using a dedicated raw tool or raw plugin designed for the flavour of raw you are using. As a result everything you do to the file is optimised for the exact flavour of raw you are dealing with. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that to get the best from log you should be using tools specifically designed for the type of log you are using. In the example below you can see how Sony’s Catalyst Browse can perfectly correctly change the white balance and exposure of S-log material with simple sliders just as effectively as most raw formats.
Applying the normal linear or power law (709 is power law) corrections found in most edit software to Log won’t have the desired effect and basic edit software rarely has proper log controls. You need to use a proper grading package like Resolve and it’s dedicated log controls. Better still some form of colour managed workflow like ACES where your specific type of log is precisely converted on the fly to a special digital intermediate and the corrections are made to the intermediate file. There is no transcoding, you just tell ACES what the footage was was shot on and magic happens under the hood. Once you have done that you can change the white balance or ISO of log material in exactly the same way as raw. There is very, very little difference.
When people say you can’t push log, more often than not it isn’t a matter of can’t, it’s a case of can – but you need to use the right tools.
Less compression or a greater bit depth are where the biggest differences between a log or raw recording come from, not so much from whether the data is log or raw. Don’t forget raw is often recorded using log, which kind of makes the “you can’t grade log” argument a bit daft.
Camera manufactures and raw recorder manufacturers are perfectly happy to allow everyone to believe raw is magic and worse still, let people believe that ANY type of raw must be better than all other types of recordings. Read though any camera forum and you will see plenty of examples of “it’s raw so it must be better” or “I need raw because log isn’t as good” without any comprehension of what raw is and how in reality it’s the way the raw is compressed and the bit depth that really matters.
If we take ProRes Raw as an example: For a 4K 24/25fps file the bit rate is around 900Mb/s. For a conventional ProRes HQ file the bit rate is around 800Mb/s. So the file size difference between the two is not at all big.
But the ProRes Raw file only has to store around 1/3 as many data points as the component ProResHQ file. As a result, even though the ProRes Raw file often has a higher bit depth, which in itself usually means better a better quality recording, it is also much, much less compressed and as a result will have fewer artefacts.
It’s the reduced compression and deeper bit depth possible with raw that can lead to higher quality recordings and as a result may bring some grading advantages compared to a normal ProRes or other compressed file. The best bit is there is no significant file size penalty. So you have the same amount of data, but you data should be of higher quality. So given that you won’t need more storage, which should you use? The higher bit depth less compressed file or the more compressed file?
But, not all raw files are the same. Some cameras feature highly compressed 10 bit raw, which frankly won’t be any better than most other 10 bit recordings as you are having to do all the complex math to create a colour image starting with just 10 bit. Most cameras do this internally at at least 12 bit. I believe raw needs to be at least 12 bit to be worth having.
If you could record uncompressed 12 bit RGB or 12 bit component log from these cameras that would likely be just as good and just as flexible as any raw recordings. But the files would be huge. It’s not that raw is magic, it’s just that raw is generally much less compressed and depending on the camera may also have a greater bit depth. That’s where the benefits come from.
Here are the guide videos I produced for Sony about the FX9. These videos cover most of the key features of the camera whether that’s shooting using S-Cinetone or S-log3 and Cine EI, farme rates and scan modes. Each video includes instructions on how to use the different modes as well as some guidance on things to watch out for. Some of the videos were produced with version 1 firmware so there are now some changes to the base modes, previously you had Custom Mode and Cine EI, now you have SDR – HDR – CineEI where SDR mode is the same as what was previously called custom mode. Also don’t miss the two videos linked at the end which cover most of the new features added in the version 2 firmware.