All posts by alisterchapman

Shooting Anamorphic with the Fujinon MK’s and SLR Magic 65 Anamorphot.

There is something very special about the way anamorphic images look, something that’s not easy to replicate in post production. Sure you can shoot in 16:9 or 17:9 and crop down to the typical 2.35:1 aspect ratio and sure you can add some extra anamorphic style flares in post. But what is much more difficult to replicate is all the other distortions and the oval bokeh that are typical of an anamorphic lens.

Anamorphic lenses work by distorting the captured image. Squeezing or compressing it horizontally, stretching it vertically. The amount of squeeze that you will want to use will depend on the aspect ratio of the sensor or film frame. With full frame 35mm cameras or cameras with a 4:3 aspect ratio sensor or gate you would normally use an anamorphic lens that squeezes the image by 2 times. Most anamorphic cinema lenses are 2x anamorphic, that is the image is squeezed 2x horizontally. You can use these on cameras with a 16:9 or 17:9 super35mm sensor, but because a Super35 sensor already has a wide aspect ratio a 2x squeeze is much more than you need for that typical cinema style final aspect ratios of 2.39:1.

For most Super35mm cameras it is normally better to use a lens with a 1.33x squeeze. 1.33x squeeze on Super35 results in a final aspect ratio close to the classic cinema aspect ratio of 2.39:1.

Traditionally anamorphic lenses have been very expensive. The complex shape of the anamorphic lens elements are much harder to make than a normal spherical lens. However another option is to use an anamorphic adapter on the front of an existing lens to turn it into an anamorphic lens. SLR Magic who specialise in niche lenses and adapters have had a 50mm diameter 1.33x anamorphic adapter available for some time. I’ve used this with the FS7 and other cameras in the past, but the 50mm diameter of the adapter limits the range of lenses it can be used with (There is also a 50mm 2x anamorphot for full frame 4:3 aspect ratio sensors from SLR Magic).

Now SLR Magic have a new larger 65mm adapter. The 1.33-65 Anamorphot has a much larger lens element, so it can be used with a much wider range of lenses. In addition it has a calibrated focus scale on it’s focus ring. One thing to be aware of with adapters like these is that you have to focus both the adapter and the lens you are using it on. For simple shoots this isn’t too much of a problem. But if you are moving the camera a lot or the subject is moving around a lot, trying to focus both lenses together can be a challenge.

DSC_0103 Shooting Anamorphic with the Fujinon MK's and SLR Magic 65 Anamorphot.
The SLR Magic 1.33-65 Anamorphot anamorphic adapter.

Enter the PD Movie Dual Channel follow focus.

The PD Movie Dual follow focus is a motorised follow focus system that can control 2 focus motors at the same time. You can get both wired and wireless versions depending on your needs and budget. For the anamorphic shoot I had the wired version (I do personally own a single channel PD Movie wireless follow focus). Setup is quick and easy, you simply attach the motors to your rods, position the gears so they engage with the gear rings on the lens and the anamorphot and press a button to calibrate each motor. It takes just a few moments and then you are ready to go. Now when you turn the PD Movie focus control wheel both the taking lens and the anamorphot focus together.

I used the anamorphot on both the Fujinon MK18-55mm and the MK50-135mm. It works well with both lenses but you can’t use focal lengths wider than around 35mm without the adapter some causing vignetting. So on the 18-55 you can only really use around 35 to 55mm. I would note that the adapter does act a little like a wide angle converter, so even at 35mm the field of view is pretty wide. I certainly didn’t feel that I was only ever shooting at long focal lenghts.

DSC_0099 Shooting Anamorphic with the Fujinon MK's and SLR Magic 65 Anamorphot.
The full rig. PMW-F5 with R5 raw recorder. Fujinon MK 18-55 lens, SLR Magic Anamorphot and PD Movie dual focus system.

Like a lot of lens adapters there are some things to consider. You are putting a lot of extra glass in front of you main lens, so it will need some support. SLR magic do a nice support bracket for 15mm rods and this is actually essential as it stops the adapter from rotating and keeps it correctly oriented so that your anamorphic squeeze remains horizontal at all times. Also if you try to use too large an aperture the adapter will soften the image. I found that it worked best between f8 and f11, but it was possible to shoot at f5.6. If you go wider than this, away from the very center of the frame you get quite a lot of softening image softening. This might work for some projects where you really want to draw the viewer to the center of the frame or if you want a very stylised look, but it didn’t suit this particular project.

The out of focus bokeh has a distinct anamorphic shape, look and feel. As you pull focus the shape of the bokeh changes horizontally, this is one of the key things that makes anamorphic content look different to spherical. As the adapter only squeezes by 1.33 this is as pronounced as it would be if you shot with a 2x anamorphic. Of course the other thing most people notice about anamorphic images is lens flares that streak horizontally across the image. Intense light sources just off frame would produce blue/purple streaks across the image. If you introduce very small point light sources into the shot you will get a similar horizontal flare. If flares are your thing it works best if you have a very dark background. Overall the lens didn’t flare excessively, so my shots are not full of flares like a JJ Abrams movie. But when it did flare the effect is very pleasing. Watch the video linked above and judge for yourself.

Monitoring and De-Squeeze.

When you shoot anamorphic you normally record the horizontally squashed image and then in post production you de-squeeze the image by compressing it vertically. Squashing the image vertically results in a letterbox, wide screen style image and it’s called “De-Squeeze”. You can shoot anamorphic without de-sqeezing the image provided you don’t mind looking at images that are horizontally squashed in your viewfinder or on your monitor. But these days you have plenty of monitors and viewfinders that can “de-squeeze” the anamorphic image so that you can view it with the correct aspect ratio. The Glass Hub film was shot using a Sony PMW-F5 recording to the R5 raw recorder. The PMW-F5 has the ability to de-squeeze the image for the viewfinder built in. But I also used an Atomos Shogun Inferno to monitor as I was going to be producing HDR versions of the film. The Shogun Inferno has both 2x and 1.33x de-squeeze built in so I was able to take the distorted S-Log3 output from the camera and convert it to a HDR PQ image and de-squeeze it all at the same time in the Inferno. This made monitoring really easy and effective.

I used DaVinci Resolve for the post production. In the past I might have done my editing in Adobe Premiere and the grading in Resolve. But Resolve is now a very capable edit package, so I completed the project entirely in Resolve. I used the ACES colour managed workflow as ACES means I don’t need to worry about LUT’s and in addition ACES adds a really nice film like highlight roll off to the output. If you have never tried a colour managed workflow for log or raw material you really should!

The SLR Magic 65-1.33 paired with the Fujinon MK lenses provides a relatively low cost entry into the world of anamorphic shooting. You can shoot anywhere from around 30-35mm to 135mm. The PD Movie dual motor focus system means that there is no need to try to use both hands to focus both the anamorphot and the lens together. The anamorphot + lens behave much more like a quality dedicated anamorphic zoom lens, but at a fraction of the cost. While I wouldn’t use it to shoot everything the Anamorphot is a really useful tool for those times you want something different.

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Picture Profile Settings For The PXW-Z280

Sony’s new PXW-Z280 is a great compact camcorder. Having now spent even more time with one I have been looking at how to best optimise it.

It should be remembered that this is a 4K camcorder. So Sony are packing a lot of pixels onto the 3 sensors. As a result the camera does exhibit a little bit of noise at 0dB gain. No camera is noise free and we have become spoilt by the large sensor super 35mm cameras with big sensors, big pixels and very low noise levels.

Use -3dB Gain to reduce noise.

So I did a little bit of work with various settings in the camera to see if I could minimise the noise. The first thing was to test the camera at -3dB gain. On many cameras using negative gain will reduce the cameras dynamic range due to a reduction in the highlight recording range. But on the Z280 using -3dB of gain does not seem to adversely effect the dynamic range, but it does significantly reduce the noise. I found the noise reduction to be much larger than I would normally expect from a -3dB gain reduction. So my advice is – where possible use -3dB gain. The Z280 is pretty sensitive anyway, especially in HD so -3dB (which is only half a stop) is not going to cause problems for most shoots.

I fell that the cameras standard detail corrections result in some over sharpening of the image. This is particularly noticeable in HD where there is some ringing (over correction that gives a black or white overshoot) on high contrast edges. Dialling back the detail levels just a little helps produce a more natural looking image. It will appear a touch less “sharp” but in my opinion the images look a bit more natural, less processed and noise is very slightly reduced. Below are my suggested detail settings:

Z280 Detail Settings For HD.

Detail -12, Crispening -15, Frequency +18 lower.

Z280 Detail Settings For UHD(QFHD).

Detail -5, Crispening -11, Frequency +16

White Clip and Knee.

In the SDR mode the Z280 has a range of standard Rec-709 type gammas as well as Hypergammas 1 – 4. Like many modern digital camcorders, by default, all the SDR gammas except HG1 and HG2 record at up to 109%. This might cause problems for those going direct to air for broadcast TV. For direct to air applications you may need to consider changing the white clip setting. The default is 109% but for direct to air broadcast you should change this to 100%.

If working with the STD5 gamma (Rec-709) and a 100% clip point you will also want to modify the knee settings. You can either use the default auto knee or turn the auto knee off and change the knee point to 87 and slope to +25 to bring the highlights down to fit better with a 100% clip point. HG1 and HG2 are broadcast safe gammas, so these are another option for direct to air.

Hypergamma.

As well as Rec-709 gamma the camera has Sony’s Hypergammas. If using the Hypergammas it should be noted that the optimum exposure will result in a slightly darker image than you would have with normal 709. As a guide you should have skin tones around 60% and a white card would be around 75% for the best results. Exposing skin tones at 70% or brighter can result in flat looking faces with reduced texture and detail, so watch your skin tones when shooting with the Hypergammas.

The Z280 has four Hypergammas.

HG1 3250G36. This takes a brightness range the equivalent to 325% and compresses it down to 100% (clips at 100%). Middle grey would be exposed at 36% (G36). This gives a nice reasonably contrasty image with bright mid range and a moderate extension of the highlight range.

HG2 4600G30. Takes a brightness range of 460% and compresses down to 100% (clips at 100%). Middle grey is exposed at 30% (G30). This has a darker mid range than HG1 but further extends the highlights. Generally HG1 works better for less challenging scenes or darker scenes while HG2 works for high contrast, bright scenes. Both HG1 and HG2 are broadcast safe.

HG3 3259G40. This takes a brightness range the equivalent to 325% and compresses it down to 109% (clips at 109%). Middle grey would be exposed at 409% (G40). This gives a nice contrasty image with reasonably bright mid range and a moderate extension of the highlight range.

HG4 4609G33. Takes a brightness range of 460% and compresses down to 109% (clips at 109%). Middle grey is exposed at 33% (G33). This has a darker mid range than HG3 but further extends the highlights. Generally HG3 works better for less challenging scenes or darker scenes while HG4 works for high contrast, bright scenes.

Color and The Matrix.

If you don’t like the standard Sony colors and want warmer skin tones do try using the SMPTE-240M color matrix. You will find skin tones a bit warmer with more red than the 709 matrix.

To change the saturation (amount of color) you need to turn on the User Matrix and then you can use the User Matrix Level control to increase or decrease the saturation.

Many people find the standard Sony look to be a little on the yellow side. So I have come up with some settings for the user matrix that reduces the yellow and warms the image just a touch.

AC NATURAL COLOR SETTINGS:

Matrix: ON. Adaptive Matrix: Off. Preset Matrix: ON. Preset Select: ITU-709. User Matrix: ON. Level: 0. Phase: 0.

R-G: +10. R-B: +8. G-R: -15. G-B: -9. B-R: -5. B-G: -15.

So here are some suggested Z280 Picture Profile settings for different looks:

Note that these picture profile are similar to some of my FS7 profiles, so they will help match the two cameras in a multi-camera shoot. Use each of the setting below with either the HD or UHD(QFHD) detail settings given above if you wish to reduce the sharpening.

AC-Neutral-HG3.

Designed as a pleasing general purpose look for medium to high contrast scenes. Provides a neutral look with slightly less yellow than the standard Sony settings. I recommend setting zebras to 60% for skin tones or exposing a white card at 72-78% for the best results.

Black: Master Black: -3.  Gamma: HG3 .  White Clip: OFF. 

Matrix: ON. Adaptive Matrix: Off. Preset Matrix: ON. Preset Select: ITU-709. User Matrix: ON. User Matrix Level: 0. Phase: 0.

R-G: +10. R-B: +8. G-R: -15. G-B: -9. B-R: -5. B-G: -15.

AC-Neutral-HG4.

Designed as a pleasing general purpose look for high contrast scenes. Provides a neutral look with slightly less yellow than the standard Sony settings. I recommend setting zebras to 58% for skin tones or exposing a white card at 70-75% for the best results.

Black: Master Black: -3.  Gamma: HG3 .  White Clip: OFF. 

Matrix: ON. Adaptive Matrix: Off. Preset Matrix: ON. Preset Select: ITU-709. User Matrix: ON. User Matrix Level: 0. Phase: 0.

R-G: +10. R-B: +8. G-R: -15. G-B: -9. B-R: -5. B-G: -15.

AC-FILMLIKE1

A high dynamic range look with film like color. Will produce a slightly flat looking image. Colours are tuned to be more film like with a very slight warm tint. I recommend settings zebras to 57% for skin tones and recording white at 70-75% for the most “filmic” look.

Black: Master Black: -3.  Gamma: HG3 .  White Clip: OFF. 

Matrix: ON. Adaptive Matrix: Off. Preset Matrix: ON. Preset Select: SMPTE WIDE. User Matrix: ON. User Matrix Level: +5. Phase: 0.

R-G: +11. R-B: +8. G-R: -12. G-B: -9. B-R: -3. B-G: -12.

AC-VIBRANT-HG3

These setting increase dynamic range over the standard settings but also increase the colour and vibrance. Designed to be used for when a good dynamic range and strong colours are needed direct from the camera. Suggested zebra level for skin tones is 63% and white at approx 72-78%.

Black: Master Black: -3.  Gamma: HG3.  White Clip: OFF.

Matrix: ON. Adaptive Matrix: Off. Preset Matrix: ON. Preset Select: ITU-709. User Matrix: ON. User Matrix Level: +25. Phase: -5.

R-G: +12. R-B: +8. G-R: -11. G-B: -7. B-R: -5. B-G: -17.

AC-VIBRANT-HG4

These setting increase dynamic range over the standard settings but also increase the colour and vibrance. HG4 has greater dynamic range than HG3 but is less bright, so this variation is best for brighter high dynamic range scenes. Designed to be used for when a good dynamic range and strong colours are needed direct from the camera. Suggested zebra level for skin tones is 60% and white at approx 70-75%.

Black: Master Black: -3.  Gamma: HG4.  White Clip: OFF.

Matrix: ON. Adaptive Matrix: Off. Preset Matrix: ON. Preset Select: ITU-709. User Matrix: ON. User Matrix Level: +25. Phase: -5.

R-G: +12. R-B: +8. G-R: -11. G-B: -7. B-R: -5. B-G: -17.

AC-Punchy Pop Video.

A punchy, contrasty look with strong but neutral colors. Maybe useful for a music video, party or celebration.

Black: Master Black: -3.  Gamma: STD5 .  Auto Knee Off. Knee level 87. White Clip: OFF. 

Matrix: ON. Adaptive Matrix: Off. Preset Matrix: ON. Preset Select: ITU-709. User Matrix: ON. User Matrix Level: 20. Phase: 0.

R-G: +10. R-B: +8. G-R: -15. G-B: -9. B-R: -5. B-G: -15.

Using different gamuts when shooting raw with the PXW-FS5

This topic comes up a lot. Whenever I have been in discussion with those that should know within Sony they have made it clear that the FS-Raw system is designed around S-Log2 for monitoring and post production etc. This stems from the fact that FS-Raw, the 12 bit linear raw from the FS700, FS7 and FS5 was first developed for the FS700 and that camera only had SGamut and S-Log2. S-Log3 didn’t come until a little later.

The idea is that if the camera is set to SGamut + S-Log2 it is optimised for the best possible performance. The raw signal is then passed to the raw recorder where it will be recorded. For a raw recorder that is going to convert the raw to ProRes or DNxHD the recorder converts the raw to S-SGamut + Log2 so that it will match any internal recordings.

Finally in post the grading software would take the FS-Raw and convert it to SGamut + S-Log2 for further grading. By keeping everything as SGamut and S-Log2 throughout the workflow your brightness levels, the look of the image and any LUT’s that you might use will be the same. Internal and external recordings will look the same. And this has been my experience. Use PP7 with SGamut and S-Log2 and the workflow works as expected.

What about the other Gamuts?

However: The FS5 also has SGamut3, SGamut3.cine and S-Log3 available in the picture profiles. When shooting Log many people prefer S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine. Some people find it easier to grade S-Log3 and there are more LUT’s available for S-Log3/SGamut3.cine than for SGamut and S-Log2. So there are many people that like to use PP8 or PP9 for internal S-Log.

However, switching the FS5’s gamma from S-log2 to S-log3 makes no difference to the raw output. And it won’t make your recorder convert the raw to ProRes/DNxHD as S-Log3 if that’s what you are hoping for. But changing the gamut does have an effect on the colors in the image.

But shouldn’t raw be just raw sensor data?

For me this is interesting, because if the camera is recording the raw sensor output, changing the Gamut shouldn’t really change what’s in the raw recording. So the fact that the image changes when you change the Gamut tells me that the camera is doing some form of processing or gain/gamma adjustment to the signal coming from the sensor. So to try and figure out what is happening and whether you should still always stick to SGamut I decided to do a little bit of testing. The testing was only done on an FS5 so the results are only applicable to the FS5. I can’t recall seeing these same changes with the FS7.

DSC Labs Chroma Tru Test Chart.

For the tests I used a DSC Labs Chroma-tru chart as this allows you to see how the colors and contrast in what you record changes both visually and with a vectorscope/waveform. As well as the chart that you shoot, you download a matching reference overlay file that you can superimpose over the clip in post to visually see any differences between the reference overlay and the way the shot has been captured and decoded. It is also possible to place another small reference chart directly in front of the monitor screen if you need to evaluate the monitor or any other aspects of your full end to end production system. It’s a very clever system and I like it because as well as being able to measure differences with scopes you can also see any differences quite clearly without any sophisticated measuring equipment.

Test workflow:

The chart was illuminated with a mix of mostly real daylight and a bit of 5600K daylight balanced light from a Stella LED lamp. I wanted a lot of real daylight to minimise any errors that could creep in from the spectrum of the LED light (The Stellas are very good but you can’t beat real daylight). The camera was set to 2000 ISO. The raw signal was passed from the camera to an Atomos Shogun Inferno where the clips were recorded as both ProRes Raw and also by using the recorders built in conversion to S-Log2 for internal recording as ProRes HQ. I did one pass of correctly exposed clips and a second pass where the clips were under exposed by 1 stop to asses noise levels. The lens was the 18-105mm kit lens, which without the cameras built in lens compensation does show a fair bit of barrel distortion as you will see!

The ProRes clips were evaluated in DaVinci Resolve using the DaVinci Color Managed workflow with the input colorspace set to S-Log2/Sgamut for every clip and output colorspace set to 709. I also had to set the input range of the ProRes clips to Full Range as this is what S-Log2 files always are. If I didn’t change the input range to Full Range the clips exhibited clipped and crushed black after conversion to 709, this confirms that the clips recorded by the Shogun were Full Range – which follows the S-Log specifications.

I did also take a look at the clips in Adobe Premiere and saw very similar results to Resolve.

I will do a separate report on my findings with the ProRes Raw in FCP as soon as I get time to check out the ProRes raw files properly.

So, what did I find?

In the images below the reference file has been overlaid on the very center of the clip. It can be a little hard to see. In a perfect system it would be impossible to see. But you can never capture the full contrast of the chart 1:1 and all cameras exhibit some color response imperfections. But the closer the center overlay is to the captured chart, the more accurate the system is. Note you can click on any of the capture examples to view a larger version.

Digi-ChromaMatch-Lt Using different gamuts when shooting raw with the PXW-FS5
This is the reference file (by the time it gets posted on my website as a jpeg I would no longer guarantee the colors etc. But when you look at the images below you will see this superimposed over the center of the clips.

Below is Picture Profile 6 (PP6) SGamut with S-Log2. It’s pretty good match. The camera didn’t quite capture the full contrast of the chart and that’s to be expected, reflections etc make it very difficult to get perfect blacks and shadow areas. But color wise it looks quite reasonable although the light blue’s are a little weak/pink.

SGamut_1.1.1 Using different gamuts when shooting raw with the PXW-FS5
SGamut and S-Log2

Below is Picture Profile 7 (PP7) SGamut3 with S-Log3. Straight away we can see that even though the camera was set to S-log3, the contrast is the same in the S-Log2 color managed workflow proving that the gamma of the recording is actually ProRes recording from the Shogun is S-log2, confirming what we already know which is that changing the log curve in the camera makes no difference to the raw recording and no difference to the raw to ProRes conversion in the recorder.

Note the extra noise in the greens. The greens appear to have more color, but they also appear a little darker. If you reduce the brightness of a color without altering the saturation the color appears to be deeper and I think that is what is happening here, it is a lightness change rather than just a saturation change. There is also more noise in the darker bars, grey and black really are quite noisy. Light blues have the same weak/pink appearance and there is a distinct green tint to the white, grey and black bars.

SGamut32_1.5.1 Using different gamuts when shooting raw with the PXW-FS5
SGamut3 with S-Log3

Below is when the camera was set to SGamut3.cine with S-Log3. Again we can see that the recording gamma is obviously S-Log2. The greens are still a touch stronger looking but now there is less noise in the greens. Cyan and reds are slightly lighter than SGamut and yellows appear a bit darker. This is also a little more noisy overall than SGamut, but not as bad as SGamut3. When you play the 3 clips, overall SGamut has the least noise, SGamut3.cine is next and then SGamut3 is clearly the noisiest. As with SGamut there is a distinct green tint to the white, grey and black bars.

SGamut3cine2_1.6.1 Using different gamuts when shooting raw with the PXW-FS5
SGamut3.cine with S-Log3

So that’s what the images look like, what do the scopes tell us. Again I will start with SGamut and we can see that the color response is pretty accurate. This suggests that Atomos do a good job of converting the raw to S-Log2/SGamut before it’s recorded and confirms what we already know which is this is that this is clearly how the system is designed to work. Note how the Red strip falls very close to the R box on the 2x vectorscope, yello almost in Y, green very close to G, Blue almost in B. Magenta isn’t so clever and this probably explains why the pinky blues at the top of the chart are not quite right. Do remember that all these test were done with the preset white balance so it’s not surprising to see some small offsets as the white balance won’t have been absolutely perfect. But that imperfection will be the same across all of my test examples.

Screenshot-2019-03-06-at-12.23.31 Using different gamuts when shooting raw with the PXW-FS5
SGamut + S-Log2

Below is SGamut3. The first thing I noticed was all the extra noise on the right side of the waveform where the greens are. The waveform also shows the difference in lightness compared to SGamut with different colors being reproduced at different brightness levels. The greens are being reproduced at a slightly lower luma level and this is probably why the greens appear more saturated. Also notice how much more fuzzy the vectorscope is, this is due to some extra chroma noise. There is a bit more red and magenta is closer to it’s target box, but all the other key colors are further from their boxes. Yellow and Green and Cyan are all a long way from their target boxes. Overall the color is much less accurate than SGamut and there is more chroma noise.

Screenshot-2019-03-06-at-12.23.53 Using different gamuts when shooting raw with the PXW-FS5

And finally below is SGamut3.cine. There is less noise on the green side of the waveform than SGamut and SGamut3 but we still have a slightly lower luma level for green, making green appear more saturated. Again overall color accuracy is not as good as SGamut. But the vector scope is still quite fuzzy due to chroma noise.

Screenshot-2019-03-06-at-12.24.24 Using different gamuts when shooting raw with the PXW-FS5

Under Exposure:

I just want to show you a couple of under exposed examples. These have had the under exposure corrected in post. Below is SGamut and as you can see it is a bit noisy when under exposed. That shouldn’t be a surprise, under expose and you will get noisy pictures.

SGamut_1.1.1-1 Using different gamuts when shooting raw with the PXW-FS5
SGamut with S-Log2 1 stop under (exposure corrected in post)

Below is SGamut3 and you can really see how much noisier this is than SGamut. I recommend clicking on the images to see a full screen version. You will see that as well as the noise in the greens there is more chroma noise in the blacks and greys. There also seems to be a stronger shift towards blue/green in the whites/greys in the under exposed SGamut3.

SGamut3_1.2.1 Using different gamuts when shooting raw with the PXW-FS5
SGamut3 with S-Log3 1 stop under (exposure corrected in post)

Conclusions:

Clearly changing the gamut makes a difference to the raw output signal. In theory this shouldn’t really happen. Raw is supposed to be the unprocessed sensor output. But these test show that there is a fair bit of processing going on in the FS5 before the raw is output. It’s already known that the white balance is baked in. This is quite easy to do as changing the white balance is largely just a matter of changing the gain on the pixels that represent red and blue relative to green. This can be done before the image is converted to a color image.

What I believe I am seeing in this test is something more complex than that. I’m seeing changes in the luminance and gain levels of different colors relative to each other. So what I suspect is happening is that the camera is making some independent adjustments to the gamma of the Red, Blue and Green pixels before the raw signal is output. This is probably a hang over from adjustments that need to be made when recording S-Log2 and S-Log3 internally rather than something being done to deliberately adjust the raw output. But I didn’t design the camera so I can’t be sure that this is really the case. Only Sony would know the truth.

Does it matter?

Yes and no. If you have been using SGamut3.cine and have been getting the results you want, then, no it doesn’t really matter. I would probably avoid SGamut3. It really is very noisy in the greens and shadows compared to the other two. I would be a little concerned by the green tint in the parts of the image that should be colour free in both SGamut3 and SGamut3.cine. That would make grading a little tougher than it should be.

So my advice remains unchanged and continues to match Sony’s recommendation. This is that you should use PP7 with SGamut and S-Log2 when outputting raw. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the other Gamuts and your milage may vary, but these tests do for me at least confirm my reasons for sticking with PP7.

Both Premiere and Resolve show the same behaviour. Next I want to take a look at what happens in FCP with the ProRes Raw clips. This could prove interesting as FCP decodes and converts the FS-Raw to S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine rather than S-Log2/Sgamut by default. Whether this will make any difference I don’t know. What I do know is that having a recorder that’s converting to S-Log2 for display and software that converts to S-Log3 is very confusing as you need different LUT’s for post and the recorder if you want to use LUT’s for your monitoring. But FCP will have to wait for another day. I have paying work to do first.

Sony’s Internal Recording Levels Are Correct.

There is a video on YouTube right now where the author claims that the Sony Alpha cameras don’t record correctly internally when shooting S-Log2 or S-Log3. The information contained in this video is highly miss-leading and the conclusion that the problem is with the way Sony record internally is incorrect. There really isn’t anything wrong with the way Sony do their recordings. Neither is there anything wrong with the HDMI output. While centered around the Alpha cameras the information below is also important for anyone that records S-Log2 or S-log3 externally with any other camera.

Some background: Within the video world there are 2 primary ranges that can be used to record a video signal.

Legal Range uses code value 16 for black and code value 235 for white (anything above CV235 is classed as a super-white and these can still be recorded but considered to be beyond 100%).

Full or Data Range uses code value 0 for black and code value 255 for white or 100%.

Most cameras and most video systems are based on legal range. ProRes recordings are almost always legal range. Most Sony cameras use legal range and do include super-whites for some of the curves such as Cinegammas or Hypergammas to gain a bit more dynamic range. The vast majority of video recordings use legal range. So most software defaults to legal range.

But very, very importantly – S-log2 and S-log is always full/data range.

Most of the time this doesn’t cause any issues. When you record internally in the camera the internal recordings have metadata that tells the playback, editing or grading software that the S-Log files have been recorded using full range. Because of this metadata the software will play the files back and process them at the correct levels. However if you record the S-Log with an external recorder the recorder doesn’t always know that what it is getting is full range and not legal range, it just records it, as it is, exactly as it comes out of the camera. That then causes a problem later on because the externally recorded file doesn’t have the right metadata to ensure that the full range S-Log material is handled correctly and most software will default to legal range if it knows no different.

Lets have a look at what happens when you import an internally recorded S-Log2 .mp4 file from a Sony A7S into Adobe Premiere:

Screenshot-2019-03-01-at-10.04.22 Sony's Internal Recording Levels Are Correct.
Internal S-Log2 in Premiere.

A few things to note here. One is Adobe’s somewhat funky scopes where the 8 bit code values don’t line up with the normally used IRE values used for video productions. Normally 8 bit code value 235 would be 100IRE or 100%, but for some reason Adobe have code value 255 lined up with 100%. My suspicion is that the scope % scale is not video % or IRE but instead RGB%. This is really confusing. A further complication is that Adobe have code value 0 as black, again, I think, but am not sure that this is RGB code value 0. In the world of video Black should be code value 16. But the scopes appear to work such that 0 is black and that 100 is full scale video out. Anything above 100 and below 0 will be clipped in any file you render out.

Looking at the scopes in the screen grab above, the top step on the grey scale chart is around code value 252. That is the code value you would expect it to be, that lines up just nicely with where the peak of an S-Log2 recording should be. This all looks correct, nothing goes above 100 or below 0 so nothing will be clipped.

So now lets look at an external ProRes recording, recorded at exactly the same time as the internal recording and see what Premier does with that:

Screenshot-2019-03-01-at-10.05.32 Sony's Internal Recording Levels Are Correct.
External ProRes in Adobe Premiere

OK, so we can see straight away something isn’t quite right here. In an 8 bit recording it should be impossible to have a code value higher that 255, but the scopes are suggesting that the recording has a peak code value of something around CV275. That is impossible, so alarm bells should be ringing. Something is not quite right here. In addition the S-Log2 appears to be going above 100, so that means if I were to simply export this as a new file, the top of the recording will be clipped and it won’t match the original. This is very clearly not right.

Now lets take a look at what happens in Adobe Premiere when you apply Sony’s standard S-Log2 to Rec-709 LUT to a correctly exposed internal recording:

Screenshot-2019-03-01-at-10.10.05 Sony's Internal Recording Levels Are Correct.
Internal S-Log2 with 709 LUT applied.

This all looks good and as expected. Blacks are sitting down just above the 0 line (which I think we can safely assume is black) and the whites of the picture are around code value 230 or 90, whatever that means. But they are certainly nice and bright and are not in the range that will be clipped. So I can believe this as being more or less correct and as expected.

So next I’m going to add the same standard LUT to the external recording to see what happens.

Screenshot-2019-03-01-at-10.11.24 Sony's Internal Recording Levels Are Correct.
External S-Log2 with standard 709 LUT applied.

OK, this is clearly not right. Our blacks now go below the 0 line and they look clipped. The highlights don’t look totally out of place, but clearly there is something going very, very wrong when we this normal LUT to this correctly exposed external recording. There is no way our blacks should be going below zero and they look crushed/clipped. The internal recording didn’t behave like this. So what is going on with the external recording?

To try and figure this out lets take a look at the same files in DaVinci Resolve. For a start I trust the scopes in Resolve much more and it is a far better programme for managing different types of files. First we will look at the internal S-Log2 recording:

Screenshot-2019-03-01-at-10.21.17-1 Sony's Internal Recording Levels Are Correct.
Internal S-Log2, all looks good.

Once again the levels of the internal S-Log2 recordings look absolutely fine. Our peak is around code value 1010 which would be 252 in 8 bit. Right where the brightest bits of an S-log2 file should be. Now lets take a look at the external recording.

Screenshot-2019-03-01-at-10.22.51 Sony's Internal Recording Levels Are Correct.
External ProRes S-Log2 (Full Range)

If you compare the two screen grabs above you can see that the levels are exactly the same. Our peak level is around CV1010/CV252, just where it should be and the blacks look the same also. The internal and external recordings have the same levels and look the same. There is no difference (other then perhaps less compression and fewer artefacts in the ProRes file). There is nothing wrong with either of these recordings and certainly nothing wrong with the way Sony record S-Log2 internally. This is absolutely what I expect to see.

BUT – I’ve been a little bit sneaky here. As I knew that the external recording was a full range recording I told DaVinci Resolve to treat it as a full range recording. In the media bin I right clicked on the clip and under “clip attributes” I changed the input range from “auto” to “full”. If you don’t do this DaVinci Resolve will assume the ProRes file to be legal range and it will scale the clip incorrectly in the same way as Premiere does. But if you tell Resolve the clip is full range then it is handled correctly.

This is what it looks like if you allow Resolve to guess at what range the S-Log2 full range clip is by leaving the input range setting to “auto”:

Screenshot-2019-03-01-at-10.24.46 Sony's Internal Recording Levels Are Correct.
External ProRes S-Log2 Auto Range

In the above image we can see how in Resolve the clip becomes clipped because in a legal range recording anything over CV235/CV940 would be an illegal super white. Resolve is scaling the clip and pushing anything in the original file that was above CV235/CV940 off the top of the scale. The scaling is incorrect because Resolve doesn’t know the clip is supposed to be full range and therefore not scaled. If we compare this to what Premiere did with the external recording it’s actually very similar. Premiere also scaled the clip, only Premiere will show all those “illegal” levels above it’s 100 line instead of clipping then as Resolve does. That’s why Premiere can have those “impossible” 8 bit code values going up to CV275.

Just to be complete here, I did also test the internal .mp4 recordings in Resolve switching between “auto” and “full” range and in both cases the levels stayed exactly the same. This shows that Resolve is correctly handling the internally record full range S-Log as full range.

What about if you add a LUT? Well you MUST tell Resolve to treat the S-Log2 ProRes clip as a full range clip otherwise the LUT will not be right, if your footage is S-Log3 you also have to tell Resolve that it is full range:

Screenshot-2019-03-01-at-13.09.16 Sony's Internal Recording Levels Are Correct.
Resolve: Internal recording with the standard 709 LUT applied, all is exactly as expected. Deep shadows and white right at the top of the range.
Screenshot-2019-03-01-at-13.10.10 Sony's Internal Recording Levels Are Correct.
Resolve: External recording with the standard 709 LUT applied, clip input range set to “full”. Everything is once again as you would expect. Deep shadows and white at the top of the range. Also not that it is near perfect match to the internal recording. No hue or color shift (Premiere introduces a color shift, more on that later).
Screenshot-2019-03-01-at-13.14.02 Sony's Internal Recording Levels Are Correct.
Resolve: External recording with the standard 709 LUT applied, clip input range set to “auto”. This is clearly not right. The highlights are clipped and the blacks are crushed and clipped. It is so important to get the input range right when working with LUT’s!!

CONCLUSIONS:

Both the internal and external recordings are actually exactly the same. Both have the same levels, both use FULL range. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Sony’s internal recordings. The problem stems from the way most software will assume that the ProRes files are legal range. But if it’s an S-Log2 or S-Log3 recording it will in fact be full (data) range. Handling a full range clip as legal range means that highlights will be too high/bright or clipped and blacks will be crushed. So it’s really important that your software handles the footage correctly. If you are shooting using S-Log3 this problem is harder to spot as S-Log3 has a peak recording level that is well with the legal range, so you often won’t realise it’s being scaled incorrectly as it won’t necessarily look clip. If you use LUT’s and your ProRes clips look crushed or highlights look clipped you need to check that the input scaling is correct. It’s really important to get this right.

Why is there no difference between the levels when you shoot with a Cinegamma? Well when you shoot with a cinegamma the internal recordings are legal range so the internal recordings get treated as legal range and so do the external recordings, so they don’t appear to be different (In the YouTube video that led to this post the author discovers that if you record with a normal profile first and then switch to a log profile while recording the internal and external files will match. But this is because now the internal recording has the incorrect metadata, so it too gets scaled incorrectly, so both the internal and external files are now wrong – but the the same).

Once again: There is nothing wrong with the internal recordings. The problem is with the way the external recordings are being handled. The external recordings haven’t been recorded incorrectly, they have been recorded as they should be. The problem is the edit software is incorrectly interpreting the external recordings. The external recordings don’t have the necessary metadata to mark the files as full range because the recorder is external to the camera and doesn’t know what it’s being sent by the camera. This is a common problem when using external recorders.

What can we do in Premiere to make Premiere work right with these files?

You don’t need to do anything in Premiere for the internal .mp4 recordings. They are handled correctly but Premiere isn’t handling the full/data range ProRes files correctly.

My approach for this has always been to use the legacy fast color corrector filter to transform the input range to the required output range. If you apply the fast color corrector filter to a clip you can use the input and output level sliders to set the input and output range. In this case we need to set the output black level to CV16 (as that is legal range black) and we need to set output white to CV235 to match legal range white. If you do this you will then see that the external recording appears to have almost exactly the same values as the internal recording. However there is some non-linearity in the transform, it’s not quite perfect. So if anyone knows of a better way to do this do please let me know.

Screenshot-2019-03-01-at-11.04.04 Sony's Internal Recording Levels Are Correct.
Using the legacy “fast color corrector” filter to transform the external recording to the correct range within Premiere.

Now when you apply a LUT the picture and the levels are more or less what you would expect and almost identical to the internal recordings. I say almost because there is a slight hue shift. I don’t know where the hue shift comes from. In Resolve the internal and external recordings look pretty much identical and there is no hue shift. In Premiere they are not quite the same. The hue is slightly different and I don’t know why. My recommendation – use Resolve, it’s so much better for anything that needs any form of grading or color correction.

Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.

I’m sitting here in the UK, Its February and it almost 20c (68f). Very nice indeed for the UK this time of year. Just a couple of weeks ago I was in Northern Norway, up above the arctic circle running one of my annual Northern Lights adventure tours. The weather there was very different. At no time did the temperature get above -15c(5f) and for most of the trip it was around -24c(-11f) both during the day and during the night.

Now, you might consider me a sadist when I say this, but for my Northern Lights trips I normally want it to be -20c or colder. The reason being that when it’s very cold like this we normally get beautifully clear skies. And we need clear skies to see the Aurora.

DSC_0249 Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
Everyone all wrapped up for the hour long ride by snow scooter and sledge to the cabins that we stay at.

After many years of taking a full size video camera up to Norway I decided to go light this year and just take my trusty A7S and A6300 cameras. We get around on snow scooters and on sledges towed behind the snow scooters. This can make lugging around a larger camera tricky and there are times when you just can’t take a big camera. But in order to get the very best from these cameras I also decided to take an Atomos Ninja V.

DSC_0253 Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
Out and about on the snow scooter. It really is a very beautiful place in the winter.

The Ninja V is the first of a new generation of recorders and monitors from Atomos. It’s much smaller than the Shogun range of recorders making it a better size and weight match for smaller cameras and DSLR’s. It has a very, very nice 5″ screen with a maximum brightness of 1000 Nits. The 1000 Nit output and Atomos’s clever way of driving it means it can display both SDR and HDR images depending on how it is set up. A key difference between the Shogun and the Ninja devices is that the Shoguns have both SDI inputs and HDMI inputs while the Ninja only has an HDMI input. But if your using this with a DSLR than only has an HDMI output, as I was, the lack of SDI connectors is not a problem.

DSC_0281 Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
Shooting a sunset with the Ninja V on my A6300. We were way up on the Finnmarksvidda when this image was taken, absolutely in the middle of nowhere and it was -27c!

The build quality of the Ninja V is really good. Most of the body is made of aluminium. The rear part where the slots for the SSD and battery are is made from plastic, but it appears to be a good high quality and tough plastic. A new feature is an “AtomX” expansion port tucked inside the battery compartment. The expansion port allow different modules to be attached to the Ninja V to add functionality such a video over IP (ethernet) using the Newtek NDI protocol for live streaming or to turn the Ninja V into an IP connected monitor. There is also an AtomX sync module that allows you to wirelessly synchronise timecode and control multiple Ninja V”s on a single network and to use Bluetooth remote control. You can find out more about the AtomX modules here https://www.atomos.com/AtomX

Anyway – back to Norway. We were very lucky with the weather, and with the Northern Lights. On the first night at the cabins we stay at the Aurora put on a pretty good display. I was shooting with my Sony A7S with a Sigma Art 20mm f1.4 lens. I was shooting a mix of time-lapse, in which case I simply record the raw frames in the camera on it’s internal SD cards as well as real time video.

DSC09536-small Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
The Aurora put on a great display for us on several nights.

The Northern Lights are only rarely very bright. Most of the time they are fairly dim. So I was using the Sigma lens wide open, shooting at 24fps and with the shutter at 1/24th. The adjusting the cameras ISO to get a nice bright image. At times this did mean I was using some very high ISO’s with a lot of gain. Shooting like this is going to put a lot of strain on any codec. But the Long GOP XAVC-S codec used in the A7S is going to be very hard pushed to not introduce a lot of additional artefacts. In addition my older original A7S can only record HD internally.

By using the Ninja V I was able to record video of the Northern Lights in 4K using the ProRes codec. I used ProRes HQ and ProResHQ uses much less compression than XAVC-S. So even though both the internal recordings and the external recordings are limited to 8 bit (due to the cameras HDMI output limitations rather than any limitation of the Ninja) the ProRes recordings are far more robust and will noise reduce in post much better than the XAVC-S.

DSC_0278-crop Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
Just to prove it really was -27c!!

When you’re working outside for extended periods and it’s -27c(-17f) it’s tough on the gear and tough on you. When shooting the Aurora my camera are outside all night, exposed to the cold. Typical problems include frost and ice on the front element of the lens. The moisture from your own body can easily freeze onto the lens if you stand close to the camera. If you look at the lens to check it for frost and breath out you will leave it coated in ice.

Wires and cables that are soft and flexible in normal temperatures become as stiff as steel rods and can crack and fracture if you try to bend them. All batteries will loose some of their capacity. Very small batteries are worst affected. Larger batteries tend to fair a bit better, but there is a tremendous difference between the way most cheap budget batteries behave in the cold to good quality brand name batteries. For this reason I power my complete setup from a single PAG PAGLink V-Mount battery. The PAGlink batteries are great for all sorts of different applications, but for these trips a big benefit is that a small plug type charger can be used to charge many PAGlink batteries by stacking the batteries together. Then to power multiple devices I use the clip-on PAG Power hub plate to provide 5V for the camera battery adapters that I use, 12V for the lens heaters I use and another 12V feed for the Ninja V.

DSC_0311 Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
This is what the kit looks like when you bring it into the warm after many hours out in the cold. The thing with the yellow strap on the lens is a lens heater to prevent frost from building up on the lens. The lens is a sigma 20mm f1.4, the camera is an A7S and the recorder is the Atomos Ninja V.

After more than a few minutes outside the camera kit itself will have become extremely cold. If you then take that kit inside into a nice warm cabin the warm moist air in the cabin will condense onto the cold camera body. Because the camera body will be extremely cold this will then freeze. Before you know it the camera kit is covered in ice. What you can’t see is that it’s likely that there will also be some ice and moisture inside the camera. It can take hours to warm the camera back up again and get it dried out properly. Bagging the camera before you take it indoors can help, but taking the camera in and out many times over the coarse of a shoot like this can cause a lot of damage. So I prefer to leave all the camera kit outside for the duration of the trip.

DSC_0314 Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
Another view of the frozen Ninja V after a night shooting the Aurora. Don’t worry, the screen isn’t damaged, that’s just frost and ice on the screens surface.

This means that when you come to fire it up you are often trying to switch on an absolutely frozen camera. In the past I have had problems with cold recorders that wouldn’t start up. But I’m pleased to report that the Ninja V always came to life no matter how cold it was. Whenever I pressed the record button it went into record. Operating the touch screen in the cold was not an issue. In fact using touch screen gloves, the Ninja was really easy to use. Pressing small fiddly buttons isn’t easy, even with thin gloves, but the touch screen turned out really easy to work with.

A big change on the Ninja V over previous models is the operating system. The new operating system looks really good and is quite logically laid out. Gone is the old AtomHDR slider that changes the brightness of the screen when in HDR. This is replaced with dedicated viewing modes for Native, 709, PQ HDR and HLG HDR and viewing via a LUT. I prefer the new fixed HDR modes over the Atom HDR slider modes as it eliminates the uncertainty that can sometimes creep in when you use a slider to change the brightness of the display. In my case, when shooting during the day using S-Log2 I would simply select S-Log2 as the source and then use PQ to display an HDR image on the screen. At night when shooting the Aurora I used Rec-709.

DSC_0283 Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
You can see how the normal size 2.5″ SSD sticks out a bit from the side of the Ninja V. The SSDMini’s don’t stick out in the same way. Also note that even though I am shooting using S-Log2 on the A6300 the Ninja V is showing a nice contrasty image thanks to the PQ HDR display option.

The Ninja V can take the same size 2.5″ SSD caddies as the current Shogun recorders. So I was able to use the SSD’s that I already own. However to keep the size of the recorder down it has been designed around a new slightly shorty SSD form factor called SSDMini. When you use a standard size 2.5″ SSD it does stick out from the side of the recorder by about 25mm. If you use an SSDMini it doesn’t stick out at all. SSDMini’s are currently being manufactured by Angelbird and Sony. They have the same sata connector as regular 2.5″ SSD’s and the SSDMini’s can also be used on the larger Atomos Shoguns.

DSC_0286 Atomos Ninja V, the arctic and the Northern Lights.
A basic lightweight but effective setup. Atomos Ninja V, Sony A6300, Miller Compass 15 head and Solo tripod.

By the time we were ready to leave Norway we had seen the Northern Lights on 3 different nights. By day we had seen some beautiful sunrises as well as other optical effects like sun dogs caused by the light from the sun being refracted by ice crystals in the air. The Atomos Ninja V had impressed me hugely. It just worked perfectly despite the extreme cold. It allowed me to record at higher quality than would have been possible without it and turned out to be easy to operate. What more can you want really?

Fancy joining me on one of these trips? Follow the link to find out more: http://www.xdcam-user.com/northern-lights-expeditions-to-norway/

Recording the slow motion S&Q output of an FS5 to a normal external recorder (not raw).

This has been asked a couple of times. How do I record the slow motion S&Q output of my PXW-FS5 to an external recorder if I don’t have the raw option or don’t want to use raw.

Well it is possible and it’s quite easy to do. You can do it with either an SDI or HDMI recorder, both will work. The example here is for the new Atomos Ninja V recorder, but the basic idea is the same for most recorders.

Just to be absolutely clear this isn’t a magic trick to give you raw with a conventional non raw recorder. But it will allow you to take advantage of the higher quality codec (normally ProRes) in the external recorder.

Oh and by the way – The Ninja V is a great external monitor and recorder if you don’t want raw or you need something smaller than the Inferno.

So here’s how you do it:

In the camera menu and “Rec Set” – set the file format to XAVC HD and the Rec Format to 1080/50p or 1080/60p it MUST be 50p or 60p for this to work correctly.

DSC_0340 Recording the slow motion S&Q output of an FS5 to a normal external recorder (not raw).


In “Video Out” select the HDMI (for the Ninja, if you recorder has SDI then this works with SDI too).

DSC_0339 Recording the slow motion S&Q output of an FS5 to a normal external recorder (not raw).

Set the SDI/HDMI to 1080p/480i or 1080p/560i it MUST be p not i

Set HDMI TC Output to ON

Set SDI/HDMI Rec Control to ON

DSC_0338 Recording the slow motion S&Q output of an FS5 to a normal external recorder (not raw).

Connect the Ninja (or other recorder) via HDMI and on the Ninja under the input settings set the record trigger to HDMI – ON. If you are using a recorder with SDI you should have similar options for the SDI input.

DSC_0342 Recording the slow motion S&Q output of an FS5 to a normal external recorder (not raw).

So now what will happen is when you use the S&Q mode at 100fps or higher the camera will act as normally, you will still need a SD card in the camera. But when the camera copies the slow motion footage from the internal buffer to the SD card the external recorder will automatically go into record at the same time and record the output stream of the buffer. Once the buffer stream stops, the recorder will stop.

The resulting file will be 50p/60p. So if you want to use it in a 24/25/30p project and get the full slow-mo benefit you will need to tell the edit software to treat the file as a 24/25/30p file to match the other clips in your project. Typically this is done by right clicking on the clip and using the “interpret footage” function to set the frame rate to match the frame rate of your project or other footage.

And that’s it. It’s pretty simple to do and you can improve the quality of your files over the internal recordings, although I have to say you’ll be hard pushed to see any difference in most cases as the XAVC is already pretty good.

Vocas Sliding Base Plate System.

Let’s face it, camera base plates are not really very exciting things. But they are very necessary additions to most peoples kit, especially for any of the full size super 35mm digital cinema cameras. From Red’s to F55’s to FS7 etc, they will almost always need some form of base plate at some point.

So what’s different about the Vocas sliding system?

A complete Vocas sliding base plate system comprises two main parts. The first bit attaches to the camera and that will be either a generic flat camera mounting adapter plate or a custom camera mounting plate for cameras that don’t have flat bases, for example the FS7 or Venice where the adapter follows the curve or shape of the bottom of the camera.

DSC_0315 Vocas Sliding Base Plate System.
The Vocas Sliding system adapter for Sony’s PXW-FS7 cameras. Note this even has the very small screws normally used by the shoulder pad to help keep it very stable.
DSC_0328 Vocas Sliding Base Plate System.
On the left is a 15mm rod VCT type shoulder mount. Middle is the FS7 camera adapter plate and right is a generic flat camera adapter plate.

The second part is a shoulder mount, shoulder pad or tripod plate or generic flat mounting plate that the camera adapter smoothly and securely slides onto.

20180514_092732 Vocas Sliding Base Plate System.
Vocas Sliding base plate system on a Sony Venice. 19mm shoulder/VCT plate and dedicated Venice base adapter.
DSC_0329 Vocas Sliding Base Plate System.
The VCT/15mm rod shoulder plate with the FS7 camera plate attached. Note the allen key and mounting screws stored within the base plate.

One of the first benefits of this system is that you can easily alter the position of the camera relative to the base plate or shoulder pad. This makes balancing the camera on your shoulder or on a tripod much easier. A large red level locks the two sliding parts securely in place and there is a safety release catch that must be pressed if you wish to separate the mounting plate from the base plate, so they can’t come apart by accident. However if you need to move the camera forwards or backwards relative to the mounting plate all you need to do is release the large red locking lever.

DSC_0334 Vocas Sliding Base Plate System.
PMW-F5 on the same VCT/15mm rod base plate as shown with the FS7 adapter and Sony Venice above.

Another benefit of the system is that it is very quick to reconfigure if you need to. For example many cinematography accessories are mounted using 19mm rails rather than the lightweight 15mm rails often used with ENG or smaller rigs. Perhaps you have been shooting handheld where a lightweight 15mm setup works better. Using the Vocas sliding system you can have a light weight base plate with a comfortable shoulder pad, 15mm front and rear rails that will clip in and out of a VCT style quick release tripod plate attached to the camera for your handheld shots. Then when you need to go to a bigger lens perhaps and 19mm rods, you simply slide off the 15mm base plate and slide on the Vocas 19mm plate. Quickly transforming the camera into a heavy duty rig that will then attach to an Arri style tripod plate. Need to keep the 19mm rods but now need a shoulder pad? Well that’s easy too as there is a matching shoulder pad for the 19mm base plate. It’s all very quick and very easy.

DSC_0335 Vocas Sliding Base Plate System.
My PMW-F5 now on a 19mm Arri compatible base plate. It took just a few seconds to swap from the 15mm plate to the 19mm plate. No tools needed.

It also means that if you have multiple cameras all you is a mounting plate on each of your cameras then you can use the same base plate on all your cameras just by sliding it on and off as needed, or swap between lot’s of different types of plates depending on your needs.

If you don’t need a base plate with rods etc and just need a quick way to mount your camera to a tripod then there is also a basic tripod adapter that the camera can be slid directly onto. This gives you a really secure, quick release, low profile mounting system that is free from the wobble that often plagues other quick release mounts. It’s ideal for crash cams, car mounts and car rigs. Or for those situations where you just need something quick and compact. This would also help keep the weight down for use on gimbals or perhaps a stedicam. Need to go back to a shoulder mount or full tripod rig with rods, just slide the camera off the tripod plate and slide it on to your preferred 15mm or 19mm shoulder plate.

DSC_0332 Vocas Sliding Base Plate System.
Top is the 15mm/VCT type base plate. In the middle is the generic tripod platethat can be used as a low profile, adjustable quick release mount on gimbals, tripods, stedicam etc.

Nice touches on the VCT type base plates are the adjustable height rod mounts and also an adjustable tensioner for the rear mounting spigot. Normally on a VCT base plate the rear spigot doesn’t do a great deal to add stability to the system, it just helps to loosely locate the base plate. However Vocas have added the ability to put some tension on to the rear spigot to help pull the camera down onto the VCT plate. This can greatly decrease, if not eliminate the wobble and flex that is all to common with these quick release plates.

DSC_0336 Vocas Sliding Base Plate System.
The tensioner/clamp for the rear pin on a VCT tripod plate.
DSC_0337 Vocas Sliding Base Plate System.
Adjustable height rod mount at the front. The large red lever at the left side is used to allow the camera to be slid forwards and backwards to adjust the position/balance. A small red push button safety catch and the pin it operates can be see on the upper right of the base plate.

Another really nice touch is that the attachment screws for the mounting plate and an allen key for adjusting the height of the rod mounts can be stored inside the base plate so you should never loose them.

Any downsides? Well yes, any 2 part system like this is going to be a little more complex with more parts and a bit more metal than a basic fixed mounting plate, so the sliding base plate ends up a touch heavier than the equivalent fixed position base plate. It’s not a big difference, but it does add a bit of weight. However in most cases I believe it’s worth it. Especially if you are swapping between 15mm and 19mm systems frequently. Being able to quickly and easily re-balance the camera when handheld and you change lenses is very nice.

DSC_0327 Vocas Sliding Base Plate System.
The 19mm Arri compatible base plate, in this case with the FS7 adapter on it.

If you have more than one camera it makes it easier to share different mounting systems between them. So while the initial cost may be a bit more, in the long run you only ever need to add new mounting adapters to keep using all the different base plates you have with extra cameras or new cameras.

DSC_0320 Vocas Sliding Base Plate System.
Arri compatible shoulder pad. This would attach under the 19mm base plate instead of an Arri dovetail.

As always with Vocas products the quality of the engineering is first class. The parts fit together beautifully. Only high quality materials are used and the finish is very nice. So if you are looking for a really nice base plate for your camera – or cameras – do take a look at the Vocas sliding system. It’s really very well thought out and something that will last for a very long time.

Disclosure: I have a good relationship with the guys at Vocas. I had been shown this system at various trade shows and it looked interesting, so I approached Vocas for the loan of a review system so I could write this article.

AMPAS snub Cinematography and Editing at the Oscars.

I don’t normally get involved in stuff like this, but this has me quite angry. While an Oscar will still be awarded for Cinematography as well as Editing the presentations will take place during a commercial break (the same for Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling).

Cinematography and Editing are at the very heart of every movie. If we go back to the very beginnings of Cinema it was all about the Cinematography. The word Cinema is a shortened form of the word Cinematography which means to write or record movement. There were often no actors, no special effects, no sound, just moving images images. perhaps a shot of a train or people in a street. Since then Cinematography has continued to advance both artistically and technically. At the same time Editing has become as important as the script writing. The Cinematography and editing determine the mood, look, pace, style of the film.

As Guillermo del Torro has commented: “Cinematography and Editing are at the very heart of our craft, they are not inherited from a theatrical tradition or literary tradition, they are cinema itself”. I completely agree, so the presentations for Cinematography and Editing deserve the same coverage and respect as every other category. Cinematographers and editors are often overlooked by film goers, they rarely make the mainstream headlines in the same way that leading actors do. So really it is only fair that AMPAS should try to address this and give both the credit and coverage deserved by those men and women that make cinema possible.

Windows 10 and removable media.

It has come to my attention that there was a bug in Windows 10 a couple of years ago that could cause some very big problems. The bug was patched by Microsoft so provided the computer is up to date this should not be a problem. But there are other things that can cause a card to become corrupted or un-readable before you have had a chance to make a copy of your files.

With the problem release of Windows 10, when you connected removable media to the computer that contained audio files the computer would attempt to encrypt the card. When you try to browse to the files instead of being able to open the files they will show up as files with a size of 0 Bytes and you won’t be able to do anything with them on any computer. But, as I said this issue was fixed some time ago. So provided the computer has been kept up to date this should no longer be an issue. So make sure your computer is up to date!

But it is also worth noting that Windows 10 includes an encryption app called BitLocker. If this is a accidentally used on any of your removable media it will make that media impossible to read on any other device and the files will appear to be 0 Bytes long until the media is unlocked.

In addition there have been problems with the drivers for some card readers that have led to the corruption of SD cards. So make sure your drivers are up to date and do some test transfers before plugging in a card with anything important on it.

Use the write protect tab on SxS and SD cards.

If you are using SxS cards or SD cards, the cards have a write protect tab. If you lock the card before connecting it to the computer it will prevent the computer from writing to the card and this will protect your media from corruption. You should always do this if you can and then verify your copies, preferably including clip playback as one of your copy checks. Ideally you should use dedicated backup software such as Hedge or Shot Put Pro to do verified copies and transfers. Sony’s Catalyst Prepare can also copy clips with checksum verification.

Sony Venice to get 4K 120fps in Version 4.

Coming just a few days after the release of the Venice version 3 firmware, Sony have just released details of the next major Venice update which is planned to be released in June of this year. Last year when Sony started talking about HFR (high frame rates) for Venice it was expected that 4K would reach at least 96fps. However it has now been confirmed that the version 4 update will include the option to purchase an HFR licence that will allow you to shoot in 4K at up to 120fps.

It is worth noting however that 120fps will only be available when shooting 2.39:1. When shooting 17:9 the limit will be 110fps, still better than the originally promised 96fps. As well as 4K HFR you will also be able to shoot at 60fps in 6K 3:2 and 75fps 4K 3:2 ideal for use with 2x Anamorphic lenses.

The full press release is below:

Basingstoke, UK, 31st January 2019: Sony will be upgrading the capabilities of its next-generation motion picture camera system, VENICE, by introducing High Frame Rate (HFR) shooting, advanced remote-control functionalities and Cooke/i3 and Zeiss extended metadata support, as part of its latest firmware update. Following the recent release of VENICE’s firmware Version 3.0 and the upcoming launch of its Extension System (CBK-3610XS), which was developed in collaboration with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and is currently being used to shoot the AVATAR sequels, the latest upgrade will offer filmmakers even greater creative freedom, flexibility and choice.

The new optional High Frame Rate license allows VENICE to shoot at speeds of up to 120fps at 4K 2.39:1, and 60fps at 6K 3:2 as well as up to 110fps at 4K 17:9 and 75fps at 4K 4:3 with anamorphic lenses. The new additional frame rates are particularly well-suited for drama, movie and commercial productions in 4K and 6K, as well as productions at 50/60p in 6K and VR productions using large viewing angle of 6K 3:2 in 60p. All High Frame Rates support X-OCN recording including X-OCN XT* implemented from Ver.3.0 and High Frame Rate up to 60fps support XAVC 4K and ProRes recording.

“At Sony, we pride ourselves on working closely with our customers and partners to create solutions that enable modern filmmakers to bring their vision to reality just the way they intend to. In fact, High Frame Rate shooting was a feature that was frequently requested by our customers. We listened to their feedback and are excited to now offer this feature to all new and existing VENICE users,” explained Sebastian Leske, Product Marketing Manager, Cinematography, Sony Professional Solutions Europe. “Last year at Cine Gear Expo, we announced that Version 4.0 will include 120fps in 2K. However, we are excited to announce today that, as a result of the hard work of our engineering team, Version 4.0 will now include 120fps in 4K. With firmware Version 4.0, our state-of-the-art VENICE will become even more powerful, fortifying its position as the go-to solution for cinematographers who want to create stunning imagery and capture emotion in every frame.”

Additionally, Version 4.0 of the VENICE firmware will introduce:

·       700 Protocol – A control protocol developed by Sony to connect VENICE to a remote-control unit (RM-B750 or RM-B170) and a RCP-1500 series remote control panel, giving filmmakers greater flexibility in bringing their visions to life. Further expanding on the camera’s existing remote-control capabilities, the VENICE now offers paint control, iris control, recording start/stop, clip control, and more. The upgraded remote-control function also adds new workflows to extend VENICE’s use in multi-camera and live production settings, such as live concerts and fashion shows.

·        Support for Cooke’s /i third generation metadata Technology, /i3 and ZEISS eXtended Data technology (based on Cooke /i Technology) – Extended lens metadata can now be embedded straight into a RAW/X-OCN/XAVC file and HD-SDI output without the need for additional metadata equipment. The new function allows distortion and shading caused by supported lenses to be easily rectified, significantly reducing post-production costs.

Further features include an extended Mask+Line setting in the Frame line set-up, selectable functions for the assignable buttons of the DVF-EL200 viewfinder and pure Progressive HD-SDI output in 25p and 29p.

Both the free upgrade to firmware Version 4.0 and the optional HFR licence will be available in June 2019.

To learn more about VENICE, please join Sony at BSC Expo 2019 in Battersea Evolution, Battersea, London at stand 545 or visit pro.sony/en_GB/products/digital-cinema-cameras/venice.

*Excluding 6K 3:2 50p/60p