Category Archives: cameras

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.

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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.

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

Do the images from my Sony camera have to look the way they do?

— And why do Sony cameras look the way they do?

It all about the color science.

“Color Science” is one of those currently in fashion phrases that gets thrown around all over the place today. First of all – what the heck is color science anyway? Simply put it’s how the camera sees the colors in a scene, mixes them together, records them – and then how your editing or grading software interprets what is in the recording and finally how the TV or other display device turns the digital values it receives back into a color image. It’s a combination of optical filters such as the low pass filter, color filters, sensor properties, how the sensor is read out and how the signals are electronically processed both in the camera, by your edit/grading system and by the display device. It is no one single thing, and it’s important to understand that your edit process also contributes to the overall color science.

Color Science is something we have been doing since the very first color cameras, it’s not anything new. However us end users now have a much greater ability to modify that color science thanks to better post production tools and in camera adjustments such as picture profiles or scene files.

Recently, Sony cameras have sometimes been seen by some as having less advanced or poor color science compared to cameras from some other manufacturers. Is this really the case? For Sony part of the color science issue is that historically Sony have deliberately designed their newest cameras to match previous generations of cameras so that a large organisation with multiple cameras can use new cameras without having them look radically different to their old ones. It has always been like this and all the manufacturers do this, Panasonic cameras have a certain look as do Canon etc. New and old Panasonics tend to look the same as do old and new Canon’s, but the Canon’s look different to the Panasonics which look different to the Sony’s.

Sony have a very long heritage in broadcast TV and that’s how their cameras look out of the box, like Rec-709 TV cameras with colors that are similar to the tube cameras they were producing 20 years ago. Sony’s broadcast color science is really very accurate – point one at a test chart such as a Chroma DuMonde and you’ll see highly repeatable, consistent and accurate color reproduction with all the vectors on a vector scope falling exactly where they should, including the skin tone line.

On the one hand this is great if you are that big multi-camera business wanting to add new cameras to old ones without problems, where you want your latest ENG or self-shooters cameras to have the same colors as your perhaps older studio cameras so that any video inserts into a studio show cut in and out smoothly with a consistent look.

But on the other hand it’s not so good if you are a one man band shooter that wants something that looks different. Plus accurate is not always “pretty” and you can’t get away from the fact that the pictures look like Rec-709 television pictures in a new world of digital cinematography where TV is perhaps seen as bad and the holy grail is now a very different kind of look that is more stylised and much less true to life.

So Sony have been a bit stuck. The standard look you get when you apply any of the standard off-the shelf S-Log3 or S-Log2 LUT’s will by design be based on the Sony color science of old, so you get the Sony look. Most edit and grading applications are using transforms for S-Log2/3 based on Sony’s old standard Rec-709 look to maintain this consistency of look. This isn’t a mistake. It’s by design, it’s a Sony camera so it’s supposed to look like other Sony cameras, not different.

But for many this isn’t what they want. They want a camera that looks different, perhaps the “film look” – whatever that is?

Recently we have seen two new cameras from Sony that out of the box look very different from all the others. Sony’s high end Venice camera and the lower cost FS5 MKII. The FS5 MKII in particular proves that it’s possible to have a very different look with Sony’s existing colour filters and sensors. The FS5 MK II has exactly the same sensor with exactly the same electronics as the MK I. The only difference is in the way the RGB data from the sensor is being processed and mixed together (determined by the different firmware in the Mk1 and mk2) to create the final output.

The sensors Sony manufacture and use are very good at capturing color. Sony sensors are found in cameras from many different manufacturers. The recording systems in the Sony cameras do a fine job of recording those colors as data within the files the camera records as data with different code values representing what the sensor saw. Take that data into almost any half decent grading software and you can change the way it looks by modifying the data values. In post production I can turn almost any color I want into any other color. It’s really up to us as to how we translate the code values in the files into the colors we see on the screen, especially when recording using Log or raw. A 3D LUT can change tones and hues very easily by shifting and modifying the code values. So really there is no reason why you have to have the Sony 709 look.

My Venice emulation LUT’s will make S-Log3 from an FS5 or FS7 look quite different to the old Sony Broadcast look. I also have LUT’s for Sony cameras that emulate different Fuji and Kodak film stocks, apply one of these and it really looks nothing like a Sony broadcast camera. Another alternative is to use a color managed workflow such as ACES which will attempt to make just about every camera on the market look the same applying the ACES film style look and highlight roll-off.

We have seen it time and time again where Sony footage has been graded well and it then becomes all but impossible to identify what camera shot it. If you have Netflix take a look at “The Crown” shot on Sony’s F55 (which has the same default Sony look as the FS5 MK1, FS7 etc). Most people find it hard to believe the Crown was shot with a Sony because it has not even the slightest hint of the old Sony broadcast look.

If you use default settings, standard LUT’s etc it will look like a Sony, it’s supposed to! But you have the freedom to choose from a vast range of alternative looks or better still create your own looks and styles with your own grading choices.

But for many this can prove tricky as often they will start with a standard Sony LUT or standard Sony transform. So the image they start with has the old Sony look. When you start to grade or adjust this it can sometimes look wrong because you have perhaps become used to the original Sony image and then anything else just doesn’t seem right, because it’s not what you are used to. In addition if you add a LUT and then grade, elements of the LUT’s look may be hard to remove, things like the highlight roll off will be hard baked into the material, so you need to do need to think carefully about how you use LUT’s. So try to break away from standard LUT’s. Try ACES or try some other starting point for your grade.

Going forward I think it is likely that we will see the new Venice look become standard across all of the Cinema style cameras from Sony, but it will take time for this to trickle down into all the grading and editing software that currently uses transforms for s-Log2/3 that are based on the old Sony Rec-709 broadcast look. But if you grade your footage for yourself you can create just about any look you want.

Out and about with the PXW-Z280.

DSC_0037-1024x576 Out and about with the PXW-Z280.
Sony’s 4K PXW-Z280 handycam.

I have recently returned from a trip around Canada. While I was there I spent some more time shooting with Sony’s new PXW-Z280 handycam camcorder. This neat little camera continues to surprise me. I used a pre-production sample to shoot parts of an airshow in the summer and it worked really well. It was so easy to use, I had forgotten how much quicker it is to work with a camera with a 17x zoom lens compared to a large sensor camera with a very limited zoom range or prime lenses.

The Z280 uses 3x state of the art EMOR Stacked multi layer sensors. Each is full 4K, so you have full RGB 4K, unlike a single chip camera where the chroma resolution is much reduced by the bayer layout of the pixels. The 3 chip, full resolution design also means no aliasing in the color channels as is often typical of single chip designs.

The color splitting prism is more efficient than the absorption color filters on a single chip design, so more light gets to the pixels. The multi layer sensors have very good on-sensor processing so even though the pixels are rather small you get good sensitivity, low noise and good DR. The Z280 is approx  650-700 ISO with the base gammas so very close to an FS7 with it’s standard gammas and the colors match an FS7  extremely well. The picture look really nice.

DSC_0046-1024x576 Out and about with the PXW-Z280.
3x 4K sensors, 17x zoom and variable ND filter is a great combination on the PXW-Z280

From the testing I have done in the cameras dedicated HDR mode, where you can choose between HLG and S-Log3, with S-Log3 the DR of the Z280 appears to be around 13 stops, which is really quite remarkable for this type of camcorder. The sensor readout is very fast so rolling shutter is minimal.

When you factor in the Z280’s f1.9 lens, compared to an FS7 with the Sony F4 zoom or many other zooms that are typically around F4 the Z280 with it’s f1.9 lens does better in low light and offers similar DoF when both are wide open. Of course you can change the lens on an FS7 and use a faster lens, but then you won’t have anywhere near the zoom range of the Z280.
 

Like any small compact camera, it isn’t 100% perfect. Overall the lens is pretty good for a low cost 4K zoom, but like many 17x zooms it does have a touch of barrel distortion when fully wide. As well as the LCD It has an excellent OLED viewfinder that is much, much better than those typically found on Sony’s smaller cameras. It has Timecode in/out and genlock, all the XAVC-I and L codecs as well as MpegHD. There is a full suite of wifi, LAN and network functions for streaming, ftp and remote control as well as the ability to offload files from the cards to a USB drive or memory stick without a computer. It’s a modern camera designed for the modern news or documentary shooter and a big step up in terms of image quality from the PXW-X200 IMHO.

A full review and sample video will be coming in the very near future with lot’s more information.

ProRes Raw Webinar – How to use ProRes Raw with the FS5 and FS7

Last week I presented a Webinar in conjunction with Visual Impact on how to shoot ProRes Raw with Sony’s FS5 and FS7. The Webinar was recorded, so if you missed it you can now watch it online. It’s almost 2 hours long and contains what I hope is a lot of useful information including what you need, exposure and how to get the footage in to FCP-X. I tried to structure the FCP-X part presentation in such a way that those that don’t normally use FCP-X (like me) will be able to get started quickly and understand what is going on under the hood.

Since the webinar it has been brought to my attention by Felipe Baez (thanks Felipe) that it is possible to add a LUT after the color panel and grading tools by adding the “custom LUT” effect to your clip. To do this you will set the raw input conversion to S-log3. Then add your color correction, then add the Custom LUT effect.

A big thank you to Visual Impact for making this possible, do check them out!

Here is the link to the video of the webinar:

 

PXW-FS5 II Secret Sauce and Venice Colour Science.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sony Venice. Dual ISO’s, 1 stop ND’s and Grading via Metadata.

With the first of the production Venice cameras now starting to find their way to some very lucky owners it’s time to take a look at some features that are not always well understood, or that perhaps no one has told you about yet.

Dual Native ISO’s: What does this mean?

An electronic camera uses a piece of silicon to convert photons of light into electrons of electricity. The efficiency at doing this is determined by the material used. Then the amount of light that can be captured and thus the sensitivity is determined by the size of the pixels. So, unless you physically change the sensor for one with different sized pixels (which will in the future be possible with Venice) you can’t change the true sensitivity of the camera. All you can do is adjust the electronic parameters.

With most video cameras the ISO is changed by increasing the amount of amplification applied to the signal coming off the sensor. Adding more gain or increasing the amplification will result in a brighter picture. But if you add more amplification/gain then the noise from the sensor is also amplified by the same amount. Make the picture twice as bright and normally the noise doubles.

In addition there is normally an optimum amount of gain where the full range of the signal coming from the sensor will be matched perfectly with the full recording range of the chosen gamma curve. This optimum gain level is what we normally call the “Native ISO”. If you add too much gain the brightest signal from the sensor would be amplified too much and exceed the recording range of the gamma curve. Apply too little gain and your recordings will never reach the optimum level and darker parts of the image may be too dark to be seen.

As a result the Native ISO is where you have the best match of sensor output to gain. Not too much, not too little and hopefully low noise. This is typically also referred to as 0dB gain in an electronic camera and normally there is only 1 gain level where this perfect harmony between sensor, gain and recording range is achieved, this becoming the native ISO.

Side Note: On an electronic camera ISO is an exposure rating, not a sensitivity measurement. Enter the cameras ISO rating into a light meter and you will get the correct exposure. But it doesn’t really tell you how sensitive the camera is as ISO has no allowance for increasing noise levels which will limit the darkest thing a camera can see.

Tweaking the sensor.

However, there are some things we can tweak on the sensor that effect how big the signal coming from the sensor is. The sensors pixels are analog devices. A photon of electricity hits the silicone photo receptor (pixel) and it gets converted into an electron of electricity which is then stored within the structure of the pixel as an analog signal until the pixel is read out by a circuit that converts the analog signal to a digital one, at the same time adding a degree of noise reduction. It’s possible to shift the range that the A to D converter operates over and the amount of noise reduction applied to obtain a different readout range from the sensor. By doing this (and/or other similar techniques, Venice may use some other method) it’s possible to produce a single sensor with more than one native ISO.

A camera with dual ISO’s will have two different operating ranges. One tuned for higher light levels and one tuned for lower light levels. Venice will have two exposure ratings: 500 ISO for brighter scenes and 2500 ISO for shooting when you have less light. With a conventional camera, to go from 500 ISO to 2500 ISO you would need to add just over 12dB of gain and this would increase the noise by a factor of more than 4. However with Venice and it’s dual ISO’s, as we are not adding gain but instead altering the way the sensor is operating the noise difference between 500 ISO and 2500 ISO will be very small.

You will have the same dynamic range at both ISO’s. But you can choose whether to shoot at 500 ISO for super clean images at a sensitivity not that dissimilar to traditional film stocks. This low ISO makes it easy to run lenses at wide apertures for the greatest control over the depth of field. Or you can choose to shoot at the equivalent of 2500 ISO without incurring a big noise penalty.

One of Venice’s key features is that it’s designed to work with Anamorphic lenses. Often Anamorphic lenses are typically not as fast as their spherical counterparts. Furthermore some Anamorphic lenses (particularly vintage lenses) need to be stopped down a little to prevent excessive softness at the edges. So having a second higher ISO rating will make it easier to work with slower lenses or in lower light ranges.

COMBINING DUAL ISO WITH 1 STOP ND’s.

Next it’s worth thinking about how you might want to use the cameras ND filters. Film cameras don’t have built in ND filters. An Arri Alexa does not have built in ND’s. So most cinematographers will work on the basis of a cinema camera having a single recording sensitivity.

The ND filters in Venice provide uniform, full spectrum light attenuation. Sony are incredibly fussy over the materials they use for their ND filters and you can be sure that the filters in Venice do not degrade the image. I was present for the pre-shoot tests for the European demo film and a lot of time was spent testing them. We couldn’t find any issues. If you introduce 1 stop of ND, the camera becomes 1 stop less sensitive to light.  In practice this is no different to having a camera with a sensor 1 stop less sensitive. So the built in ND filters, can if you choose, be used to modify the base sensitivity of the camera in 1 stop increments, up to 8 stops lower.

So with the dual ISO’s and the ND’s combined you have a camera that you can setup to operate at the equivalent of 2 ISO all the way up to 2500 ISO in 1 stop steps (by using 2500 ISO and 500 together you can have approximately half stops steps between 10 ISO and 650 ISO). That’s an impressive range and at no stage are you adding extra gain. There is no other camera on the market that can do this.

On top of all this we do of course still have the ability to alter the Exposure Index of the cameras LUT’s to offset the exposure to move the exposure mid point up and down within the dynamic range. Talking of LUT’s I hope to have some very interesting news about the LUT’s for Venice. I’ve seen a glimpse of the future and I have to say it looks really good!

METADATA GRADING.

The raw and X-OCN material from a Venice camera (and from a PMW-F55 or F5 with the R7 recorder) contains a lot of dynamic metadata. This metadata tells the decoder in your grading software exactly how to handle the linear sensor data stored in the files. It tells your software where in the recorded data range the shadows start and finish, where the mid range sits and where the highlights start and finish. It also informs the software how to decode the colors you have recorded.

I recently spent some time with Sony Europe’s color grading guru Pablo Garcia at the Digital Motion Picture Center in Pinewood. He showed me how you can manipulate this metadata to alter the way the X-OCN is decoded to change the look of the images you bring into the grading suite. Using a beta version of Black Magic’s DaVinci Resolve software, Pablo was able to go into the clips metadata in real time and simply by scrubbing over the metadata settings adjust the shadows, mids and highlights BEFORE the X-OCN was decoded. It was really incredible to see the amount of data that Venice captures in the highlights and shadows. By adjusting the metadata you are tailoring the the way the file is being decoded to suit your own needs and getting the very best video information for the grade. Need more highlight data – you got it. Want to boost the shadows, you can, at the file data level before it’s converted to a traditional video signal.

It’s impressive stuff as you are manipulating the way the 16 bit linear sensor data is decoded rather than a traditional workflow which is to decode the footage to a generic intermediate file and then adjust that. This is just one of the many features that X-OCN from the Sony Venice offers. It’s even more incredible when you consider that a 16 bit linear  X-OCN LT file is similar in size to 10 bit XAVC-I(class 480) and around half the size of Apples 10 bit ProRes HQ.  X-OCN LT looks fantastic and in my opinion grades better than XAVC S-Log. Of course for a high end production you will probably use the regular X-OCN ST codec rather than the LT version, but ST is still smaller than ProRes HQ. What’s more X-OCN is not particularly processor intensive, it’s certainly much easier to work with X-OCN than cDNG. It’s a truly remarkable technology from Sony.

Next week I will be shooting some more test with a Venice camera as we explore the limits of what it can do. I’ll try and get some files for you to play with.