Category Archives: PMW-F55

XAVC-I v ProResHQ, multi-generation test.

I often hear people saying that XAVC-I isn’t good enough or that you MUST use ProRes or some other codec. My own experience is that XAVC-I is actually a really good codec and recording to ProRes only ever makes the very tiniest (if any) difference to the finished production.

I’ve been using XAVC-I for over 8 years and it really worked very well for me. I’ve also tested and compared it against ProRes many times and I know the differences are very small, so I am always confident that when using XAVC-I that I will get a great result. But I decided to make this video to show just how close they are.

It was shot with a Sony FX6 using internal XAVC-I (class 300) on an SD card alongside an external recording using ProResHQ on a Shogun 7. I deliberately chose to use Cine EI and S-Log3 at the cameras high base ISO of 12,800 as noise will stress any codec that little bit harder and adding a LUT adds another layer of complexity that might show up any issues all  just to make the test that little bit tougher. The slightly higher noise level of the high base ISO also allows you to see how each codec handles noise more easily.

A sample clip of each codec was place in the timeline (DaVinci Resolve) and a caption added. This was then rendered out, ProRes HQ rendered using ProRes HQ and the XAVC-I files rendered to XAVC-I. So for most of the examples seen the XAVC-I files have been copied and re-encoded 5 times plus the encoding to the file uploaded to YouTube, plus YouTubes own encoding, a pretty tough test.

Because in most workflows I don’t believe many people will use XAVC-I in post production as an intermediate codec I also repeated the tests with the XAVC-I rendered to ProResHQ 5 times over as this is probably more representative of a typical real world workflow. These examples are shown at the end of the video. Of course the YouTube compression will restrict your ability to see some of the differences between the two codecs. But, this is how many people will be distributing their content. Even if not via YouTube, via other highly compressed means, so it’s not an unfair test and reflects many real world applications.

Where the s709 LUT has been added it was added AFTER each further copy of the clip, so this is really a “worst case scenario”. Overall in the end the ProRes HQ and XAVC-I are remarkably similar in performance. In the 300% blow up you can see differences between the XAVC-I that is 6 generations old compared to the 6th generation ProRes HQ if you look very carefully at the noise. But the differences are very, very hard to spot and going 6 generations of XAVC-I is not realistic. It was designed a s a camera codec. In the same test where the XAVC was rendered to ProRes HQ for each post production generation any difference is incredibly hard to find even when magnified 300%. I am not claiming that XAVC-I Class 300 is as good as ProRes HQ. But I think it is worth considering what you need when shooting. Do you really want to have to use an external recorder, do you really want to have to deal with files that are 3 to 4 times larger. Do you want to have to remember to switch recording methods between slow motion and normal speeds? For most productions I very much doubt that the end viewer would ever be able to tell the difference between material shot using XAVC-I class 300 and ProResHQ. And that audience certainly isn’t going to feel they are watching a substandard image, and that’s what counts. 

There is so much emphasis placed on using “better” codecs that I think some people are starting to believe that XAVC-I is unusable or going to limit what they can do. This isn’t the case. It is a pretty good codec and frankly if you can’t get a great looking image when using XAVC then a better codec is unlikely to change that.

FX6-FX9 XAVC Card Recording Times

How much can I fit on a SD card, CFExpress card, SxS or XQD card is a question that comes up regularly. So I have prepared a table of the typical record times for most of the different XAVC-I and XAVC-L codecs and frame rates . Originally drawn up for the FX6 this table applies equally to any other Sony camcorder that uses the same codecs, including the PXW-FX9, PMW-F5 and F55 as well as the FS7 and many others.
Do note that the times given are approximate and do not include proxies.  Not every frame rate and codec is included but you should be able to figure out the approximate record time for most cards, codecs and frame rates using this table.

CODEC/FRAME RATE 32GB 64GB 80GB 128GB 256GB
UHD/4K XAVC-I 24/25p  16 32 40 64 128
UHD/4K XAVC-I 30p  13 26 33 53 106
UHD/4K XAVC-I 50p  8 15 19 31 62

UHD/4K XAVC-I 60p

6 13 15 26 52
UHD XAVC-I 100fps  4 7 10 15 30
UHD XAVC-I 120fps 3 6 8 12 24
UHD XAVC-L 24/25/30p 39 79 96 158 315
UHD XAVC-L 50/60p  8bit 26 51 63 103 206
UHD XAVC-L 24/25/30p 100fps S&Q 8 bit 10 19 24 39 78
UHD XAVC-L 50/60p 120fps S&Q 8 bit 8 16 20 32 64
UHD XAVC-L 50/60p 100fps  S&Q 8 bit 15 30 37 61 122
UHD XAVC-L 50/60p S&Q 120fps  8 bit 13 25 31 51 102
HD CODEC/FRAME RATE 32GB 64GB 80GB 128GB 256GB
HD XAVC-I 24/25/30p 34 67 83 135 270
HD XAVC-I 50/60p 17 35 43 70 140
HD XAVC-I 100fps 10 21 26 42 84
HD XAVC-I 120fps 8 17 21 35 70
HD XAVC-I 240fps (lower quality) 4 8 10 17 35
HD XAVC-L50 24/25/30p 75 150 180 300 600
HD XAVC-L50 50/60p 72 144 175 288 576
HD XAVC-L50 24/25/30p S&Q 120fps 36 72 88 144 288
HD XAVC-L50 50/60p S&Q 240fps 18 36 44 72 124
HD XAVC-L30 24/25/30p 101 201 250 405 810
HD XAVC-L30 50/60p  96 193 237 387 774
HD XAVC-L30 120fps  48 96 118 193 387
HD XAVC-L30 240fps 24 48 59 96 193

New LUT – Chess

Here’s a new LUT for you, inspired by a the look of the Netfix show “the Queen’s Gambit. I’ve called the LUT “Chess”. It’s designed for use with S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine and I think it works really well with most Sony S-Log3 capable cameras including the FX6, FX9, FS7, FS5, F5 and F55 etc. As well as Sony’s video cameras it will also work with the A7SIII and other Sony Alpha cameras.

In the download you will find 2 LUTs. The 65x version is for post production and grading, the 33x version is for use as a camera LUT.  While I have aimed to replicate much of the look of the TV series it must be noted that grading is only a small part of the look. Set design, the colour of the sets and costume also play a significant roll.

s709-look-new_1.1.12-1024x576 New LUT - Chess
S-Log3 to s709 Standard look.
Chess-Look-new_1.1.11-1024x576 New LUT - Chess
S-Log3 to Chess Look LUT
s709-look-2_1.2.2-1024x576 New LUT - Chess
S-Log3 to s709
new-chess-look2_1.2.1-1024x576 New LUT - Chess
S-Log3 ro Chess look LUT

If you find this LUT useful please consider buying me a cocktail or other beverage. Thank you! It does take a while to develop these LUT’s and contributions are a good incentive for me to create more!


 

Your choice:


Click Here to Download the Chess LUT

 

You can use this LUT as a camera LUT or for grading. If you are using the Sony FX6 you can use this LUT in Custom Mode as a Base Look. For more information on how to do that please watch the video below.

 

Catalyst BRowse and catalyst Prepare Updated.

Timed to coincide with the release of the ILME-FX6 camcorder Sony have updated both Catalyst Browse and Catalyst Prepare. These new  and long awaited versions add support for the FX6’s rotation metadata and clip flag metadata as well as numerous bug fixes. It should be noted that for the correct operation that a GPU that supports OpenGL is required. Also while the new versions support MacOS Catalina there is no official support for Big Sur. Catalyst Browse is free while Catalyst Prepare is not free. Prepare can perform more complex batch processing of files, checksum and file verification, per-clip adjustments as well as other additional features.

For more information go to the Sony Creative Software website.

DIY Assignable Button Labels.

DSC_0191-3-1024x768 DIY Assignable Button Labels.
DIY labels for the assignable buttons on my FX9.

Maybe it’s just because I’m getting old,  but I do like to have a label to remind me of what I have assigned to the assignable buttons on my cameras. 

There are lot’s of ways you can make a label from a post-it-note to camera tape. But I recently got a new label printer from Dymo and with the right tape it will print white text on clear tape.  The printers are around $40 so they are not too expensive. If you’re anything like me once you get one you will find yourself labelling everything, so a worthwhile investment. 

DSC_0192-3-768x1024 DIY Assignable Button Labels.
Dymo labels for the assignable buttons on my PXW-FX9


For the labels on my FX9 I used the smallest “8” point text size and you will need to trim the labels down with a sharp pair of scissors. They need to be very small to fit in the gaps between the buttons. I found a pair of tweezers really helps to hold the label while you cut it and peel of the backing. Then you can use the tweezers to place your swanky new label exactly where you want it.

I think they look pretty good and are worth the effort. The printer I used is a Dymo Label Manager 160 and the tape is a Office Depot white on clear 12mm plastic tape. There are lots of colour choices if you don’t want clear tape. Looking at the pictures of the camera I now realise I should have taken a bit more time to get the labels straight! Fortunately you can peel them off without leaving any nasty residue or damaging the paint.

DSC_0198-3-1024x768 DIY Assignable Button Labels.
The dymo printer I used to knock up the labels.

Sony Introduces Cinema Line and teases the PXW-FX6

FX6_side_44062_02-Mid Sony Introduces Cinema Line and teases the PXW-FX6
Sony are teasing the PXW-FX6.

So there is no IBC show this year and instead Sony are doing various online sessions with the latest news as well as guides to some of the most recent products and firmware. 

Today’s news is of new branding for Sony most recent digital cinema cameras, Vence and the PXW-FX9. These cameras are now members of what Sony are calling “Cinema Line” and in addition there are pictures of a smaller camera not surprisingly called the FX6 that looks like – well – what you would expect an FS5 replacement to look like. 

In the past Sony’s digital cinematography cameras were denoted by their “Cinealta” badges. But to some extent this became somewhat confused as all sorts of cameras like the Sony EX1 and Venice were classed as Cinealta. So what exactly is the new Cinema Line?

To quote from the Sony Press Release:

“At Sony, we celebrate and have the deepest respect for filmmakers, cinematographers, and storytellers. With Cinema Line, we’re tapping into our DNA from both the film industry and digital imaging prosumer market and combining it to develop new creative tools. This line of products will enable creators to push their creative boundaries further and capture the emotion in each and every frame.” says Claus Pfeifer, Head of Connected Content Acquisition, Media Solutions, Sony Professional Europe.

So, I’m not really sure! My guess is it’s a set of products, not just cameras  aimed at what we now tend to call Cinematography rather than broadcast television or industrial video applications. Of course there is a huge amount of cross-over between all these different genres these days, so I’m sure the Cinema Line products will be used all over the place.

My main hope from this is a more unified look from any cameras in the Cinema Line. My big hope is that the FX6 will have S-Cinetone and that when you shoot S-Log3 with the FX6 that it will look like the S-log3 from the FX9 or Venice. This will make grading and post production easier where you mix and match cameras.

What about the FX6?

I don’t have any more solid information than you right now. We can expect it to be Full Frame, to shoot 10 bit 4:2:2 4K using S-Log3 and to probably have a raw output. As the FS5 is based on the A7S hardware with an F5 sensor it wouldn’t surprise me if the FX6 was based on the A7SIII hardware with the FX9 sensor perhaps. So it might have 4K at 120fps. From the pictures it appears to only have 2 channels of audio and the cover for the card slots (there must be 2 as there is a slot select switch) doesn’t look big enough for two XQD or CF Express Type B, so I would guess that like the A7SIII it’s SD cards or perhaps CF Express Type A.  Another thing I notice in the pictures is a lack of an AF/MF focus switch and in particular no menu navigation controls, so I will guess the LCD is a touch screen and it will rely on this for a lot of function control and menu navigation. But this is just speculation, so don’t hold me to any of it!!!

Don’t Upgrade FCP-X or OSX!

UPDATE 29th Sept 2020.
The issues have now been resolved so it is now safe to update.


27th Aug 2020
If you are a mac user and especially of you use it to edit footage from a Sony camera I recommend that you do not upgrade the operating system to OSX 10.15.6, Pro Video Codecs to 2.1.2 or upgrade FCP-X to version 10.4.9 at this time.

At the moment there is clearly an issue with footage from the FX9 after these updates. It is not clear whether this is due to the new Pro Video Codecs package 2.1.2  that is comes as part of the update to OSX 10.15.6 or whether it is just related to the FCP-X 10.4.9 update. Some users are reporting that some FX9 MXF files can not be previewed in Finder after updating as well as not being visible in FCP-X.

While so far it I have only seen reports that footage from the FX9 is affected, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Venice material is also affected.

I would suggest waiting for a few weeks after the release of any update before updating and never do an update half way through an important project.

UPDATE: Sony know about the issue and are working with Apple to resolve it. It only seems to affect some FX9 footage and possibly some Venice footage. It appears as the culprit is the Pro Video Codecs update, but this is yet to be confirmed. I would still suggest waiting before upgrading  even if you are using a different camera.

Don’t Panic! The A7S III didn’t just make your big pro camera obsolete.

Screenshot-2020-07-31-at-10.07.40 Don't Panic! The A7S III didn't just make your big pro camera obsolete.
Sony’s new A7S III video centric mirrorless camera.

So Sony have just launched the A7S III. And very impressive it is. Amazing low light performance, great dynamic range and lots of nice 10 bit codecs. You can even get a 16 bit raw output if you want. I can’t wait to get one. But I really don’t see the A7S III as a threat to or replacement of my FX9 or any other 4K professional video camera.

All the same discussions took place when the original A7S was launched. Sony F5 owners looked at the A7S and said – heck how can that little camera shoot full frame 4K while my camera can’t even shoot s35 4K. Why can the A7S have AF when my F3/F5 doesn’t. How can a camera that produces such beautiful images only cost 1/5th of what my F5 costs. But here we are 6 years on and the A7S and A7S II didn’t replace any of the bigger cameras and when the FS5 was launched people snapped up the FS5, often to replace an A7.

Why? Ergonomics.
 
I don’t ever want to go back to having to carry and use a big box of different ND filters for different light levels. I find the small LCD screen on the back of a DSLR to be of very limited use and while the A7S III does have a very good EVF it’s placement makes it hard to use it on a tripod or in anything other than a simple hand hold with the camera up against your face.
If you want to shoot log then you really want built in LUTs. There are the battery and power questions. How do you power the camera and accessories without needing two or more power systems or a rig to take a big external battery and a bunch of adapters? Then there’s having buttons and switches for all the frequently accessed functions. I could go on but you only have to look at the many franken-rigs that end up built around DSLR type cameras just to make them usable to see the problems. Almost always the first purchase to go with a DSLR is a cage. Why do you need a cage? Because you know your going to have to bolt a ton of stuff to that once small, portable camera to turn it into a professional video making tool.

 

Sure, I will almost certainly get an A7S III and it will be a great camera to compliment my FX9. And yes, there may even be some projects where I only take the A7S III, just as there have been shoots where I have used just my A7S. But it won’t ever replace my FX9, they are two very different tools, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

 

The image quality gap between traditional large professional video cameras and handheld stills type cameras will continue to get smaller and smaller as electronics continue to be further miniaturised, that is inevitable, but the cameras form factor will still be important.
 
The small cars of today often have all the same bells and whistles as a large luxury car of 10 years ago. Let’s say you’ve gone on vacation (remember those?) and it’s a road trip. You get to the car rental office and you have a choice between a large, spacious, stable, less stressed car or a small car that has to work a bit harder to get you to the same place. Both will get you there, but which do you choose? There might be some instances where the small car is preferrable, perhaps you will be in a lot of narrow city streets a lot. But for most road trips I suspect most people will opt for the big comfy cruiser most of the time.

For me the A7S III will be that nippy little car, a camera that I can pop in a pocket to grab beautiful images where I can’t use a bigger camera. But for my main workhorse I don’t want fiddly, I don’t want a ton of accessories hanging off it just to make it workable. I want the luxury cruiser that will just take it all in it’s stride and get on with the job and right now that’s my FX9.

Making Sony Log Cameras Behave Like Arri Cameras When Shooting Cine EI and S-Log3.

Arri have a little trick in their cameras when shooting log to ProRes that the Sony Log cameras don’t have. When you change the Exposure Index in an Arri camera they modify the position of the exposure mid point and the shape of the Log-C gamma curve. There is actually a different Log-C curve for each EI. When you take this into post it has the benefit that the brightness at each EI will appear similar. But as the curve changes for each EI a different LUT is needed for each exposure if you want something shot at say 800EI to look the same as something shot at 200EI.

With a Sony camera the same S-Log curve is used for each Exposure Index and the LUT brightness is changed so that you end up altering the mid point of the recording as well as the highlight and shadow range. In post each EI will appear to be a different brightness. You can use the same LUT for each EI provided you do an exposure correction prior to adding the LUT or you can use dedicated offset LUT’s for each exposure.

But what you need to remember is that you are always working within a restricted recording range with either system. You can’t go darker than the black recording level or brighter than the highest value the codec can record.

If you do it in camera, as Arri do and change the log curve, at a low EI you seriously constrict the recording range (at 200 EI peak only reaches around 78IRE). This happens because at a low EI you put more light on to the sensor. So to keep the mid range looking a normal brightness in post it must be recorded at at a level that is offset downwards compared to normal. So with all the levels now offset downwards to compensate for the brighter exposure you end up recording your entire capture range with a reduced or compressed recording range. In addition to avoid clipping the blacks at a low EI the shadows are rolled off so you lose some detail and textures in the shadows. You can see the different Log-C curves in this Arri White paper.

Most people choose a low EI for 2 reasons, better signal to noise ratio and improved shadow range. The Arri method gives you the better SNR but while the dynamic range is preserved it’s recorded using less data and in particular the shadow data decreases compared to shooting at the base ISO.

Shoot at a high EI, you put less light on to the sensor. So to maintain similar looking mids in post everything has to be recorded at a higher level. Now you have a problem because the highlights will extend beyond the upper limits of the recording range so  Arri have to add a highlight roll off at the top of the Log-C curve. This can present some grading challenges as the curve is now very different to regular Log-C. In addition the highlights are compressed.

Most people choose to shoot at a high EI to extend the highlight range or to work in lower light levels.

The latter is a bit of a pointless exercise with any log camera as the camera sensitivity isn’t actually any different, you are only fooling yourself into thinking it’s is more sensitive and this can result in noisy footage. If you using a high EI to extend the highlight range then really the last thing you want is the extra highlight roll off that Arri have to add at 3200 EI to fit everything in.

One thing here in Arri’s favour is that they can record 12 bit ProRes 444. 12 bits helps mitigate the compressed recording range of low EI’s provided the post workflow is managed correctly.

The beauty of the Sony method is the recording range never changes, so low EI’s and brighter recordings deliver better shadow ranges with more data in the shadows and mids and high EI’s with darker recordings deliver better highlight ranges with no additional data restrictions or additional roll-offs giving the cinematographer more control to choose the exposure mid point without compromise to the data at either end.

But it does mean that post need to be awake and that the shooter needs to communicate with post regarding the brighter/darker looking images. But to be honest if post don’t understand this and recognise what you have done either buy just looking at the footage or checking the metadata what chance is there of post actually doing a decent job of grading your content? This should be fundamental and basic stuff for a colourist/grader. For a colourist/grader to not understand this and how to work with this is like hiring a camera operator that doesn’t know what an ND filter is.

The Sony FS7/FX9/F5/F55/Venice cameras can do something similar to an Arri camera by baking in the S-Log3 LUT. Then in post the exposure will look the same at every EI. BUT you will lose some highlight range at a low EI’s and some shadow range at a high EI’s without gaining any extra range at the opposite end. As a result the total dynamic range does  reduce as you move away from the base ISO.

In addition on the Venice, FS7/F5/F55 (and I suspect in a future update the FX9) you can bake in a user LUT to the SxS recordings. If you  create a set of S-Log3 to S-Log3 LUT’s with EI offsets included in the LUT you could replicate what Arri do by having an offset and tweaked S-Log3 User LUT for each EI that you want to shoot at. You would not use the cameras EI control you would leave the camera st the base ISO. The LUT’s themselves will include the exposure offset. These will maintain the full dynamic range but just like Arri they will  need to roll off the shadows or highlights within the LUT.

But monitoring will be tricky as you won’t have the benefit of a 709 type LUT for monitoring so you you may need to use an external monitor or viewfinder that can apply a LUT to it’s image. The good news is the same LUT would be used in the monitor for every version on the offset S-Log3 LUT that you are baking in as the exposure brightness levels will be the same for each offset.

So here you are a set of 4 S-Log3/S-Gamut3.cine offset LUT’s for those Sony cameras that will take a user LUT. I have named the LUT’s – 2S Down SL3C, 1S Down SL3C,  1S UP SL3C, 2S UP SL3C.

The name means (Number of Stops) (Down or Up) (Slog3.Cine).

So if the cameras base ISO is 2000 (F5/FS7 etc) and you want to shoot at the equivalent of 1000EI, which is 1 stop down from base you would use “1S Down SL3C”.

As always (to date at least) I offer these as a free download available by clicking on the links below.  But I always appreciate a contribution if you find them useful and make use of them. I will let you pay what you feel is fair, all contributions are greatly appreciated and it really does help keep this website up and running. If you can’t afford to pay, then just download the LUT’s and enjoy using them. If in the future you should choose to use them on a paying project, please remember where you got them and come back and make a contribution. More contributions means more LUT offerings in the future.

Please feel free to share a link to this page if you wish to share these LUT’s with anyone else or anywhere else. But it’s not OK to to share or host these on other web sites etc.

Here’s the link to download my offset S-Log3 Camera LUTs

To make a contribution please use the drop down menu here, there are several contribution levels to choose from.


Your choice:



pixel Making Sony Log Cameras Behave Like Arri Cameras When Shooting Cine EI and S-Log3.

S709 LUT (Venice Look) And 709(800) For LEGAL RANGE PRORES S-Log3 On Atomos and other Recorders.

As noted in my previous post there can be some issues with the way ProRes is recorded on many external monitors as a legal range files rather than Data Range.

Another side effect of this is that LUT’s designed for post production as well as most camera LUT’s don’t work correctly in the monitor. So even when you apply the same LUT in the camera as in the monitor the images look different.

To address this I am providing here 2 sets of LUTs for S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine designed to match the built in s709 and 709(800) Luts included in many Sony cameras. These LUTs are specifically for external recorders and should not be used in camera. When you use these LUT’s the pictures on the monitor should now match the the images in the cameras viewfinder when the built in  LUT has been applied.

You will find 3 LUTs of each type. One for the base exposure, one for footage exposed 1 stop brighter (minus1) and one for footage exposed 2 stops brighter than base (minus2).

As always (to date at least) I offer these as a free download available by clicking on the links below. Try them before you decide then pay what you feel is fair. All contributions are greatly appreciated and it really does help keep this website up and running. If you can’t afford to pay, then just download the LUT’s and enjoy using them, tell your friends and send them here. If in the future you should choose to use them on a paying project, please remember where you got them and come back and make a contribution. More contributions means more LUT offerings in the future.

Click Here to download the 709(800) and S709 Legal In LUTS for external recorders.

If you want to share the LUT’s please do so by a link to this page. You may not sell or distribute these LUTs anywhere without my prior consent.

To make a contribution please use the drop down menu here, there are several contribution levels to choose from.


Your choice:



pixel S709 LUT (Venice Look) And 709(800) For LEGAL RANGE PRORES S-Log3 On Atomos and other Recorders.