Category Archives: PXW-FS5

ProRes Raw Over Exposure Magic Tricks – It’s all smoke and mirrors!

There are a lot of videos circulating on the web right now showing what appears to be some kind of magic trick where someone has shot over exposed, recorded the over exposed images using ProRes Raw and then as if by magic made some adjustments to the footage and it goes from being almost nothing but a white out of over exposure to a perfectly exposed image.

This isn’t magic, this isn’t raw suddenly giving you more over exposure range than you have with log, this is nothing more than a quirk of the way FCP-X handles ProRes Raw material.

Before going any further – this isn’t a put-down of raw or ProRes raw. It’s really great to be able to take raw sensor data and record that with only minimal processing. There are a lot of benefits to shooting with raw (see my earlier post showing all the extra data that 12 bit raw can give). But a magic ability to let you over expose by seemingly crazy amounts isn’t something raw does any better than log.

Currently to work with ProRes Raw you have to go through FCP-X. FCP-X applies a default sequence of transforms to the Raw footage to get it from raw data to a viewable image. These all expect the footage to be exposed exactly as per the camera manufacturers recommendations, with no leeway. Inside FCP-X it’s either exposed exactly right, or it isn’t.

The default decode settings include a heavy highlight roll-off. Apple call it “Tone Mapping”. Fancy words used to make it sound special but it’s really no different to a LUT or the transforms and processes that take place in other raw decoders. Like a LUT it maps very specific values in the raw data  to very specific output brightness values. So if you shoot just a bit bright – as you would often do with log to improve the signal to noise ratio – The ProRes raw appears to be heavily over exposed. This is because anything bright ends up crushed into nothing but flat white by the default highlight roll off that is applied by default.

In reality the material is probably only marginally over exposed, maybe just one to 2 stops which is something we have become used to doing with log. When you view brightly exposed log, the log itself doesn’t look over exposed, but if you apply a narrow high contrast 709 LUT to it, it then the footage looks over exposed until you grade it or add an exposure compensated LUT.  This is what is happening by default inside FCP-X, a transform is being applied that makes brightly exposed footage look very bright and possibly over exposed – because thats the way it was shot!

This is why in FCP-X  it is typical to change the color library to WCG (Wide Color Gamut) as this changes the way FCP-X processes the raw, changing the Tone Mapping and most importantly getting rid of the highlight roll off. With no roll-off, highlights and any even slight over exposure will still blow out as you can’t show 14 stops on a conventional 6 stop TV or monitor. Anything beyond the first 6 stops will be lost, the image will look over exposed until you grade or adjust the material to control the brighter parts of the image and bring them back into a viewable range. When you are in WCG mode in FCP-X the there is no longer a highlight roll off crushing the highlights and now because they are not crushed they can be recovered, but there isn’t any more highlight range than you would have if you shot with log on the same camera!

None of this is some kind of Raw over exposure magic trick as is often portrayed. It’s simply not really understanding how the workflow works and appreciating that if you shoot bright – well it’s going to look bright – until you normalise it in post. We do this all the time with log via LUT’s and grading too! It can be a little more straight forward to recover highlights from Linear Raw footage as comes form an FS5 or FS7 compared to log. That’s because of the way log maintains a constant data level in each highlight stop and often normal grading and colour correction tools don’t deal with this correctly. The highlight range is there, but it can be tricky to normalise the log without log grading tools such as the log controls in DaVinci Resolve.

Another problem is the common use of LUT’s on log footage. The vast majority of LUT’s add a highlight roll off, if you try to grade the highlights after adding a LUT with a highlight roll off it’s going to be next to impossible to recover the highlights. You must do the highlight recovery before the LUT is added or use a LUT that has compensation for any over exposure. All of these things can give the impression that log has less highlight range than the raw from the same camera. This is not normally the case, both will be the same as it’s the sensor that limits the range.

The difference in the highlight behaviour is in the workflows and very often both log and raw workflows are miss-understood. This can lead to owners and users of these cameras thinking that one process has more than the other, when in reality there is no difference, it’s appears to be different because the workflow works in a different way.

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Why I Choose To Shoot ProRes Raw with the FS5

This is a much discussed topic right now, so as I promised in my last article about this, I have put together a video. Unfortunately YouTube’s compression masks many of the differences between the UHD XAVC and the ProRes Raw, but you can still see them, especially on the waveform scopes.

To really appreciate the difference you should watch the video on a large screen at at high quality, preferably 4K.

New Venice Look LUT’s Version 3. Includes minus green LUTs. For FS5, FS7, F55, A7S, A7R.

I released my first version of the Venice Look LUT’s a few weeks ago and they have been a big hit. Overall most people seem to like them and get some great results. I’ve seen quite a few good looking videos produced using them.

I have received some feedback though that some people feel that the LUT’s may be crushing the blacks a bit too much for them, personally I think the deep shadows gives quite a film like look. However in response to that feedback I created an additional LUT set that keeps the blacks slightly higher. This can make grading a little easier, especially in FCP-X. You will find these new version 3 LUT’s here in the packages below – but please read on…..

While I was at it I also created another set of LUTs with a minus green offset. The idea behind these was that they can be used for material shot under lights with a green tint such as many LED or fluorescent light fixtures. Playing with these “-G1” LUT’s I have decided that I really like the slightly warmer and even less “Sony” look that these versions of the LUT’s give when shooting under “normal” lighting. So do please give them a try for a warmer look for skin tones both with LED/Fluorescent lighting and also with full spectrum lighting such as tungsten and sunlight.

Taking that a step further I have also included an even stronger minus green offset in a further -G2 set of LUT’s. So between the 3 sets of LUT’s offered in this download you should be able to find a set for most types of lighting with a variety of skin tone renditions.

Included in the LUT sets are LUTs for grading (with exposure offsets), LUT’s for Small HD monitors and the Zacuto Gratical. The grading LUT’s can also be used in other monitors and devices such as the Atomos recorder/monitors.

As always (to date at least) I offer these as a free download available by clicking on the links below. However a lot of work goes into creating and hosting these. I feel that this LUT set is worth $25.00 and would really appreciate that being paid if you find the LUT’s useful. But 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. I’m currently working on a couple of different film stock emulations based combined with the Venice look highlight rendition.

Please feel free to share a link to this page if you wish to share these LUT’s with anyone else or anywhere else.

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


Your choice:



pixel New Venice Look LUT's Version 3. Includes minus green LUTs. For FS5, FS7, F55, A7S, A7R.

There are two different LUT sets. One set is for S-Log3 and S-Gamut3.cine. The other set is for S-Log2 and SGamut. Please only download what you need to save my bandwidth!

Typically if you are shooting with 8 bit, for example with an FS5 in UHD or an A7S, A7R etc, then I recommend you use S-Log2 with SGamut. For most other cameras that have 10 bit recording then I recommend S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine.

Here are the links to my Venice Look Version 3 LUT’s. Including the minus green offset LUTs. Make sure you choose the right version and once you have downloaded them please read the README file included within the package.

Alister V-Look V3 LUT’s S-Log2/SGamut

Alister V-Look V3 LUT’s S-Log3/SGamut3.cine

I got a request for a set of Rec-709 Venice Look LUT’s – So here they are. I’m not expecting miracles from these, you will be starting with a much reduced dynamic range by shooting with Rec-709, but try them if you wish. I make no promises as to how well they will or will not work!

Alister Venice Look for Rec709

 

 

PXW-FS5 Screen Protector updated images.

Here are some updated pictures of the screen protector for the FS5 that I sell via Shapeways. It’s not an exciting product, it’s just a clip on plastic cover that protects the LCD panel from damage when you are not using the camera. I travel a lot with my camera and the unprotected LCD screen is very vulnerable and could easily get scratched or worse still smashed. Arriving for a shoot and finding the FS5’s LCD screen smashed would be a disaster!

If you want one for yourself you can order them through my Shapeways store: https://www.shapeways.com/shops/alisterchapman

AJC05188 PXW-FS5 Screen Protector updated images.
PXW-FS5 screen protector front view.
AJC05190 PXW-FS5 Screen Protector updated images.
PXW-FS5 screen protection cover clipped on to the LCD screen.
AJC05192 PXW-FS5 Screen Protector updated images.
PXW-FS5 clip on screen saver attached to the LCD.

What are the benefits of ProRes Raw with the PXW-FS5?

There has been a lot of discussion recently and few videos posted that perhaps give the impression that if you shoot with S-Log2 on an FS5 and compare it to raw shot on the FS5 there is very little difference.

Many of the points raised in the videos are correct. ProRes raw won’t give you any more dynamic range. It won’t improve the cameras low light performance. There are features such as automatic lens aberration correction applied when shooting internally which isn’t applied when shooting raw.  Plus it’s true that shooting ProRes raw requires an external recorder that makes the diminutive little FS5 much more bulky.

So why in that case shoot ProRes Raw?

Frankly, if all you are doing is producing videos that will be compressed to within an inch of their life for YouTube, S-Log2 can do an excellent job when exposed well, it can be graded and can produce a nice image.

But if you are trying to produce the highest quality images possible then well shot ProRes raw will give you more data to work with in post production with fewer compression artefacts than the internal 8 bit UHD XAVC.

I was looking at some shots that I did in preparation for my recent webinar on ProRes raw earlier today and at first glance there isn’t perhaps much difference between the UHD 8 bit XAVC S-Log2 files and the ProRes raw files that were shot within seconds of each other. But look more closely and there are some important differences, especially if skin tones are important too you.

Skin tones sit half way between middle grey and white and typically span around 2 to 3 stops. So with S-Log 2 and an 8 bit recording a face would span around 24 to 34 IRE and have a somewhere between 24 and 35 code values – Yes, that’s right, maybe as few as 24 shades in each of the R, G and B channels. If you apply a basic LUT to this and then view it on a typical 8 bit monitor it will probably look OK.

But compare that to 12 bit linear raw recording and the same face with 2 to 3 stops across it will have anywhere up to 10 to 20 times as many code values ( somewhere around 250 – 500 code values depending on exactly how it’s exposed) . Apply the same LUT as for the S-Log2 and on the surface it looks pretty much the same – or does it?

Look closely and you will see more texture in the 12 bit raw. If you are lucky enough to have a 10 bit monitor the differences are even more apparent. Sure, it isn’t an in-your-face night and day difference but the 12 bit skin tones look less like plastic and much more real, they just look nicer, especially if it’s someone with a good complexion.

In addition looking at my test material I am also seeing some mpeg compression artefacts on the skin tones in the 8 bit XAVC that has a smoothing effect on the skin tones, reducing some of the subtle textures and adding to the slightly un-real, video look.

The other deal with a lack of code values and H624 compression  is banding. Take 8 bit S-Log2 and start boosting the contrast in a sky scene, perhaps to bring out some cloud details and you will start to see banding and stair stepping if you are not very careful. You will also see it across wall and other textureless surfaces. You can even see this on your grading suite waveform scopes in many cases. You won’t get this with well exposed 12 bit linear raw (for any normal grading at least).

None of these are huge deals perhaps. But what is it that makes a great picture? Take Sony’s Venice or the Arri Alexa as examples. We know these to be great cameras that produce excellent images. But what is it that makes the images so good? The short answer is that it is a combination of a wide range of factors, each done as well as is possible. Good DR, good colour, good skin tones etc. So what you want to record is whatever the sensor in your camera can deliver as well as you can. 8 bit UHD compressed to only 100Mb/s is not really that great. 12 bit raw will give you more textures in the mid range and highlights. It does have some limitations in the shadows, but that is easily overcome with a nice bright exposure and printing down in post.

And it’s not just about image quality.

Don’t forget that ProRes Raw makes shooting at 4K DCI possible. If you hope to ever release your work for cinema display, perhaps on the festival circuit, you are going to be much better off shooting in the cinema DCI 4K standard rather than the UHD TV standard. It also allows you to shoot 60fps in 4K (I’m in the middle of a very big 4K 60p project right now). Want to shoot even faster – well with ProRes Raw you can, you can shoot at up to 120fps in 4K. So there are many other benefits to the raw option on the FS5 and recording to ProRes raw on a Shogun Inferno.

There is also the acceptability of 8 bit UHD. No broadcaster that I know of will ever consider 8 bit UHD unless there is absolutely no other way to get the material. You are far more likely to be able to get them to accept 12 bit raw.

Future proofing is another consideration. I am sure that ProRes raw decoders will improve and support in other applications will eventually come. By going back to your raw sensor data with better software you may be able to gain better image quality from your footage in the future. With Log you are already somewhat limited as the bulk of the image processing has already been done and is baked into the footage.

It’s late on Friday afternoon here in the UK and I’ve promised to spend some time with the family this evening. So no videos today. But next week I’ll post some of the examples I’ve been looking at so that you can see where ProRes raw elevates the image quality possible from the FS5.

Using an FS5 to shoot in low light – what can I do?

The PXW-FS5 is a pretty good camera overall. Compared to cameras from 6 or 7 years ago it’s actually pretty sensitive. The exposure rating of 800 ISO for the standard rec-709 picture profile tells us that it is a little more than twice as sensitive as most old school shoulder cams. But it also suggests that it is only around half as sensitive as the king of low light, the Sony A7S. The A7S is so sensitive because it’s sensor is 1.5x bigger than the sensor in the FS5 and as a result the pixels in the A7S are almost twice the size, so are able to capture more light.

So what can you do if shooting in low light? 

The most important thing to do is to make the optical system as efficient as possible. You want to capture as much of the available light as you can and squeeze it down onto the FS5’s sensor. If you take a fast full frame lens and use it in conjunction with a Speed Booster type adapter you will end up with similar performance to using the same lens, without the speed booster on an A7S.

This is because the lens has a fixed light gathering capability. Use it on an A7S and all of the captured light is passed to all of those big pixels on the sensor. The light is split evenly across 4K’s worth of pixels.

Use it on an FS5 with a speedbooster and the same thing happens, all of the light is compressed down, which makes it brighter and all of this now brighter light falls on 4K’s worth of pixels. The smaller pixels are about half as sensitive, but now the light is twice as bright, so the end result is similar.

metabones_mb_spom_m43_bm3_speed_booster_ultra_0_71x_1259766-1024x1024 Using an FS5 to shoot in low light - what can I do?
A speedbooster adapter such as the Metabones makes a huge difference in low light. But you MUST use a full frame lens.

The biggest performance gains are to be had from using a very fast lens and then making sure all the light from the lens is used, none wasted. Anything slower than f2.8 will be a waste. If you are thinking of using the Sony f4 lens for very low light… well frankly you may as well not bother. The lens is THE most important factor in low light. When I go up to Norway to shoot the Aurora I use f1.4 and f1.8 lenses.

What about Picture Profiles?

The standard picture profile isn’t a bad choice for low light but you might want to look at using cinegamma 3. Although with a low light, low contrast scene none of the picture profiles will be significantly different from the others with the exception of PP2, PP7, PP8 or PP9. None of the profiles make the camera more sensitive, the sensitivity is governed by the sensor itself and all the profiles do is alter the way gain is distributed across the image.

PP2 will crush your shadows giving less to work with in post. The log curves in PP7,8,9 will roll off the darkest parts of the image, again giving you less in post. So I would probably avoid these.

For color I suggest using the Pro colour matrix. This works well for most situations and it will help limit the noise levels as it keeps the saturation fairly low keeping the noisy blue channel in check.

Gain or ISO?

I recommend you set the camera to gain rather than ISO as the ISO’s for each each gamma curve are different, so it can be difficult to understand how much gain is being added, especially if you are switching between gamma curves. Use gain and you will have a good idea of the noise levels as every time you add +6dB the image becomes one stop brighter and you double the noise in the image, +12 dB is 2 stops brighter and 4x noisier than 0dB etc. ISO is an exposure rating, it is not a sensitivity measurement. But don’t use too much gain or too high an ISO as this will affect you ability to use some of the very good post production noise reduction tools that are available.

Noise and Noise Reduction.

If shooting in very low light then you are quite probably going to want to use some noise reduction tools in post production. “Neat Video” works very well at cleaning up a noisy image as do the various NR tools in the paid versions of DaVinci Resolve.  These post production  tools work best when the noise is clean. By that I mean well defined. When using any of the 709 or Cinegamma curves a bit of gain can be used, but I wouldn’t go above 12dB as above this the NR starts to introduce a lot of smear and this than makes it hard for any post production NR processes like Neat Video to do a decent job without the image turning into a blurry mess. So don’t go crazy with the gain or use very high ISO’s as the post production NR won’t work as well on footage that already has a lot of in camera NR applied.

And if you can add a little light-

If you are adding any light use a daylight balanced light where you can. Video cameras are least sensitive in the blue channel. If you use a tungsten light which is predominantly warm/red to get a good white balance you have to increase the gain of the cameras least sensitive and as a result most noisy blue channel. This will add more noise than if you use a daylight balance light as for daylight you need less gain in the noisy blue channel.

There is no miracle cure for shooting in very low light levels. But with the right lens and a speedbooster the FS5 can do a very good job. But just in case yo haven’t worked it out already, I’ll say it one more time: The lens is the most important bit! Beyond this your next step would be adding an image intensifier for that green night vision look.

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:

 

Mac Driver For Sony Alpha and PXW-FS5 firmware updates. USB Firmware driver for High Sierra.

If like me you use a Mac computer and are using the High Sierra OS then if you want to upgrade your camera you will need this supplemental driver from Sony:

https://support.d-imaging.sony.co.jp/mac/driver/1013/en/index.html

This is for any Sony camera that is upgraded via a direct USB connection between the computer and the camera, so that includes cameras like the A7s, A7r, A6300 and the rest of the Sony Alpha series. It is also for many of the PXW video cameras including the PXW-FS5. You don’t need it for cameras like the PMW-F55 or PXW-FS7 where the update is done by placing the upgrade file on an SD card.

Without this driver the upgrade software will install and all appears to be working OK. Except you can’t get a good USB connection between the camera and the mac computer and the upgrade will fail.

Free ProRes Raw and Sony Venice Webinars

I will be doing a couple of free interactive Webinars with Visual Impact in July. The first is on ProRes Raw looking at what it is, the equipment you will need and how to shoot with it.

http://www.visuals.co.uk/events/events.php?event=eid11028-839

The second is about my practical experiences shooting with a Sony Venice using the version 2 firmware.

http://www.visuals.co.uk/events/events.php?event=eid14021-841

Both webinars will feature a Q&A session where you will be able to ask questions online. You will find the full details about both webinars by following the links above, including how to register. The webinars are free but registration is required to obtain the login details for the events.

 

Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.

Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.

Sorry for the lack of post recently, but I’ve been busy on various overseas shoots using the Sony Venice camera. I’ll be writing these up in due course.

My 2 favourite and most used lenses are my Fujinon MK zooms . I use the MK18-55 and MK50-135 on both my PMW-F5 and on my FS5. I’ve also used them on a Sony Venice. They are really great lenses. But one thing that I’ve always felt would make them a bit better is a power zoom.

Enter the Hedén VLC system.

AJC04868-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
Heden servo motor to turn a non servo zoom into a power zoom. In this case on a Fujinon MK18-55 lens.

For starters the Hedén VLC system allows you to turn a non motorised zoom lens into a power zoom lens, but the Heden VLC system is more than just a zoom motor and control box. It can be expanded with a second motor to not only motorize the zoom but also provide an electronic focus control (although as yet I have not tried this).

Never heard of Hedén before? Well if you work in higher end features and productions you will probably have come across them before as they are a highly regarded Swedish manufacturer of electronic follow focus and zoom systems used in high end Cinematography. For me though, until now their products have been beyond my reach. One of their standard follow focus motors costs around £1.6K/$2K. However the motors and components used in the VLC systems are much cheaper, yet still meet Hedén’s exacting standards.  A complete VLC zoom system, including motor, costs around $2,100 USD. It’s still not a “cheap” item, but the system is of very high quality and surprisingly flexible, so it is something that should last many years and work with not just todays cameras and lenses but also whatever comes next.

The VLC system comprises several components. A control box, a motor or motors along with various attachment brackets for the motors depending on your application and a set of cables.

AJC04872-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
Heden VLC control box.

The first time I played with the system it was an early development unit on my FS5. On the FS5 the system is controlled using the Lanc control functions built into the cameras existing handgrip. The cable from the hand grip that normally plugs directly into the camera body is plugged into a breakout cable from the VLC control box and then another connection from the control box plugs into the FS5. This way the handgrip controls the FS5 as normal, but now the zoom rocker on the handgrip also smoothly and accurately controls the Hedén zoom motor. All the hand grips other functions continue to operate as usual.

AJC04881-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
The Hedén VM35 servo motor for the VLC zoom and focus system.

The motor used by the VLC system is a very high quality compact servo motor and gearbox with digital position and speed feedback. So the controller knows exactly how fast the motor is turning and where it is in it’s operating cycle. The first time you use the system it needs to be calibrated for the lens you are using. This is done quickly and simply, just by pressing the small CAL button on the controller. Once pressed the motor quickly runs back and forwards to find the lenses end stops.

AJC04892-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
The CAL button used to calibrate the Hedén VLC zoom system.

A very nice feature is that when the motor isn’t being driven it can be turned quite easily. This means that unlike some other similar systems you don’t have to mechanically or physically disengage the motor from the lenses pitch gears to perform a manual zoom. In fact, the motor acts as a soft damping system and helps make manual zooms smoother.

My only gripe about the VLC system is the size of the control box. On a camera as small as the FS5 the control box is quite a big lump to add.

AJC04878-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
The Hedén VLC system mounted on an FS5 and Fujinon MK lens.
AJC04866-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
I have the Hedén VLC control box mounted on the rear of the FS5’s handle using the 3M Dual Lock provided with the kit.

For power I run it from a Dynacore BP-U type battery that has a D-Tap output. There is no on/off switch, so you turn it off by unplugging it, but the system doesn’t use much power and I barely noticed any difference in the life of the camera battery when using it this way.

The control box has controls for the motor speed, torque and direction. These controls allow you to fine tune the way the motor operates, so if you want you can have a fast snappy zoom, or if you prefer you can have a slower zoom. The control buttons are mounted below a soft waterproof membrane to protect the unit from dust and moisture. There is also a small LED display that shows the torque and speed settings. When zooming in or out this also shows the requested zoom speed. All the cables are connected to the box using very high quality Lemo connectors.

AJC04874-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
The Hedén VLC control box mounted on an FS5

I found that the FS5 zoom rocker with it’s limited travel seemed to work best for me when the motor was set to quite a slow speed. The motor has lots of torque, so it should have no problem driving lenses with quite stiff zoom rings. However I probably wouldn’t try to use it with a DSLR zoom. I dabbled with producing a zoom motor for DSLR zooms some years back, but found it very difficult. Most DSLR zooms are quite stiff, often have tight spots as well as only limited travel. This makes it very difficult to get a very smooth motion. Feel free to try it with whatever lenses it is that you have, but I think you will need to test the functionality with each photo zoom lens to see how it copes. For proper video and cinemas lenses with smooth zoom rings the VLC system should work very well.

With the Fujinon MK lenses the motor can be attached to the barrel of the lens via a dedicated bracket. There is also a bracket for two motors for those that want to motorize not only the zoom but also the focus.

vm35-60 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
Dual motor bracket for the Fujinon MK lenses allows both a zoom and focus motor to be attached.

The benefit of having the motor on the lens is that it’s always in the right place and you don’t need rails etc. The downside is that if you have more than one lens you need to either, swap the motor and brackets each time you change lens, have multiple brackets or if you have really deep pockets a motor and bracket for every lens. Swapping the motor from bracket to bracket is very quick and easy, just loosen the thumbscrew and the motor slides out. So I would recommend having a bracket on each lens and simply swapping the motor over. The other alternative is to use one of the Hedén rail brackets to attach the motor to 15mm rails, then when you swap lenses the motor stays attached to the rails and it’s just a case of lining the motor up with the pitch gear on the lens.

vm35-40-1024x684 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
Rod mount for attaching a single Hedén VLC system motor to a 15mm rod.

 

Not long after starting to use the system on my FS5 I was informed that there was an update for the system that could work with any 3rd party Lanc Controller. So I decided to give this a try on my PMW-F5. To make this work you need an additional aftermarket Lanc zoom controller. These are readily available and there are lots of choices.

AJC04889-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
The Hedén VLC zoom system mounted on my PMW-F5 and Fujinon MK lens. It’s much easier to find a place for the control box on larger cameras like the F5/F55 and FS7.

The Manfrotto controller I used allowed me to operate the zoom from from the pan bar of my tripod. Great for studio or ENG type applications. The only thing you don’t get with an F5 and a Lanc controller is control over record start and stop as the F5 itself doesn’t support Lanc control. So you still have to press the record button on the camera. But this isn’t a big deal and having the ability to zoom from the pan bar is great for so many applications.

AJC04888-1024x683 Hedén VLC Zoom and Focus Control.
Manfrotto Lanc controller mounted to the tripod pan bar.

Overall I am very impressed with the system. The degree of control you have over the lens is quite remarkable, it’s just as good as the control you get with a high end ENG zoom.  It’s very easy to setup and allows you to perform silky smooth zooms with ease. If you want smooth, slow starts to the zoom or extremely slow zooms, both are easily achieved with the Hedén VLC system.

I probably wouldn’t use it for every shoot, especially with the FS5 as the control box is a little bulky. With the F5 or FS7 and other larger cameras this is much less of a concern, so I will probably use it more often with these cameras. I also want to explore using it with Lanc controller that I can use with handgrips when handheld (perhaps using the Vocas Arri rosette kit for remote attachment of the FS5 hand grip).

The biggest strength of this system for me though, is that it isn’t actually lens or camera specific. You can use it with just about any lens and camera. So as you add more lenses to your collection, or if you change camera, you will still be able to use the VLC system just by making sure you have the right motor bracket. The 15mm rod bracket should work with just about any lens. This means that it’s a system that should last you a very long time.