Category Archives: PXW-FS7

Tested: Lexar XQD cards in the PXW-FS7 and PMW-F5

DSC_0160-300x168 Tested: Lexar XQD cards in the PXW-FS7 and PMW-F5
Lexar XQD cards work with Sony cameras.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: There are two different speeds of S series cards. You should only use the faster E stream cards. You can tell which is which by the part number. QDS64E and QDS32E are second generation fast S series. Any other S series is a slower first generation S card and should be treated as H Class cards.

DO NOT USE THE NEWER 2933x CARDS THESE DO NOT WORK WITH THE FS7.

It was brought to my attention at the BVE show last week that Sony XQD cards were in short supply. This is probably due to the run away success of the PXW-FS7. More cameras sold means more media required.

So I decided to test out a Lexar XQD card in my PXW-FS7 and in my PMW-F5 (via a QDA-EX1 SxS to XQD adapter).

The good news is that it appears to work just fine, which shouldn’t really be a surprise as the Lexar cards are bonafide XQD cards. It’s also worth noting at this point that you don’t have to use the latest and greatest, extremely fast “G” series XQD cards from Sony. You can also use the slower H, N and S series cards. Although I personally would stick to just the faster G and S series cards as these can be used for all modes and frame sizes.

G Series – 400MB/S  OK All Frame Rates/Modes.

S Series (QDS64E and QDS32E only) – 180MB/S  OK All Frame Rates/Modes.

N Series – 125MB/S OK for XAVC-L all frame sizes/rate. XAVC-I HD up to 30fps plus 24fps 3840×2160. OK for Mpeg2, No S&Q, No ProRes or DNxHD.

H Series – 125MB/S OK for XAVC-L HD up to 60fps. No XAVC-I, No 4k/UHD, No S&Q. No ProRes/DNxHD

Lexar 1100x -168MB/S – Not tested, but should be OK, as Sony H series, maybe N series.

Lexar 1333x – 200MB/S – Tested all modes and frame rates.

Lexar have two classes of card a slower 1100x – 168MB/s card and a faster 1333x – 200MB/s card. For my tests I chose the faster 1333x card as this wasn’t much more expensive than the slower card and on paper at least matches or betters the Sony S series cards which can be used for all modes and frame rates. The 1100x card should also work just at least as well as an H series card, maybe N series, but I have not tested one and would recommend testing before use.

I tested the card across a large range of frame rates and resolutions going all the way up to UHD 60fps on the FS7 and SStP on the F5 as well as S&Q all the way to 180fps. I had no errors or other major problems. I did notice in the F5 that the it takes a little longer for the red light above the record slot to return to green at the end of a recording. While the slot light is red you cannot start a new recording so you do need to be aware that you may have a momentary delay before you can record the next clip.

I purchased the Lexar 1333x card via Amazon in the UK and it cost me £127 inc VAT for a 64GB card, which is quite a bit cheaper than a Sony G series card (currently around £220 in VAT). So the Lexar cards offer a perfectly good alternative to the Sony cards at a lower cost with only a slight decrease in off-load speed. As well as the PMW-F5/F55 and PXW-FS7 I see no reason why these cards should not also work in the PMW-Z100, FDR-AX1 or via the QDA-EX1 adapter in the PMW-200, PXW-X160, X180 and X200, but I have not tested this.

I can’t comment on long term reliability as I’ve only had the card a couple of days. I see no reason why the Lexar cards should last as long as the Sony cards. Heck looking at a Sony G series card and the Lexar card side by side the materials appear to be identical, it looks to be exactly the same plastic (even the texturing is the same) and the same brushed metal. The Sony card is marked as made in Japan and the Lexar card as a product of Taiwan.

CARD READERS.

The new Sony G series cards have a different interface to the older Sony XQD cards and the Lexar cards. Currently when you buy a G series card it comes with a USB3 card reader. This reader will ONLY read G series XQD cards.

You can buy USB3 card readers for the other XQD cards for around £25.00. These readers will normally work with any XQD card, including the G series. But when you use a G series card in the non G series readers you get a reduced read speed of up to 168MB/s, which is fast, but not as fast as the dedicated G Series reader.

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Scene Files (Picture Profiles) for the PXW-FS7

See also my latest LUT’s for BOTH the PXW-FS7 and PXW-FS7M2.

One of the great features of the PXW-FS7 is the ability to be able to change the look of the images when shooting in Custom Mode. You can change many settings including the gamma curve, matrix and sharpness setting. The gamma settings change the contrast, the matrix the color and the detail and aperture settings change how sharp the pictures look.

Once you’ve made some changes you can save these settings as a Scene File using the File menu on an SD card.

I am a big fan of Sony’s Hypergammas. There are 6 in the FS7. Hypergamma 3 is very good for getting a nicer highlight roll off when shooting in lower light situations. Hypergamma 4 is good for brighter scenes and Hypergammas 7 and 8 really extends the cameras dynamic range and handles high contrast scenes very well, but can look a little flat so will need some tweaking in post production.  In fact all the hypergammas need a bit of a tweak in post as to get the very best from them you should expose your shots about 1 stop darker to keep skin tones etc out of the upper compressed part of the curve and then bring the brightness back up again in post.

Anyway here are some scene files for you to download and install in the camera.

AC-NEUTRAL-HG3 This is for flatter scenes, it provides a natural look with some yellow/green removed to provide a more neutral look.

AC-NEUTRAL-HG4 This is for brighter or high contrast scenes, it provides a natural look with some yellow/green removed to provide a more neutral look.

AC-FILMLIKE1 A high dynamic range film like look.

AC-FILMLIKE2 A high dynamic range film like look with an increased blue and red response with decreased yellow/green. A little more block-buster like.

AC-VIBRANT-HG3 A vivid matrix with good dynamic range. Good for punchy direct to air images where strong colours are wanted.

AC FS7 Scene Files, set of 5.
If you find these scene files useful, please consider buying me a beer or a coffee. All donations are really appreciated and allow me to spend more time on the blog creating new guides and scene files etc.


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pixel Scene Files (Picture Profiles) for the PXW-FS7

To install the files in the camera, download and unzip the zip file. Then copy the 5 001.SCENE, 002.SCENE files to the following directory on an SD card:

PRIVATE/SONY/PRO/CAMERA/PXW-FS7/

Insert the SD card in to the camera. Go to the “File” menu and “Scene File” and choose “Load from SD Card”.

If you already have some scene files on your SD card then you can re-number the Scene Files with numbers higher than the files already on your SD card before copying the new files to the SD card. Hope that makes sense??

PXW-FS7. Turn OFF white clip if using Hypergammas!

I’m doing some work on some scene files for the FS7 and one little thing I found is that the default white clip of the camera is set to 105% and if you use HG3, HG4, HG7 or HG8 this means that the camera clips before you reach the near flat top of the hypergamma curves. This results in hard clipping of highlights rather than a more gentle roll-off.

So if using Hypergammas it’s also a good idea to turn off the white clip for the best results.

Over and Under Exposure LUT’s for the PXW-FS7, PMW-F5 and PMW-F55

Here are two sets of LUT’s for use in post production with the PXW-FS7, PMW-F5 and PMW-F55.

These LUT’s are based around the Sony 709(800) LUT and the Sony LC-709TypeA LUT (Arri Alexa look). But in addition to the base LUT designed for when you shoot at the native ISO there are LUTs for when you shoot at a lower or higher EI.

When you shoot at a high or low EI the resulting footage will be either under or over exposed when you add the standard LUT. These LUT’s include compensation for the under or overexposure giving the best possible translation from SGamut3.cine/S-log3 to rec-709 or the Alexa look and result in pleasing skin tones and a nice mid range with minimal additional grading effort.

If you find these LUT’s useful please consider buying me a coffee or beer.


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pixel Over and Under Exposure LUT's for the PXW-FS7, PMW-F5 and PMW-F55

To download the 709(800) compensated LUTs: alisters 709 exposure compensated luts

To download the Arri look LUTs (LC709 TypeA): alisters arri look exposure compensated luts

How to create a User3D LUT for the PXW-FS7 and load it in to the camera

It’s very easy to create your own User3D LUT for the Sony PXW-FS7 using DaVinci Resolve or just about any grading software with LUT export capability. The LUT should be a 17x17x17 or 33x33x33 .cube LUT (this is what Resolve creates by default).

Simply shoot a correctly exposed Slog3 clip at the native ISO. You must use the same Gamut as you intend to use in any other productions that will use this LUT, I recommend SGamut3.cine.

Import the clip in to Resolve and grade it as you wish the final image to look.  A very good way to do this is to include a MacBeth chart or DSC Labs OneShot or CDM chart within the test shot. Then use Resolves excellent chart matching tool to get create a starting point for the grade. The big benefit of this approach is that Resolve will provide a very good gamma correction moving your footage from Slog3 to Rec-709. Once you have used the chart to move you into the correct gamma range just tweak and fine tune the image to get your desired look. Then once your happy with your look, right click on the clip in the timeline and “Export LUT”. Resolve will then create a .cube LUT.

Then place the .cube LUT file created by the grading software on an SD card in the PMWF55_F5 folder. You may need to create the following folder structure on the SD card, so first you have a PRIVATE folder, in that there is a SONY folder and so on.

PRIVATE/SONY/PRO/CAMERA/PMWF55_F5

Put the SD card in the camera, then go to the File menu and go to “Monitor 3D LUT” and select “Load SD Card”. The camera will offer you a 1 to 4 destination memory selection, choose 1,2,3 or 4, this is the location where the LUT will be saved. You should then be presented with a list of all the LUT’s on the SD card. Select your chosen LUT to save it from the SD card to the camera.

Once loaded in to the camera when you choose 3D User LUT’s you can select between user LUT memory 1,2,3 or 4. Your LUT will be in the memory you selected when you copied the LUT from the SD card to the camera.

NOTE: If you use a Mac to copy the LUT to the SD card the Mac will place some junk files on the SD card with almost exactly the same name as the LUT. The camera will see this junk file and display it in the list of LUT files. The junk file will have a “._” before the LUT name. Don’t try to load these junk files by mistake, they won’t work. Make sure you scroll down the LUT list to the real LUT file when you try to load the LUT’s in to the camera.

Using the High/Low key function on the PXW-FS7, PMW-F55 and PMW-F5.

A very useful feature not well documented on the FS7, F5 and F55 cameras (and the F65 too) is the High/Low Key feature.

The High/Low Key function works by changing the brightness range of the image displayed in the viewfinder, this is very useful when shooting in the Cine-EI Mode and using a LUT to help judge your exposure.

My preferred LUT for exposure assessment is the 709(800) LUT. As this LUT is compatible with the gamma curve used in most TV’s and monitors it provides a nice contrasty image with what I would call “normal” brightness levels (middle grey at 42%, white at 90%, skin tones around 60-70%). So if you expose via the 709(800) LUT so that the pictures look right on the screen or in the viewfinder then your S-Log recordings will also be correctly exposed.

But the 709(800) LUT, like most LUT’s cannot show the full 14 stop capture range of the the S-Log recordings. So sometimes you might see an image via the LUT that looks correctly exposed but the highlights might look clipped or blown out as they are beyond the range of what the LUT can show as in the image below where the sky looks blown out. This is where the High/Low Key function comes in to play.

normal-key-1024x576 Using the High/Low key function on the PXW-FS7, PMW-F55 and PMW-F5.
Normal range 709(800) as seen in the viewfinder. Is the sky over exposed or not in the Slog recording? It’s hard to tell.

To access the function you have to assign High/Low Key to one of the cameras assignable buttons. Once assigned to a button on the first press of the button the viewfinder or monitor image will show the High Key parts of the shot. To do this the VF or monitor picture is made darker so that you can “see” into the full highlight capture range.  “High Key” will be displayed in the top left hand corner of the viewfinder. As you can see in the image below we can now see that the sky is not blown out, so we know the S-log recording will be OK.

high-key-1024x576 Using the High/Low key function on the PXW-FS7, PMW-F55 and PMW-F5.
The High Key function darkens the LUT image so we can view the High Key range of the Slog recordings . We can see that the sky is not over exposed so the Slog recording will be not be clipped or over exposed.

The second press of the button shows the Low Key (darker) parts of the scene. This is done by making the image much brighter so you can “see” into the shadows better and the entire under exposure range of what is being recorded is shown. “Low Key” is displayed in the top left of the viewfinder screen.

low-key-1024x576 Using the High/Low key function on the PXW-FS7, PMW-F55 and PMW-F5.
The Low Key function brightens the LUT image so we can see whats going on in the deepest shadows and dark areas (Low Key areas) of the Slog capture range.

 

The third press of the button returns the image to the normal range that the LUT can show.

So by using the High / Low Key function you can see the entire range that the camera is capturing, check for over exposure or under exposure issues without having to turn the LUT on or off. This is a really useful function that I recommend you take advantage of when shooting with CineEI and LUT’s. However do remember to make sure you are back to the standard view range when setting your exposure level.

New Film Look LUT’s for the PXW-FS7, PMW-F5 and PMW-F55

I have created two new sets of film look LUT’s for the FS7, F5 and F55. These LUT’s should be used in conjunction with S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine. They will give you a high contrast film like look that mimics Kodak film stock with slightly blue dark and mid tones and warm skin tones. The are 3D cube LUT’s and the two sets include LUT’s with compensation for under and over exposure.

To use the LUT’s in camera on the PXW-FS7, PMW-F5 or PMW-F55 then the LUT’s need to be placed in the PMWF55_F5  folder on an SD card. The correct folder structure should look like this:

PRIVATE – SONY – PRO – CAMERA – PMWF55_F5

Slog3_cine-film-look-luts
If you find the LUT’s useful please consider buying me a drink, they did take some time to create:


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pixel New Film Look LUT's for the PXW-FS7, PMW-F5 and PMW-F55

Sony’s new PXW-FS7. First Impressions.

I was lucky enough to get a chance to go out and shoot with a pre-production PXW-FS7 in Amsterdam during IBC. Guess what? It makes some very nice pictures!

In case you’ve had your head in the sand the last couple of weeks the PXW-FS7 is a new super35mm camcorder from Sony. It uses the same sensor as the Sony PMW-F5 and a lot of the camera is, I am sure, shared with the F5. Even the menu’s are almost exactly the same. It can record 4K internally on XQD cards using Sony’s XAVC codec. When the cameras start shipping next month you will be able to record 3840×2160 UHD/QuadHD as well as HD. Next year there will be an update to add 4096×2160 at up to 60fps.

DSC04422 Sony's new PXW-FS7. First Impressions.Want to shoot slow motion? That’s no problem as the camera can go up to 180fps internally in HD and if you add an external raw recorder you can stretch that out to 240fps.

The XAVC codec options are great. You can choose between I frame for easy editing or long GoP which gives a smaller file size but needs more processing power to decode. The 10 bit 422 image quality is very similar in both cases, so choose which to use based on how much recording media you have and how powerful your edit machine is. If you still need the legacy HD XDCAM Mpeg codec then you have that too.

Extension Unit:

By adding the optional extension box to the rear of the camera you can even record ProRes HQ to the XQD cards (after a firmware update early next year). The extension box also adds the raw output needed to record raw to an external recorder such as The Odyssey 7Q or Sony R5 recorder. On top of that you also gain Timecode in and out plus genlock. To power all of this (and the camera) the extension box has a V-Mount battery plate on it’s rear. When not using the extension box the camera runs off BP-U type batteries, the same 12V batteries as used by an EX1 or PMW200 etc.

DSC04427-300x200 Sony's new PXW-FS7. First Impressions.
The right side of the FS7 showing the XLR connectors.

The FS7 has two different shooting modes. In custom mode the camera behaves pretty much like any other conventional camera where what you see in the viewfinder is what’s recorded on the cards. You can alter the cameras gamma curve, matrix and other settings, but basically what you see is what you get. The other mode is the CineEI mode (just like an F5 or F55) and in this mode the camera records using SGamut3.cine and S-Log3. The aim being to capture the maximum possible dynamic range and in this mode the cameras sensitivity is locked to it’s native ISO of 2000. As S-Log3 results in a very flat picture (that’s great for grading and post work) the camera includes the ability to add a range of Look Up Tables (LUT’s) to the viewfinder or HDSDI output. LUT’s help you better judge exposure and give a more pleasing image prior to grading. You can even generate your own LUT’s in software such as Resolve and load them in to the camera. For exposure assistance the camera has a range of tools including a waveform, vectorscope or histogram display as well as zebras.

DSC04436-300x200 Sony's new PXW-FS7. First Impressions.
The FS7’s handgrip and control unit.

Ergonomically the camera is very interesting. It has Sony’s E-Mount lens mount so you can use just about any lens you want simply by adding a lens adapter. Using a metabones or Commlite adapter you can use Canon EF lenses with ease. Likewise PL or Nikon lenses with the appropriate adapters.

Designed to sit on the front of your shoulder and supplied with a handgrip on an adjustable arm (attached via a standard Arri type rosette) the camera is easy to use. There are a couple of assignable buttons on the hand grip as well as a small joystick for navigating through the cameras menu system. A large zoom rocker will control any E-Mount zoom lenses used such as the new 28-135mm f4 lens and a further assignable dial wheel can be used to control the lenses aperture or other functions. The hand grip uses the LanC protcol so it should be possible to use other LanC devices with this camera.

DSC04472-300x200 Sony's new PXW-FS7. First Impressions.
The PXW-FS7 with the extension unit fitted, a V-Mount battery and a Vocas base plate.

The camera is a little front heavy as it sits on the front of your shoulder. When you add the extension box and a V-mount battery the balance is much better as the weight is now set much further back. With a 3rd party shoulder mount such as the new Vocas one or the dedicated Sony VCT-FS7 mount the camera can be turned into a true shoulder mount camera.

The LCD viewfinder is mounted on a thin arm that gives it forwards and backwards adjustment as well as up and down adjustment, but there is no left right adjustment.

DSC04488-300x200 Sony's new PXW-FS7. First Impressions.
The viewfinder on the PXW-FS7

Overall I think the viewfinder is the weakest part of this camera. The images in the VF are quite reasonable (its 940×560 resolution) but the mounting mechanism and loupe are not the best. Maybe this will be improved before the camera ships. I made a lot of use of one of the hand grip assignable buttons to provide focus magnification while shooting to ensure focus was spot on and it’s nice to have the focus mag function so easily accessible.

One issue I did find with the arm for the hand grip was that unless you fold it up out of the way you can’t slide the camera on and off a tripod. If you are using a base plate this is less of a problem but with a bare camera it’s a bit of a pain.

DSC04479-300x200 Sony's new PXW-FS7. First Impressions.
The XQD card slots on the PXW-FS7, also there is an SD card slot for loading LUT’s, user files and setup information.

I found the operation of the camera almost identical to the PMW-F5. There are some differences however. The FS7 does not have a 2K center scan mode for the sensor. This is used on the F5/F55 to eliminate aliasing problems when shooting above 60fps where the 4K sensor is read out as a 2K sensor. On the F5/F55 if you don’t want to use the 2K center scan mode you can fit a special 2K low pass optical filter to eliminate aliasing above 60fps, but again this is not possible on the FS7.

Another thing the FS7 doesn’t have is the large side display of the F5 and F55. For conventional shooting this is not really a big deal. But if you are using the CineEI mode where you may be using LUT’s on different outputs not having this information clearly displayed is a bit of a nuisance. In fact during the shoot with the FS7 at one point I though I was shooting with a LUT when in fact I was not. The only way to be sure of how everything is set is to go into the cameras menu system.

DSC04431-300x200 Sony's new PXW-FS7. First Impressions.
The PXW-FS7 fitted with the 28-135mm f4 servo zoom lens.

But what about the image quality? Frankly it’s amazing! For the money the images this camera produces are remarkable. It is using the F5’s sensor and it does have 14 stops of dynamic range. S-log3 is a great gamma curve and the camera is very low noise, even at it’s native 2000 ISO. It was hard to tell as most of the shooting took place at night, but initially it doesn’t look like there is any difference between the quality of the footage from the FS7 and the PMW-F5. Great colours, low noise, high dynamic range with very pleasing roll off what more can you want? One area where there will be a difference is with raw. The PMW-F5 takes the Sony R5 directly docked on it’s back. The raw form the F5 is 16 bit while the raw from the FS7 is going to be recorded on an external recorder at only 12 bits. 12 bit linear raw is really pushing the limits of what is needed for linear raw. However we do already know that the 12 bit raw from Sony’s FS700 works well, so this should be no different.

Where this camera will be really good is when combined with the new 28-135mm f4 servo zoom lens. Typically par-focal lenses with this kind aperture and zoom ratio cost in excess of $30K. This lens will be around $2.7K. Being able to zoom in and out on a large sensor camera smoothly really increases the cameras flexibility making it much easier to use in run and gun type situations. The lens is never going to be an incredible performer at this price and when wide open I did find it a little soft, but for shear ease of use it’s really remarkable. The FS7 combined with this lens will be a killer combination and that’s why I have ordered one. It’s NOT replacing my F5, I love my F5 and I think that the F5 is a much better camera for drama or studio type shoots. But the FS7 will be very handy for fast and fluid productions. In addition, for the money this camera is an absolute bargain.

LUT’s or LOOK’s when exposing via a LUT on the PMW-F5 or PMW-F55 (and FS7).

First of all. You can use either, LUT’s or Looks. But there is a quite marked difference in the way they behave, especially if you use EI gain.

At the native ISO there is little to choose between them. But just to confirm my earlier suspicions about the way the 3D LOOK’s behave I ran a quick test.

I found that when you lower the EI gain, below native, the output level of the LOOK lowers, so that depending on the EI, the clipping, peak level and middle grey values are different. For example on my PMW-F5 at 500 EI the LC709TypeA LUT has a peak output (clipping) level of just 90% while at 2000 ISO it’s 98%. This also means that middle grey of the LOOK will shift down slightly as you lower the EI. This means that for consistent exposure at different low EI’s you may need to offset your exposure very slightly. It also means that at Native EI if the waveform shows peak levels at 90% you are not overexposed or clipped, but at low EI’s 90% will mean clipped Slog, so beware of this peak level offset.

When you raise the EI of the LOOKS, the input clipping point of the Look profile changes. For each stop of EI you add the LOOK will clip one stop earlier than the underlying Slog. For example set the LC709TypeA LUT to 8000 ISO (on my PMW-F5)  and the LOOK itself hard clips 2 stops before the actual SLog3 clips. So your LOOK will make it appear that your Slog is clipped up to 2 stops before it actually is and the dynamic range and contrast range of the LOOK varies depending on the EI, so again beware.

So, the Looks may give the impression that the Slog is clipped if you use a high ISO and will give the impression that you are not using your full available range at a low ISO. I suspect this is a limitation of 3D LUT tables which only work over a fixed 0 to1 input and output range.

What about the 1D LUT’s? Well the LUT’s don’t cover the full range of the Slog curves so you will never see all of your dynamic range at once. However I feel their behaviour at low and high EI’s is a little bit more intuitive than the level shifts and early clipping of the LOOKs.

The 1D LUT’s will always go to 109%. So there are no middle grey shifts for the LUT, no need to compensate at any ISO. In addition if you see any clipping below 109% then it means your SLog is clipping, for example if you set the camera to 500 ISO (on an F5), when you see the 709(800) LUT clipping at 105% it’s because the Slog is also clipping.

At High ISO’s you won’t see the top end of the SLog’s exposure range anyway because the LUT’s range is less than Slog’s range, but the LUT itself does not clip, instead highlights just go up above 109% and this is in my opinion more intuitive behaviour than the clipped LOOK’s that don’t ever quite reach 100% and clip at lower than 100% even when the Slog itself isn’t clipped.

At the end of the day use the ones that work best for you, just be aware of the limitations of both and that the LUT’s and LOOKs behave very differently. I suggest you test and try both before making any firm decisions.

Personally I prefer to use the 709(800) LUT for exposure as the restricted range matches that of most consumer TV’s etc so I feel this gives me a better idea of how the image may end up looking on a consumers TV. Also I find my Slog exposure more accurate as the LUT’s restricted range means you are more likely to expose within finer limits. In addition as noted above I fell the LUT’s behaviour is more predictable and intuitive at high and low EI’s than the LOOK’s.

In addition the higher contrast makes focus easier. I will often switch in and out of the LUT to look at how the Log is coping with any over exposure. This is my personal preference, but I do also use other LUT’s and Looks in particular the 709TypeA from time to time.

What is a Gamut or Color Space and why do I need to know about it?

Well I have set myself quite a challenge here as this is a tough one to describe and explain. Not so much perhaps because it’s difficult, but just because it’s hard to visualise, as you will see.

First of all the dictionary definition of Gamut is “The complete range or scope of something”.

In video terms what it means is normally the full range of colours and brightness that can be either captured or displayed.

I’m sure you have probably heard of the specification REC-709 before. Well REC-709, short for ITU-R Recommendation, Broadcast Television, number 709. This recommendation sets out the display of colours and brightness that a television set or monitor should be able to display. Note that it is a recommendation for display devices, not for cameras, it is a “display reference” and you might hear me talking about when things are “display referenced” ie meeting these display standards or “scene referenced” which would me shooting the light and colours in a scene as they really are, rather than what they will look like on a display.

Anyway…. Perhaps you have seen a chart or diagram that looks like the one below before.

gamuts-269x300 What is a Gamut or Color Space and why do I need to know about it?
Sony colour gamuts.

Now this shows several things. The big outer oval shape is what is considered to be the equivalent to what we can see with our own eyes. Within that range are triangles that represent the boundaries of different colour gamuts or colour ranges. The grey coloured triangle for example is REC-709.

Something useful to know is that the 3 corners of each of the triangles are whats referred to as the “primaries”. You will hear this term a lot when people talk about colour spaces because if you know where the primaries (corners) are, by joining them together you can find the size of the colour space or Gamut and what the colour response will be.

Look closely at the chart. Look at the shades of red, green or blue shown at the primaries for the REC-709 triangle. Now compare these with the shades shown at the primaries for the much larger F65 and F55 primaries. Is there much difference? Well no, not really. Can you figure out why there is so little difference?

Think about it for a moment, what type of display device are you looking at this chart on? It’s most likely a computer display of some kind and the Gamut of most computer displays is the same size as that of REC-709. So given that the display device your looking at the chart on can’t actually show any of the extended colours outside of the grey triangle anyway, is it really any surprise that you can’t see much of a difference between the 709 primaries and the F65 and F55 primaries. That’s the problems with charts like this, they don’t really tell you everything  that’s going on. It does however tell us some things. Lets have a look at another chart:

Gamuts-1024x632 What is a Gamut or Color Space and why do I need to know about it?
SGamuts Compared.

This chart is similar to the first one we looked at, but without the pretty colours. Blue is bottom left, Red is to the right and green top left.

What we are interested in here is the relationship between the different colour space triangles.  Using the REC-709 triangle as our reference (as that’s the type of display most TV and video productions will be shown on) look at how S-Gamut and S-Gamut3 is much larger than 709. So S-Gamut will be able to record deeper, richer colours than 709 can ever hope to show. In addition, also note how S-Gamut isn’t just a bigger triangle, but it’s also twisted and distorted relative to 709. This is really important.

You may also want to refer to the top diagram as well as I do my best to explain this. The center of the overall gamut is white. As you draw a line out from the center towards the colour spaces primary the colour becomes more saturated (vivid). The position of the primary determines the exact hue or tone represented. Lets just consider green for the moment and lets pretend we are shooting a shot with 3 green apples. These apples have different amounts of green. The most vivid of the 3 apples has 8/10ths of what we can possibly see, the middle one 6/10ths and the least colourful one 4/10ths. The image below represents what the apples would look like to us if we saw them with our eyes.

apples1 What is a Gamut or Color Space and why do I need to know about it?
The apples as we would see them with our own eyes.

If we were shooting with a camera designed to match the 709 display specification, which is often a good idea as we want the colours to look right on the TV, the the greenest, deepest green we can capture is the 709 green primary. lets consider the 709 green primary to be 6/10ths with 10/10ths  being the greenest thing a human being can see. 6/10ths green will be recorded at our peak green recording level so that when we play back on a 709 TV it will display the greenest the most intense green that the display panel is capable of.  So if we shoot the apples with a 709 compatible camera, 6/10ths green will be recorded at 100% as this is the richest green we can record (these are not real levels, I’m just using them to illustrate the principles involved) and this below is what the apples would look like on the TV screen.

apples3 What is a Gamut or Color Space and why do I need to know about it?
6/10ths Green and above recorded at 100% (our imaginary rec-709)

So that’s rec-709, our 6/10ths green apple recorded at 100%. Everything above 6/10 will also be 100% so the 8/10th and 6/10ths green apples will look more or less the same.

What happens then if we record with a bigger Gamut. Lets say that the green primary for S-Gamut is 8/10ths of visible green. Now when recording this more vibrant 8/10ths green in S-Gamut it will be recorded at 100% because this is the most vibrant green that S-Gamut can record and everything less than 8/10 will be recorded at a lower percentage.

But what happens if we play back S-Gamut on a 709 display? Well when the 709 display sees that 100% signal it will show 6/10ths green, a paler less vibrant shade of green than the 8/10ths shade the camera captured because 6/10ths is the most vibrant green the display is capable of. All of our colours will be paler and less rich than they should be.

apples4 What is a Gamut or Color Space and why do I need to know about it?
The apples recorded using a big gamut but displayed using 709 gamut.

So that’s the first issue when shooting with a larger colour Gamut than the Gamut of the display device, the saturation will be incorrect, a dark green apple will be pale green. OK, that doesn’t sound like too big a problem, why don’t we just boost the saturation of the image in post production? Well if the display is already showing our 100% green S-Gamut signal at the maximum it can show (6/10ths for Rec-709) then boosting the saturation won’t help colours that are already at the limit of what the display can show simply because it isn’t capable of showing them any greener than they already look. Boosting the saturation will make those colours not at the limit of the display technology richer, but those already at the limit won’t get any more colourful. So as we boost the saturation any pale green apples become greener while the deep green apples stay the same so we loose colour contrast between the pale and deep green apples. The end result is an image that doesn’t really look any different that it would have done if shot in Rec-709.

apples31 What is a Gamut or Color Space and why do I need to know about it?
Saturation boosted S-Gamut looks little different to 709 original.
gamuts-269x300 What is a Gamut or Color Space and why do I need to know about it?
Sony colour gamuts.

But, it’s even worse that just a difference to the saturation. Look at the triangles again  and compare 709 with S-Gamut. Look at how much more green there is within the S-Gamut colour soace than the 709 colour space compared to red or blue.  So what do you think will happen if we try to take that S-Gamut range and squeeze it in to the 709 range? Well there will be a distinct colour shift towards green as we have a greater percentage of green in S-Gamut than we should have in Rec-709 and that will generate a noticeable colour shift and the skewing of colours.

apples5 What is a Gamut or Color Space and why do I need to know about it?
Squeezing S-Gamut into 709 will result in a colour shift.

This is where Sony have been very clever with S-Gamut3. If you do take S-Gamut and squeeze it in to 709 then you will see a colour shift (as well as the saturation shift discussed earlier). But with S-Gamut3 Sony have altered the colour sampling within the colour space so that there is a better match between 709 and S-Gamut3. This means that when you squeeze S-Gamut3 into 709 there is virtually no colour shift. However S-Gamut3 is still a very big colour space so to correctly use it in a 709 environment you really need to use a Look Up Table (LUT) to re-map it into the smaller space without an appreciable saturation loss, mapping the colours in such a way that a dark green apple will still look darker green than a light green apple but keeping within the boundaries of what a 709 display can show.

Taking this one step further, realising that there are very few, if any display devices that can actually show a gamut as large as S-Gamut or S-Gamut3, Sony have developed a smaller Gamut known as S-Gamut3.cine that is a subset of S-Gamut3.

The benefit of this smaller gamut is that the red green and blue ratios are very close to 709. If you look at the triangles you can see that S-Gamut3.cine is more or less just a larger version of the 709 triangle. This means that colours shifts are almost totally eliminated making this gammut much easier to work with in post production. It’s still a large gamut, bigger than the DCI-P3 specification for digital cinema, so it still has a bigger colour range than we can ever normally hope to see, but as it is better aligned to both P3 and rec-709 colourists will find it much easier to work with. For productions that will end up as DCI-P3 a slight saturation boost is all that will be needed in many cases.

So as you can see, having a huge Gamut may not always be beneficial as often we don’t have any way to show it and simply adding more saturation to a seemingly de-saturated big gamut image may actually reduce the colour contrast as our already fully saturated objects, limited by what a 709 display can show, can’t get any more saturated. In addition a gamut such as S-Gamut that has a very different ratio of R, G and B to that of 709 will introduce colour shifts if it isn’t correctly re-mapped. This is why Sony developed S-Gamut3.cine, a big but not excessively large colour space that lines up well with both DCI-P3 and Rec-709 and is thus easier to handle in post production.