Category Archives: Technology

What is HLG and what is it supposed to be used for?

While we wait for Sony to re-release the version 4 firmware for the FS5 I thought I would briefly take a look at what HLG is and what it’s designed to do as there seems to be a lot of confusion.

HLG stands for Hybrid Log Gamma. It is one of the gamma curves used for DISTRIBUTION of HDR content to HDR TV’s that support the HLG standard. It was never meant to be used for capture, it was specifically designed for delivery.

As the name suggests HLG is a hybrid gamma curve. It is a hybrid of Rec-709 and Log. But before you get all excited by the log part, the log used by HLG is only a small part of the curve and it is very agressive – it crams a very big dynamic range into a very small space – This means that if you take it into post production and start to fiddle around with it there is a very high probability of problems with banding and other similar artefacts becoming apparent.

The version of HLG in the FS5 firmware follows the BBC HLG standard (there is another NHK standard). From black to around 70% the curve is very similar to Rec 709, so from 0 to 70% you get quite reasonable contrast. Around 70% the curve transitions to a log type gamma allowing a dynamic range much greater than 709 to be squeezed into a conventional codec. The benefit this brings is that on a conventional Rec-709 TV the picture doesn’t look wrong. It looks like a very slightly darker than normal, only slightly flat mid range, but the highlights are quite flat and  washed out. For the average home TV viewer watching on a 709 TV the picture looks OK, maybe not the best image ever seen, but certainly acceptable.

However feed this same signal to an HDR TV that supports HLG and the magic starts to happen. IF the TV supports HLG (and currently only a fairly small proportion of HDR TV’s support HLG. Most use PQ/ST2084) then the HLG capable HDR TV will take the compressed log highlight range and stretch it out to give a greater dynamic range display. The fact that the signal gets stretched out means that the quality of the codec used is critical. HLG was designed for 10 bit distribution using HEVC, it was never meant to be used with 8 bit codecs, so be very, very careful if using it in UHD with the FS5 as this is only 8 bit.

So, HLG’s big party trick is that it produces an acceptable looking image on a Rec-709 TV, but also gives an HDR image on an HDR TV. So one signal can be used for both HDR and SDR giving what might be called backwards compatibility with regular SDR TV’s. But it is worth noting that on a 709 TV HLG images don’t look as good as images specifically shot or graded for 709. It is a bit of a compromise.

What about the dynamic range? High end HDR TV’s can currently show about 10 stops. Lower cost HDR TV’s may only be able to show 8 stops (compared to the 6 stops of a 709 TV). There is no point in feeding a 14 stop signal to a 10 stop TV, it won’t look the best. From what I’ve seen of the HLG curves in the FS5 they allow for a maximum of around 10 to 11 stops, about the same as the cinegammas. HLG can be used for much greater ranges, but as yet there are no TV’s that can take advantage of this and it will be a long tome before there are. So for now, the recorded range is a deliberately limited so you don’t see stuff in the viewfinder that will never be seen on todays HDR TV’s.  As a result the curves don’t use the full recording range of the camera. This means they are not using the recording data in a particularly efficient way, a lot of data is unused and wasted. But this is necessary to make the curves directly compatible with an HLG display.

What about grading them? My advice – don’t try to grade HLG footage. There are three problems. The first is that the gamma is very different in the low/mid range compared to the highlights. This means that in post the shadows and mid range will respond to corrections and adjustments very differently to the high range. That makes grading tricky as you need to apply separate correction to the midrange and highlights.

The second problem is that the is a very large highlight range squeezed into a very small recording range. It should look OK when viewed directly with no adjustment. But if you try stretching that out to make the highlights brighter (remember they never reach 100% as recorded) or to make them more contrasty, there is a higher probability of seeing banding artefacts than with any other gamma in the camera.

The third issue is simply that the limited recording range means you have fewer code values per stop than regular Rec-709, the cinegammas or S-Log2. HLG is the least best choice for grading in the FS5.

Next problem is color. Most HDR TV’s want Rec-2020 color. Most conventional monitors want Rec-709 color. Feed Rec-2020 into a 709 monitor and the colors look flat and the hues are all over the place, especially skin tones. Some highly saturated colors on the edge of the color gamut may pop out more than others and this looks odd.

Feed 709 into a 2020 TV and it will look super saturated and once again the color hues will be wrong. Also don’t fool yourself into thinking that by recording Rec2020 you are actually capturing more. The FS5 sensor is designed for 709. The color filters on the sensor do work a little beyond 709, but nowhere near what’s needed to actually “see” the full 2020 color space. So if you set the FS5 to 2020 what you are capturing is only marginally greater than 709. All you really have is the 709  with the hues shifted and saturation reduced so color looks right on a 2020 monitor or TV.

So really, unless you are actually feeding an Rec 2100 (HLG + 2020) TV, there is no point in using 2020 color as this require you to grade the footage to get the colors to look right on most normal TV’s and monitors. As already discussed, HLG is far from ideal for grading, so better to shot 709 if that’s what your audience will be using.

Don’t let the hype and fanfares that have surrounded this update cloud your vision. HLG is certainly very useful if you plan to directly feed HDR to a TV that supports HLG. But if you plan on creating HDR content that will be viewed on both HLG TV’s and the more common PQ/ST2084 TV’s then HLG is NOT what you want. You would be far – far better off shooting with S-Log and then grading your footage to these two very different HDR standards. If you try to convert HLG to PQ it is not going to look nearly as good as if you start with S-Log.

Exposure levels: If you want to get footage that works both with an HLG HDR TV and a SDR 709 TV then you need to expose carefully. A small bit of over exposure wont hurt the image when you view it on a 709 TV or monitor, so it will look OK in the viewfinder. But on an HDR TV any over exposure could result in skin tones that look much too bright and an image that is unpleasantly bright. As a guide you should expose diffuse 90% white (a white card or white piece of paper) at no more than 75%. Skin tones should be around 55 to 60%. You should not expose HLG as brightly as you do Rec-709.

Sure you can shoot with HLG for non HDR applications. You will get some slightly flat looking footage with rolled off highlights. If that’s the image you want then I’m not going to stop you shooting that way. If that’s what you want I suggest you consider the Cinegamma as these capture a similar DR also have a nice highlight roll off (when exposed correctly) and do use the full recording range.

Whatever you do make sure you understand what HLG was designed for. Make sure you understand the post production limitations and above all else understand that it absolutely is not a substitute for S-log.

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PXW-FS5, Version 4.0 and base ISO – BEWARE if you use ISO!!

The new version 4.0 firmware for the PXW-FS5 brings a new lower base ISO range to the camera. This very slightly reduces noise levels in the pictures. If you use “gain” in dB to indicate your gain level, then you shouldn’t have any problems, +6dB is still +6dB and will be twice as noisy as 0dB. However if you use ISO to indicate your gain level then be aware that as the base sensitivity is now lower, if you use the same ISO with version 4 as you did with version 3 you will be adding more gain than before.

Version 3 ISO  in black, version 4 ISO in Blue

Standard 1000 ISO – 800 ISO
Still 800 ISO- 640 ISO
Cinegamma 1  800 ISO – 640 ISO
Cinegamma 2  640 ISO – 500 ISO
Cinegamma 3  1000 ISO – 800 ISO
Cinegamma 4  1000 ISO – 800 ISO
ITU709 1000 ISO – 800 ISO
ITU709(800) 3200 ISO – 2000 ISO
S-Log2 3200 ISO – 3200/2000 ISO
S-Log3 3200 ISO- 3200/2000 ISO

At 0dB or the base ISO these small changes (a little under 3dB) won’t make much difference because the noise levels are pretty low in either case. But at higher gain levels the difference is more noticeable.

For example if you  often used Cinegamma 1 at 3200 ISO with Version 3 you would be adding 12dB gain and the pictures would be approx 4x noisier than the base ISO.

With Version 4, 3200 ISO with Cinegamma 1 is an extra 15dB gain and you will have pictures approx 6 time noisier than the base ISO.

Having said that, because 0dB in version 4 is now a little less noisy than in version 3, 3200 ISO in V3 looks quite similar to 3200 ISO in version 4 even though you are adding a bit more gain.

Want to shoot direct to HDR with the PXW-FS7, PMW-F5 and F55?

Sony will be releasing an update for the firmware in the Sony PXW-FS5 in the next few days. This update amongst other things will allow users of the FS5 to shoot to HDR directly using the Hybrid Log Gamma HDR gamma curve and Rec2020 color. By doing this you  eliminate the need to grade your footage and could plug the camera directly in to a compatible HDR TV (the TV must support HLG) and see an HDR image directly on the screen.

But what about FS7 and F5/F55 owners? Well, for most HDR productions I still believe the best workflow is to shoot in S-Log3 and then to grade the footage to HDR. However there may be times when you need that direct HDR output. So for the FS7, F5 and F55 I have created a set of Hybrid Log Gamma LUT’s that you can use to bake in HLG and Rec2020 while you shoot. This gives you the same capabilities as the FS5 (with the exception of the ability to add HLG metadata to the HDMI).

For a video explanation of the process please follow the link to my new Patreon page where you will find the video and the downloadable LUT’s.

Thinking about frame rates.

Once upon a time it was really simple. We made TV programmes and videos that would only ever be seen on TV screens. If you lived and worked in a PAL area you would produce programmes at 25fps. If you lived in an NTSC area, most likely 30fps. But today it’s not that simple. For a start the internet allows us to distribute our content globally, across borders. In addition PAL and NTSC only really apply to standard definition television as they are the way the SD signal is broadcast with a PAL frame being larger than an NTSC one and both use non-square pixels. With HD Pal and NTSC does not exist, both are 1280×720 or 1920×1080 and both use square pixels, the only difference between HD in a 50hz country and a 60hz country is the frame rate.

Today with HD we have many different frame rates to choose from. For film like motion we can use 23.98fps or 24fps. For fluid smooth motion we can use 50fps or 60fps. In between sits the familiar 25fps and 30fps (29.97fps) frame rates. Then there is also the option of using interlace or progressive scan. Which do you choose?

If you are producing a show for a broadcaster then normally the broadcaster will tell you which frame rate they need. But what about the rest of us?

There is no single “right” frame rate to use. A lot will depend on your particular application, but there are some things worth considering.

If you are producing content that will be viewed via the internet then you probably want to steer clear of interlace. Most modern TV’s and all computer monitors use progressive scan and the motion in interlaced content does not look good on progressive TVs and monitors. In addition most computer monitors run by default at 60hz. If you show content shot at 25fps or 50fps on a 60hz monitor it will stutter slightly as the computer repeats an uneven number of  frames to make 25fps fit into 60Hz. So you might want to think about shooting at 30fps or 60fps for smoother less stuttery motion.

24fps or 23.98fps will also stutter slightly on a 60hz computer screen, but the stutter is very even as 1 frame gets repeated in every 4 frames shown.  This is very similar to the “pull-up” that gets added to 24fps movies when shown on 30fps television, so it’s a kind of motion that many viewers are used to seeing anyway. Because it’s a regular stutter pattern it tends to be less noticeable in the irregular conversion from 25fps to 60hz. 25 just doesn’t fit into 60 in a nice even manner. Which brings me to another consideration – If you are looking for a one fits all standard then 24 or 23.98fps might be a wise choice. It works reasonably well via the internet on 60hz monitors. It can easily be converted to 30fps (29.97fps) using the pull-up for television and it’s not too difficult to convert to 25fps simply by speeding it up by 4% (many feature films are shown in 25fps countries simply by being sped up and a pitch shift added to the audio).

So, even if you live and work in a 25fps (Pal) area, depending on how your content will be distributed you might actually want to consider 24, 30 or 60fps for your productions. 25fps or 50fps looks great on a 50hz TV, but with the majority of non broadcast content being viewed on computers, laptops and tablets 24/30/60fps may be a better choice.

What about the “film look”? Well I think it’s obvious to say that 24p or 23.98p will be as close as you can get to the typical cadence and motion seen in most movies. But 25p also looks more or less the same. Even 30p has a hint of the judder that we see in a 24p movie, but 30p is a little smoother. 50p and 60p will give very smooth motion, so if you shoot sports or fast action and you want it to be smooth you may need to use 50/60p. But 50/60p files will be twice the size of 24/25 and 30p files in most cases, so then storage and streaming bandwidth have to be considered. It’s much easier to stream 24p than 60p.

For almost all of the things that I do I shoot at 23.98p, even though I live in a 50hz country. I find this gives me the best overall compatibility. It also means I have the smallest files sizes and the clips will normally stream pretty well. One day I will probably need to consider shooting everything at 60fps, but that seems to be some way off for now, HDR and higher resolutions seem to be what people want right now rather than higher frame rates.

What’s the difference between raw and S-Log ProRes – Re: FS5 raw output.

This is a question that comes up a lot.

Raw is the unprocessed (or minimally processed) data direct from the sensor. It is just the brightness value for each of the pixels, it is not a color image, but we know which color filter is above each pixel, so we are able to work out the color later. In the computer you take that raw data and convert it into a conventional color video signal defining the gamma curve and colorspace in the computer.  This gives you the freedom to choose the gamma and colorspace after the shoot and retains as much of the original sensor information as possible.Of course the captured dynamic and color range is determined by the capabilities of the sensor and we can’t magically get more than the sensor can “see”. The quality of the final image is also dependant on the quality of the debayer process in the computer, but as you have the raw data you can always go back and re-encode the footage with a better quality encoder at a later date. Raw can be compressed or uncompressed. Sony’s 12 bit FS-raw when recorded on an Odyssey or Atomos recorder is normally uncompressed so there are no additional artefacts from compression, but the files are large. The 16 bit raw from a Sony F5 or F55 when recorded on an R5 or R7 is made about 3x smaller through a proprietary algorithm.

ProRes is a conventional compressed color video format. So a ProRes file will already have a pre-determined gamma curve and color space, this is set in the camera through a picture profile, scene file or other similar settings at the time of shooting. The quality of the ProRes file is dependant on the quality of the encoder in the camera or recorder at the time of recording, so there is no way to go back and improve on this or change the gamma/colorspace later. In addition ProRes, like most commonly used codecs is a lossy compressed format, so some (minimal) picture information may be lost in the encoding process and artefacts (again minimal) are added to the image. These cannot easily be removed later, however they should not normally present any serious problems.

It’s important to understand that there are many different types of raw and many different types of ProRes and not all are equal. The FS-raw from the FS5/FS7 is 12 bit linear and 12 bit’s are not really enough for the best possible quality from a 14 stop camera (there are not enough code values so floating point math and/or data rounding has to take place and this effects the shadows and low key areas of the image). You really need 16 bit data for 14 stops of dynamic range with linear raw, so if you are really serious about raw you may want to consider a Sony F5 or F55. ProRes is a pretty decent codec, especially if you use ProResHQ and 10 bit log approaches the quality of 12 bit linear raw but without the huge file sizes.  Incidentally there is very little to be gained by going to ProRes 444 when recording the 12 bit raw from an FS5/FS7, you’ll just have bigger files and less record time.

Taking the 12 bit raw from an FS5 and converting it to ProRes in an external recorder has potential problems of it’s own. The quality of the final file will be dependant on the quality of the debayer and encoding process in the recorder, so there may be differences in the end result from different recorders. In addition you have to add a gamma curve at this point so you must be careful to choose the correct gamma curve to minimise concatenation where you add the imperfections of 12 bit linear to the imperfections of the 10 bit encoded file (S-Log2 appears to be the best fit to Sony’s 12 bit linear raw).

Despite the limitations of 12 bit linear, it is normally a noticeable improvement over the FS5’s 8 bit internal UHD recordings, but less of a step up from the 10 bit XAVC that an FS7 can record internally. What it won’t do is allow you to capture anything extra. It won’t improve the dynamic range, won’t give you more color and won’t enhance the low light performance (if anything there will be a slight increase in shadow noise and it may be slightly inferior in under exposed shots). You will have the same dynamic and color range, but recorded with more “bits” (code values to be precise). Linear raw excels at capturing highlight information and what you will find is that compared to log there will be more textures in highlights and brighter parts of your captured scenes. This will become more and more important as HDR screens are better able to show highlights correctly. Current standard dynamic range displays don’t show highlights well, so often the extra highlight data in raw is of little benefit over log. But that’s going to change in the next few years so linear recording with it’s extra highlight information will become more and more important.

Will a bigger recording Gamut give me more picture information?

The short answer is it all depends on the camera you are using. With the F55 or F65 then S-Log2/S-Gamut and S-Log3/S-Gamut3 will give you a larger range of colours in your final image than S-Log3/S-Gamut3.cine. But if you have a PMW-F5, PXW-FS7 or PXW-FS5 this is not going to be the case.

What is Gamut?

The word Gamut means the complete range or scale of something. So when we talk about Gamut in a video camera we are talking about dynamic range and color range (colorspace) taken together. Then within the Gamut we can break that down into the dynamic range or brightness range which is determined by the gamma curve and the color range which is determined by the colorspace.

Looking at the current Sony digital cinema cameras you have a choice of 3 different gamuts when the camera is in log mode plus a number of conventional gamuts you get when shooting rec-709, rec-2020 or any other combination of rec-709 color with cinegammas or hypergammas.

Log gamma and gamuts.

But it’s in the log mode where there is much confusion. When shooting with log with the current cameras you have 3 recommended combinations.

S-Gamut (S-Gamut colorspace + S-log2 gamma).

S-Gamut3 (S-Gamut3 colorspace + S-Log3 gamma).

S-Gamut3.cine (S-Gamut3.cine colorpace + S-Log3 gamma).

The S-log2 and S-log3 gamma curves both capture the same dynamic range – 14 stops, there is no difference in the dynamic range captured.

In terms of the range of colors that can be recorded S-Gamut and S-Gamut3 are the same size and the largest recording colorspaces the cameras have. S-Gamut3.cine is a smaller colourspace but still larger than P3 (digital cinema projection) or rec-709.

Gamuts-only Will a bigger recording Gamut give me more picture information?

But those were all designed for the F55 and F65 cameras that have extremely high quality (expensive) colour filters on their sensors. The reality is that the F5/FS7/FS5 sensor cannot see the full range of any of the S-Gamut colorspaces so in reality you gain very little by using the larger versions. Don’t expect to see a noticeably greater range of colours than any of the other colour modes if you have the F5/FS7/FS5. But all the LUT’s designed for these cameras are based on the S-Gamuts and if you want to mix an FS5 with an F55 in one production it helps to use the same settings so that grading will be easier. It is worth noting at this point that most natural colors do fall within Rec-709, so while it is always nicer to have a bigger color range it isn’t the end of the world for most of what we shoot.

S-Log3 is a great example of what it means to have a bigger recording range than the camera can “see”. S-log3 is based on the Cineon film transfer log gamma curve developed back in the late 1980’s. Cineon was carefully tailored to match film response and designed around 10 bit data (as that was state of the art back then). It allows for around 16 stops of dynamic range. Much later, Arri and many others then adapted Cineon for use in video cameras – The “C” in Arri’s LogC stands for Cineon.

When Sony started doing wide dynamic range cameras they developed their own log gammas starting with S-Log, then S-Log2. These curves are matched very precisely to the way a video sensor captures a scene rather than film. In addition they are matched to the sensors actual capture range, S-Log can record 13 stops as that’s what the sensors in the cameras with S-Log can see. Then S-Log2 is 14 stops as the second generation cameras can all see 14 stops. As a result of being purpose designed for a video sensor, when using S-Log2 you maximise the entire recording range because the sensor is matched to the log which is matched to the record range.

But, these curves drew much criticism from early adopters and colorists because they were very different from the Cineon curve and all the other log curves based on this old school film curve. Colorists didn’t like it because none of their old Cineon LUT’s would work as expected and it was “different”.

S-log-levels Will a bigger recording Gamut give me more picture information?
Chart showing S-Log2 and S-Log3 plotted against f-stops and code values. Note how little data there is for each of the darker stops, the best data is above middle grey. Note that current sensors only go to +6 stops over middle grey so S-Log2 and S-Log3 record to different peak levels.

In response to this Sony then developed S-Log3 and surprise, surprise – S-log3 is based on Cineon. So S-log3 is based on a 16 stop film transfer curve, but the current cameras can only see 14 stops. What this means is that the top 14% of the gamma curve is never used (that’s where stops 15 and 16 would reside) and as a result s-Log3 tops out at 92% and never gets to the 107% that S-Log2 can reach. If Sony were to release a 16 stop camera then S-Log3 could still be used and then it would reach 107%.

Coming back to colorspace. If you understand that the sensor in the F5/FS7/FS5 cannot see the full colour range that S-Gamut or S-Gamut3 are capable of recording then you will appreciate that like S-log3 (that is larger than the camera can see and therefore part empty) many of the possible code values available in S-Gamut are left empty. This is a waste of data. So from a colourspace point of view the best match when shooting log for these cameras is the slightly smaller colorspace S-Gamut3.cine. But S-Gamut3.cine is meant to be matched with S-Log3 which as we have seen wastes data anyway. If the camera is shooting using a 10 bit codec such as XAVC-I or XAVC-L in HD there are plenty of code values to play with, so a small loss of data has little impact on the final image. But if you are recording with only 8 bit data, for example XAVC-L in UHD then this does become much more of a problem and this is when you will find that S-Gamut with S-Log2 is going to give a better result as S-Log2 was designed for use with a video sensor from day 1 and it maximises the use of what little data you have.

Raw and the PXW-FS5

This isn’t a “how to” guide. There are many different recorders that can be used to record raw from the FS5 and each would need it’s own user guide. This is an overview of what raw is and how raw recording works to help those that are a bit confused, or not getting the best results.

First of all – you need to have the raw upgrade installed on the FS5 and it must be set to output raw. Then you need a suitable raw recorder. Just taking the regular SDI or HDMI output and recording it on an external recorder is not raw.

Raw is raw data direct from the cameras sensor with very little image processing. It isn’t even a color image, it won’t become color until some external processing, often called “De-Bayer” is done to convert the raw data to a color image.

For raw to work correctly the camera has to be set up just right. On the FS5 you should use Picture Profile 7. Don’t try and use any other profile, don’t try and shoot without a profile. You must use Picture Profile 7 at it’s factory default settings. In addition don’t add any gain or change the ISO from 3200. Even if the scene is a dark one, adding gain will not help and it may in fact degrade the recorded image.

White balance is set using the appropriate SGamut + color temperature preset chosen from within Picture Profile 7, there are only 3 to choose from for S-Gamut, but with a raw workflow you will normally fine tune the white balance in post. No other color matrix or white balance method should be used. Trying to white balance any other way may result in the sensor data being skewed or shifted in a way that makes it hard to deal with later on.

All of the above is done to get the best possible, full dynamic range data off the sensor and out of the camera.

If you are viewing the S-Log2 (ie don’t have viewfinder gamma assist enabled) then the exposure level that Sony recommend is to have a white card at 60%. So consider setting the zebras to 60%. Don’t worry that this may look a bit dark or appear to be a low level, but that’s the level you should start with… More about exposure later on.

This raw data is then passed down the SDI cable to the external recorder. The external recorder will then process it, turn it into a color signal (de-bayer) and add a gamma curve so that it can be viewed on the recorders screen. Exactly what it will look like on the monitor screen will depend on how the recorder is set up. IF the recorder is set to show S-Log2, then the recorders screen and the FS5’s LCD should look similar. However you might find that it looks very different to what you are seeing on the FS5’s LCD screen. This is not unexpected. If the recorder is setup to convert the raw to Rec-709 for display then the image on the recorder will be brighter and show more contrast, in fact it should look “normal”.

Under the surface however, the external raw recorder is going to be doing one of two things (normally at least). It’s either going to be recording the raw data coming from the camera as it is, in other words as raw. Or it will be converting the raw data to S-Log2 and recording it as a conventional ProRes or DNxHR video file. Either way when you bring this footage in to post production it will normally appear as a flat, low contrast S-Log2 image rather than a bright, contrasty rec-709 image. So understand that the footage will normally need to be graded or have some other changes made to it to look nice.

Recording the actual raw data will give you the best possible information that you can get from the FS5 to work with in post production. The downside is that the files will be huge and will take a fair amount of processing power to work with. Recording a ProRes or DNxHR video file with S-Log2 gamma is second best. You are throwing away a bit of image quality (going from 12 bit linear down to 10 bit log) but the files should still be far superior to the 8 bit UHD internal recordings or even an external recording done via the HDMI which is also limited to 8 bit in UHD.

Most raw recorders have the ability to add a LUT – Look Up Table – to the image viewed on the screen. The purpose of the LUT is to convert the S-Log2/raw to a conventional gamma such as Rec-709 so that the picture looks normal. If you are using a LUT then the normal way to do things is to view the normal looking picture on the recorders screen while the recorder continues to record S-Log2 or raw. This is useful as the image on the screen looks normal so it is easier to judge exposure. With a 709 LUT you would expose the picture so that the image on the recorders screen looks as bright as normal, skin tones would be the usual 70% (ish) and white would be 90%.

There is a further option and that is to “bake in the LUT”. This means that instead of just using the LUT to help with monitoring and exposure you actually record the image that you see on the recorders screen. This might be useful if you don’t have any time for grading, but… and it’s a big BUT…. you are now no longer recording S-log2 or raw. You will no longer have the post production grading flexibility that raw or S-Log2 provide and for me at least this really does defeat the whole point of recording raw.

Exposure: Raw will not help you in low light. Raw needs to be exposed brightly. If viewing S-Log2 then Sony’s recommendation is to have a white card or white piece of paper at 60%. I consider that to be the absolute minimum level you can get away with. The best results will normally be achieved if you can expose that white card or piece of paper at around 70% (when looking at an S-Log2 image). Skin tones would be around 55%. If you expose like this you may need to use a different LUT on the recorder to ensure the picture doesn’t look over exposed on the recorders monitor screen. Most of the recorders include LUT’s that have offsets for brighter exposures to allow for this. Then in post production you will also want a LUT with an exposure offset to apply to the S-Log2 recordings. You can use the search function (top right) to find my free LUT sets and download them.

SEE ALSO: https://www.sony.co.uk/pro/article/broadcast-products-FS5-raw-shooting-tips

 

Sony FDR-X3000 4K Action Cam – built in gimbal.

One of the cameras I used a lot in Norway is the new Sony FDR-X3000 action cam. What’s different about this POV camera is that the lens and sensor are actually mounted in an internal miniaturised gimbal. This really does work and helps stabilise the image.

There is also a tiny bluetooth monitor that you can wear on your wrist to view the pictures and control the camera. The image quality you get from these tiny cameras really is quite amazing. Take a look at the video to find out more and see some sample footage.

Not all raw is created equal. Log may be better

This keeps cropping up time and time again.

Unfortunately every now and again a new term or buzzword comes along that gets taken as a holy grail term. Two that come to mind right now are log and raw. Neither log, nor raw, are magic bullet solutions that guarantee the best performance. Used incorrectly or inappropriately both can result in inferior results. In addition there are many flavours of log and raw each with very different performance ranges.

A particular point in case is the 12 bit raw available from several of Sony’s mid range large sensor cameras, the FS700, FS7 and FS5.

Raw can be either log or linear. This particular flavour of raw is encoded using linear data.  If it is linear then each successively brighter stop of exposure should be recorded with twice as many code values or shades as the previous stop. This accurately replicates the change in the light in the scene you are shooting.  If you make the scene twice as bright, you need to record it with twice as much data. Every time you go up a stop in exposure you are doubling the light in the scene. 12 bit linear raw is actually very rare, especially from a camera with a high dynamic range. To my knowledge, Sony are the only company that offer 14 stops of dynamic range using 12 bit linear data.

There’s actually a very good reason for this: Strictly speaking, it’s impossible! Here’s why: For each stop we go up in exposure we need twice as many code values. With 12 bit data there are a maximum of 4096 code values, this is not enough to record 14 stops.

If stop 1 uses 1 code value, stop 2 will use 2, stop 3 will use 4, stop 4 will use 8 and so on.

STOP:  CODE VALUES:  TOTAL CODE VALUES REQUIRED.

+1          1                                   1
+2          2                                   3
+3          4                                   8
+4          8                                   16
+5          16                                32
+6          32                                64
+7          64                                128
+8          128                             256 Middle Grey
+9          256                             512
+10       512                             1,024
+11       1,024                          2,048
+12       2,048                         4,096
+13       4,096                         8,192
+14       8,192                         16,384

As you can see from the above if we only have 12 bit data and as a result 4096 code values to play with, we can only record an absolute maximum of 12 stops of dynamic range using linear data. To get even 12 stops we must record the first couple of stops with an extremely small amount of tonal information. This is why most 14 stop raw cameras use 16 bit data for linear or use log encoded raw data for 12 bit, where each stop above middle grey (around stop +8) is recorded with the same amount of data.

So how are Sony doing it on the FS5, FS7 etc? I suspect (I’m pretty damn certain in fact) that Sony use something called floating point math. In essence what they do is take the linear data coming off the sensor and round the values recorded to the nearest 4 or 8. So, stop +14 is now only recorded with 2,048 values, stop +13 with 512 values etc. This is fine for the brighter stops where there are hundreds or even thousands of values, it has no significant impact on the brighter parts of the final image. But in the darker parts of the image it does have an impact as for example stop +5 which starts off with 16 values ends up only being recorded with 4 values and each stop below this only has 1 or two discreet levels. This results in blocky and often noisy looking shadow areas – a common complaint with 12 bit linear raw. I don’t know for a fact that this is what they are doing. But if you look at what they need to do, the options available and you look at the end results for 12 bit raw, this certainly appears to be the case.

Meanwhile a camera like the FS7 which can record 10 bit log will retain the full data range in the shadows because if you use log encoding, the brighter stops are each recorded with the same amount of data. With S-Log2 and 10 bit XAVC-I the FS7 uses approx 650 code values to record the 6 brightest stops in it’s capture range reserving approx 250 code values for the 8 darkest stops. Compare this to the linear example above and in fact what you will see is that 10 bit S-Log2 has as much data as you would expect to find in a straight 16 bit linear recording below middle grey (S-Log 3 actually reserves slightly more data for the shadows). BUT that’s for 16 bit. Sony’s 12 bit raw is squeezing 14 stops into what should be an impossibly small number of code values, so in practice what I have found  is that 10 bit S-log has noticeably more data in the shadows than 12 bit raw.

In the highlights 12 bit linear raw will have more data than 10 bit S-log2 and S-Log3 and this is borne out in practice where a brightly exposed raw image will give amazing results with beautiful highlights and mid range. But if your 12 bit raw is dark or underexposed it is not going to perform as well as you might expect. For dark and low key scenes 10 bit S-Log is most likely going to give a noticeably better image. (Note: 8 bit S-log2/3 as you would have from an FS5 in UHD only has a quarter of the data that 10 bit has. The FS5 records the first 8 stops in  8 bit S-log 2 with approx 64 code values, S-Log3 is only marginally better at approx 80 code values. 12 bit linear outperforms 8 bit log across the entire range).

Sony’s F5 and F55 cameras record to the R5 and R7 recorders using 16 bit linear data. 16 bit data is enough for 14 stops. But I believe that Sony still use floating point math for 16 bit recording. This time instead of using the floating point math to make room for an otherwise impossible dynamic range they use it to take a little bit of data from the brightest stop to give extra code values in the shadows. When you have 16,384 code values to play with you can afford to do that. This then adds a lot of extra tonal values and shades to the shadows compared to 10 bit log and as a result 16 bit linear raw will outperform 10 bit log across the entire exposure range by a fairly large margin.

So there you have it.  I know it’s hugely confusing sometimes. Not all types of raw are created equal. It’s really important to understand this stuff if you’re buying a camera. Just because it has raw it doesn’t necessarily mean an automatic improvement in image quality in every shooting situation. Log can be just as good or possibly even better in some situations, raw better in others. There are reasons why cameras like the F5/R5 cost more than a FS5/Shogun/Odyssey.