Last night I attended the official opening of Sony’s new Digital Media Production center in LA. This is a very nice facility where Sony can show end users how to get the most from full end to end digital production, from camera to display. And a most impressive display it is as the facility has a huge permanent 26ft HDR C-Led equipped cinema.
One of the key announcements made at the event was details of what will be the 5th major firmware update for the Venice cameras. Due January 2020 version 5 will extend the cameras high frame rate capabilities as well as adding or improving on a number of existing options:
· HFR Capabilities – Up to 90fps at 6K 2.39:1 and 72fps at 6K 17:9.
· Apple ProRes 4444 – Record HD videos in the high picture quality on SxS PRO+ cards, without Sony’s AXS-R7 recorder. This is especially effective for HD VFX workflow.
· 180 Degree RotationMonitor Out– Flip and flop images via viewfinder and SDI.
· High Resolution Magnificationvia HD Monitor Out – Existing advanced viewfinder technology for clearer magnification is now extended to HD Monitor Out.
· Improved User Marker Settings – Menu updates for easier selection of frame lines on viewfinder.
90fps in 6K means that a full 3x slow down will be possible for 6K 24fps projects. In addition to the above Sony now have a new IDT for Venice for ACES. so now VENICE has officially joined The F65, F55 and F55 in earning the ACES logo, meeting the specifications laid out in the ACES Product Partner Logo Program. I will post more details of this and how to get hold of the IDT over the weekend.
Coming just a few days after the release of the Venice version 3 firmware, Sony have just released details of the next major Venice update which is planned to be released in June of this year. Last year when Sony started talking about HFR (high frame rates) for Venice it was expected that 4K would reach at least 96fps. However it has now been confirmed that the version 4 update will include the option to purchase an HFR licence that will allow you to shoot in 4K at up to 120fps.
It is worth noting however that 120fps will only be available when shooting 2.39:1. When shooting 17:9 the limit will be 110fps, still better than the originally promised 96fps. As well as 4K HFR you will also be able to shoot at 60fps in 6K 3:2 and 75fps 4K 3:2 ideal for use with 2x Anamorphic lenses.
The full press release is below:
Basingstoke, UK, 31st January 2019: Sony will be upgrading the capabilities of its next-generation motion picture camera system, VENICE, by introducing High Frame Rate (HFR) shooting, advanced remote-control functionalities and Cooke/i3 and Zeiss extended metadata support, as part of its latest firmware update. Following the recent release of VENICE’s firmware Version 3.0 and the upcoming launch of its Extension System (CBK-3610XS), which was developed in collaboration with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and is currently being used to shoot the AVATAR sequels, the latest upgrade will offer filmmakers even greater creative freedom, flexibility and choice.
The new optional High Frame Rate license allows VENICE to shoot at speeds of up to 120fps at 4K 2.39:1, and 60fps at 6K 3:2 as well as up to 110fps at 4K 17:9 and 75fps at 4K 4:3 with anamorphic lenses. The new additional frame rates are particularly well-suited for drama, movie and commercial productions in 4K and 6K, as well as productions at 50/60p in 6K and VR productions using large viewing angle of 6K 3:2 in 60p. All High Frame Rates support X-OCN recording including X-OCN XT* implemented from Ver.3.0 and High Frame Rate up to 60fps support XAVC 4K and ProRes recording.
“At Sony, we pride ourselves on working closely with our customers and partners to create solutions that enable modern filmmakers to bring their vision to reality just the way they intend to. In fact, High Frame Rate shooting was a feature that was frequently requested by our customers. We listened to their feedback and are excited to now offer this feature to all new and existing VENICE users,” explained Sebastian Leske, Product Marketing Manager, Cinematography, Sony Professional Solutions Europe. “Last year at Cine Gear Expo, we announced that Version 4.0 will include 120fps in 2K. However, we are excited to announce today that, as a result of the hard work of our engineering team, Version 4.0 will now include 120fps in 4K. With firmware Version 4.0, our state-of-the-art VENICE will become even more powerful, fortifying its position as the go-to solution for cinematographers who want to create stunning imagery and capture emotion in every frame.”
Additionally, Version 4.0 of the VENICE firmware will introduce:
· 700 Protocol – A control protocol developed by Sony to connect VENICE to a remote-control unit (RM-B750 or RM-B170) and a RCP-1500 series remote control panel, giving filmmakers greater flexibility in bringing their visions to life. Further expanding on the camera’s existing remote-control capabilities, the VENICE now offers paint control, iris control, recording start/stop, clip control, and more. The upgraded remote-control function also adds new workflows to extend VENICE’s use in multi-camera and live production settings, such as live concerts and fashion shows.
· Support for Cooke’s /i third generation metadata Technology, /i3 and ZEISS eXtended Data technology (based on Cooke /i Technology) – Extended lens metadata can now be embedded straight into a RAW/X-OCN/XAVC file and HD-SDI output without the need for additional metadata equipment. The new function allows distortion and shading caused by supported lenses to be easily rectified, significantly reducing post-production costs.
Further features include an extended Mask+Line setting in the Frame line set-up, selectable functions for the assignable buttons of the DVF-EL200 viewfinder and pure Progressive HD-SDI output in 25p and 29p.
Both the free upgrade to firmware Version 4.0 and the optional HFR licence will be available in June 2019.
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.
Sony have just released a firmware update for the PXW-FS7 and PXW-FS7 II cameras. This is a minor update with only one new feature being added which is the ability to alter the recorded ISO when shooting in the Cine-EI mode.
When the camera is set to CineEI, this new function is turned on and off in the menu under System – Base Settings – Rec/Out EI Applied.
What does it do?
When shooting normally using Cine EI, assuming that no LUT is applied to SDI1/Rec the camera always records at it’s base sensitivity (2000 ISO exposure rating) with no added gain. This is done to ensure that the cameras full dynamic range is always available and that the full recording range of either S-Log2 or S-Log3 is always available.
Then the EI system is used to apply a LUT just to the viewfinder or SDI 2 for monitoring. The gain of the LUT can then be changed to provide a brighter or darker viewfinder/monitor image. For example setting the EI to 1000 EI would make the viewfinder image darker than the base setting of 2000EI by 1 stop.
Because you are viewing this darker image you would then open the cameras aperture by 1 stop to compensate. Opening the aperture up results in a brighter recording. A brighter recording, achieved by putting more light onto the sensor will have less noise than a darker exposure, so the end result is brighter recorded images with less noise.
This process is often referred to as “rating” the camera and it is in many cases preferable to “rate” the FS7 around a stop slower (Viewfinder is darker, less sensitive, so that means you end up opening up the aperture) than the base 2000 ISO rating to gain a cleaner image that typically gives much greater flexibility in post production. So many users will set the EI on an FS7 to 1000 or 800 (It’s no co-incidence that I find get the sweet spot to be 800EI which happens to match the rating that Sony give the FS7 when shooting Rec-709).
Because in the normal EI mode there is no change to the cameras actual recording gain (the recordings take place at the equivalent of 2000 ISO) there is no change to the dynamic range. The camera will always capture 14 stops no matter what you set the EI to. However if you open the aperture by an extra stop (selecting 1000 EI, which results in a 1 stop darker viewfinder image, so to compensate you open up 1 stop) you move the mid point of the exposure up 1 stop. This means you will reduce the over exposure headroom by 1 stop but at the same time you gain one stop of under exposure range. You will see 1 stop further into the shadows, plus there will be less noise, so the shadow range becomes much more useable.
Conventional EI mode and Post Production.
In post production these brightly exposed images will need some degree of adjustment. If you are doing a virgin grade from scratch then you don’t really need to do anything extra or different, you will just grade it to taste.
If you are using a LUT you will need to either use an exposure compensated LUT (I always provide these in any of my free LUT sets) or you will need to correct the exposure before applying the LUT. If you apply a standard LUT and then try to correct the exposure the results will often not be satisfactory as the LUT determines many things such as where any highlight roll-off occurs. Correcting after this can result in washed out of flat looking skin tones. So really you need to make the exposure correction to the material before it is passed to the LUT.
No loss of dynamic range with conventional EI.
It’s worth noting that even though the levels are reduced to “normal” levels when applying an exposure compensated LUT or through grading this should not reduce the dynamic range. You do not just shift the range down (which would hard clip the blacks and cause a loss of DR at the low end). What you are typically doing is reducing the gain to bring the levels down and this allows the information in the new extended shadow range to be retained, so nothing is lost and your footage will still have 14 stops of DR along with nice clean shadows and mid tones.
Is this all too difficult?
However, some people find that the need to correct the exposure prior to adding the LUT difficult or time consuming (I don’t know why, they just do. It takes no longer to add a compensated LUT than a normal LUT). Or some people find it difficult to get a good looking image from brightly exposed footage (probably because they are grading after the LUT has been applied). For these reasons Sony have added the ability to bake the EI change directly into the recording by shifting the gain of the recordings to match the selected EI.
Rec/Out EI Applied:
So now if you enable Rec/Out EI Applied any change you make to the cameras EI settings will now also be applied as a gain change to the recordings. If you set the EI to 1000, then the recordings will take place at 1000 ISO and not 2000 ISO. This means that you do not have to make any exposure corrections in post production, just apply a standard LUT.
You will loose some of your dynamic range:
The down side to this is that you are now changing the gain of the camera. Changing the gain away from 0dB will reduce the dynamic range and affect the recording range. So, for example if you wish to shoot at 1000 EI have Rec/Out EI Applied you will be recording with -6dB gain and an effective ISO of 1000. You will have 1 stop less of shadow range as the cameras effective sensitivity is being reduced by 1 stop but the sensors clip/overload point remains the same. So when you open the aperture to compensate for the lower sensitivity you will have the same shadow range as base, but loose one stop off the top. The images will have less noise, but there will be no additional shadow information and a reduction in highlight range by 1 stop, the DR will be 13 stops.
Another side effect of this is that the peak recording level is also reduced. This is because the cameras clipping point is determined by the sensor. This sensor clip point is normally mapped to the peak recording level and the cameras noise floor is mapped to the black level (you can’t see things that are darker than the sensors noise floor no matter what level of gain you use as the noise will always be higher than the object brightness).
If you reduce the gain of the signal this level must decrease as a result. This means that S-Log3 which normally gets to around ~94% will now only reach ~85%, the change to S-Log2 is even greater (S-Log3’s peak recording level will reduce by 8.9% for every stop down you go, S-Log2 will reduce by 12% for each stop you go down ).
Raising the EI/ISO will also reduce the dynamic range as the gain is applied after the sensor. So the sensors clip point remains the same, so the brightest highlight it handles remains fixed. Adding gain after this simply means the recordings will clip earlier, but you will get a brighter mid range, brighter (but not more) shadows and a noisier picture.
What happens in post with Rec/Out EI Applied?
In post production these range and peak level changes mean that while a standard LUT will result in a correct looking mid range (because middle grey and skin tones will be at “normal” levels) there may be some problems with highlights never reaching 100% in the case of a low EI/ISO. Or being excessively clipped in the case of a high EI/ISO. Remember LUT’s are designed to work over very specific ranges. So if the input to the LUT doesn’t reach the peak level the LUT is expecting then the output from the LUT will also be reduced. So often there will still be the need to do some additional grading of highlights prior to the application of the LUT, or the need to use LUT’s designed specifically for each ISO rating (and the design of these LUT’s is more complex than a simple exposure offset).
Is it really easier?
So while this new feature will simplify the workflow for some situations where an alternate ISO/EI has been used – because exposure correction in post production won’t be needed. It may actually make things more difficult if you have bright highlights or need to be sure that your finished video meets expected standards where highlights are at 100%. You will still need to do some grading.
I don’t recommend that you use it.
Personally I do not recommend that you use this new feature. There are plenty of exposure compensated LUT’s available online (I have lots here). Tweaking the exposure of log footage in post production isn’t that difficult, especially if you use a color managed workflow. My guess is that this is aimed at FCP-X users where FCP-X applies a default LUT as standard. In this instance footage shoot with an offset exposure will look over/under exposed while footage shoot with the EI/ISO Applied will look normal (except for the highlights). So on the face of things the workflow may appear simpler. But you are loosing dynamic range and surely the primary reason for shooting with log is to maximise the dynamic range and gain the greatest possible post production flexibility. This new feature reduces dynamic range and as a result reduces post production flexibility.
Of course just because I don’t recommend it’s use, it doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t use it if it works for you, just make sure you fully understand what it is doing.
Looks like I will have a busy day today upgrading cameras. As well as the re-release of Version 4 for the PXW-FS5, Sony have also released version 9 for the PMW-F5 and PMW-F55 cameras.
Version 9 adds some additional high speed frame rates when recording with the R7 recorder. It also adds extra parallel recording functions when using the CBK-WA100 Wireless Adapter and interestingly also adds Long GoP recording (XAVC-L) when shooting at 29.97fps and 59.94fps (sadly no 24,25 or 50fps Long GoP).
Please install Version 9 ONLY if your F5 or F55 camera has been successfully updated to Firmware Version 8 or higher. Otherwise, it is very important to note that for the F5 and F55 cameras with the serial numbers range listed in the Release Notes document, the user cannot perform the Upgrade to Version 9 and should contact your local Sony Service agent.
1) Frame rates for 4K and high frame rate recordings added.
72, 75, 90, 96, and 100 FPS have been added to the available values in “Frame Rate” when the AXS-R7 is attached to the PMW-F55.
2) Compatible with the “Parallel Rec” mode with CBK-WA100 attached.
The “Parallel Rec” mode enables synchronization with the same file name between the XAVC Proxy recording by using the wireless adapter CBK-WA100.
3) XAVC HD Long added (when the system frequency is set to 29.97 or 59.94).
Sony have just released firmware version 4.02 for the PXW-FS5. This firmware fixes the bugs found by Sony in the initial release of the version 4 firmware and includes the new Hybrid Log Gamma picture profile No. 10 along with a change to the cameras base ISO rating. I note that there is no mention of the problems with HLG clips in Adobe Premiere, so this will require further testing to see if this has been fixed.
Ver4.02 (Functionally, it is the same as the Ver.4.00.)
V4.02 fixes the following issue:
1. Video image may be recorded with short delay of 2 or 3 frames of audio in other recording modes than AVCHD.
2. When choosing [HLG1],[HLG2] or [HLG3] in the PictureProfile and CENTER SCAN in the CAMERA/PAINT menu, rebooting the camera may cause brightness and color shift.
Ver4.00(For your information)
1. Support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) by shooting in Hybrid Log-Gamma** (HLG) standard
2. Support for continuous 120fps High Frame Rate (HFR) recording in 1080p with CBKZ-FS5HFR (sold separately)
3. Option to change the minimum ISO sensitivity number to ISO 2000 from ISO 3200 when recording S-Log2/S-Log3
Just a few days after the release of firmware version 4.0 for the PXW-FS5 and Sony have taken it down from their websites and suspended the release until some time in early August.
So far no explanation has been given and understandably those that have already applied the update to their cameras are somewhat concerned as there is no way to roll back the firmware.
Clearly something is up, but I don’t know what. To halt the firmware release it must be something of some significance, but I don’t know what that might be (Update: One possibility is that it could be due to the issue with playback in Adobe Premiere).
I have sent emails to my contacts in Sony, but have yet to receive a reply. I know some of them are on holiday. If I hear anything I can share I will let you know.
In the mean time… I updated my FS5 on the 20th. I have been using it every day since then and so far nothing bad or unusual has happened. Nor have I heard any reports of anything that may be of concern. So I would not panic if you have already done the update. I doubt it does any harm to the camera.
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.
Sony have today released firmware version 4.0 for the PXW-FS5. This firmware adds the ability to directly output Hybrid Log Gamma via picture profile 10 for an instant HDR workflow. It also allows you to set the base ISO for S-log to 2000 ISO.
Sony have released a firmware update for the PXW-FS7 that includes a fix for a problem that can in very rare situations cause the footage to be over exposed. There have been very few reported cases of the problem and it only occurs in the CineEI mode after a camera re-start. The new firmware update has been released to prevent it happening. It’s recommended that you update you camera to this new version, version 4.1.