UPDATED WITH NEW INFO, Nov 23rd 2019.
What is the “Venice Look”?
Sony had often been criticized for having a default look to their cameras that wasn’t “film like”. This was no accident as Sony have been a leading producer of TV cameras for decades and a key thing for a broadcaster is that both old and new cameras should match. So for a very long time all of Sony’s cameras were designed to look pretty much like any other TV camera.
But this TV look wasn’t helping Sony to sell their film style cameras. So when they developed the image processing for the Venice camera a lot of research was done into what makes a pretty picture. Then over a period of about 18 months a new LUT was created for the Venice camera to take advantage of that sensors improved image quality and to turn the output into a beautiful looking image.
This LUT or look was then called s709 (I think it simply stands for “Sony 709) and it’s a large part of the reason why, out of the box, the Venice camera looks the way it does. Of course a skilled colourist might only rarely use this LUT and may make the output from a Venice look very different, but a Venice with s709 is regarded as the default Venice look, and it’s a look that a lot of people really, really like. It’s what comes out of the SDI ports, is what’s seen in the viewfinder and can be recorded to the SxS cards unless you select the legacy 709(800) LUT. s709 is the LUT applied by default to X-OCN from Venice by default.
What is Color Science
Colour Science is the new fancy term that Red have turned into a catch-all for anything to do with colour and it’s now much abused. Every color video camera ever made uses color science to determine the way the image looks. it’s nothing new. All colour science is, is how all the different elements of a camera and it’s workflow work to produce the final colour image. But in the last couple of years it seems to have become to mean “color magic” or “special sauce”.
If we are to be totally accurate the only camera with Venice colour science is Venice. No other camera has exactly the same combination of optical filters, sensor, processing, codecs and workflow. No other camera will replicate exactly the way Venice responds to light and turns it into a color image. You migh be able to make the output of another camera appear similar to a Venice, but even then it won’t be the same colour science. What it would be is perhaps the “Venice look”.
The FS5 II and it’s new default look.
So when Sony released the FS5 II they were very careful to describe the default mode as providing a Venice “like” image, tuned to provide softer, alluring skin tones using insight and expertise gained during the development of Venice. Because that’s what it is, it looks more like Venice than previous generations of Sony cameras because it has been tuned to output a image that looks similar. But it isn’t really Venice color science, it’s a Venice look-a-like or at least as similar as you can get, even though it’s a very different sensor, with a touch of extra contrast.
And the PXW-FX9 and s-Cinetone?
The FX9 has new colour filters, a new sensor, new processing. But it is not a Venice. In Custom mode it has what Sony are now calling “S-Cinetone” which is set to become their new default look for their film style cameras. This once again is based on the Venice look and shares many similarities to the Venice colour science, but it will never be the full Venice colour science because it can’t be, it’s different hardware. But it sure as hell looks pretty damn close to a Venice at it’s default settings with the default s709 LUT applied. S-Cinetone gives the same colours as Venice and similar gamma, but with slightly increased contrast suitable for direct-to-air applications where the material won’t be graded (s709 in comparison is a touch flatter).
Is the Venice look always there?
Previous generations of Sony cameras used a common default 709 gamma often denoted as STD5. This is what most of us probably called the “Sony look”. The exact colour science in each camera with this look would have been quite different as there were many combinations of filters, sensors and processing, but those variations in processing were designed such that the final output of generations of Sony TV cameras all looked almost exactly the same. This too still exists in the FX9 and when set to STD5 the FX9 will produce an image very, very close to earlier generations of Sony camera. But from this new sensor with the latest filters etc. so even with the latest sensor and latest colour filters you can still have the old look. This just demonstrates how the broad brush use of the term colour science is so confusing as the FX9 is a new camera with new colour science, but it can still look just like the older cameras.
What about when I shoot S-Log3?
When shooting S-Log3 with the FX9, then you are shooting S-Log3. And S-Log3/S-Gamut3 )or S-gamut3.cine) is a set standard where certain numerical values represent certain real world colours and brightnesses. So the S-Log3 from an FX9 will look very similar to the S-Log3 from a Venice, which is similar to the S-Log3 from a F55 which is similar to the S-Log3 from an FS7.
But compared to an FS7 at least, the different, improved sensor in the FX9 will mean that it will be able to capture a bigger dynamic range, it will have less noise and the sensors response to colour will be different. BUT it will still be recorded in the same manner using the same gamma curve and colour space with the same numerical values representing the same brightness levels and colours. However the fact that the sensor is different will mean there will be subtle differences within the image. One obvious one being the extra dynamic range, but also things like better colour separation and more true to life color response at the sensor level.
Then you apply the s709 LUT, the very same LUT as used for Venice. So those very same numerical values are turned into the same expected colours and brightness levels. But because it’s a different sensor some values may have been better captured, some worse, so while overall the image will look very, very similar there will be subtle differences, it’s the subtle differences that make one look more natural or more pleasing than the other. For example the FX9 image will have less noise and greater DR than the image from and FS7. In addition the FX9 images will have more pleasing looking skin tones because from what I have seen the sensor responds better to the tones that make up a face etc.
why not use the same name for s709 and S-cinetone?
S-Cinetone is different to s709. One is a gamma curve and colour matrix designed to be recorded as is. You can’t change middle grey or white, you can’t alter the highlight or shadow ranges. Plus S-Cinetone has a touch more contrast than the S-Log3 + s709 LUT.
s709 is a LUT applied to S-Log3 material which gives you the ability to alter your highlight and shadow ranges, to move the mid point. Both will look very, very similar, but they are two different things that require two very different workflows, to call them the same thing would be confusing. You get a call from the producer “I want you to shoot S-Cinetone”…. Which one? The log one or the S-Cinetone one?
Because the FX9’s optical low pass filter, ND filter, sensor colour filters, pixels, sensor output circuits and initial processing of the image are all the same whether in S-Cinetone or S-Log3, then those aspects of the colour science are common for both. But when shooting s-Log3 you have a huge range of options in post, not just s709.
The FX9 has (amongst others) a colour science that makes it look very similar to the default Venice look. In custom this is called S-Cinetone. Select a different gamma or different matrix and the pictures will look different, so this will be a different colour science, even though the same sensor is being used.
So in reality the FX9 has several different color sciences. One that mimics a default Venice camera without needing to shoot log and grade. One that mimics earlier generations of sony TV cameras. Another that mimics a Sony Venice when shooting S-Log3 and using the s709 LUT.