IMPORTANT PLEASE ENSURE YOU USE THE REVISED SETTINGS UPDATED ON 24th JULY.
After my recent side by side look at the F3 and FS700 and seeing how different the two cameras look, I decided to try to match them a bit better. There will be many shoots where I will use them both together so getting them to look the same is important. I thought this would be a relatively straight forward task, simply dial in the FS700 to match the F3.
Well it wasn’t simple and it ended up taking me several hours to get to the point where I couldn’t get them any closer. The main issues are that the F3, like most of the XDCAM cameras has a yellow colour cast that’s hard to completely remove and the FS700 has quite a blue image and only very limited matrix controls. Initially I started to try to match the FS700 to a standard F3. While I could get the FS700 closer to the F3, I just couldn’t get a near match let alone a complete match. So back to the drawing board.
For my second attempt I decided first to work on getting rid of the yellow/orange cast to the F3 pictures by adjusting the F3’s matrix, at the same time creating a neutral look picture profile with good dynamic range, but one that could be used without grading. This took some extensive matrix tweaks. You will find the full details of my new “STD-REAL” picture profile in the forum by clicking here.
So once I had a neutral starting point on the F3 I then turned to the FS700 which I think is very blue. The matrix settings on the FS700 are quite limited so I wasn’t able to get an exact match to the F3, however the setting I came up with get them close enough for most jobs, it’s not perfect but it will do. I’m quite happy with my new FS700 settings and I think with this profile it produces a very nice image. You can find the full profile settings in the forum by clicking here. Remember you need to use the matching F3 profile in the F3 for the best match. If you want the maximum dynamic range then instead of Cinegamma 1 you should use Cinegamma 4 with the black gamma set to zero. My STD REAL profile for the FS700 is closer to a standard F3 than the default FS700 settings.
A package arrived in the mail from Transvideo the other day. In it was one of their rather nice base plates for the PMW-F3. This plate isn’t simply a plate that it is attached to the bottom of the camera. It is in fact a complete replacement for the bottom end of the PMW-F3. Transvideo are best known for their superb high end monitors, robust, built to last monitors you often find on movie sets as they they offer a range of highly accurate calibration tools and fully calibrated displays not found on many lower cost monitors. In addition Transvideo’s 3D monitors are the monitors of choice for many 3D productions and stereographers as they offer special monitoring options that allow for very accurate measurement of 3D offsets and geometry. This new base plate is a bit of a departure from Transvideo’s normal product lines. I suspect it’s come about because Transvideo’s 3D expertise led them to realise that one of the PMW-F3’s biggest issues for 3D is that the standard base plate isn’t particularly stable which can adversely affect alignment when used on a 3D rig.
This is a problem not only for 3D but also for use with long and heavy lenses as the camera can wobble and flex on the tripod. The two 1/4″ threads on the F3 are far from ideal and the third thread at the back of the camera is offset from centre making it hard to use. By replacing the original very thin base plate of the camera ( it is is really, really thin) with this much more robust base plate you spread the loads imparted on the tripod mounting points across the entire bottom end of the internal chassis of the F3, not just the 4 teeny tiny screws that hold the sony tripod mount in place. Fitting is very easy, 8 small screws are un-done to remove the original Sony base panel, which simply lifts off and then the new Transvideo plate, complete with beautifully CNC machined cooling slots simply attaches in it’s place. Now my F3 has a perfectly flat base with both 1/4″ and 3/8″ threads (hooray!!) as well as a large number of M4 threads towards the outside. Now I can fit standard Arri accessories without having to fudge together different plates and screws to make them fit.
Frankly this is how Sony should have done this in the first place, but well done to Transvideo, now my F3 is really starting to feel like a proper camera. The only very minor down side is that you loose your serial number plate as this is attached to the original Sony part. The fit is superb and it looks great too. The list price is €265.00. 10/10.
As well as the base plate I also received a little finger tab that attaches to the Sony PL mount. this little wing tab makes it much easier to remove and attach PL mount lenses as you can grip the lens with one hand and push the tab with you thumb to release the locking ring. It’s only a small thing but it makes the F3’s PL mount much more user friendly.
I’m up, 200 miles North of the Arctic Circle shooting the Northern Lights with a mixture of DSLR’s and one of my PMW-F3’s. The F3’s performance has really taken me by surprise as it’s possible to capture even a very faint Aurora just using the 8 frame slow shutter. Hopefully we’ll get a nice clear night and a decent Aurora and then I can turn off the slow shutter altogether. Either way, this is the first time I have been able to shoot the Aurora with out needing to resort to time-lapse.
The below clip is Timelapse as it does show the motion of the Aurora better. Shot with my F3 using the 8 frame SLS and 18db gain.
Note: There is something up with the frame grabs. For some reason they are very dark. I’ll look into this in the morning and get some more accurate grabs online.
First of all let me say thanks to Ben Allan on CML list for getting me thinking about this. He has already started experimenting with creating a log style Picture Profile for the EX1. All the setting you’ll find here are my own work and based on tests done with real scenes and some dodgy home made latitude test charts 😉
Ben’s musings on CML made me consider what S-Log is. In essence it is nothing more than a clever gamma curve that allows you to capture a greater dynamic range than is normally possible with conventional gamma curves. The reason why the standard gamma dynamic range is normally constrained is in part simply because if you record too large a dynamic range and then show it on a conventional monitor or TV, it simply does not look right. So to make it look right it must be graded in post production. In order to do a significant grade in post, the quality of the recording has to be good enough to withstand a fair bit of pulling and pushing. As a result 10 bit recording is recommended (however it is still possible to work with lot with top quality low noise 8 bit recordings, not that I would recommend this). Anyway as both the standard PMW-F3 and EX1/EX3 have 10 bit outputs I decided to see if it was possible to come up with a picture profile that would mimic a Log curve and then see if it actually brings any real world advantage.
First up I experimented with the F3. I already have the S-Log option, so this gave me a benchmark to work against. To mimic S-Log you need to increase the gamma gain at the lower end of the curve, you can do this with the Black Gamma function. I know that with S-Log the cameras native ISO is 800 as this is the sensitivity at which maximum dynamic range can be realised with the F3’s sensor. So I started my experiments at 800iso. I could bring up the shadow detail with the Black Gamma but I notice that I appeared to be trading off some highlight handling for shadow information, so while the images kind of looked like S-Log, they did not really gain any latitude.
During this process I realised that my mid range sensitivity was now a lot higher than with genuine S-Log, so I decreased the camera gain so I was now at 400iso and started tweaking again. Now with Black Gamma all the way up at +99 I was seeing around 1 stop further into the shadows, with no impact on highlight handling.
When I tested my new Picture Profile on a real scene, exposing as you would S-Log with mid grey at 38% I was very pleased to find some very similar images that do grade quite well. As well as the Gamma tweaks I also incorporated a few other changes into the profile to increase the overall grade-ability.
There is a definite improvement in shadow reproduction. It’s not as good as real S-Log, but it does give a very useful improvement for those without S-Log. One interesting point is that the exposure between the two log frame grabs posted here is not changed, so even though the camera is set at 400iso, when the picture profile is applied the camera behaves more like an 800iso camera and exposure should be set accordingly. I think my PP (which you can download at the bottom of the page) brings a little under a one stop improvement in DR, real S-Log is about 2 stops.
If you click on the image captures you can view them full frame. When you compare the AC-Log and Cinegamma 4 images you should be able to see more shadow detail in the tree on the right of frame with the AC-Log yet the sky is further from clipping as well.
So what about the EX1 and EX3, can the same be done for them? Well this is much more of a challenge as the EX cameras are much noisier. Simply bringing up the Black Gamma does help you see into the shadows a bit better but it comes at the cost of a lot of extra noise and really makes it un gradable. Normally I don’t recommend using negative gain as it can reduce the dynamic range of the camera. But I figured if I use negative gain and then increase the gamma gain that should cancel out any dynamic range loss. To then avoid the usual -3db reduction in highlight performance I adjusted the overall gamma gain to return the peak output level to 109IRE. After a bit of fiddling around with my test charts and waveform monitors I could see that it was possible to gain a small amount of dynamic range, a little under 1 stop, however there is an overall increase in the noise level of about +4db. Now that doesn’t sound too terrible, but to gain the extra stop of DR you have to under expose compared to standard gamma’s, typically with S-Log you would put mid grey at 38% (use the centre spot meter on the EX1/EX3 and a grey card). This works reasonable well with this fake log picture profile. The problem however is that when grading you may find that you have to add still further gain to bring skin tones to a normal level and this will accentuate the noise. You could use something like the Neat Video plugging to reduce the noise and in this case I think this sudo Log picture profile could be handy in tricky lighting situations. The EX1R Log picture profile, to work correctly MUST be used in conjunction with -3db gain, any other gain setting and you will loose dynamic range. Again like real S-Log, 10 bit external recording is desirable, but why not play with the picture profile and try it for yourself. It is a bit experimental, I’m not convinced that the extra stop of DR is worth the noise penalty on the EX1R, but then I’m spoilt as I have an S-Log F3.
I have uploaded both the F3 and EX1R picture profiles into a single zip file that you can download below. You will need to have an account on xdcam-user.com to download them, or register for a new account first. Un-zip the package and copy the SONY folder to the root of an SxS card, so you should have both a BPAV folder and a SONY folder in the root directory. The cameras will need the latest firmware versions to load the single profile directly. In the Picture Profile menu choose an empty PP and then in the bottom PP menu chose “load”.
Sony have posted the latest firmware version for the PMW-F3 on the US web site, click here to go there. This new firmware brings the addition of EI S-Log to those users that have the S-Log option installed. It also adds support for the new Sony servo zoom lens SCLZ18x140. A couple of other improvements include better histogram display and a menu scroll function. Also for S-Log users is the ability to adjust the preset white balance while in S-Log mode.
So here it is. The first one off the CNC machine with many more to follow in the next few days. There will be an additional lens support bracket on it by the time they ship and of course they will be completely anodised. It requires the use of a 2/3″ lens with a 2x extender. Optical performance depends on that of the lens, so an HD lens is highly recommended, however if you have an old SD lens kicking around it may be useable. When using the adapter you use the 2x extender. The total magnification is 2.5x so a 7.6mm to 152mm 20x ENG lens becomes a 19mm to 380mm lens. There is also a 2.5 stop light loss so a f1.8 lens becomes a f6 lens. The adapter will come as a kit for the PMW-F3 or FS100 for £1150. If you wish to use it on a Canon DSLR with an APS-C sized sensor (7D, 550d, T2i etc) the price is £950.
You may have seen that Sony are releasing a free firmware update in the next week or so for the PMW-F3 that incorporates a new version of S-Log. You will still need to have purchased the S-Log upgrade in order to use S-Log, but now there are two variations of S-Log, normal S-Log and EI S-Log.
EI S-log differs from the original S-Log in that you can select either S-Log or EI S-Log mode in the menu. When EI S-Log is selected you have the ability to then add EI gain to the MLUT’s (Monitor Look Up Tables or LUT’s). When you switch the EI ISO to 1200 for example, the additional gain is added to the LUT to give the equivalent S-Log + 3db gain output on the monitor out and to the SxS card recordings as using S-Log with gain. But the actual S-Log output on the A-B dual link outputs remains fixed at 800 ISO. The benefit of this is that what you see on the monitor out represents what you will end up with after post production with added gain or lift, it’s a way of pre-visualising what you will finish up with, without compromising your recordings.
Theoretically, if the cameras native 0db gain point is represented by 800 ISO. Which is what you have when using 50/60i standard gamma at 0db. Reducing the cameras S-Log gain like this by 6db compared to the previous or standard S-log base ISO of 1600. Should yield a 6db (1 stop) dynamic range improvement. Given that S-Log already improves the dynamic range by about 1.5 stops, then on paper at least, EI S-Log should yield a 2.5 stop improvement over the 11 stops the standard and cinegammas give. That would make the F3 a camera capable of 13.5 stops which is quite remarkable. I hope to be able to measure the actual DR very soon and see if this is really the case. Anyway, whatever the outcome of the DR measurements, the EI option is a nice one to have as it will allow you to underexpose a little (to gain extra headroom) when you shoot and then use the added EI LUT gain to check that even after gain gets added in post the images will still be noise free enough for use in your production.
A further feature of the update is the ability to change the R and B gain when shooting in S-Log. This will allow you to tweak your white balance. Currently when shooting s-Log you can only use a preset white balance dialled in in 100k steps, there is no option to white balance the camera using a grey/white card.
Hi all. A very brief post as I’ve just got back to the hotel from a long day at Broadcast India.
I finally found a little bit of time to upload a couple of quick frame grabs from the Gemini. Sorry they are not Tiff’s or the DPX files but time is scarce.
There are 3 frames: The graded S-Log, A Cinegamma 3 grab and the raw S-Log.
The increase in dynamic range over the cinegamma frame is clearly visible in the highlights outside the window as well as on the wall behind the actor.
I have to say I’m liking the Gemini a lot. The firmware is not quite there yet but it’s very, very close with almost daily updates being released. Apart from an initial hiccup (which has now been rectified) the unit has been stable even in the Mumbai heat. It amazes me and everyone else that see’s it that the little 5″ monitor sitting on the handle of my F3 is also a 4:4:4 uncompressed recorder, its so compact compared to all the other alternatives. Being able to apply LUT’s on the Gemini is also very neat.
The screen is super bright and easily viewable in direct sunlight. Im powering both the camera and the Gemini of a single Swit S-8U62 battery which gives me a little over 2 hours from a full charge.
It does generate some pretty big files, so I have been using Adobe Premier to transcode the clips to Apple ProRes 4:4:4 on ingest. This is taking a little longer than I expected, but then I am using a vintage MacBook Pro 3.1 and I guess is a small penalty to pay for the incredible image quality that I’m getting.
Combine all this with the soon to arrive EI-SLog firmware from Sony and it will all only get better and better.
As winter rapidly approaches, with all the talk in the news papers of mini-iceages, cold spells and the knowledge that winter generally means rain here in the UK I thought it would be a good time to take a look at a rain cover.
Rain covers for the PMW-F3 are few and far between at the moment, so when Rene at CamRade told me that they were producing a tailored rain cover for the F3 I had to get my hands on one to take a look.
The cover arrived in a nice compact pouch made from the same high quality waterproof fabric as the cover itself. This fabric is some kind of soft rubberised material that feels very tough, yet is very flexible and soft to the touch, which is important if you have the camera up against your face. According to CamRade this soft material helps reduce the noise that rain drops falling on the can camera make. The cover is a tailored loose fit with velcro straps and fastenings that can be used to take up any excessive slack.
There are clear panels on the left side, more about them in minute. There’s an elasticated opening for a gun microphone at the front as well as a velcro protected opening on the right side for cable access to the XLR connectors. This opens up into a small tube so keeps the cable entry well protected from the weather. Along the top of the camera handle there is a long velcro opening to give access to the carry handle and top of the camera. This opening folds over to one side and is secured by a small velcro pad so that should not collect and rain when not in use.
The main clear panel on the left side of the cover can be opened out and expanded so the the F3’s LCD panel can be used in the open position. the clever design allows the LCD to be viewed from above, from in front as well as from the rear, so you can continue to use the LCD panel in the rain. However in practice rain falling on the cover itself will tend to obscure or distort the images on the LCD to some extent. Ahh… the joy of shooting in the rain!!
You can of course use the rear VF if you wish as this sticks out through a hole in the back of the rain cover. The rear of the cover opens up via velcro for easy battery access and will easily accommodate oversize batteries. I think the rear end of this cover is it weakest area and personally I’d like a cover that completely encloses the rear viewfinder, but that’s just me.
Another feature on the left side of the cover is a clear window that allows you to see the lenses focus and iris rings and markings. If your using a long lens the cover comes with a clear extension that attaches to the front of the main cover and makes it long enough to to protect much longer lenses including lenses like the Optimo 16-24 zoom. This extension piece comes with a strip of self adhesive velcro that can be attached to the lens to stop it flapping around in the wind.
On the right side of the cover there is an opening under a flap that allows you to insert your hand into the cover so you can grip the camera via the hand grip without having to open up the rain cover. I really liked this feature. The bottom of the cover has small side flaps that will prevent rain from running off under the camera or onto the very top of your tripod. A nice touch.
I’ve had many small camera rain covers over the years. Very often they are so stiff and ridged that they are a complete nuisance to use. The material used in this cover is really nice and makes the camera reasonably easy to use even when trussed up inside the cover. The fold out clear cover for the LCD means that rain should not prevent you from being able to carry on shooting due to the camera becoming wet.
I give this cover 7/10. It would be 9/10 if the rear end was a little neater and there was a way to cover the EVF, but as small camera rain covers go, it’s a good one.
So, here’s what I am working on. This is a “work in progress” but I’m liking where it’s going. My aim is to create a truly useable kit for the F3 that will turn it into an ENG type camera. Now I’m not suggesting that the F3 is a good camera for news or that type of fast moving thing. But for documentaries it has a big place and the easier I can make it to use, the better. The rig is made up form all kinds of bits and pieces.
1: This is an old Canon J16x8x2 SD broadcast lens, which becomes a 20 to 320mm f4 zoom lens. It works OK, fine when wide but a little soft in the corners at the long end.
2: New metal body HDSDi Cineroid EVF attached with a custom bracket (5)
3: Genus GMB-P ENG camcorder adapter with 15mm bar support. This has the quick release wedge needed to work with the VCT-14 tripod plate.
4: My B4 to F3 adapter. Watch this space, in production very soon.
5: Custom made (by me) PMW-F3 ‘H” plate. This attaches to the two 1/4″ threads on the top of the camera body and gives you lots of 1/4″ threads along the entire length of both sides of the top of the F3. To this attaches a custom fully adjustable viewfinder mounting system.
6: Custom made shoulder mount. On production units this would be a little shorter, it’s a bit tall on the prototype. It features an adjustable soft shoulder pad and mounts for the cheese plate and VCT-14 adapter.
7: Genus cheese plate.
8: IDX V-Lock adapter plate. But you could also use an Anton Bauer plate.
9: DSM V-Lock battery (98Wh). Will run the rig for over 4 hours.
10: VCT-14 quick release plate.
The balance point for the rig is just slightly forward of the centre of the shoulder pad, so it’s really nice to handhold. A slightly bigger battery or a Convergent Design Gemini on the back would give near perfect balance.
So, what do you think, would you by this lot (excluding lens and EVF) as a kit? I’m looking to do a small run of kits, no idea of the price yet. More pictures below, click on the thumbnail for a high-res image.
Camera setup, reviews, tutorials and information for pro camcorder users from Alister Chapman.