Every now and again I get asked how to adjust the color matrix in a video camera. Back in 2009 I made a video on how to adjust the color matrix in the Sony’s EX series of cameras. This video is just as relevant today as it was then. The basic principles have not changed.
The exact menu settings and menu layout may be a little different in the latest cameras, but the adjustment of the matrix setting (R-G, G-R etc) have exactly the same effect in the latest camera that provide matrix adjustments (FS7, F5, F55 and most of the shoulder mount and other broadcast cameras). So if you want a better understanding of how these settings and adjustment works, take a look at the video.
I’ll warn you now that adjusting the color matrix is not easy as each setting interacts with the others. So creating a specific look via the matrix is not easy and requires a fair bit of patience and a lot of fiddling and testing to get it just right.
I received a sample DSM-U84 battery just before the weekend for testing and review. This battery is a direct replacement for the Sony BP-U60 type battery typically used on the smaller Sony PMW cameras like the PMW-150, 200, EX1, EX3 and F3. It docks directly with the camera and does not need to use a cable or any other adapter to power the camera. This is particulary significant for PMW-100, 150 and 200 users as the cameras power socket is located inside the battery compartment making it impossible to use an external power source when a battery is inserted.
The capacity of the DSM-U84 is 84Wh so about 20% more capacity than the BP-U60 but in the same sized package. In my tests this did equate to around 20% more run time on my F3, about 3 to 3.5 hours which I think is pretty good. Like the original Sony battery it has an LED capacity meter on the rear of the pack and the quality of the plastics used appears very good. The battery uses high quality Japanese sourced Panasonic cells so should give a long service life. You can charge it using the standard Sony charger. With an estimated list price of £130 + VAT this makes it a serious alternative to the Sony BPU-60 which is typically around £170.00.
One point to note is that the DSM-U84 does not feature a D-Tap socket like some of the other 3rd party batteries on the market. According to DSM this is stipulated by the cell manufacturer for safety reasons. I’ve used many DSM batteries over the years and they have always lasted very well, I have some that are now at least 6 years old but still perfectly useable.
One way to reduce the noise in a video camera image is to reduce the cameras gain. We all know that increasing the gain to lets say +6db will increase noise and generally the reverse holds true when you reduce the gain, the noise typically reduces and this may be helpful if you are going to do a lot of effects work, or just want a clean image.
However in most cases negative gain reduces dynamic range as it will artificially clip or limit your low key parts of the image. The maximum illumination level that a camera can capture is limited by the sensor or the amount of data used to transfer the signal from the sensor into the processing circuits, the cameras DSP (Digital Signal Processor). The black level or darkest part of the image is the point where the design engineers have deemed that the ratio of actual image signal to sensor noise is high enough to give a suitably noise free image (also known as noise floor). So the dynamic range of the camera is normally the range between the sensors noise floor and saturation point.
The gain of the camera controls the video output level, relative to the sensors signal level. If you use -3db gain you attenuate (reduce) the relative output signal. The highlight handling doesn’t change (governed by the sensor) but your entire image output level gets shifted down in brightness and as a result you will clip off or loose some of your shadow and dark information, so your overall dynamic range is also reduced as you can’t “see” so far into the shadows. Dynamic range is not just highlight handling, it is the entire range from dark to light. 3db is half a stop (6db = 1 stop) so -3db gain reduces the dynamic range by half a stop, reducing the cameras underexposure range.
So for cameras like the EX1 and EX3 or even PMW-500/PDW-700 using negative gain can be a bad thing to do. You need to be aware that there is a trade off of noise against dynamic range and need to be sure that the small noise benefit are worth the sacrifice of some latitude.
Interestingly the PMW-F3 has an excess of dynamic range for the normal gammas and cinegammas and the processing appears to take advantage of this to keep the images very clean. When you shoot with the standard gammas and cinegammas on the F3 the cameras base ISO (sensitivity) is 400 asa at 25p. In effect the arbitrary black level is kept some way up the sensors output range to keep the images well clear of the noise floor. This gives a very clean, ultra low noise image with 11.5 stops of dynamic range. When you switch the camera to S-Log, which gives a greater dynamic range (approx 13 stops by my estimation) the base ISO increases to 800 asa. When you increase the sensitivity like this you lower you black point lower down the sensors output range closer to the noise floor. Looking at some of my S-Log test footage a clear increase in under exposure latitude can be seen when you use S-Log. I suspect that the “0db” point in the F3 is actually 800 asa as used by S-Log, where maximising dynamic range and using the full sensor range is the priority. Meanwhile with standard gammas, which are limited to 11.5 stops anyway, you can reduce the gain by 6db (1 stop) sacrificing one stop of underexposure and raising the black point well above the noise floor but still have the full 11.5 stops but with 6db less noise.
Camera setup, reviews, tutorials and information for pro camcorder users from Alister Chapman.