Tag Archives: S-log3

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.

The great S-Log2 or S-Log3 debate.

I’ve written about this many times before, but still it comes up again and again. Which is better? Which should I use? I hear all kinds of crazy comments and a lot of incorrect information, so first of all lets dispel a few myths:

S-Log2 captures more dynamic range than S-Log3, it goes to a higher level on the waveform.

S-Log2 and S-Log3 both currently record exactly the same dynamic range as this is limited by the sensors that Sony are using. The S-log3 curve could be used in a future camera to capture up to 16 stops, but that camera does not exist at the time of writing. As the S-Log3 curve is designed to go beyond 14 stops, stop No. 14 is recorded at a lower level to allow space for up to 2 more stops.  S-Log2 is a 14 stop maximum curve, so the peak level is much higher. In Sonys current camera range the limit is 14 stops whether it’s S-Log2 or S-Log3. The chart that Sony provide showing both S-Log2 and S-Log3 is a little confusing as it shows the entire gamma curve rather than what the camera can actually “see”. In their current implementations both curves stop at +6 stops over middle grey, both capture the same dynamic range, there is no difference.

S-Log2 is brighter than S-Log3 so it must be capturing highlights better.

No, not really, see above. Playback and on screen brightness comes from the levels chosen to record something at and is dependant on the shape and range of the gamma curve. But the actual captured range is dependant on what the sensor can cope with. As we are not changing the sensor, the captured dynamic range, brightness range and shadow range does not change between S-Log2 and S-log3, both of which take the entire sensor range (they just store that same range using slightly different levels). After applying a LUT or other conversion to your normal viewing gamma both S-Log2 and S-log3 will have the same brightness, same highlight and same shadow range.

S-Log3 has noisy shadows.

No, not really. Shadows appear noisy with S-Log3 as the shadow part of the curve is stored using higher code values compared to S-Log2. So when you view S-Log3 uncorrected the shadows are raised and stretched on your conventional monitor and this gives the impression of a noisy picture. In reality once you restore the levels to normal there is no additional noise. See this article for a full explanation.

S-log-levels The great S-Log2 or S-Log3 debate.
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-Log record to different peak levels.

S-Log3 is newer than S-Log2 so it must be better.

Newer, perhaps not. Better, no not really. S-Log3 is based on the industry standard Cineon log gamma curve. This curve was developed in the late 1980’s to allow the digitising of film using 10 bit data. So S-Log3 matches a curve designed to work with negative film and is capable of storing more than the 14 stops that the current cameras sensors can see. In effect it is an old log gamma curve. As it is a curve designed for more than 14 stops, when used in a 14 stop camera some of the available recording data is empty and wasted.

S-Log2 was specifically designed by Sony to work with an electronic sensor with 14 stops of dynamic range and is optimised to match the performance characteristics of video sensors. By using a 14 stop curve with a 14 stop camera almost every bit of available data is utilised, there is no wastage.

BUT THERE ARE SOME OTHER FACTORS WE NEED TO CONSIDER.

S-Log2 and S-Gamut:

As well as the gamma curve we also have different Gamuts or color ranges. S-Log2 was originally designed for the F65 camera. The F65 sensor can capture a huge color range beyond the range that most conventional video sensors can see. So as well as S-Log2 Sony introduced S-Gamut which was matched to the very wide color range of the F65 sensor. S-Log2 is designed to be used with S-Gamut. But many of the cameras we use, like the FS7, F5, FS5 cannot see this color range (Sony’s F55 can). In addition this very large color range can be a little tricky to deal with in post production. Add to this the fact that S-Log2 is quite different to the quite common Cineon gamma curve and as a result behaves differently in post. The end result was that there were a number of complaints and comments that Sony’s S-log2 material was difficult to grade.

S-Log3 and S-Gamut3.

Because some people were struggling a bit with S-Gamut and S-Log2 in post production (Resolve and many of the other tools we have today were not as well developed 4 years ago), Sony introduced S-Gamut3 and S-log3 as well as a further Gamut called S–Gamut3.cine. S-Log3 was based on Cineon as that’s what people were familiar with. Arri’s Log-C is also based on Cineon as are many other log curves. This makes it a more “familiar” grading experience for many colorists. In addition Sony created a modified version of the super large S-Gamut to make it easier to grade.  S-Gamut3 is just as big as S-Gamut but some tweaks inside make it easier to grade (fewer color shifts). At the same time Sony realised that most users were producing content for TV, the web or digital cinema that had little use for the huge color range of S-Gamut/S-Gamut3.  So S-Gamut3.cine was developed as a smaller, more manageable version of S-Gamut3 and it incorporated a few tweaks to the color science to provide colors closer to those used by other manufacturers. S-Gamut3.cine is also a better match for cameras with sensors that cannot see the full S-Gamut range (like the FS5, FS7, F5, A7).

The end result is that in general most people prefer or find it easier to grade S-Log3/S-Gamut3.cine material than S-Log2/S-Gamut. Plus you can often use LUT’s designed for Log-C or Cineon with S-log3 material (this isn’t optimum, but it can work).

Gamuts-1024x632 The great S-Log2 or S-Log3 debate.
SGamuts Compared.

Getting the data from camera to post.

In terms of getting the data from your cameras sensor in to post production S-Log2 is the better choice. It is optimised for the way an electronic sensor works. S-log3 is essentially a curve designed for negative film applications, not video and no matter how you look at it, these are electronic video cameras. However if you are recording 10 bit or greater you have a lot of data whichever curve you use, so in practice it will be rare to see any difference in the final result.

So use the curve you find easiest to work with. It is true that S-Log 3 allocates a little more data to the shadows and less to the highlights than S-Log2, but don’t confuse data and code values with more range. S-Log3 has a few extra code values in it’s darkest stops, S-log2 has a few extra in the bright stops, but the dynamic range, highlight and shadow handling is governed by the sensor not the gamma curve. Overall S-Log3 has fewer code values than S-Log2, S-Log2  makes better use of the data available, but with 10 bit this really isn’t going to make a huge difference.

8 Bit Recording.

But if you are only recording with an 8 bit codec you are already at a disadvantage. When recording 8 bit you really need to maximise the way what little data you have is used. For that reason I will always recommend that S-Log2 is used when recording 8 bit on a camera like the FS5 in UHD or A7s or similar (FS5 is 10 bit in HD). By using S-Log2 you are using as many of the limited code values available as you can. This doesn’t mean you can’t use S-log3, it just wouldn’t be my choice.

The end result should be the same.

At the end of the day, if you were to use matching LUTs, S-log2 and S-log3 material should look more or less exactly the same after grading or application of the LUT, no matter what the scene you are shooting. If they do look significantly different then you are doing something wrong. So your choice of curve, other than for 8 bit recordings will most likely come down to ease of use rather than anything else.

If your camera doesn’t have LUT’s then S-Log2 can be easier to work with as it is more contrasty. This makes it a bit easier to focus and also makes it easier to gauge exposure. If your camera has LUT’s and you use them, then you may decide to use S-Log3 simply because you should find it a little easier to work with in post. Either way both curves capture the same range of picture information and both should give more or less the same end result.

There may be some very, very subtle differences due to the small differences in data distribution, but often these will be hard to really see in the final image.

Incorrect Lumetri Scope Scales and incorrect S-Log range scaling in Adobe Premiere.

This came up as the result of a discussion on the FS5 shooters group on Facebook. An FS5 user shooting S-log2 was very confused by what he was seeing on the scopes in Adobe Premiere. Having looked into this further myself, I’m not surprised he was confused because it’s also confused me as there is some very strange behaviour with S-Log2 XAVC material.

First: BE WARNED THE “LUMA” SCOPE APPEARS TO BE A RELATIVE LUMINANCE SCOPE AND NOT A “LUMA” SCOPE.

THIS IS THE “LUMA” Scope, I suggest you don’t use it! Look at the scale on the left side of the scope, it appears to be a % scale, not unlike the % scale we are all used to working with in the video world. In the video world 100% would be the maximum limit for broadcast TV, 90% would be white and the absoulte maximum recording level would be 109%. These % (IRE) levels have very specific data or code values. For luma, 100IRE has a code value of 940 in 10 bit or 235 in 8 bit. Then look at the scale on the right side of the luma scope. This appears to be an 8 bit code value scale, after all it has those key values of 128, 255 etc.

Lumetri-code-values-e1480938951719 Incorrect Lumetri Scope Scales and incorrect S-Log range scaling in Adobe Premiere.
100% is not Code Value 235 as you would normally expect (Lumtri scopes).

Now look again at the above screen grab of the lumetri luma scope in Premiere 2017 – V11. On the left is what appears to be that familiar % scale. But go to 100% and follow the line across to where the code values are. It appears that on these scopes 100% means code value 255, this is not what anyone working in broadcast or TV would expect because normally code value 255 means 109.5%.

I suggest you use the YC waveform display instead.

Y-scope-slog2-e1480948691356 Incorrect Lumetri Scope Scales and incorrect S-Log range scaling in Adobe Premiere.
Lumetri YC Scope showing S-log2

The YC waveform shown on the above screen capture is of an S-Log2 frame. If you go by the % scale it suggests that this recording has a peak level of only 98% when in fact the recording actually goes to 107%.

But here’s where it gets even stranger. Look at the below screen capture of another waveform display.

Y-Scope-cinegamma1-e1480948783225 Incorrect Lumetri Scope Scales and incorrect S-Log range scaling in Adobe Premiere.
Lumetri YC scope and Cinegamma 1

So what is going on here? The above is a screen grab of Cinegamma 1 recorded in UHD using 8 bit XAVC-L. It goes all the way up to 109% which is the correct peak level for Cinegamma 1. So why does the S-Log2 recording only reach 98% but the Cinegamma recording, recorded moments later using the same codec reach 109%.  This is a value 10% higher than S-Log2 and I know that the Cinegammas cannot record at a level 10% greater than S-Log2 (the true difference is only about 2%).

Lets now compare the difference between how Premiere and Resolve handle these clips. The screen grab below shows the S-Log2 and Cinegamma 1 recordings side by side as handled in Adobe Premiere. On the left is the S-Log2, right Cinegamma1. Look at the very large difference in the peak recording levels. I do not expect to see this, there should only be a very small difference.

Y-scope-side-by-side-e1480949026488 Incorrect Lumetri Scope Scales and incorrect S-Log range scaling in Adobe Premiere.
Lumetri YC scope with XAVC S-Log2 on the left and XAVC Cinegamma 1 on the right.

Now lets look at exactly the same clips in DaVinci Resolve. Note how much smaller the difference in the peak levels is. This is what I would expect to see as S-Log2 gets to around 107% and Cinegamma 1 reaches 109%, only a very small difference. Resolve is handling the files correctly, Premiere is not. For reference to convert 8 bit code values to 10 bit just multiply the 8 bit value by 4. So 100IRE which is CV235 in 8 bit is CV940 in 10 bit.

resolve-scopes-e1480937970843 Incorrect Lumetri Scope Scales and incorrect S-Log range scaling in Adobe Premiere.
S-log2 on the left, Cinegamma 1 on the right. Notice the very small difference in peak levels. This is expected and correct.

So, until I get to the bottom of this all I can say is be very, very careful and don’t use the “Luma” scope, use the YC scope if you want to know your code values.  It also appears that Premiere scales the code values of S-Log recordings differently to normal gammas.

Additionally: Record exactly the same S-Log2 or S-Log3 image using XAVC internally in the camera and at the same time record a ProRes version on an external recorder. Bring both of these clips, which are actually recorded using exactly the same levels into Premiere and Premiere handles them differently. The XAVC squashed into a reduced range while the ProRes fills the larger range.

Y-Scope-SL2-Prores-e1480949229973 Incorrect Lumetri Scope Scales and incorrect S-Log range scaling in Adobe Premiere.
Lumetri YC scope and a ProRes S-Log2 recording. Note how this goes all the way to 107%.

This has huge implications if you use LUT’s!!!!

The same LUT will result in a very different looking image from the XAVC and PRoRes material. There should not be a difference, but there is and it’s big. So this isn’t just a scopes issue, it’s an internal signal handling issue.

I’ve always preferred doing my color grading in a dedicated grading package with external scopes. It’s stuff like this that reminds me of why I prefer to work that way. I always end up with a better end result when I grade in Resolve compared to Premiere/Lumetri.

As I learn more about this I will post a new article. Use the subscribe button on the left to subscribe to the blog to be notified of new posts.

Revealing Signal to Noise and Exposure experiment for PMW-F5, F55 and FS7.

Here’s a little experiment for you to try if you have a PMW-F5, PMW-F55 or PMW-FS7. It should help you understand a few key things about the way these cameras behave, notably:

1: Why ISO does not actually reflect the sensitivity of the camera.

2: Why it is beneficial to expose S-Log2 or S-Log3 brighter than the Sony recommended levels.

3: How to get the best possible S-Log footage.

4: Why S-log may be a poor choice for low light.

Ideally you will want to use an external waveform monitor connected to the cameras SDI output, but it is possible to use the built in waveform display.

Start with the camera in Custom mode. Choose “STD” gamma and Rec-709. Set the gain/ISO settings so that the camera is showing ISO.

Set the ISO to the base ISO (800 ISO on F5/FS7, 500 ISO on F55).

Expose a 90% white card so that white is 90% on the waveform display. This doesn’t need to be 100% accurate, you can use a piece of paper if you don’t have a proper white card. Don’t change the ISO/Gain, light the white card if you need to. Make a note of the aperture.

Now change the gamma selection to S-Log2, do not change the exposure.

Note how white now drops down to about 70% and also note that the ISO becomes 2000 ISO on an F5 or FS7 and 1250 ISO on an F55.

Think about this for a moment: If the ISO has gone up, how can white and the bulk of my image become darker?

Now switch the camera to show dB gain instead of ISO, the gain should be showing 0dB. Repeat the above switching from Standard 709 gamma to S-Log2 and note that the gain remains at 0dB for both rec-709 and S-Log2.

Think about this: The gain is the same for both 709 and S-log2 but the S-Log2 image is darker. As the gain is NOT changing then the sensitivity is not actually changing, so why does the ISO change?

If you were to use a light meter and start off with the light meter set to 800 (500) ISO the light meter would tell you to set the aperture to whatever it is you currently have to give the correct exposure in rec-709 with white at 90%.  If you had a light meter and you change the ISO setting on the light meter from 800(500)ISO to 2000(1250) ISO the light meter will tell you to close the aperture by 1.3 stops.

So, on your camera, while it is set to S-Log2 close the aperture from it’s original setting by 1.3 stops. Now you will find that white will be at the recording levels given by Sony for S-Log2 which is 59% for white and 32% for middle grey.

So what have we learnt from this? The gain is the same for both standard gamma and S-Log2, even though the ISO changes from 800(500) to 2000(1250) ISO. So the sensitivity and amount of noise coming from the sensor is the same in both cases. But the indicated ISO changes so that if you are using an external light meter, when you switch to S-Log the higher indicated ISO  will make the light meter tell you to close the aperture. This means there is less light falling on the sensor. This means that the recorded image will have a worse signal to noise ratio (noise remains the same, but signal is smaller).

To solution of course to this poorer signal to noise ratio is simply to open the aperture back up again by 1.3 stops. When shooting S-Log2 or S-Log3 using the CineEI mode I always recommend using 800EI on an F5 or FS7 or 640EI on an F55. This means your aperture becomes the same as it would be when shooting in vanilla Rec-709, the end result is the same, improved, signal to noise ratio. If you are not using CineEI or LUT’s, then expose white at 70%.

Using S-Log2 and S-Log3 with the Sony A6300 (with LUT’s to download).

Sony_A6300 Using S-Log2 and S-Log3 with the Sony A6300 (with LUT's to download).The new Sony A6300 is making quite a stir. This compact interchangeable lens camera has an amazing feature set that is very similar to the features found on it’s bigger brothers the A7sII and A7RII.

As a video camera it’s also capable recording using the XAVC-S codec in  both HD and UHD(4K). It can even shoot at 120fps in HD.  It also has picture profiles so you can tailor the look of the pictures or to suit different shooting conditions. The Cinegammas are very useful for challenging lighting conditions as they offer an improved highlight roll-off. As well as the Cinegammas the camera also has the S-Log2 and S-Log3 log gamma curves as well as S-Gamut, S-Gamut3 and S-Gamut3.cine.

Log gamma curves are very different to conventional gamma curves. Conventional gamma curves (like rec-709 or Cinegamma) are designed to produce a pleasing on screen image without any post production work (although the cinegammas do typically benefit with some tweaking in post). To do this conventional gammas keep the mid-range contrast compatible with conventional TV’s and monitors, so the picture has natural contrast when viewed on a TV. Then to help deal with bright highlights conventional gammas use some kind of highlight roll off or knee to increase the brightness range the camera can capture without effecting the mid range.  Unfortunately this means that the highlights are somewhat compromised, looking very flat, lacking contrast and this is often what gives video the “video look”. In addition it also means that if you are over exposed when you shoot, the picture will look bad and no amount of post production correction will ever make it look good. Most TV camera operators will be very familiar with the phrase “protect your highlights”, meaning don’t over expose, if anything under expose a tiny bit to keep the highlights looking good.

Log gamma curves such as S-Log2 and S-Log3 are very different.  They extended the dynamic range that the camera can capture. To do this they no longer try to be directly compatible with conventional TV’s and monitors and just focus on capturing the biggest possible range. The pictures will be made compatible with the TV or monitor via adjustments made during editing or in post production. So working with S-log2 and S-Log3 is a two step process – shooting and grading (grading is the term used for adjusting the look of an image in post production).

Because log gamma no longer needs to have a contrast range that matches the display range, more dynamic range can be squeezed into a conventional recording codec. It also means that there is no longer a need to use any highlight roll off or knee, so there is a lot more picture information in the highlights and brighter parts of the image. As a result exposing log gamma extra brightly is not normally a problem and in many cases brings lot of advantages. Log gamma curves do have a shadow roll off that mimics the real world shadow roll off. As a result log gammas really don’t like being under exposed, instead they prefer to be over exposed. So unlike conventional gamma where we “protect the highlights” with log gamma you need to “protect the shadows”. Under exposed log looks bad. It will lack color and it will be noisy and grainy.

For most camera operators it’s quite disconcerting to start shooting very slightly over exposed as it goes against everything you’ve learnt about shooting with a conventional video camera. But trust me, shooting 1 to 2 stops brighter than the recommended levels given by Sony on the A6300 (and any other Sony Log camera) will normally bring the best results.

I wrote a guide on how to do this with the Sony A7s here: http://www.xdcam-user.com/2014/08/exposing-and-using-slog2-on-the-sony-a7s-part-one-gamma-and-exposure/

The very same techniques can be used with the A6300, A7SII and A7RII. The A6300 etc also have S-Log3, but as these are 8 bit cameras (even when using an external recorder) I would still recommend that you use S-Log2. Besides, viewing and monitoring S-Log3 is tough as the pictures look even flatter than S-Log3.

If you follow the link below you will find a set of LUT’s (Look Up Tables) that can be applied to A6300 footage in post production to give different looks. There are some film-look LUT’s and 709 (normal TV look) LUT’s and in each case there are LUT’s for normal exposure as well as footage exposed 1 stop and 2 stops brighter. If a LUT name includes “1OVER” this means that the LUT is designed to work with footage that has been exposed 1 stop brighter than the levels given by Sony. My recommendation is to shoot at between 1 and 2 stops bright. For both S-Log2 and S-Log3 this would mean setting zebras to 70% and exposing a piece of white paper so that zebras are just starting to appear on the white paper.

If you find these LUT’s useful please consider buying me a coffee or a beer. I’m not paid to write these articles. For the LUT set I would appreciate a Cocktail, but am happy with whatever you feel is appropriate or affordable.


Type



pixel Using S-Log2 and S-Log3 with the Sony A6300 (with LUT's to download).

To download the LUT set please click the link: Alisters A6300 Mega LUT Kit

 

New Sony A6300 shoots 4K XAVC-S

A6300 New Sony A6300 shoots 4K XAVC-SDamn, I just purchased a Sony A6000 to take to Norway next week and this pops up. It’s the latest camera in the compact camera range from Sony that started with the NEX-5 and NEX-3, great little cameras that take great photos and have been timelapse work-horses for me.

The A6300 specs are beyond impressive. It has a new 25MP sensor with an improved type of construction that improves sensitivity. It’s only APS-C so I’m not expecting A7 MK2 performance, but it should do very well when the light levels are low.

One of the headline features for me though is it’s ability to shoot 4K XAVC-S that is originated from a 6K image coming off the sensor. On top of that this truly pocket sized camera has what appear to be the full compliment of cinegammas as well as S-log2 and S-log3. Now before everyone gets too excited, do remember that XAVC-S is 8 bit whether in HD or SD, but even so this is an amazing feature set for this kind of camera.

If that isn’t enough it can even shoot in HD at upto 120fps!

The price? Well the body only is $999 USD. It’s E-Mount so as usual you can put all kinds of lenses on it from Sony power zooms to PL mount primes and everything in between. For more information on what on paper at least appears to be a remarkable little camera click here.

Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7

Ultimate Guide to CineEI on the PXW-FS7 (Updated May 2016).

 

INTRODUCTION:

This guide to Cine-EI is based on my own experience with the Sony PXW-FS7. There are other methods of using LUT’s and CineEI. The method I describe below, to the best of my knowledge, follows standard industry practice for working with a camera that uses EI gain and LUT’s.

If you find the guide useful, please consider buying me a beer or a coffee. It took quite a while to prepare this guide and writing can be thirsty work.


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Through this guide I hope to help you get the very best from the Cine EI mode on the PXW-FS7.

The camera has two very distinct shooting mode, Cine EI and Custom Mode. In custom mode the camera behaves much like any other traditional video camera where what you see in the viewfinder is what’s recorded on the cards. In custom mode you can change many of the cameras settings such as gamma, matrix, sharpness etc to create the look you are after in-camera. “Baking-in” the look of your image in camera is great for content that will go direct to air or for fast turn around productions. But a baked-in look can be difficult to alter in post production. In addition it is very hard to squeeze every last drop of the picture information that the sensor can capture in to the recordings in this mode.

The other mode, Cine-EI, is primarily designed to allow you to record as much information about the scene as possible. The footage from the camera becoming, in effect a “digital negative” that can then be developed in post production and the final, highly polished look of the film or video created in post. In addition the Cine-EI mode mimics the way a film camera works giving the cinematographer the ability to rate the camera at different ISO’s to those specified by Sony. This can be used to alter the relative noise levels in the footage or to help deal with difficult lighting situations.

One further “non-standard” way to use Cine-EI is to use a LUT (Look Up Table) to create an in-camera look that can be baked in to the footage while you shoot. This offers an alternative to custom mode. Some users will find it easier to create a specific look for the camera using a LUT than they would by adjusting camera settings such as gamma and matrix.

MLUT’s and LOOK’s (both are types of Look Up Tables) are only available in the Cine-EI mode.


 

THE SIMPLIFIED VERSION:

Before I go through all the “why’” and “hows” first of all let me just say that actually, CineEI is easy. I’ve gone in to a lot of extra detail here so that you can fully master the mode and the concepts behind it.

But in it’s simplest form, all you need to do is to turn on the MLUT’s. Choose the MLUT that you like the look of, or is closest to the final look you are after. Expose so that the picture in the viewfinder or on your monitor looks how you want and away you go.

Then in post production bring in your S-log footage. Apply the same LUT as you used when you shot and the footage will look as shot. Or just grade the footage as desired without a LUT, it is not essential to use a LUT in post production.  As the footage you have shot is either raw or Slog you have a huge range of adjustment available to you in post.

THAT’S IT! If you want, it’s that simple (well almost).

If you want to get fancy you can create your own LUT and that’s really easy too (see the end of the document). If you want less noise in your pictures use a lower EI. I shoot using 800EI on my FS7 almost all the time.

Got an issue with a very bright scene and strong highlights, shoot with a high EI (this should only ever be a last resort, try to avoid using an EI higher than 2000EI).

Again, it’s really simple.

But anyway, lets learn more about it and why it works the way it works.

LATITUDE AND SENSITIVITY.

The latitude and sensitivity of the PXW-FS7, like most cameras is primarily governed by the latitude and sensitivity of the sensor. The latitude of the sensor in the FS7 is around 14 stops. Adding different amounts of conventional camera gain or using  different ISO’s does not alter the sensors actual sensitivity to light, only how much the signal from the sensor is amplified. This is like turning up or down the volume on a radio, the sound level gets higher or lower, but the strength of the radio signal is just the same. Turn it up loud and not only does the music get louder but also any hiss or noise, the ratio of signal to noise does not change, so BOTH the noise and the music get louder. Turn it up too loud and it will distort. If you don’t turn it up loud enough, you can’t hear it, but the radio signal itself does not change. It’s the same with a video cameras sensor. It always has the same sensitivity, With a conventional camera, or when the FS7 is in Custom Mode we can add or take away gain (volume control?) to make the pictures brighter or darker (louder?) but the noise levels will go up and down too.

NATIVE ISO:

Sony’s native ISO rating for the FS7 of 2000 ISO has been chosen by Sony to give a good trade off between sensitivity, noise and over/under exposure latitude. In general the native ISO will give excellent results. But there may be situations where you want or need different performance. For example you might prefer to trade off a little bit of over exposure headroom for a better signal to noise ratio, giving a cleaner, lower noise picture. Or you might need a very large amount of over exposure headroom to deal with a scene with lots of bright highlights.

The Cine EI mode allows you to change the effective ISO rating of the camera, without altering the dynamic range.

With film stocks the film manufacturer will determine the sensitivity of the film and give it an Exposure Index which is normally the equivalent of the films measured ASA/ISO.  It is possible for a skilled cinematographer to rate the film stock with a higher or lower ISO than the manufacturers rating to vary the look or compensate for filters and other factors. You then adjust the film developing and processing to give a correctly exposed looking image. This is a common tool used by cinematographers to modify the look of the film, but the film stock itself does not actually change it’s base sensitivity, it’s still the same film stock with the same base ASA/ISO.

Sony’s Cine EI mode and the EI modes on Red and Arri cameras are very similar. While it has many similarities to adding conventional video camera gain, the outcome and effect can be quite different. If you have not used it before it can be a little confusing, but once you understand the way it works it is very useful and a great way to shoot. Again, a key thing to remember that the actual sensitivity of the sensor itself never changes.


CONVENTIONAL VIDEO CAMERA GAIN.

Increasing conventional camera gain will reduce the cameras dynamic range as something that is recorded at maximum brightness (109%) at the native ISO or 0db would be pushed up above the peak recording level and we can’t record a signal larger than 109%. But as the true sensitivity of the sensor does not change, the darkest object the camera can actually detect remains the same. Dark objects may appear a bit brighter, but there is still a limit to how dark an object the camera can actually see and this is governed by the sensors noise floor and signal to noise ratio (how much noise there is in the image coming from the sensor).

Any very dark picture information will be hidden in the sensors noise. Adding gain will bring up both the noise and darkest picture information, so anything hidden in the noise at the native ISO (or 0db) will still be hidden in the noise at a higher gain or ISO as both the noise and small signal are amplified by the same amount. So adding gain does not extend the the ability to see further into the shadows, but does decrease the ability to record bright highlights. The net result of adding gain is a decrease in dynamic range.

Using negative gain or going lower than the native ISO may also reduce the dynamic range as picture information very close to black will be shifted down below black when you subtract gain or lower the ISO. At the same time there is a limit to how much light the sensor can deal with before the sensor itself overloads. So even though reducing the ISO or gain may make the picture darker, the sensors clipping/overload point remains the same, so there is no change to the upper dynamic range, just a reduction in recording level. The net result is you loose shadow information, don’t gain any highlight information, this again means a reduction in dynamic range.

See also this article on gain and dynamic range.

As Sony’s Slog2 and Slog3 are tailored to capture the cameras full 14 stop range this means that when shooting with Slog2 or Slog3 the gamma curve will ONLY work as designed and deliver the maximum dynamic range when the camera is at it’s native ISO. At any other recording ISO or gain level the dynamic range will be reduced. IE: If you were to use SLog2 or SLog3 with the camera in custom mode and not use the native ISO by adding gain or changing the ISO away from 2000, you will not get the full 14 stop range that the camera is capable of delivering.

 

EXPOSURE LEVELS FOR DIFFERENT GAMMA CURVES AND CONTRAST RANGES.

It’s important to understand that different gamma curves with different contrast ranges will require different exposure levels. The TV system that we use today is currently based around a standard known as Rec-709. This standard specifies the contrast range that a TV set or monitor can show and which recording levels represent which display brightness levels. Most traditional TV cameras are also based on this standard. Rec-709 does have some serious restrictions, the brightness and contrast range is very limited as these standards are based around TV standards and technologies developed 50 years ago. To get around this issue most TV cameras use methods such as a “knee” to compress together some of the brighter part of the scene in to a very small recording range.

A traditional TV camera with a limited dynamic range compresses only a small highlight range.

 

Slide2 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
A traditional TV camera with a limited dynamic range compresses only a small highlight range.

As you can see in the illustration above only a very small part of the recording “bucket” is used to hold a moderately large compressed highlight range. In addition a typical TV camera can’t capture all of the range in many scenes anyway. The most important parts of the scene, from black to white, is captured more or less “as is”. This leaves just a tiny bit of space above white to squeeze in a few highly compressed highlights. The black to white range represents about 5 stops, these are the most important stops as the majority of things that are important fall in this range. Faces, skin tones, plants, buildings etc all fall within the black to white range. Anything brighter than white must be a direct light source such as the sky, a reflection or lamp.

The signal from the TV camera is then passed directly to the TV and as the shadows, mid range and skin tones etc are all at more or less the same level as captured the bulk of scene looks OK on the TV/Monitor. Any highlights or other brighter than white direct light sources may look a little “electronic” due to the very large amount of compression used.

But what happens if we want to record more of the scenes range or compress the highlights less? As the size of the recording “bucket”, the codec etc, does not change, in order to capture a greater range and fit it in to the same space, we have to re-distribute how we record things.

Recording a greater dynamic range into the same sized bucket.

Slide3 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
Recording a greater dynamic range into the same sized bucket.

Above you can see instead of just compressing a small part of the highlights we are now capturing the full dynamic range of the scene. To do this we have altered the levels that everything is recorded at. Blacks and shadows are recorded lower, greys and mids are lower and white is a lot lower. By bringing all these levels down, we make room in our recording bucket for the highlights and the really bright stuff without them being excessively compressed.

The problem with this though is that when you output the picture to a monitor or TV it looks odd. It will lack contrast as the really bright stuff is displayed at the same brightness as the conventional 709 highlights. White is now darker then faces would be with a conventional TV camera.

This is how S-Log works:

This is how Slog works. By re-distributing the recording levels we can squeeze a much bigger dynamic range into the same size recording bucket. But it won’t look right when viewed directly on a standard TV or monitor. It may look dark and certainly a bit washed out. This is because the cameras gamma curve now no longer matches the monitors gamma curve.

I hope you can also see from this that whenever the cameras gamma curve does not match that of the TV/Monitor, the picture might not look quite right. Even when correctly exposed, white may be at different levels, depending on the gamma being used, especially if the gamma curve has a greater range than the normal Rec-709 used in old school TV cameras.

 


 

THE CORRECT EXPOSURE LEVELS FOR SLOG-2 and SLOG-3.

Before we go any further lets just look at the correct exposure levels for SLog-2 and SLog-3 as recommended by Sony. As these gamma curves have a very large dynamic range the recording levels that they use are very different to the levels used by the normal 709 gamma curve used for conventional TV. As a result when correctly exposed, Slog looks dark and low contrast on a conventional monitor or in the viewfinder. The table below has the correct levels for middle grey (grey card) and 90% reflectance white (a white card) for the different types of Slog.

log-exposure-1024x190 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
Correct exposure levels for Sony’s Slog.

Correct exposure levels for Sony’s Slog.

The white level in particular is a lot lower than we would normally use for TV gamma. This is done to give extra space above white to fit in the extended range that the camera is capable of capturing, all those bright highlights, bright sky and clouds and other things that cameras with a smaller dynamic range struggle to capture.

SETTING THE CORRECT EXPOSURE.

Let’s now take a look at how to set the correct starting point exposure for SLog-3. You can use a light meter if you wish, but if you do want to use a light meter I would first suggest you check the calibration of the light meter by using the grey card method below and comparing what the light meter tells you with the results you get with a grey or white card.

The most accurate method is to use a good quality grey card and a waveform display. For the screen shots seen here I used a Lastolite EzyBalance Calibration Card. This is a pop up grey card/white card that fits in a pocket but expands to about 30cm/1ft across giving a decent sized target. It has middle grey on one side and 90% reflectance white on the other. With the MLUT’s off, set the exposure so that the grey card is exposed at the appropriate level (see table above). If the firmware in your camera is up to date (at least version 3.0) you can set the zebras to 32% or 41% to do this or use an external monitor with a waveform display. The FS7’s built in waveform display is very had to use as it is so small and has no scale. I also recommend the use of a DSC Labs “One Shot” chart. The front of the chart has a series of color references that can be used in post production to set up your base color correction while the rear of the chart has both a large middle grey and 90% white square.

 

USING THE FS7’s WAVEFORM MONITOR OR ZEBRAS TO SET THE CORRECT BASE S-LOG3 EXPOSURE.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you use a LUT, The Zebras measure the viewfinder image, so if a LUT is on for the the viewfinder, then the zebras measure the LUT. If there is no viewfinder LUT then the zebras measure the S-Log.

The Waveform Monitor and Histogram measure the SDI2 levels. So if you have a LUT on for SDI2 then the LUT levels are measured. If there is no LUT on SDI2 then the S-Log levels are measured.

See this video for more information on the Waveform, Histogram and Zebras:

The internal waveform display settings are found in the menu under:

VF: Display On/Off: Video Signal Monitor.

LUT-middlegrey41 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
Setting the correct exposure for Slog-3 using a grey card. Middle grey should be 41%

Setting the correct exposure for Slog-3 using a grey card. Middle Grey should be 41%

If you don’t have access to a better waveform display you can use a white card or grey card and zebras. When using zebras I prefer to use white as the reference as it is easier to see the zebras on a white target than a grey one. By setting up the Zebras with a narrow aperture window of around 3% you can get a very accurate exposure assessment for white. For SLog-3 set the Zebras to 3% aperture and the level at 61%.  For Slog-2 set the zebra level to 59%. To be honest, if you were to set the zebras to 60% this is going to work for both S-Log2 and S-Log3, a 1% error is too small to make any difference and variations in lighting or the white target will be greater than 1% anyway.

Setting up the Zebras to measure S-Log3 exposure of white card (90% reflectance white card).

zebras61 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
Setting up the Zebras to measure S-Log3 exposure of white card (90% reflectance white card).

Correct exposure for S-Log3 when using a 90% reflectance white target.

LUT-white61 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
Correct exposure for S-Log3 when using a 90% reflectance white target.

The image above shows the use of both the Zebras and Waveform to establish the correct exposure level for S-Log3 when using a 90% reflectance white card or similar target. Please note that very often a piece of white paper or a white card etc will be a little bit brighter than a calibrated 90% white card. If using typical bleached white printer paper I suggest you add around 4% to the white values in the above chart to prevent under exposure.

This will get you to the base exposure recommended by Sony, without using a LUT. But very often we want to expose brighter than this to improve the signal to noise ratio.

See also the video below for information on how to setup and use S-Log2 and S-Log3 in the CineEI mode:

 

USING LUTS’s and CINE EI:

SO HOW DOES CINE-EI WORK?

FS7-CineEI-seletion-page-1024x576 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
Selecting Cine EI in base settings on the PXW-FS7

Cine EI is selected in the Base Settings page. It works in YPbPr, RGB and Raw main operation modes.

Cine-EI (Exposure Index) works differently to conventional camera gain. It’s operation is similar in other cameras that use Cine-EI or EI gain such as the F5, F55, F3, F65, Red or Alexa. You enable Cine-EI mode in the camera menus Base Settings page. On the F5 and F55 it works in YPbPr, RGB and RAW modes.

IMPORTANT: In the Cine-EI mode the ISO of the recordings remains fixed at the cameras native ISO (unless baking in a LUT,  more on that later). By always recording at the cameras native ISO you will always have 14 stops of dynamic range.

YOU NEED TO USE A LUT FOR CINE EI TO WORK:

You can only use LUT’s in the CineEI mode. In addition in order to be able to have LUT’s on for the Viewfinder, HDMI / SDI2, but NOT on the SD1 & Internal Rec you cannot set the HDMI to output 4K, you can only use HD or 2K.

FS7-Output-Settings-1024x576 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
PXW-FS7 output options.

So for most applications you will want to set your SDI and HDMI outputs to HD/2K in order to ba able to use the LUT system as designed for CineEI. For reference (2-3PD) means 2-3 pull down is added for 24p footage, so the output will be 60i with 24p footage sgown using pull down. PsF means progressive segmented frame which is the normal HDSDI standard for progressive output. Any of the HD or 2K output modes will allow the use of LUT’

 

Important: For Cine-EI mode to work as expected you MUST monitor your pictures in the viewfinder or via the SDI/HDMI output through one of the cameras built in MLUT’s (Look Up Table), LOOK’s or User3D LUT’s. So make sure you have the MLUT’s turned on. If you don’t have a LUT then it won’t work as expected because the EI gain is applied to the cameras LUT’s.

At this stage just set the MLUT’s to on for the Sub&HDMI output and the Viewfinder out.

 

FS7-LUT-settings-1024x576 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
PXW-FS7 Lut selection settings.

The LUT’s are then turned on in the VIDEO: Monitor LUT: settings page of the menu. You will normally want to turn ON LUT’s for SDI2, HDMI and the VIEWFINDER (not seen in the image above, simply scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the VIEWFINDER option). For normal CinEI use you should leave SD1 & Internal Rec OFF as we don’t want to record the LUT, just monitor via the LUT.

EXPOSING VIA THE LUT/LOOK.

When viewing or monitoring via a LUT you should adjust your exposure so that the picture in the viewfinder looks correctly exposed. If the LUT is correctly exposed then The S-Log recording will also be correctly exposed. As a point of reference, middle grey for Rec-709 and the 709(800) LUT should be at, or close to 44% and white will be 90%. Skin tones and faces will be at the normal TV level of around 65-70%. As these levels are waht we are used to seeing with a conventional video camera, this makes judging exposure easy.

This is really quite simple, generally speaking when using a Rec709  LUT, if it looks right in the viewfinder, it probably is right. However it is important to note that different LUT’s will have slightly different optimum exposure levels. For example the 709(800) LUT is designed to be a very close match to the 709 gamma curve used in the majority of monitors, so this particular LUT is really simple to use because if the picture looks normal on the monitor then your exposure will also be normal. The included 709(800) LUT is the most accurate LUT for exposure as this matches the gamma used in the majority of monitors. This LUT produces a nice contrasty image that is easy to focus. It is not meant to be pretty! It is a tool to help you get accurate exposure simply and easily.

Correct exposure of Middle Grey for the 709(800) MLUT. Middle Grey should be 44%. 90% white (a white piece of paper) will be 90% and skin tones will be around 65-70%.

Correct exposure of the 709(800) LUT using a 90% white card, white will be 90%. You can use zebras at 90% to check this level (remember zebras etc measure the LUT exposure level when LUT’s are turned on).

LUT-middlegrey42 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
Correct exposure of Middle Grey for the 709(800) MLUT. Middle Grey should be 42%. 90% will be 90%.
LUT-white90 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
Correct exposure of the 709(800) LUT using a 90% white card, white will be 90%. You can use zebras at 90% to check this level.

The above images show the correct exposure levels for the 709(800) LUT. Middle grey should be 44% and 90% white is… well 90%. Very simple and you can easily use zebras to check the white level by setting them to 90%. As middle grey is where it normally is on a TV or monitor and white is also where you would expect to see it, when using the 709(800) LUT, if the picture looks right in the viewfinder then it generally is right. This means that the 709(800) LUT is particularly well suited to being used to set exposure as a correctly exposed scene will look “normal” on a 709 TV or monitor. SIMPLE!

I don’t recommend the use of any of the other LUT’s to set exposure because all of the other LUT’s have brightness ranges that are different to Rec-709. As a result the LUT has to be exposed at non standard levels to ensure the S-Log is exposed correctly. You can use any of the other LUT’s or LOOK if you really wish, but you will need to figure out the correct exposure levels for each LUT.

The LC709-TypeA Look is very popular as a LUT for the FS7 as it closely mimics the images you get from an Arri Alexa (“type A” = type Arri).

The “LC” part of the Look’s name means Low Contrast and this also means – big dynamic range. Whenever you take a big dynamic range (lots of shades) and show it on a display with a limited dynamic range (limited shades) all the shades in the image get squeezed together to fit into the monitors limited range and as a result the contrast gets reduced. This also means that middle grey and white are also squeezed closer together. With conventional 709 middle grey would be 42% and white around 80-90%, but with a high dynamic range/low Contrast gamma curve white gets squeezed closer to grey to make room for the extra dynamic range. This means that middle grey will remain close to 42% but white reduces to around 72%. So for the LC709 Looks in the FS7 optimum exposure is to have middle grey at 42% and white at 72%. Don’t worry too much if you don’t hit those exact numbers, a little bit either way does little harm.

Correct white level for the LC709 LOOK’s. White should be around 72%

LUT-white72 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
Correct white level for the LC709 LOOK’s. White should be around 72%

 

Top Tip: Not sure how many people are aware of this function and how it works, but it’s a great way to get around the inability to easily turn the LUT’s on and off in the CineEI mode.

Assign the Hi/Low Key option to one of your assignable buttons. So when using the 709(800) LUT (or any other LUT for that matter) the first press of the button darkens the VF image so you can see what highlights beyond the range of the LUT are doing exposure wise. This allows you to check for clipping that may be present in the much wider range S-log recordings. Press it again and you will see the image brighten allowing you to see further into the shadows so you can see the darkest things being captured by the S-log recordings. The Hi/Low Key function is a great way of seeing your full available exposure range without needing to turn the LUT on and off.

LUT EXPOSURE LEVELS FOR THE OTHER LUTS.

Here are some white levels for some of the built in LUT’s. The G40 or G33 part of the HG LUT’s is the recommended value for middle grey. Use these levels for the zebras if you want to check the correct exposure of a 90% reflectance white card. I have also include an approximate zebra value for a piece of typical white printer paper.

709(800) = Middle Grey 42%. 90% Reflectance white 90%, white paper 92%.

HG8009(G40) = Middle Grey 40%. 90% Reflectance white 83%, white paper 86%.

HG8009(G33) = Middle Grey 33%. 90% Reflectance white 75%, white paper 80%.

The “LC709” LOOK’s = Middle Grey 42%. 90% Reflectance white 72%, white paper 77%.

DONT PANIC if you don’t get these precise levels! I’m giving them to you here so you have a good starting point. A little bit either way will not hurt. Again, generally speaking if it looks right in the viewfinder or on your monitor screen, it is probably close enough not to worry about it.

BUT, again I would suggest sticking to the 709(800) LUT for setting exposure. It’s not the prettiest LUT, but is the only one of the included LUT’s that gives the correct, normal, brightness and contrast range on a conventional monitor, viewfinder or TV. If you want to keep things simple and accurate use 709(800).

USING EI OR EXPOSURE INDEX.

What is EI? EI stands for Exposure Index. This is NOT the same thing as ISO.

ISO is the sensitivity of the camera. ISO is the sensitivity that the camera records at.

EI is the sensitivity of the LUT. EI is the brightness at which the LUT displays the scene.

The FS7 has a native ISO of 2000 and the camera always records at 2000 ISO in the Cine EI mode.

But the EI of the LUT can be varied to make the LUT brighter and darker. the only thing EI changes is the brightness of the LUT. But when exposing via the LUT, if the LUT is made darker, to compensate for the dark looking LUT you open the aperture to let in more light. This will make the LUT look correct again. It will also result in a recording that is brighter than normal as we have opened the aperture.

CHANGING THE EI.

Latitude Indication.

At the native 2000 EI you have 6 stops of over exposure latitude and 8 stops of under exposure latitude (6 stops above middle grey and 8 stops below middle grey). This is how much headroom your shot has. Your over exposure latitude is indicated whenever you change the EI level. In the image below you can see the EI 2000EI followed by a 6.0E the 6.0E is the over exposure latitude.

FS7-EI-indication-2-1024x576 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
The EI and Lattitude indication on the FS7.

The EI gain is altered by changing the cameras gain switch and the EI levels assigned to each of the Hi/Mid/Low switch positions can be changed in the camera menu. I recommend setting the EI steps to H 2000, M 1000 and L 500 as this allows you to select the native EI plus 1 stop and 2 stops down (each time you halve the ISO you are shifting the exposure one stop down).

FS7-ISO-settings-page-1024x576 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
The PXW-FS7 EI settings for the gain switch.

REDUCING THE EI.

So what happens when you halve the EI gain to 1000EI?  1 stop of gain/ISO will subtracted from the LUT. As a result the picture you see via the LUT becomes one stop darker (a good thing to know is that 1 stop of exposure is the same as 6db of gain or a doubling or halving of the ISO). So the picture in the viewfinder gets darker. But also remember that the camera will still be recording at the native ISO (unless baking-in the LUT).


 

Why does this happen and what’s happening to my pictures?

First of all lets take a look at the scene, as seen in the cameras viewfinder when we are at the native 2000 EI and then with the EI changed one stop down so it becomes 1000EI. The native ISO on the left, the one stop lower EI on the right.

VF-side-by-side Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
2000EI and 1000EI as seen in the viewfinder with NO exposure change.

2000EI and 1000EI as seen in the viewfinder with NO exposure change.

So, in the viewfinder, when you lower the EI by one stop (halving the EI) the picture becomes darker by 1 stop. If using an external monitor with a waveform display connected to SDI2 or the HDMI output this too would get darker and the waveform levels decrease by one stop.

As a camera operator, what do you do when you have a dark picture? Well most people would normally compensate for a dark looking image by opening the iris to compensate. As we have gone one stop darker with the EI gain, making the LUT 1 stop darker, to return the viewfinder image back to the same brightness as it was at the native EI you would open the iris by one stop.

So now, after reducing the EI by one stop and then compensating by opening the iris by 1 stop, the viewfinder image is the same brightness as it was when we started.

But what’s happening to my recordings?

Remember the recordings, whether on the XQD card (assuming the SD1 & Internal Rec LUT is OFF) are always at the cameras native 2000 ISO, no matter what the EI is set to. As a result, because you will have opened the iris by 1 stop to compensate for the dark viewfinder image the recording will have become 1 stop brighter. Look at the image below to see what we see in the viewfinder alongside what is actually being recorded. The EI offset exposure with aperture correction as seen in the viewfinder (left hand side) looks normal, while the actual native ISO recording (right hand side) is 1 stop brighter.

At 1000EI the Viewfinder image on the left is 1 stop darker than the actual recorded image (on the right) which is recorded at the native 2000 ISO.

VF-and-Internal Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7

How does this help us, what are the benefits?

When you take this brighter recorded image in to post production the colorist will have to bring the levels back down to normal as part of the grading process. As he/she will be reducing the levels in post production by around 1 stop (6db) any noise in the picture will also be reduced by 6db. The end result is a picture with 6db less noise than if shot at the native EI. Another benefit may be that as the scene was exposed brighter you will be able to see more shadow information.

Is there a down side to using a low EI?

Because the actual recorded exposure is brighter by one stop you have one stop less headroom. However the PXW-FS7 has an abundance of headroom so the loss of one stop is often not going to cause a problem. I find that going between 1 and 1.5 EI stops down rarely results in any highlight issues. But when shooting very high contrast scenes and using a low EI it is worth toggling the LUT on and off to check for clipping in the SLog image.

It’s also worth noting the S-Log does not have a highlight roll off. Each stop above middle grey is recorded with the same amount of data, so exposing brighter by a stop or two does not alter the contrast as it would with a standard gamma. So over exposing log is NOT a bad thing. It is in fact in most cases highly beneficial.

Log gamma curves have very little picture information in the shadows, so if we can expose brighter our shadows will look much better. 

What is happening to my exposure range?

What you are doing is moving the mid point of your exposure range up in the case of a lower EI (up because you are opening the aperture, thus making the recordings brighter). This allows the camera to see deeper into the shadows increasing the under exposure latitude, but reduces the over exposure latitude. The reverse is also possible. If you use a higher EI you shift your mid point down. This gives you more headroom for dealing with very bright highlights, but you won’t see as far into the shadows and the final pictures will be a little noisier as in post production the overall levels will have to be brought up to compensate for the darker overall recordings.

Cine-EI allows us to shift our exposure mid point up and down.  Lowering the EI gain gives you a darker VF image so you compensate by opening the aperture which results in brightly exposed footage. This reduces over exposure headroom but increases under exposure range (and improves the signal to noise ratio). Adding EI gain gives a brighter Viewfinder image which makes you expose the recordings darker, which gives you more headroom but with less underexposure range (and a worse signal to noise ratio).

When shooting with almost any CineEI camera I will use an EI that is between 1 and 2 stops darker than the base settings. So on the FS7 I normally set the EI to 800 EI. It’s very rare to get any highlight problems at 800 EI and the improvement this low EI brings to the noise levels in the image is very nice.

Slide01 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7

Post Production.

When shooting raw information about the EI gain is stored in the clips metadata. The idea is that this metadata can be used by the grading or editing software to adjust the clips exposure level in the edit or grading application so that it looks correctly exposed (or at least exposed as you saw it in the viewfinder via the LUT). The metadata information is recorded alongside the XAVC footage when shooting SLog2/3. However, currently few edit applications or grading applications use this metadata to offset the exposure, so S-Log2/3 material may look dark/bright when imported into your edit application and you may need to add a correction to return the exposure to a “normal” level. You can use a correction LUT to move the exposure up and when I provide LUT sets on this website I will always try to include LUT’s for over and under exposure. Another way to deal with brightly exposed log footage in post production is to first apply an “S” curve using the luma curve tool to the log. Then a simple gain adjustment will shift the exposure.

See this video for detailed information on how to expose using CineEI:

 


 WHAT IF YOU ARE SHOOTING USING HFR (High Frame Rate) AND LUT’S CANT BE USED.

In HFR you can either have LUT’s on for everything including internal recording, or all off, no LUT’s at all. This is not helpful if your primary recordings are internal S-Log.

So for HFR in many cases you will have to just work viewing the native S-log. If you set zebras to 70% and expose a white card at 70% this will result in S-Log footage that is 1.2 – 1.5 stops over exposed. This is the same as shooting at 800 EI and I highly recomend this approach for HFR (slow motion) shooting as it will help clean up the additional noise that you see when shooting HFR.

 

BAKING IN THE LUT/LOOK.

When shooting using a high or low EI, the EI gain is added or subtracted from the LUT or LOOK, this makes the picture in the viewfinder or monitor fed via the LUT brighter or darker depending on the EI used. In Cine-EI mode you want the camera to always actually record the S-log at the cameras native 2000 ISO. So normally you want to leave the LUT’s OFF for the internal recording. Just in case you missed that very important point: normally you want to leave the LUT’s OFF for the internal recording!

FS7-Lut-settings-2-1024x576 Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
You need to turn ON the SD1 and Internal Rec LUT t “Bake In” a LUT. Normally leave this OFF.

Just about the only exceptions to this might be when shooting raw or when you want to deliberately record with the LUT/Look baked in to your XQD recordings. By “baked-in” I mean with the gamma, contrast and color of the LUT/Look permanently recorded as part of the recording. You can’t remove this LUT/look later if it’s “baked-in”.

No matter what the LUT/Look settings, if you’re recording raw on an external raw recorder, recorder the raw is always recorded at 2000 ISO.  But the internal XQD recordings are different. It is possible, if you choose, to apply a LUT/LOOK to the XQD recordings by setting the “SDI1 & Internal Rec” LUT to ON. The gain of the recorded LUT/LOOK will be altered according to the CineEI gain settings. This might be useful to provide an easy to work with proxy file for editing, with the LUT/LOOK baked-in while shooting raw. Or as a way to create an in-camera look or style for material that won’t be graded. Using a baked-in LUT/LOOK for a production that won’t be graded or only have minimal grading is an interesting alternative to using Custom Mode that should be considered for fast turn-around productions.

In most cases however you will probably not have a LUT applied to your primary recordings. If shooting in S-Log you must set LUT – OFF for “SDI1 & Internal Rec” See the image above. With “SDI1 & Internal Rec” Off the internal recordings, without LUT, will be SLog2 or Slog3 and at 2000 ISO.

You can tell what it is that the camera is actually recording by looking in the viewfinder. At the center right side of the display there is an indication of what is being recorded on the cards. Normally for Cine-EI this should say either SLog2 or Slog3. If it indicates something else, then you are baking the LUT in to the internal recordings.

LUT-Slog3-indication Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
The internal recording gamma is shown on the right of the VF. This is recording SLog-3
LUT-LUT709-indication Ultimate Guide for Cine EI on the Sony PXW-FS7
The indication here shows that the 709(800) LUT is being baked-in to the internal recordings.

CINE-EI SUMMARY:

CineEI allows you to “rate” the camera at different ISO.

You MUST use a LUT for CineEI to work as designed.

A low EI number will result in a brighter exposure which will improve the signal to noise ratio giving a cleaner picture or allow you to see more shadow detail. However you will loose some over exposure headroom.

A high EI number will result in a darker exposure which will improve the over exposure headroom but decrease the under exposure range. The signal to noise ratio is worse so the final picture may end up with more noise.

A 1D LUT will not clip and appear to overexpose as readily as a 3D LOOK when using a low EI, so a 1D LUT may be preferable.

When viewing via a 709 LUT you expose using normal 709 exposure levels. Basically if it looks right in the viewfinder or on the monitor (via the 709 LUT) it almost certainly is right.

When I shoot with my FS7 I normally rate the camera at between 800 and 1000EI. I find that 5 stops of over exposure range is plenty for most situations and I prefer the decrease in noise in the final pictures. But please, test and experiment for yourself.


 

QUICK GUIDE TO CREATING YOUR OWN LOOK’s (Using DaVinci Resolve).

It’s very easy to create your own 3D LUT for the FS7 using DaVinci Resolve or just about any grading software with LUT export capability. The LUT should be a 17x17x17 or 33x33x33 .cube LUT. This is what Resolve creates by default and .cube LUT’s are the most common types of LUT in use today.

First simply shoot some test Slog3 clips at 2000EI. In addition you should also use the same color space (S.Gamut or S.Gamut3.cine) for the test shot as you will when you want to use the LUT. I recommend shooting a variety of clips so that you can asses how the LUT will work in different lighting situations.

Import and grade the clips from the test shoot in Resolve creating the look that you are after for your production or as you wish your footage to appear in the viewfinder of the camera. Then once your happy with the look of the graded clip, right click on the clip in the timeline and “Export LUT”. Resolve will then create and save a .cube LUT.

Then place the .cube LUT file created by the grading software on an SD card in the PMWF55_F5 folder. You may need to create the following folder structure on the SD card. So first you have a PRIVATE folder, in that there is a SONY folder and so on.

PRIVATE   :   SONY   :    PRO   :   CAMERA   :    PMWF55_F5

Put the SD card in the camera, then go to the “File” menu and go to “Monitor 3D LUT” and select “Load SD Card”. The camera will offer you a 1 to 4 destination memory selection. Choose 1,2,3 or 4, this is the memory location where the LUT will be saved. You should then be presented with a list of all the LUT’s on the SD card. Select your chosen LUT to save it from the SD card to the camera.

Once loaded in to the camera when you choose 3D User LUT’s you can select between user LUT memory 1,2,3 or 4. Your LUT will be in the memory you selected when you copied the LUT from the SD card to the camera.

 

How to use S-Log3 on the Sony PXW-FS7.

So with the FS7 now shipping and the first units landing in peoples hands I have put together a comprehensive guide to using S-Log3 and CineEI on the PXW-FS7. Please follow this link to read or download the guide to CineEI on the PXW-FS7.

It’s important to note that S-Log3 has a peak recording level of 92IRE so never goes above this. Don’t be surprised to find that your overall levels are going to be much lower than you would normally use for conventional 709 shooting. In addition I can’t stress enough how important it is to learn how to use LUT’s (look up tables) in camera and in post production with this camera. It will make your life so much simpler and easier. LUT’s may sound complicated and difficult, but they are not. If you want to create your own LUT’s take a look at this guide here.

The FS7 is an incredibly powerful camera. But if you really want to get the most from the Cine-EI mode and S-Log then you need to adjust the way you shoot. You can’t just apply normal Rec-709 exposure levels to S-Log3, it’s not designed to work that way. However by using the 709(800) LUT on the viewfinder output you can expose based on the viewfinder image as you would normally, while the S-Log3 recordings will be at the correct levels. So do learn how to implement LUT’s correctly, it will make your life so much easier. Take a look at this video for an idea of how it works. The video features an F5 but the FS7 is the same.

While you’re at it you might also want to take a look at this article on the S-log3 gamma curve. Many people will look at the S-log and think that it looks noisy and be worried by this. You shouldn’t be. The shape of the log curve means that before grading and application of a LUT it can emphasise noise. However once you use a LUT to convert from S-log3 to 709 you will find that most of the noise will go away. Again, please use a LUT as simply trying to grade S-log3 in to 709 space is often not as effective as adding the right LUT. If you really know what you are doing, by using S-Curves and log grading tools it is possible to grade the native S-log3 in a 709 environment, but LUT’s do make it simpler. Another useful way to get from S-log3 to 709 is to use the new color chart tool in Resolve which recognises and corrects either a Macbeth chart or DSC One Shot chart to the correct levels automatically. When you set up this process in Resolve you will select the source gamma as S-Log3 so the correction compensates for the gamma curve as well as adding color correction. I’lll write this up in more depth in the next couple of weeks.

So enjoy your FS7 if you have one. As soon as mine arrives I will write up the correct way (or at least the designed way) to use the Cine-EI mode, in the mean time the F5/F55 Cine-EI guide can be used, the process is exactly the same on the FS7.

LUT’s or LOOK’s when exposing via a LUT on the PMW-F5 or PMW-F55

First of all. You can use either, LUT’s or Looks. But there is a quite marked difference in the way they behave, especially if you use EI gain.

At the native ISO there is little to choose between them. But just to confirm my earlier suspicions about the way the 3D LOOK’s behave I ran a quick test.

I found that when you lower the EI gain, below native, the output level of the LOOK lowers, so that depending on the EI, the clipping, peak level and middle grey values are different. For example on my PMW-F5 at 500 EI the LC709TypeA LUT has a peak output (clipping) level of just 90% while at 2000 ISO it’s 98%. This also means that middle grey of the LOOK will shift down slightly as you lower the EI. This means that for consistent exposure at different low EI’s you may need to offset your exposure very slightly. It also means that at Native EI if the waveform shows peak levels at 90% you are not overexposed or clipped, but at low EI’s 90% will mean clipped Slog, so beware of this peak level offset.

When you raise the EI of the LOOKS, the input clipping point of the Look profile changes. For each stop of EI you add the LOOK will clip one stop earlier than the underlying Slog. For example set the LC709TypeA LUT to 8000 ISO (on my PMW-F5)  and the LOOK itself hard clips 2 stops before the actual SLog3 clips. So your LOOK will make it appear that your Slog is clipped up to 2 stops before it actually is and the dynamic range and contrast range of the LOOK varies depending on the EI, so again beware.

So, the Looks may give the impression that the Slog is clipped if you use a high ISO and will give the impression that you are not using your full available range at a low ISO. I suspect this is a limitation of 3D LUT tables which only work over a fixed 0 to1 input and output range.

What about the 1D LUT’s? Well the LUT’s don’t cover the full range of the Slog curves so you will never see all of your dynamic range at once. However I feel their behaviour at low and high EI’s is a little bit more intuitive than the level shifts and early clipping of the LOOKs.

The 1D LUT’s will always go to 109%. So there are no middle grey shifts for the LUT, no need to compensate at any ISO. In addition if you see any clipping below 109% then it means your SLog is clipping, for example if you set the camera to 500 ISO (on an F5), when you see the 709(800) LUT clipping at 105% it’s because the Slog is also clipping.

At High ISO’s you won’t see the top end of the SLog’s exposure range anyway because the LUT’s range is less than Slog’s range, but the LUT itself does not clip, instead highlights just go up above 109% and this is in my opinion more intuitive behaviour than the clipped LOOK’s that don’t ever quite reach 100% and clip at lower than 100% even when the Slog itself isn’t clipped.

At the end of the day use the ones that work best for you, just be aware of the limitations of both and that the LUT’s and LOOKs behave very differently. I suggest you test and try both before making any firm decisions.

Personally I prefer to use the 709(800) LUT for exposure as the restricted range matches that of most consumer TV’s etc so I feel this gives me a better idea of how the image may end up looking on a consumers TV. Also I find my Slog exposure more accurate as the LUT’s restricted range means you are more likely to expose within finer limits. In addition as noted above I fell the LUT’s behaviour is more predictable and intuitive at high and low EI’s than the LOOK’s.

In addition the higher contrast makes focus easier. I will often switch in and out of the LUT to look at how the Log is coping with any over exposure. This is my personal preference, but I do also use other LUT’s and Looks in particular the 709TypeA from time to time.