PXW-FS5 II Secret Sauce and Venice Colour Science.

At NAB 2018 a very hot topic is the launch of the FS5 II. The FS5 II is an update on the existing FS5 that includes the FS Raw output option and the HFR option as standard. So out of the box this means that this camera will be a great match to an Atomos Inferno to take advantage of the new Apple ProRes Raw codec.

Just like the FS5 the FS5 II can shoot using a range of different gamma curves including Rec-709, HLG, S-Log2  and S-Log3. So  for those more involved projects where image control is paramount you can shoot in log (or raw)  then take the footage into your favourite grading software and create whatever look you wish. You can tweak and tune your skin tones, play with the highlight roll off and create that Hollywood blockbuster look – with both the FS5 and the FS5 II. There is no change to this other than the addition of FS-Raw as standard on the FS5 II.

The big change, is to the cameras default colour science.

FS5II-1-1024x564 PXW-FS5 II Secret Sauce and Venice Colour Science.
New color science from the Sony PXW-FS5 II

Ever since I started shooting on Sony cameras, which was a very long time ago, they have always looked a certain way. If you point a Sony camera at a Rec-709 test chart you will find that the colours are actually quite accurate, the color patches on the chart lining up with the target boxes on a vector scope. All Sony cameras look this way so that if you use several different cameras on the same project they should at least look very similar, even if one of those cameras is a few years old.  But this look and standard was establish many years ago when camera and TV technology was nowhere near as advanced as it is today.

in addition, sometimes accurate isn’t pretty. Television display technology has come a long way in recent years. Digital broadcasting combined with good quality LCD and OLED displays now mean that we are able to see a wider range of colours and a larger dynamic range. Viewers expectations are changing, we all want prettier images.

When Sony launched the high end Venice digital cinema camera a bold step was taken, which was to break away from the standard Sony look and instead develop a new, modern, “pretty” look. A lot of research was done with both cinematographers and viewers trying to figure out what makes a pretty picture. Over several months I’ve watched Pablo, Sony’s colourist at the Digital Motion Picture Center at Pinewood studios develop new LUT’s with this new look for the Venice camera. It hasn’t been easy, but it looks really nice and is quite a departure from that standard Sony look.

The FS5 II includes many aspects of this new look. It isn’t just a change to the colours it is also a change to the default gamma curve that introduces a silky smooth highlight roll off that extends the dynamic range well beyond that normally possible with a conventional Rec-709 gamma curve. A lot of time was spent looking at how this new gamma behaves when shooting people and faces. In particular those troublesome highlights that you get on a nose or cheek that’s catching the light. You know – those pesky highlights that just don’t normally look nice on a video camera.

So as well as rolling off the brightness of these highlights in a smooth way, the color also subtly washes out to prevent the highlight color bloom that can be a video give away. This isn’t easy to do. Any colorist will tell you that getting bright skin tone highlights to look nice is tough. You bring down the brightness and it looks wrong because you loose too much contrast. De-saturate too much and it looks wrong as it just becomes a white blob. Finding the right balance of extended dynamic range with good contrast, plus a pleasing roll-off without a complete white-out is difficult enough to do in a grading suite where you can tweak and tune the settings for each shot. Coming up with a profile that will work over a vast range of shooting scenarios with no adjustment is even tougher. But it looks to me as though the engineers at Sony have really done a very nice job in the FS5 II.

Going forwards from here I would expect to see, or at least like to see, most of Sony’s future cameras have this new colour science. But this is a big step for Sony to break away from decades of one look and every camera looking more or less the same.  But do remember this change is primarily to the default, “standard” gamma look. It does not effect the FS5 II’s log or raw recordings. There is also going to have to be a set of LUT’s to go with this new color science so that those shooting with with a mix of the baked in look and S-log or raw can make all the footage match. In addition users of other S-Log cameras will want to be able to make their cameras match. I see no reason why this won’t be possible via a LUT or set of LUT’s, within the limitations of each cameras sensor technology.

There has been a lot of people that seem unhappy with the FS5 II. I think many people want a Sony Venice for the price of an FS5. Let’s be realistic, that isn’t going to happen. 10 bit recording in UHD would be nice, but that would need higher bit rates to avoid motion artefacts which would then need faster and more expensive media. If you want higher image quality in UHD or 4K DCI do consider an Atomos recorder and the new ProRes Raw codec. The files are barely any bigger than ProRes HQ, but offer 12 bit quality.

Given that the price of the FS5 II is going to be pretty much the same or maybe even a little lower than the regular FS5 (before you even add any options), I am not sure why so many people are complaining. The FS5-II takes a great little camera, makes it even better and costs even less.


36 thoughts on “PXW-FS5 II Secret Sauce and Venice Colour Science.”

  1. Sony is the least generous corporation on the planet. Blackmagic gentlemanly mocked them yesterday by showing what a real lack of greed can produce. The BMPCC4K will deliver 10-bit 4:2:2 UHD and 12-bit CinemaDNG UHD/4K at $1.3k. There will be nitpicking about how a “pocket” camera has nothing to do with an “industrial” camera, but Sony is running out of excuses for everything they do.

    Meantime, it would have taken zero R&D time for Sony to simply import the “new” (i.e., caught-up) VENICE color improvements, into the S-Log LUTs for the FS5 II. They didn’t, and so they’re systematically killing themselves to protect their low-volume, high-cost product lines.

    That they didn’t, is just Sony being Sony. But you will defend them at any cost, that’s always been clear to everyone.

    1. Zero R&D? Really, so you just press a button and the firmware just appears and it all works perfectly, the pictures are lovely, perfect match to the sensor, just like that.

      Once Sony release the new Venice LUT’s, which should be very soon, there will be nothing stopping you from using them on your FS5 material or any other S-Log3 camera if you wish.

      I don’t understand all the hate. Sony have changed the one thing everyone has been asking them to change – the color – plus bundled in all the options and upgrades that would have made the camera even more expensive. All of this will sell for less than the original.

      1. Something which lots of people was waiting for was higher bitrate options. Maybe a codec like the fs7. I would have LOVED paying 2000euros more for getting this internally. Instead they gave us something which could have been done with a firmware update. This is not the fs5-2. This is the fs5. With raw upgrade included, and one more picture profile. They shouldn’t have called it fs5-2. Dont you really see why people are upset? I’m upset because the fs5 would probably be my perfect camera if they included a solid codec in camera. Using an external recorder allows for great codec, but this is not convenient at all for lots of shoots.

        1. If you want the features of an FS7, then buy an FS7. Extra processing, higher bit rates, UHD 60p all require more processing power which means more heat which means a bigger camera or more noise.

    2. I find your comment hilarious on a number of accounts. The technical mastery that Sony brings to the table (R&D) isn’t up for debate, and there’s a tremendous amount value packed into this little monster of a camera. You simply want a Ferarri for the cost of a Taurus. Sorry, this will never happen.

      The BMPCC 4K looks great on paper, but have fun securing professional gigs with it (anything outside of a low paying wedding). If this is your main camera, don’t expect to be treated as anything more than an amateur. That’s reality.

      I recently participated in a test that compared the 1080p capabilities of the Canon C100 MKII, FS7M2, and BMPCC 4K, and in every single test (even the C100 with its “weaker” internal codec) and both cameras trounced (1080P) the BMPCC 4K UHD footage. Better a better codec and higher bitrate doesn’t necessarily make a camera better.

      Sony is not your friend. They are not a charity, and they exist to make money. Capitalism. However, their service is excellent and they listen to their customers.

  2. Any chance we’ll see this new standard profile find it’s way into the FS5mk1 or other Sony cameras? Maybe via a paid upgrade?

      1. Well I hope so – – I have a 2 month old FS5mk1, and PAID for the RAW upgrade, seems like they would offer a price option for the HFR and new firmware for those of use that paid a lot more for less – ugh

      2. Why to pretend to release a camera upgrade by just changing picture profiles through what it seems to be a firmware update only?
        I think that the reason of the discord.
        Sony did a poor job with on this subject.
        Althrough I love my FS5 and was ready to change for the newer version if it was more than just a firmware upgrade.

      3. Could be a Log(venice color) payed upgrade, like the Log upgrade on the old F3.
        I would pay for it, for sure!

  3. From my view point Sony is making such progress with the stills cameras people expect improvements to the functions of the camera. The Panasonic GH5 has a 10 bit codex and compared to the Blackmagic new cameras it just seem Sony is not pushing what is possible with sensors or features in the new camera. The fs7 was wonderful when it came out almost 4 years ago, but think about how much phones and still cameras have changed.

    I am happy with the future to use the new Apple Prores Raw with the fs5 but feel that the raw upgrade is very expensive at $500 dollars. But everyone would love to see progress with hardware as well as software. Upgrades to software that not everyone uses does not appear at much added value.

  4. I was utterly disappointed with the FS5II… why couldn’t these changes have just been a firmware upgrade?

    And you’re wrong in wanting a Venice for the price of an FS5, I want an A7III for the price of an FS5 (and also in the body of an FS5) 😉

    I was hoping some of the innovations from Sony’s A7 line would finally start finding their way into the FS-series… The FS5 in particular would benefit immensely from improved auto focus, IBIS etc…

    Also, higher bitrates would have been nice as it’s contraproductive to hang a big 7” recording monitor on it when shooting handheld. (If only Atomos had put an SDI port on the Ninja V).

    It looks like a great camera, but as an FS700 owner, it’s just not enough to spend a lot of money to upgrade for the same image quality (with 7Q).

  5. Thanks for the post, Alister. Really appreciate the time.

    Expressing my opinion here: I’m still genuinely confused as to why Sony is calling this a mII product when they’ve admitted it’s literally the exact same camera. If it’s the exact same camera, and it’s cheaper than the mI + upgrades, why couldn’t they just start selling the mI with the new upgrades?

    I really hope Sony is listening and gives 100% parity between the mI and mII (even if it costs the mI customers money to upgrade). Really scratching my head on this one.

    That being said, if the mII means Sony is essentially extending life and interest for both, that’s good news for the mI owners. That is, if they keep feature parity between the two.

  6. Sony has changed the color – their camera owners #1 frustration. I don’t know anyone who talks about Sony color with anything but distain. Now, they make an adjustment and deem the mighty feat worthy of a new camera, instead of updating all the owners who are currently frustrated. This is why people justifiably say Sony is greedy.

    There has not been a pleasant surprise in innovation in sooooo long. They seem to react to the market instead of lead it.

    After owning 2 ex1’s, F3, f700, Fs5 and using Fs7 and F55 extensively, I’ve finally jumped ship. Not only have I left behind the nasty color but also all the proprietary nonsense.

    For the past 5 years, I’ve also shot a lot of Canon C line, Alexa, Red and more recently, Blackmagic. Every manufacturer has made massive leaps in those 5 years. Sony seems drunk on their past success and little moves like this with the fs5 reinforce that idea.

  7. Will we get an update for the Fs7M2? Do you have any idea if there is an Fs7 replacement coming soon? Trying to keep relatively low hours on my Fs7M2 if this is the case.

    1. I suspect any Fs7 is some way off as the FS7 was based on the F5/F55 chipset and so far there is no sign of a new chipset.

      1. Thank you for the insight. I have learned a lot from this site and intend to contribute to your Patreon.

  8. It’s so interesting how Sony had this very elaborate production to showcase their bottom of the line “professional” camera. Extremely careful lighting was used to hide the camera’’s weaknesses. This camera is notorious for being quite noisy so the scenes had to have a lot of light, and even so it’s clear the (top) colorist at Sony applied a lot noise reduction and masking. I could have shot that with my Iphone and it would have looked almost as good as this “demo”. Sony now wants to compete in the high end arena next to the Alexas, Reds, etc. But it’s being killed by Panasonic and BMD in the “entry” professional market. It’s time for Sony to retire the FS5 ….

  9. Alister – I think the word you were looking for was “underwhelming”. I agree they’ve bundled all the paid options of an FS5 into this product. All that is going to do is upset the FS5 owners who paid for those options. It has overnight de-valued their cameras while giving them zero incentive to upgrade. Also because its the same camera then the brand new much heralded PP could easily have been done in a firmware update to the FS5. In fact why didn’t Sony fix their colour science years ago if that’s all it took? Heck they could even give it to FS700 owners.
    I think they desperately need a new stacked sensor for this line, giving them fast hybrid auto focus. Sony seems to be able to do this for their 1” line (z90) and their A series cameras but for some reason their Cinealta line misses out. I think Sony missed an opportunity here. And I think others are right – they’re just portecting their high end line.

  10. So Alister I’m a little confused about the new improved color. Is this something that is only part of the Custom gammas i.e. Hyper and Standard gammas ( I’m not sure if they are called Custom on the FS5 and Venice?) Are those still ing 709?
    Or are they also part of the Venice’s LUT options?
    Likewise re whether these changes would come back to the existing FS7 F5/55 cameras you said, “There is a chance. At the moment my understanding is it hasn’t been decided.” Does that mean this is not a technical issue but solely a marketing question?

  11. Alister thanks for your insight. If the new color science is in Sony’s standard gamut does that mean that Sgamut3.cine and others will stay the same and match across existing cameras? Or will those will all of the color gamut’s change in the fs5ii and Venice?

    1. No changes to anything except the base settings of the camera so log etc is the same on the FS5 II and original. The Venice sensor uses different color filters so it has a different look anyway.

  12. Any news about a Venice Color for the FS5 MKI? Is possible to use the same settings of PP1 of FS5MKII on MKI to get the same color ? or what i’m saying don’t make sense?

  13. I am a bit confused here – I purchased the new FS5M2, but I don’t see anywhere the ability use the Venice colour science, in a picture profile or otherwise. The word “Venice” does not appear in the manual. Am I missing something?

    1. The FS5 MKII base settings and PP1 are based on the Venice Look. All other settings are the same as the FS5 MK 1.

  14. Just going to revive the conversation a little.

    With your ear so close to the ground on Sony. Any chance there is talk about Sony offering a Venice color scene file with white balance for their Sony F55/5 line. I would be happy to pay a fee (similar to the DCI 4K upgrade fee on my F5).

    Also, I noticed when I got a chance to play with the Venice. you can adjust the kelvin settings and plus or minus green when recording in S-Log. I really don’t get why Sony can’t offer this tech on the Sony F55/5?

    I know I’m dwelling on the Sony F55/5, but this camera fits my market needs so well and I would like Sony to continue to upgrade it. The Venice is a beautiful camera and IMO one of the best they have made. But it is a little beyond my market needs, heavy and maybe not designed for the single owner/op in mind.

    I know I may be reaching here but feel Sony values your feedback Alister.

    1. Add the Venice LUT to the F5/F55. The only other way to change the colour science would be to change the sensor. The F5/F55 are older tech with a more limited sensor, sdo the ability to pull the white balance about without clipping one of the colour channels is limited.

      1. Thanks for your reply Alister,

        Let me clarify a little. I’m asking for something similar to the Venice color science/scene file tech of the Fs5 mark II not entirely the Venice tech it’s self. I could be wrong but considering the Fs5 mark II is supposedly the same sensor as the Fs5 M1, Fs7 M1/M2 and F5, wouldn’t it at least be possible to upgrade those cameras with new looks “Venice like” scene files that can be white balanced?

        Plus, how is it I can get such a beautiful image with much better highlights visually (not scientifically) on my F5 with the Venice LUT in CineEI mode. Even if I “bake in” record, the color and highlights still hold better IMO. As a consumer not an engineer this tells me the sensor & camera is capable of producing the image I want. Only with my favored Venice LUT I need to be able to be able to roll to different incremental kelvin temperatures and adjust plus or minus green just like every other digital cinema camera on the market. As an end user it seems this can be done.

        As of now I don’t have a need to purchase a new camera and clients (large news broadcaster and media outlets in LA) have informed me they are sticking with their Fs7’s, F55’s & F5’s as well as a company just purchased more F5’s. The US network/broadcast market is still in HD and my PROMO & Doc clients love & accept the DCI 4K from my F5. So if Sony would like another form of revenue from me or the US owner Op market. Offer a Venice color science scene file upgrade with white balance correction and plus/minus green for all of their current S35 camera. Just a thought…

        1. F5/FS5/FS7 owners have been asking for variable WB in CineEI for almost 7 years. We didn’t get it before and I doubt we will ever see it. There are some very real technical issues for a start. Fixed WB on the FS5/F5/F55 is necessary to avoid limiting the dynamic range in a single color channel. White balance is a gain adjustment and whenever you adjust the gain you risk reducing the dynamic range. I suspect that because the sensor used in the FS5 etc is operating at the very limits of what it can do that Sony took the decision to lock down the WB to avoid an accidentally clipped color channel. This, while rare, would be impossible to fix in post, while changing the WB in post is easy. There are processing and memory limitations within the cameras, you can’t just keep adding more processing functions and you have to find space in the cameras memory for any new software code, it is not as simplae as just adding a new function. Some of these cameras are now close to 7 years old and since they were designed technology has moved on.

          While adding a Venice look LUT to an FS5 or FS7’s footage gives much of the Venice look it still does not look quite the same. An FS5 II still looks like an FS5, but with a more Venice like look, it does not look like a Venice. The color filters on the new sensors are much better and give better color separation which results in a lot more subtle skin tone variations. The lower noise levels from the new sensors means you can expose lower and this brings a very nice increase in highlight range, something extremely difficult to achieve from an FS5/FS7/F5 etc.

          The FS7 will continue to be used for many years to come. But I suspect that once people start to see just how much better the FX9 is (not just image quality, but build quality, ergonomics, viewfinder etc) it will make serious inroads into the FS7 market, eventually superseding the FS7 in all but the most budget conscious areas.

          1. Thank you Alister,

            Yes, per your knowledge I understand the limitations of in CineEI mode.

            But again, I am more inquiring about a custom mode and now Sony has given a name for it “S-Cinetone”. Simply put, I want an S-Cinetone profile update to the F55, F5, Fs7 & Fs5 M1. For the F55 and F5 Maybe it would be a combination of a new Gamma option along with selecting a “S-Cinetone” preset Matrix I don’t know. But I know I would pay for that kind of update (similar to the 4K update for the F5)

  15. Hello Alister and thank you for all you do! I will be donating to your LUT fund soon! I just wanted to clarify something. If I use the FS5m2 and an Inferno and want to shoot a short documentary in 4kDCI I have to use the RAW option and output to the Inferno. I can no longer use any picture profile except 7, 8, or 9 (I can but not optimal) and the Venice color science is lost unless I add a Venice LUT. Now I will shoot a lot in low light spots where typically Rec709 and Cine3 or 4 would be best, but now I have to shoot all these lighting situations in SLog-2 or 3 correct? What would be your recommendation for low light shooting (with not being able to add artificial light) if I want to keep the 4k DCI setting throughout?

    Thank you kindly!

    1. You should only use PP7. 8 and 9 will result in some colour shifts and a bit more noise.

      Why do you need DCI? Are you shooting for theatrical release?

      In low light you can have noisy, blocky DCI raw or revert to UHD and the default profile. If it’s for TV then a small top/bottom crop will mimic the DCI and no one would ever notice any difference.

      1. Hello Alister,
        Thank you for your quick response – I know you are busy. My understanding is if I want to shoot RAW through the FS5m2 SDI to the Inferno it has to be 4K DCI.

        I thought about reverting back to UHD 8 bit for the low light stuff but what will that do in FCP-X with a 4096 x 2160 timeline? (familiar with FCP 7 not X – will it let me conform the 3840×2160 8 bit clip to the DCI timeline?)

        Thanks again so much!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.