Updated 12/12/2022 to include version 3 firmware changes.
See Also this article: Cine EI is not the same as conventional shooting.
WHAT IS CINE EI?
The FX6’s CineEI mode is designed to make shooting using S-Log3 or raw easy and straightforward. It optimises the camera so that settings such as the recording ISO, noise reduction and sharpening are all optimised for recording the highest possible quality S-Log3 or raw material with the largest possible dynamic range.
It makes sure that the S-Log3 or raw recordings are optimised for grading. In addition you can use a LUT (Look Up Table) in the viewfinder or on the HDMI/SDI output to provide a close approximation of how your footage will look after it’s been graded and this LUT will also to assist you in getting the exposure exactly right.
HINT: What is a LUT? A LUT is a simple Look Up Table of input values that represent different levels in the recording format (in this case S-Log3) and then converts those input values to new output values that are appropriate for the monitor or display range you are using. This conversion can included stylised adjustments to give the output image a specific look. A LUT can be applied to S-Log3 material to convert it so that it looks correct on a normal viewfinder or monitor.
To use the Cine EI mode correctly you must monitor what you are shooting via a LUT. Once you have a LUT enabled and you are viewing the LUT, either in the viewfinder or on a monitor an exposure offset can be applied to the LUT to make it darker or brighter than normal. This LUT brightness offset is used to allow you to deliberately offset how bright the recordings are, this is the “EI” or Exposure Index part of CineEI. More on that later.
BUILT IN LUTS
The FX6 has 3 built in LUTs, s709, 709(800) and S-Log3. In addition to the built in LUTs you can load your own “user MLUTs” into the camera as what the FX6 calls “Base Looks”. This makes this a very flexible and capable system. Sony refer to LUTs in the FX6 as MLUT’s or Monitor Look Up Tables. MLUTs = LUT’s they are not different.
Loading Your Own LUTs.
If you want to load you own LUTs into the camera these must be 3D Cube LUT’s and should be placed in the
— Private : SONY : PRO : LUT —
folder of an SD card or CFExpress card that has been formatted in card slot 2 of the FX6 (the lower slot). The LUT should be 17x or preferably 33x cube LUT designed for use with S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine. They are loaded via the main menu PAINT – BASE LOOK page.
As your material will require grading in post production, if you are shooting UHD or 4K you should NOT use XAVC-L because in UHD/4K XAVC-L is 8 bit 4:2:0. A much better choice is XAVC-I which is always 10 bit 4:2:2 and/or raw.
FIXED RECORDING ISO.
Once the camera is set to use the CineEI mode the recording sensitivity is fixed to either 800 ISO when in Lo Base sensitivity or 12,800 ISO when the camera is set to Hi Base sensitivity. These values cannot be changed and your recordings will always take place at one of these sensitivity levels.
Note: ISO and EI are not the same thing, even though they use similar numbers. ISO is very specifically the sensitivity of the camera, it is a measure of the sensors response to light. EI (Exposure Index) is a camera setting that alters the cameras EXPOSURE settings, EI does not change the sensitivity of the camera in any way.
ENABLE A MLUT (LUT).
To take full advantage of the Cine EI mode the next step is to enable a MLUT for the viewfinder and also optionally for the HDMI and SDI outputs. YOU MUST ENABLE A MLUT FOR CINE EI TO WORK.
My recommendation is as a minimum to enable a MLUT for the viewfinder. If you wish to record S-Log3 to an external recorder then you should not add a MLUT to the SDI/HDMI output. But if you are using an external monitor purely for monitoring it may be desirable to enable an MLUT for the SDI/HDMI output.
The default MLUT is Sony’s s709 LUT. This is the same LUT as used by the Venice digital cinema camera. s709 is designed to be a starting point for a film style look. To achieve this film style look it uses brightness levels more commonly found in feature films rather than the levels normally used in the majority of regular TV shows.
LUT EXPOSURE LEVELS
There are some important things to understand about different MLUTs and Base Looks. Each MLUT/Look will have it’s own optimum brightness levels. They will not all be the same. Some will be brighter or darker than others when exposed correctly, so it’s vital that you understand what levels any MLUT that you chose to use needs to be exposed at.
Another MLUT that the FX6 includes is Sony’s 709(800) LUT. This MLUT is more closely aligned with the levels used in normal TV productions, so it looks quite different to s709 and has very different brightness levels when exposed correctly.
The chart below gives the “correct” exposure values for S-Log3 as well as some guide values based on my own measurements for the s709 and 709(800) MLUTs found in the FX6.
|Middle Grey||Average Skin Tones||90% Reflectivity white card (add 2-3% for white paper).|
MEASURING THE EXPOSURE.
There are many ways to measure your exposure when shooting using S-Log3 and MLUT’s. You could choose to use a light meter, in which case the light meter would be set to match the EI (Exposure Index) value set in the camera.
You can just look at the image in the viewfinder and judge when it looks right. Most of the time this is going to be OK, but it isn’t particularly accurate and if shooting outside in bright sunshine it may be difficult to see an unshaded LCD screen correctly.
My preferred method is to use a white card or grey card and then use the cameras built in video signal monitor and the waveform display to actually measure the brightness of the grey card or white card.
Note: When referring to a “white” exposure this means the exposure level of a white card that reflects 90% of the light that falls on it. It is not how bright your highlights are, or how bright clouds are. It is the brightness of a diffuse white card. A piece of white paper or a white shirt can be used if you don’t have a proper white card, but be aware that white printer paper or white fabrics are treated with brightening agents to make them look “bright” so white paper and white fabrics will be a little brighter, perhaps 94% reflectivity compared to 90% of a proper white card and this should be allowed for.
The Waveform Display.
If you are not familiar with a waveform display it is actually really easy to understand. The bottom of the waveform is black and the very top is 109%, the brightest that the camera can ever record to.
The left hand side is the left of the video image and the right is the right side of the video image. The thin grey reference lines across the waveform display are at 0% (the darkest a video image should ever normally be), 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%.
In addition the FX6’s waveform display includes 2 yellow lines. The position of these yellow lines is determined by the levels that the cameras zebras are set to. By default the lower yellow line will be at 70% to match Zebra 1 and the upper line at 100% to match zebra 2.
WHAT ARE YOU MEASURING?
The waveform display measures the signal that is on the HDMI and the SDI output. So when you turn on the MLUT for the HDMI/SDI it is the levels of the MLUT that are being measured. If you don’t have an MLUT enabled for the SDI/HDMI then you will be measuring the recorded S-Log3 level. What the waveform is measuring is indicated just above the waveform display, in the example above we can see it is indicating LUT s709, so we are measuring the s709 LUT.
UNDERSTANDING HOW IT ALL WORKS.
To make it easier to understand how CineEI works I find it easier to start by turning OFF the LUT for the SDI and HDMI and measuring the exposure of the S-Log3. If you do this when the the Exposure Index (EI) is set so that it is equal to the Recording or Base ISO then you can use a white card or piece of white paper to establish the correct exposure for the S-Log3. Once you have done that you can then enable the MLUT and check the exposure of the LUT. So, lets see how we do that:
FIRST CHECK AND SET THE EXPOSURE INDEX LEVELS.
With the cameras base ISO set to low / 800 ISO I recommend that you set the EI levels in the main menu SHOOTING – ISO/Gain/EI as follows:
ISO/GAIN BUTTON and CHANGING THE EI:
When using the CineEI mode you can change the EI value several ways. The most commonly used ways will likely be via the L/M/H ISO/Gain switch or by pressing the ISO/Gain button and then using the multi-function dial (MFD) to change the EI. Do note that when you use the multi-function dial or Direct Menu to change the EI this new EI setting changes the preset value associated with the current position of the L/M/H switch.
Personally I do not usually set an Exposure Index value that is higher than the base recording ISO value. The reason for this is that as you will see later, if you record using a high EI value your images will be noisy and grainy and could be very difficult to grade. Because you don’t ever see your final results until you get into post production, if you accidentally record noisy log you won’t really know how bad the footage will be until it is perhaps too late to do anything about it. So I set the EI for the Low Base 800 ISO as H>800EI, M>400EI, L>200EI. The difference between each of these EI’s is one stop and sticking to exact 1 stop increments makes it easier when you are checking any exposure changes.
For the 12,800 High base ISO I set the EI to H>12800EI, M>6400EI, L>3200EI.
FOR THIS EXAMPLE START AT LOW BASE/800 ISO and 800 EI.
By using the same EI as the base recording ISO there will be no offset or difference between the aperture, ND or shutter speed settings used for the correct exposure of the LUT and the correct, or “base exposure” for the S-Log3. Expose the LUT correctly and the S-Log3 will be also be normally exposed. Expose the S-Log3 normally and the LUT will look correct.
FOR THIS EXAMPLE LET’S START WITH THE SDI/HDMI LUT OFF.
For this example I am going to start with the LUT OFF for the SDI and HDMI, this way the waveform display will be measuring the S-Log3. Just above the waveform it should say SG3C/Slog3, telling you the waveform is measuring the S-Log3.
Referring to the table of exposure levels earlier in this article we can see that the correct exposure for S-Log3 using a white card (90% reflectivity white) is 61% – if using a normal piece of printer paper I suggest using a value a little higher (around 63%) as white paper tends to be a little brighter than a proper white test card. So, when measuring the S-Log3 we want to expose a white card at 61%. We can use the cameras zebras to help us find 61%.
SETTING ZEBRA 1 TO 61%
To make finding where 61% is on the waveform I recommend setting Zebra 1 to 61% so that the lower of the two yellow zebra lines on the waveform display is at 61%.
So now when checking the exposure of a white card when the waveform is measuring the S-Log3, it is simply a case of adjusting the exposure until the white card is at the same level as the 61% line. Alternately you could use an 18% grey card, in which case you would set Zebra 1 to 41%, however there are often times when I forget my grey card but I almost always have a piece of paper somewhere.
So now we know that the S-Log3 is correctly exposed lets turn ON the LUT for the SDI and HDMI outputs and check the exposure level of the s709 LUT (or any other LUT that you wish to use – by setting the S-Log3 exposure first, you can then determine the correct exposure level of any LUT that you might wish to use).
NOW TURN ON THE SDI/HDMI LUT – DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING ELSE.
And if we refer to the exposure chart given towards the top of the page we will see that white for the s709 LUT is 77%. So now let’s set Zebra 2 to 77% to make 77% easier to find on the waveform. Do remember however that other LUTs may need different levels, 77% is just for s709, 709(800) would require Zebra 2 to be set to 89%.
SET ZEBRA 2 TO 77% FOR s709
Now with the LUT ON for the SDI/HDMI we should see the brightness of the white card line up with the upper yellow line that represents Zebra 2 and 77%.
As you can see from the above example when the Base ISO and Exposure Index are matched, in this case the base ISO is 800 and the EI is 800, when the LUT for the SDI/HDMI is OFF and the white card is at 61% on the waveform the S-Log3 is correctly exposed. Then when the s709 LUT is ON for the SDI/HDMI the white card will be at 77%. We are correctly exposed. By having Zebra 1 set at 61% (for S-Log3) and Zebra 2 set for the white level for for your chosen LUT we can check either simply by turning the HDMI/SDI LUT ON or OFF.
USING THE 709(800) LUT INSTEAD
If you want a more contrasty looking image in the viewfinder and similar brightness levels to other video cameras – for example skin tones around 70% you might prefer to use the 709(800) LUT. When using the 709(800) LUT to measure a white card you should set Zebra 2 to 89%. It’s also worth noting that with the 709(800) LUT, if you wish, you could just leave the zebras at their default settings with Zebra 1 at 70% where just like a conventional Rec-709 video camera they will appear over brighter skin tones when viewing via the LUT.
CHANGING THE EXPOSURE INDEX TO OFFSET THE LOG EXPOSURE.
Sometimes it can be desirable to expose the S-Log3 a little brighter. For example when shooting scenes with a low average brightness level or scenes with large areas of shadows. The FX6 has very low noise levels at 800 ISO base. So, for most scenes with high average brightness levels there is not normally any need to expose the log any brighter than the normal Sony recommended levels. There is however a bit more noise at 12,800 ISO base. As a result it can be beneficial to expose the S-Log3 a bit brighter than the base level when using 12,800 ISO base to help keep the noise in the final image low.
CineEI Allows Accurate Control Over Exposure.
The CineEI mode makes this very easy to do in a very controlled manner. Keeping the amount of over exposure constant helps speed up the grading process as all your material can be graded in exactly the same way.
Over exposing or underexposing Log does not change the captured dynamic range, it will always be the same. However exposing log brighter will reduce the highlight range while at the same time increasing the shadow range. A brighter exposure will result in less noise after grading.
Exposing log darker will increase the highlight range but decrease the shadow range. A darker exposure will result in more noise after grading. Because under exposed log can become very noisy, very quickly I do not recommend under exposing log, because of this I strongly advise against ever using an EI that is higher than the base ISO as this will result in under exposed log.
CHANGING THE EI ONLY CHANGES THE LUT.
When you change the Exposure Index the only thing that actually changes is the brightness of the LUT. So for EI to work you must be monitoring via a LUT.
Below is what happens to the image in the viewfinder when you have a LUT enabled (s709 in this case) and you lower the EI from 800 EI down to 200 EI in 1 stop steps and make no changes to the exposure.
Changing the EI does not change the exposure in any way, the only thing changing is the brightness of the LUT. The recording levels have not yet changed in any way.
BUT NOW WE CHANGE THE EXPOSURE
At a lower than than base EI the image in the viewfinder is dark and the white card no longer reaches the correct exposure for the LUT, because we see this dark image and the level of the white card too low we now adjust the exposure to compensate.
In this example I simply opened the aperture by 2 stops from f8 to f4 to match the 2 stop change in the LUT brightness. Now the image in the viewfinder looks correct again and the white card is meeting the upper yellow line again (77% as set by Zebra 2 level).
BECAUSE THE EXPOSURE IS BRIGHTER THE S-LOG3 IS NOW ALSO BRIGHTER.
Because I have opened the aperture by 2 stops to make the 200 EI LUT exposure look right the S-Log3 recordings will now be 2 stops brighter. If I turn off the LUT for the SDI/HDMI we can see that the S-Log3 that will be recorded is now 2 stops brighter, the S-log3 white card level becomes 79%, so it appears slightly above the 77% Zebra 1 line.
By making the LUT darker by 2 stops, then adjusting the exposure upwards 2 stops to return the LUT to the original brightness we have made our recordings 2 stops brighter. This is how you use CineEI to alter the brightness of your recordings. A lower EI leads to a darker LUT and because the LUT looks dark we increase the exposure making the recording brighter. A brighter recording will have less noise than a darker recording.
At Low base ISO (800 ISO) the FX6 is a low noise camera, so there is no need to routinely over expose the log as there is with more noisy cameras like the FS5 or FS7. So I normally shoot at 800 EI. When using the high base ISO or 12,800 ISO there is a bit more noise and when using high base I will typically set the EI to 6400 EI as the 1 stop brighter recordings that this will result in helps compensate for the increased recording noise.
DYNAMIC RANGE and HIGHLIGHT/SHADOW RANGE:
When you shoot with a low EI the LUT will be dark and as a result f the dark viewfinder image you will expose brighter putting more light onto the cameras sensor. This brighter exposure will decrease the amount of noise in the final image and give you a greater shadow range. But at the same time it will decrease the highlight range that can be captured.
If you use a high EI value then the opposite happens. The brighter viewfinder image and higher LUT levels will make you want to expose darker to compensate. The resulting darker S-Log3 recording will have an increased highlight range but it will be considerably more noisy than recordings done at the base EI and will have a reduced shadow range. Generally I try to avoid ever using an EI value higher than the base ISO value. In a low light situation using a high EI value will make the image in the viewfinder brighter but on a small screen you won’t see the noise. I do not recommend using high EI values.
IF YOU DON’T HAVE A WHITE CARD?
In the examples given here I have used a white card to measure and set the exposure. This is accurate and highly repeatable. But there will be times where you may not have a white card. At these times CineEI can still be used either by setting the Zebras to the appropriate skin tone levels for the chosen LUT (see the table towards the beginning) or by carefully “eyeballing” the brightness of the LUT image on the viewfinder screen or a monitor screen – if it looks right, it probably is right. If you are eyeballing it I highly recommend a deep sunshade or other device to exclude as much light as possible from the viewfinder. With a properly shaded viewfinder or monitor it is perfectly possible to shoot just by eyeballing the LUT’d image on the screen. As an exposure that is a little too dark is often going to cause more problems than an exposure that is a little too bright, if “eyeballing” the image I suggest using an EI that is 1 stop lower than the base EI. So in the case of the FX6 I would use 400 EI for low base ISO and 6400 EI for high base ISO.
CLIP PLAYBACK QUIRKS (YOU MUST ENSURE YOU HAVE UPDATED YOUR CAMERAS FIRMWARE as there was a bug in the initial release firmware that caused the playback EI to be applied back to front).
One great FX6 feature is that when you play back clips in the CineEI mode the camera can apply a LUT to the clip. Simply enable the LUT you want to use as you would when shooting. The FX6 applies then the EI offset that you have assigned to the L/M/H gain/ISO switch.
HOWEVER YOU DO THIS BE AWARE THAT THE L/M/H Gain switch alters the brightness of the clips when played back via a LUT. The only time there is no playback offset is when the switch is set to 800EI. So make sure you understand what EI it is you are looking at when playing back clips in CineEI as if you use the wrong EI your clips may appear over or under exposed.
I hope you found this guide useful. Good luck with your FX6, it is a very capable camera.
Changing the way the camera looks and using LUTs in Custom Mode:
You can also use any user LUTs that you have loaded into the camera to alter the base look when you are shooting in custom mode. For more information on that please watch the video below.