In this video – live streamed on June 24th 2021 I take a look at the new Hollyland Lark 150 dual channel wireless microphone system.
The Lark 150 is a compact digital wireless microphone system that is available as a single channel or dual channel kit. If you buy the single channel kit you can add an extra transmitter pack later if you wish and pairing the units is really simple.
Each kit is supplied in a storage box that acts as a drop-in charger. To pair the transmitters to the receiver simply place them all in the storage box together and they are paired automatically, it’s as simple as that.
The transmitter units have a built in microphone and come with a clip on fluffy wind gag. But in addition a plug in lavalier microphone of pretty good quality is also included in the kit, one for each transmitter pack. There is also a mute button on each transmitter unit.
The receiver outputs a mono output or stereo output via a 3.5mm TRS socket depending on you personal preferences (connecting cables for cameras or phones are included in the kit). There is also a handy “safety mode” that outputs at full level on channel 1 and at a reduced level on channel 2. This is great for filming in environments where the audio levels can suddenly change as the lower level recording helps avoid clipping or distortion if the levels suddenly increase. There are two large control knobs on the receiver that control the levels of the two channels and allow you to switch between the different operating modes. The LCD screen clearly shows how the microphone is configured along with the audio levels. There is an additional headphone output on the receiver for headphone monitoring in case your camera doesn’t have a headphone jack.
Battery life is excellent, I got around 8 hours of use from a single charge. To charge the transmitter and receiver units just put them in the carry case and the battery built into the case will charge them back up again. The case has a USB socket to charge it.
The sound quality is very good for a low cost system. As it is entirely digital there is virtually no hiss or noise. The only downside is that the range is more limited than most much more expensive professional radio mics. This system uses the licence free 2.4Ghz band so there are no licensing issues in most countries and the digital transmissions are very secure, so you don’t need to worry about people illicitly listening in.
While you can get up to 100m/300ft range from them in perfect conditions. I found that I reliably and consistently get a range of about 100ft (30m). Operate them in this distance range and they are generally rock solid. However if the presenters body or some other substantial objects gets between the transmitter and receiver there is a small decrease in range, perhaps dropping to a reliable 50ft (15m). This is still plenty for most applications.
I really like these microphones. They won’t replace my much more expensive Sony UWP-D professional microphones, but they are great when you need something compact, ultra light and really simple to use. They are perfect for a lot of blogging applications as well as for interviews etc. At a cost of around £210/$275 for the dual channel kit these are excellent value for the money.
The FX3’s larger brothers, the FX6 and FX9 have a function called “APR” that is used to periodically inspect every pixel on the sensor and normalise or map out any out of spec pixels. With modern 4K cameras having at least 8.8 million pixels the chances of a few going out of spec or being damaged by cosmic rays from time to time is quite high. So on the FX6 and FX9 you will get a reminder to perform the APR process around once a week.
From what I understand, the Alpha series cameras and FX3 also periodically perform a similar process automatically. Because these camera have a mechanical shutter to shut out any external light there is no need for any user intervention to perform this process so you will not be aware that it’s happening. On the FX6 and FX9 the user has to place a cap over the lens or sensor, hence why the camera asks you before it can happen.
But what if you find you have some bright or hot pixels with the FX3? Perhaps you have just travelled on a plane where the high altitude reduces the atmospheres damping effect of the high energy particles from space that can damage pixels. Well you can go into the camera’s menu system and force it to run its pixel mapping process which does the same thing as APR on the other cameras.
You need to go to:
MENU: (Setup) ? [Setup Option] ? select [Pixel Mapping] and then select OK. It doesn’t take long and I would recommend that you do this after flying on a plane or prior to any shoot where you will use large amounts of gain as this is when hot pixels are most likely to show up.
Most of sony’s cameras that support S-Log3 or Hybrid Log Gamma also have a function called Viewfinder Display Gamma Assist.
Viewfinder Display Gamma Assist allows you to monitor with the cameras built in LCD screen or viewfinder with the correct brightness and contrast range when using gamma curves that are not directly compatible with these Rec-709 screens.
Whenever you try to view a gamma curve that is not normal Rec-709 on a Rec-709 screen the brightness and contrast that you will see will be incorrect. The most common scenario is perhaps viewing S-Log3 without any form of LUT. In this case the images will look less bright and have less contrast than they should and this makes judging exposure difficult and as well as making it less easy to see focus errors.
With a camera like the FX6 or FX9 most people will use the cameras CineEI mode and add a LUT to the viewfinder image to convert the S-Log3 to something that looks more contrasty and on the FX6 and FX9 the default LUT is “s709”. However s709 is not the same thing as Rec-709.
I think a lot of people think that the default s709 LUT is the same as Rec-709, it’s not, it is very different. They look very different and result in quite different brightness levels when exposed correctly. s709 when exposed correctly will put skin tones somewhere around 50-60% and white at 78%. If you expose s709 using normal Rec-709 brightness levels (70% skintones, 90% white) this is actually over exposed by just over 1 stop. As a result if you expose the s709 LUT, using Rec-709 levels, and then turn off the LUT and instead use Viewfinder Gamma Assist, the gamma assist will look wrong, it will be too bright and may look washed out and this is simply because the exposure IS wrong.
Almost always, if the viewfinder display gamma assist looks wrong, the exposure is wrong. When it looks right, the likelihood is the exposure is right.
A few things to understand:
The viewfinder is a Rec-709 range display device only capable of showing Rec-709 range and colour.
Feed true Rec-709 to a Rec-709 device and you will have a correct looking image with “normal” brightness, contrast and colour.
Feed S-Log3 to a Rec-709 device and you will have an incorrect dull, flat looking image due to the gamma miss-match between the capture gamma and display gamma.
Feed S-Log3 to a device with S-Log3 gamma and you will once again have the correct brightness and contrast as there is no longer a gamma miss-match (S-Log3 only appears to be flat due to the gamma missmatch between S-Log3 and Rec-709, use the right gamma and you will see that it is not actually flat).
Viewfinder Display Gamma Assist works by changing the gamma curve used in the Viewfinder to a gamma curve similar to S-Log3. When you view S-Log3 with S-Log3 gamma you will have the correct contrast and brightness, so correct exposure will look correct.
But because the cameras LCD display screen can only show 6 to 7 stops you don’t get the full S-Log3 viewing range, just the central mid range part that is the direct equivalent of Rec-709. This very closely matches what you see if you use the Sony 709(800) LUT to convert the S-log3 to 709. The 709(800) LUT converts S-Log2 or S-Log3 to vanilla Rec-709 (70% skintones/90% white) with a knee that provides a slightly extended highlight range. It is broadly comparable to how most conventional Rec-709 cameras will look. So as a result viewfinder display gamma assist and Sony’s 709(800) LUT’s will look almost identical, while the s709 LUT will (and should by design) look different.
Viewfinder Display Gamma Assist is extremely useful for scenarios where you do not have a LUT option. It can help you make good exposure assessments. It can make it easier to see when you are in focus. But it isn’t a LUT, so can’t be applied to the cameras outputs, only the built in viewfinder. Additionally if you use zebras, the waveform or histogram, gamma assist has no effect on these so you must remember that you are still measuring the levels f the actual recording gamma, not Rec-709 levels.
Viewfinder Gamma Assist is useful not only for shooting with S-Log but also when shooting using HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma). HLG is an HDR gamma curve and because the LCD viewfinder isn’t HDR you can’t correctly monitor HLG directly. Viewfinder Gamma Assist allows you to monitor with the correct brightness and contrast when shooting HLG making it easier to confidently get the correct exposure levels, as much like S-log3 the levels required for the correct exposure of HLG are quite different to Rec-709.
One last thing: NEVER use Viewfinder Gamma Assist with a LUT at the same time, this will result in a completely incorrect looking image and could result in very bad exposure as a result.
Sony have just released firmware version 1.10 for the ILME-FX6. This firmware update adds the ability to output raw at 100p and 120p to a suitable external raw recorder. The only raw recorder that can record the 100 and 120fps raw is the Atomos Ninja V+ which will be available very soon. This is a welcome update for the FX6 and it also includes some “stability fixes” so I recommend that all users update their cameras.
I’ve found the most reliable way to update the camera is to download the SD Card/CFExpress card version and place the Bodydata.dat file on an SD card. This is listed on the Sony site as “ILME-FX6 Update Guide(SD Card/CFexpress card. Put the SD card in the BOTTOM of the cameras 2 SD card slots (slot B) and then start the update from the Maintenance, Version, Version Up setting in the cameras full menu. You should insert a fully charged battery and also connect mains power when doing the update.
The Atomos Ninja V+ is an upgraded version of the Ninja V. It’s the same size and shape but has much more internal processing power. The extra processing allows it to record 4K 120fps raw or 8K 30p raw (it will be interesting to know which cameras are going to be outputting 8K raw). I really like the Ninja V, it’s small, compact and packed with useful features for not a lot of money. To record the raw from the FX6 do remember that you have to add the AtomX SDI module.
A few days ago Sony quietly released a new important firmware update for the PXW-FX9. Firmware version 2.10 adds the long awaited 4K 120fps raw function to the FX9 (you do still need the XDCA-FX9) but also importantly includes some change the the daylight white balance settings.
From my before and after testing it appears that a change has been made to the daylight white balance preset settings. For some time it has been apparent that if you used the white balance presets in the daylight range (4000K and higher) that the FX9 has a tendency to accentuate any green in the image. If you white balance of a white card this tendency is not there.
The new preset white balance settings now provide a much more neutral white balance with less green bias. This should also help those that were suffering from green fringing in extreme contrast shots as the reduced green bias will stop the camera from accentuating chromatic aberration as it did before. It won’t eliminate the chromatic aberration, but it won’t be nearly as obvious.
The first image was taken before doing the firmware update using a preset of 5500K. This test was done in a bit of a hurry as it was threatening to rain, but I wanted to use real daylight.
The second image, below, was taken after the firmware update (unfortunately the focus shifted slightly between the two shots, sorry). But you can clearly see that even though the white balance settings are the same and the same 5500K preset used this image is less green.
It is a subtle difference, but if you look at the wood panels you can see a difference. To help you see the difference here is a wipe between the before and after clips with the saturation boosted to make it more obvious.
As you can see this isn’t an “in your face” difference. But it is still none the less an important improvement as it makes it easier to match the FX9 to the FX6 and FX3 if you are using a preset white balance. I would still recommend white balancing off a white card for all cameras wherever possible as this will still normally provide the best results as it helps neutralise any lens or calibration differences. Whether you are shooting using S-Cinetone as in the examples here or using S-Log3, the new white balance preset provides in my opinion a much better colour response.
HOWEVER it’s important to consider that it will make cameras with version 2.10 and later look different to FX9’s with earlier firmware versions.
The firmware update can be downloaded via the link below. It took around 35 minutes for my FX9 to complete the update. The process is easy but when the camera gets to 80% complete it will appear that the update has stalled. It stays at 80% for around 10-15 minutes with no indication that the update is still continuing. So don’t turn the camera off thinking it’s stuck!!! Be patient and give it time to complete.
Before the large sensor resolution most professional video cameras used 3 sensors, one each for red, green and blue. And each of those sensors normally had as many pixels as the resolution of the recording format. So you had enough pixels in each colour for full resolution in each colour.
Then along came large sensor cameras where the only way to make it work was by using a single sensor (the optical prism would be too big to accomodate any existing lens system). So now you have to have all your pixels on one sensor divided up between red, green and blue.
Almost all of camera manufacturers ignored the inconvenient truth that a colour sensor with 4K of pixels won’t deliver 4K of resolution. We were sold these new 4K cameras. But the 4K doesn’t mean 4K resolution, it means 4K of pixels. To be fair to the manufactures, they didn’t claim 4K resolution, but they were also quite happy to let end users think that that’s what the 4K meant.
My reason for writing about this topic again is because I just had someone on my facebook feed discussing how wonderful it was to be shooting at 6K with a new camera as this would give lots of space for reframing for 4K.
The nature of what he wrote – “shooting at 6K” – implies shooting at 6K resolution. But he isn’t, his 6K sensor is probably delivering around 4K resolution and he won’t have any room for reframing if he wants to end up with a 4K resolution final image. Now again, in the name of fairness, shooting with 6K of pixels is going to be better than shooting with 4K of pixels if you do choose to reframe. But we really, really need to be careful about how we use terms like 4K or 6K. What do we really mean, what are we really talking about. Because the more we muddle pixels with resolution the less clear it will be what we are actually recording. Eventually no one will really understand that the two are different and the differences really do matter.
A common complaint with the FX6 is that the pivots on the LCD screen are quite weak. So if you add a heavier sun shade or a magnifier loupe the screen tends to tilt and flop around. Vocas have come up with a really rather brilliant LCD support bracket that works in tandem with the existing LCD mount to turn it into a beautiful fluid damped system.
The support bracket fits on the supplied 15mm rod normally used for the LCD screen and the the LCD screen assembly slides into the support system. It takes only seconds to fit and remove and no tools are needed so if you do want to take it off at any time you can.
Once fitted you can then add a loupe such as the FX9 loupe or another 3rd party magnifier. The support bracket incorporates a fluid damped pivot that takes the weight of the LCD and stops it sagging or drooping but at the same time allows you to adjust the angle of the screen easily. If you do need to lock it in place there is a locking screw, but normally you don’t need to use this as the fluid damping holds the screen in place very nicely.
You should note that the screen will only tilt up and down when you use the support bracket, so you can no longer fold it flat against the side of the camera, but if you are using a loupe, you can’t do that anyway.
I really like this bracket. I does add a little bit of weight, but if you are using a loupe it really adds a quality feel to the way the LCD screen moves. If you are working handheld without a loupe then it takes seconds to remove it.
Sony today release an update covering many things. But of particular interest to FX9 and FX6 owners was news that both the FX6 and FX9 will get firmware updates to add 120fps raw. For the FX9 you will still need the XDCA-FX9 and to be honest this has always been promised, but it’s good to see it hasn’t been forgotten about. This update should be out next month.
In addition the FX9 will gain the ability to shoot Anamorphic in the version 3 firmware update which will be released later in the year. There will be both 1.3x and 2x anamorphic desqueeze as well as the addition cinemascope frame lines. This is on top of the previously announced 2K super 16mm sized center scan mode with support for B4 ENG lenses and s700PTP control over TCP/IP.
Wireless video transmitters are nothing new and there are lots of different units on the market. But the Accsoon CineEye 2S stands out from the crowd for a number of reasons.
First is the price, at only £220/$300 USD it’s very affordable for a SDI/HDMI wireless transmitter. But one thing to understand is that it is just a transmitter, there is no reciever. Instead you use a phone or tablet to receive the signal and act as your monitor. You can connect up to 4 devices at the same time and the latency is very low. Given that you can buy a reasonably decent Android tablet or used iPad for £100/$140 these days, it still makes an affordable and neat solution without the need to worry about cables, batteries or cages at the receive end. And most people have an iPhone or Android phone anyway. The Accsoon app includes waveform and histogram display, LUT’s, peaking and all the usual functions you would find on most pro monitors. So it saves tying up an expensive monitor just for a directors preview. You can also record on the tablet/phone giving the ability for the director or anyone else linked to it to independently play back takes as he/she wishes while you use the camera for other things.
Next is the fact that it doesn’t have any fans. So there is no additional noise to worry about when using it. It’s completely silent. Some other units can get quite noisy.
And the best bit: If you are using an iPhone or iPad with a mobile data connection the app can stream your feed to YouTube, Facebook or any similar RMTP service. With Covid still preventing travel for many this is a great solution for an extremely portable streaming solution for remote production previews etc. The quality of the stream is great (subject to your data connection) and you don’t need any additional dongles or adapters, it just works!
Watch the video, which was streamed live to YouTube with the CineEye 2S for more information. At 09.12 I comment that it uses 5G – What I mean is that it has 5Ghz WiFi as well as 2.5Ghz Wifi for the connection between the CineEye and the phone or tablet. 5Ghz WiFi is preferred where possible for better quality connections and better range. https://accsoonusa.com/cineeye/
It’s no secret that the variable ND fitted to many Sony cameras does introduce a colour shift that changes depending on how much ND you use. But the cameras are setup to add an offset to the WB as you switch the ND in or out and change the amount of ND, so in practice most people are completely unaware of this shift.
If you watch carefully when you engage or disengage the ND you can sometimes see a fraction of a second where the cameras electronic offset that corrects for the shift is applied just as the filter comes in. Then once the filter is in place the colours appear completely normal again.
So when should you white balance from a white card? With or without the ND filter in place?
You can actually white balance either with or without the ND in place. Because the camera knows exactly what offset to apply for any ND value if you change the ND it will compensate automatically and generally the compensation is very accurate. So in most cases it doesn’t really matter whether the ND filter is in place or not.
However, my personal recommendation is where possible to white balance with the camera setup as it will be when you are taking your footage. This should then eliminate any small errors or differences that may creep in if you do change the ND or switch the ND in or out.
But I wouldn’t be too concerned if you do have to do a WB at one ND level and then change the ND for whatever reason. The in camera compensation is extremely good and you would only ever really be able to see any difference if you start doing careful like for like, side by side, split screen direct comparisons. It’s certainly highly unlikely that you or your audience would ever notice any difference in normal real world applications.
You will often see greater colour shifts if you add external ND filters or swap between different lenses, so treat the internal ND as you would any other ND filter and WB with your lens, filters and everything else as it will be when taking the footage. I think one of the truly remarkable things about the variable ND filter is just how consistent the output of the camera is across such a wide range of ND.
Camera setup, reviews, tutorials and information for pro camcorder users from Alister Chapman.