Category Archives: FX3

Notes on the FX3 version 2 update.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the new FX3 firmware update. So, I thought I would put my answers to the questions here in one place. But before I get to my notes on what the firmware does, I will just say that if you are a Mac user, I recommend trying to borrow a PC to do the update. It is much much easier to do the update with a PC than a Mac! The firmware update is well worth doing. At first it might appear that the update makes it impossible to do some things the camera did before, but, if you follow my notes you will see that this is not actually the case.

What is the base ISO for S-Log3 in version 2? In the CineEI and CineEI Quick modes the base ISO defaults to 800/12800 ISO. This is different to before, but brings the FX3 in line with the other Sony Cinema line cameras and most other current digital cinema cameras. When not using the dedicated CineEI modes the base ISO for S-Log3 seems to revert back to 640 ISO as indicated by the way the camera adds a pair of bars, above and below the ISO indication from 500 ISO and down, to warn that you are below the native ISO. 

Help, I can’t output 4K/UHD and record 4K/UHD internally while using the CineEI modes! It takes a lot of extra processing power to apply the LUT’s  to the preview image while recording S-Log3. Unfortunately this seems to mean that there is no longer enough processing power to both record internal 4k/UHD and output 4K/UHD and have LUT’s at the same time. You can record internal 4K and 4K output raw, that’s one option. And you can record 4K and output HD. But if you need to record 4K/UHD internally and output 4K/UHD S-log3 you will need to come out of the cameras log mode.

How do you shoot S-Log3 when not using the Log modes? When you are not using the Log modes you will find that the old S-Log3 and S-Log2 picture profiles (7,8 and 9) are missing. However you can still go into any of the other picture profiles and change the gamma to S-Log3 and the color mode to S-Gamut3.cine or S-Gamut3. S-Log2 has been removed and is no longer available, but as S-Log2 is incapable of recording the full dynamic range of the FX3 this isn’t a big deal. Shooting S-Log3 this way allows you to record 4K/UHD internally and output 4K/UHD over the HDMI as in the previous version 1 firmware. I suspect that PP7/8/9 were removed simply to encourage users to use the dedicated log modes where everything is fully optimised for log rather than using a picture profile where any ISO can be used or other settings changed that may degrade the log.

What does “Embed LUT LUT File” do? When Embed LUT File is enabled the camera stores the LUT used in the “Private”, “M4ROOT”, “General” metadata folder on the recording card. In addition metadata about the LUT and the chosen exposure index is saved in the clip file. The LUT is NOT BAKED IN to the file, the recording remains as S-Log3. When you import the clip into the latest version of Sony’s Catalyst Browse software the LUT you used when shooting is automatically applied to the clip as well as the correct exposure offset for the Exposure Index used. The end result is the clip looks exactly the same in Catalyst Browse as it did on the cameras LCD when you were shooting. But because it is still an S-Log3 recording, you can still manipulate it as much as before and if you want you could use a different LUT in post. Hopefully in the future other edit and grading software will also read this metadata and apply the LUT automatically, this is really how this should all work (hope the FX6/FX9 get the same functionality). 

How do I load a custom LUT into the FX3 camera? Start with an empty SD card and format the card in the camera. This will create the necessary folders needed for the LUT on the card. The FX3 accepts 33x 3D cube LUTS, this is the most commonly found LUT format. Next copy your chosen LUT to the “PRIVATE”, “SONY”, “PRO”, “LUT” folder. Then put the card into the camera and go to the menu “Exposure/Color”, “Color/Tone”, “Manage User LUTs” option. From here you will first chose a User memory slot to load the LUT into. You will then be prompted to choose the SD card that you saved the LUTs to, and then LUT you wish to load from the card. The LUT will be saved to the slot chosen – the original LUT name is kept, but if the name is too long it will be abbreviated. Once the LUT has been loaded into the camera you can then select it from the new Home Menu – page 1. You can save up to 16 user LUTs.

How do I bake in a LUT? To bake in a LUT you have to come out of the cameras dedicated Log shooting mode. In the normal shooting mode if you go to the menu’s “Exposure/Color”, “Color/Tone”, “Picture Profile” page you will see that as well as the picture profiles, a little lower down you will find 4 “PPLUT” settings. These initially correspond to the first 4 user LUT memories and allow you to select those LUTs as a baked in look. But if you have saved more than 4 user LUTs do not despair. You can go into the “PPLUT” setting and if you select “Basic Look” you can select any of your saved user LUTs.

What do the Zebras or histogram measure in the CineEI mode? The Histogram and zebras measure the brightness of the LUT when using the CineEI mode. Do note that when correctly exposed the s709 LUT will be a touch darker than S-Cinetone or normal Rec-709.

  Middle Grey Average Skin Tones 90% Reflectivity white card (add 2-3% for white paper).
S-Log3 41% 48-52% 61%
s709 44-45% 57-62% 77-78%
709(800) 44-45% 65-70% 89%

Will the A7S3 get the same firmware? As far as I know, no it will not. It is my understanding that this firmware is specifically for the FX3 as the FX3 is sold as a part of the Cinema Line and primarily as a video camera. The A7S3 is not part of the cinema line and is sold primarily as a photo camera that also shoots great video.

Sony FX3 gets CineEI and LUTs

The smallest camera in Sony’s Cinema Line, the FX3 has a new, massive firmware update. Firmware version 2 adds  a conventional CineEI mode as well as a “quick” CineEI mode (automatically switches the base ISO depending on the chosen EI value) for shooting S-Log3 and raw with the ability to monitor using custom LUTs. Additionally, if you wish you can also bake in you favourite LUT to your recordings. The firmware update also makes it possible to input timecode by using an special adapter cable that plugs into the cameras usb/multifunction port.

In the movie shooting mode the cameras on screen overlays are now moved above and below the main image area so that the images you are shooting are not obstructed by text or icons. This is really nice touch.

This update brings the FX3 into much closer functional alignment with the rest of the cinema line. Two make it all work the menu system has also been overhauled and a function menu can be quickly accessed by swiping the cameras touch screen.

Do not that this firmware does remove S-Log2 and that the camera will be reset to it’s factory defaults when the upgrade is performed. As far as I know the A7S3 will not get a similar update as this is not part of the Cinema Line. The firmware update is available for download from the Sony website. https://www.sony.co.uk/electronics/support/interchangeable-lens-camcorders-ilme-series/ilme-fx3/downloads

Real Time Northern Lights, Shot with The FX3

I’ve just got back from my latest Northern Lights expedition to Norway and thought I would share some real time footage of the Northern Lights shot with the Sony FX3 and a Sony 24mm f1.4 GM lens. The 24mm f1.4 is a lovely lens and brilliant for shooting star fields etc as it is pin sharp right into the corners. It also has near zero comma distortion so stars remain nice and round. 
It was -27c when this was shot and my tripods fluid head was starting to get very stiff, so that’s my excuse for the bumps on a couple of the camera moves. 
What you see in this video is pretty much exactly as it appeared to my own eyes. This is not time-lapse and the colours while slightly boosted are as they really are. 
I shot using a range of ISO’s using S-Log3. Starting at 12,800 ISO but going all the way up to 128000 ISO. I perhaps didn’t need to go that high as the Aurora was pretty bright but when an Aurora like this may only last a few minutes you don’t want to stop and change your settings unless you have to for fear of missing something. The low light performance of the FX3 really is quite phenomenal.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video.

 

Should You Use In Camera Noise Reduction Or Not?

This is another common question on many user groups. It comes up time and time again. But really there is no one clear cut answer. In a perfect world we would never need to add any noise reduction, but we don’t live and shoot in a perfect world. Often a camera might be a little noisy or you may be shooting with a lot less light than you would really like, so in camera NR might need to be considered.

You need to consider carefully whether you should use in camera NR or not. There will be some cases where you want in camera NR and other times when you don’t.

Post Production NR.
An important consideration is that adding post production NR on top of in-camera NR is never the best route to go down. NR on top of NR will often produce ugly blocky artefacts. If you ever want to add NR in post production it is almost always better not to also add in camera NR. Post production NR has many advantages as you can more precisely control the type and amount you add depending on what the shot needs. When using proper grading software such as DaVinci Resolve you can use power windows or masks to only add NR to the parts of the image that need it.

Before someone else points it out I will add here that it is almost always impossible to turn off all in camera NR. There will almost certainly be some NR added at the sensor that you can not turn off. In addition most recording codecs will apply some noise reduction to avoid wasting data recording the noise, again this can’t be turned off. Generally higher bit rate, less compressed codecs apply less NR. What I am talking about here is the additional NR that can be set to differing levels within the cameras settings that is in addition to the NR that occurs at the sensor or in the codec.

Almost every NR process, as well as reducing the visibility of noise will introduce other image artefacts. Most NR process work by taking an average value for groups of pixels or an average value for the same pixel over a number of frames. This averaging tends to not only reduce the noise but also reduce fine details and textures. Faces and skin tones may appear smoothed and unnatural if excessively noise reduced. Smooth surfaces such as walls or the sky may get broken up into subtle bands or steps. Sometimes these artefacts won’t be seen in the cameras viewfinder or on a small screen and only become apparent on a bigger TV or monitor. Often the banding artefacts seen on walls etc are a result of excessive NR rather than a poor codec etc (although the two are often related as a weak codec may have to add a lot of NR to a noisy shot keep the bit rate down).

If you are shooting log then any minor artefacts in the log footage from in camera noise reduction may be magnified when you start grading and boosting the contrast. So, generally speaking when shooting log it is always best to avoid adding in camera NR. The easiest way to avoid noise when shooting with log is to expose a bit brighter so that in the grade you are never adding gain. Take gain away in post production to compensate for a brighter exposure and you take away much of the noise – without giving up those fine textures and details that make skin tones look great. If shooting log, really the only reason an image will be noisy is because it hasn’t been exposed bright enough. Even scenes that are meant to look dark need to be exposed well. Scenes with large dark areas need good contrast between at least some brighter parts so that the dark areas appear to be very dark compared to the bright highlights. Without any highlights it’s always tempting to bring up the shadows to give some point of reference. Add a highlight such as a light fixture or a lit face or object and there is no need to then bring up the shadows, they can remain dark, contrast is king when it comes to dark and night scenes.

If, however you are shooting for “direct to air” or content that won’t be graded and needs to look as good as possible directly from the camera then a small amount of in camera NR can be beneficial. But you should test the cameras different levels to see how much difference each level makes while also observing what happens to subtle textures and fine details. There is no free lunch here. The more NR you use the more fine details and textures you will lose and generally the difference in the amount of noise that is removed between the mid and high setting is quite small. Personally I tend to avoid using high and stick to low or medium levels. As always good exposure is the best way to avoid noise. Keep your gain and ISO levels low, add light if necessary or use a faster lens, this is much more effective than cranking up the NR.

New Arri-Look LUT

Arri-Look1_1.16.1-600x338 New Arri-Look LUT
Arri-Look LUT V1
Arri-look-V1-sample-2_1.23.2-600x338 New Arri-Look LUT
Arri Look V1 Sample 2
s709-sample-1_1.23.1-600x338 New Arri-Look LUT
s709 Sample

 

UPDATE – Some issues with the original version of the LUT were found by some users, so I have created a revised version and the revised version is now linked below.

Arri Look LUT’s are clearly very popular with a lot of Sony users,  so I have created an Arri-Look LUT for the FX3/FX6/FX9/Venice that can be used to mimic the look from an Arri camera. It is not designed to pretend to be a real Arri camera, but to instead provide an image with the look and feel of an Arri camera but tailored to the Sony sensors.

As usual the LUT is free to download, but if you do find it useful I do ask that you buy me a coffee or other drink as a thank you. All contributions are always most welcome. Additionally do let me know what you like about this LUT or don’t like, so I can look at what LUTs may be good to create in the future.

Click Here to download my Arri-Look LUT (latest version 2C),

And here is a warmer version (may be very slightly too warm), version 2B.

Click below to buy me a thank you drink if you like it and use it.


 

Your choice:


Free Sony FX6 and FX3 Tutorial Videos

Screenshot-2021-10-15-at-17.58.11-copy-600x328 Free Sony FX6 and FX3 Tutorial Videos

Hidden away in the Sony Alpha Academy are 6 tutorial videos that I made for the the Sony Cinemaline cameras, most notably the FX6 and FX3. These videos mainly cover the FX6 but information on the FX3 (and FX9) is also included in several of the videos..

The 6 videos cover the following subjects:

FX6 – Scan Modes and Codecs (including information of recording media)
FX6/FX3 – What is S-Cinetone.
FX6 – How to use the Cine-EI mode to shoot S-Log3.
FX6/FX3 – Slow Motion and Timelapse.
FX6/FX3 – Exposure tools (covering waveform and histogram as well as Zebras)
FX6/FX3 – Post Production Stabilisation.

To watch these video you will need to setup a free account with Sony. Then go to the Alpha Academy page linked below and scroll down to the FilmMaking section and then open the My Sony Expert tab.

https://www.sony.co.uk/alphauniverse/alpha-academy/videos

DaVinci resolve Frame Rendering Issue and XAVC

There is a bug in some versions of DaVinci Resolve 17 that can cause frames in some XAVC files to be rendered in the wrong order. This results in renders where the resulting video appears to stutter or the motion may jump backwards for a frame or two. This has now been fixed in version 17.3.2 so all user of XAVC and DaVinci Resolve are urged to upgrade to at least version 17.3.2.

https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/uk/support/family/davinci-resolve-and-fusion

New LUTs from Sony

Side-by-Side2_small-600x338 New LUTs from Sony

 

I was asked by Sony to produce a couple of new LUT’s for them. These LUT’s were inspired by many recent blockbuster movies and have been named “Space Adventure” and “Super Hero”.

Both LUT’s are available for free and there is a link on the page linked below that will allow you to obtain them.

Rather than explain the two different looks here go to this page on the Sony website https://pro.sony/en_GB/filmmaking/filmmaking-solutions/full-frame-cinematic-look

Scroll down to where it says “Stunning Cinematic Colour” and there you will find a video called “Orlaith” that shows both LUT’s applied to the same footage.

Orlaith is a gaelic name  and it is pronounced “orla”. It is the name of a mythical golden princess. The short film was shot on a teeny-tiny budget in a single evening with an FX3 and FX6 using S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine. Then the LUTs were applied directly to the footage with no further grading.




 

Chroma Key and S-Cinetone

A question poped up today asking about how to expose S-Cinetone when shooting green screen. 
The answer is really quite simple – no differently to how you would expose S-Cinetone anywhere else. But, having said that it is important to understand that S-Cinetone is a bit different to normal Rec-709 and this needs to be considered when shooting for chroma key or green screen.

S-Cinetone’s highlight roll off and shoulder starts much lower than most “normal” rec-709 curves. From around 73% the gamma curve changes and starts to compress the levels and reduce contrast. In the shdows there is a variable toe that increases contrast at lower brightness levels. The nominal “normal” brightness levels are also lower, all part of the contemporary film like look S-Cinetone is designed to give. A 90% reflectivity reference white card would be exposed at approx 83% instead of the more normal 90% (if you were using a light meter you should end up with a 90% white card at 83IRE). A white piece of paper will be a bit brighter than this as printer and copier paper etc is designed to look as bright as possible, typically printer paper comes out around 3 to 5% brighter than a proper white card.

The lower start to the highlight roll-off means that if you place skintones around 70% the brighter parts of a face will be affected by the rolloff and this will make them flatter. Expose skin tones at 60% and the face will be more contrasty and in my opinion look better. Although darker this would still be well with the “normal” exposure range for S-Cinetone so you will not have excessive noise and it will still key well.

exposing-cinetone-600x316 Chroma Key and S-Cinetone

S-Cinetone would be considered correctly exposed when a 90% white card is exposed between 78% and 88%. This is quite a wide window and is due to the way S-Cinetone is designed to give differening contrast levels simply by exposing a touch brighter or darker. The variable toe and shoulder mean that exposing brighter will make the image flatter and exposing darker more contrasty. Exposing as you would with normal Rec-709 levels with a white card at 90% will place skintones rather higher than “normal” and they will appear very flat. So either expose so a white card falls in the 78-88% window or use a calibrated monitor to observe how the skin tone look and be careful not to overexpose them.

Your greenscreen should be between 40IRE and 60IRE for a good clean key, I normally aim for 50IRE with S-Cinetone, but provided you don’t go below 40IRE or above 60IRE you should be good.

Fixing Hot or Bright Pixels On the Sony FX3

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.