Category Archives: FX6

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.

ILME-FX6 Version 2 Firmware Update

Coming soon, very soon is the version 2 firmware update for the FX6. Like the recently released version 3 update for the FX9 this update is a significant upgrade for the FX6 adding lots of new and very useful features.

AF Touch Tracking:

The big feature that almost every FX6 user has been wanting since the day it was launched is touch tracking AF.  This feature allows you to touch the LCD screen where you want the camera to focus. The touch tracking AF works in conjunction with the cameras face detection AF to provide what Sony are calling “Advanced AI based AF”. If you touch on a face for example, that face is then prioritised and tracked by the AF. If the person turns away from the camera so the face can no longer be seen then the AF will track the side or back of the persons face. If they leave the shot and then come back into the shot, provided the AF can see their facial features the AF will pick up and focus on that face again. When touching on an object that isn’t a face the camera will focus on the touched object as it moves around within the frame. Touch AF makes it very easy to perform perfect pull focusses between different objects or characters within a shot or scene. It’s a very clever system and a welcome addition to the FX6.

Breathing Compensation:

Another new feature that will be of assistance when using the AF is the addition of the Breathing Compensation feature first seen in the Sony A7IV. This feature works by electronically adjusting the size of the recorded frame to minimise any any lens breathing while changing the focus distance. This helps to mask and hide focus changes made during a shot. It is a nice feature, but I will say that sometimes when you pull focus for example, that slight change in the image size can be nice as it re-enforces the focus change and gives the viewer a visual clue that something about the shot has been changed. If the only thing that changes in a shot is the point of focus, sometimes it can look odd or perhaps electronic rather than the more natural focus changes we are used to seeing. Of course the feature can be turned on or off, so you are free to decide whether to use it or not depending on what you are shooting. 

The breathing compensation only works with certain Sony lenses, mostly GM lenses and a few G series lenses. The lenses include: SEL14F18GM, SEL20F18G, SEL24F14GM, SEL35F14GM, SEL50F12GM, SEL85F14GM,  SEL135F18GM, SEL1224GM, SEL1224G, SEL1635GM, SEL2470GM, SEL24105G, SEL28135G, SEL70200GM (NOT with a teleconverter), SEL70200GM2, SEL100F28GM (NOT when the macro switching ring is set to “0.57m–1.0m.”).

Bokeh Control:

While I’m on the optics, another change is what Sony are calling “Bokeh Control” .  You have already been able to do this on most of Sonys cameras with the variable ND filter by turning on the auto gain/ISO function while using the auto ND filter. Set this way when you change the aperture, the ND filter and auto gain/ISO will maintain a constant image brightness allowing you to use the aperture as a bokeh and DoF control. This is now all rolled into a dedicated new feature to make it easier to achieve the same result, so it’s not really new, but it is now easier to do. The brightness of the image is held constant as you change the aperture, so the aperture becomes a  bokeh and DoF control.  This works best with the Sony lenses that have a stepless aperture ring. A word of warning however is that you will need to keep a close eye on what the ISO/Gain is doing to avoid an excessively noisy image if you don’t have sufficient light for the aperture you are using as the camera will add lots of gain and the images will become noisy very quickly if you are not careful. In practice, while I do like the concept behind this it is only really useful when you have lots of light as you want the ND filter to be doing the work, not the auto gain/ISO so this tends to limit you to exteriors or when using the FX6’s high base ISO which is already a bit noisier than low base.

Cache record in both normal modes and  S&Q.
This is a great new feature. You now have a recording cache that can be used in both normal modes and S&Q motion. The recording cache allows you to capture things that have happened prior to the moment you press the cameras record button. Of course the camera has to actually be pointing in the right direction, but this allows you to capture unexpected events such as lightning in a thunderstorm.  I often find cache recording useful for interviews in case the interviewee suddenly starts talking when you are not expecting it. For many applications this will be a very useful function. Depending on the resolution and frame rate you get a cache period of up to 31 seconds available by selecting short/medium/long and max. 

4 Audio Meters:

This is something almost everyone asked for from day one. You can now monitor channels 1 & 2 as well as 3 & 4  on the LCD when shooting. Hooray!

Raw out via HDMI. 

As well as outputting raw via SDI you can now output the raw signal via HDMI. This will be very useful for those that already use the HDMI raw out from their FX3/A7S3 etc as now you won’t need to have the extra SDI adapter for the Ninja V. You will need to update the firmware for your Ninja V or Ninja V+ and the update from Atomos is already available for download.

SR-Live HDR workflow.

Like the FX9 the FX6 gains the ability to change the viewfinder monitoring mode when shooting with HLG. Using Viewfinder Display Gamma Assist and monitoring in SDR the image in the viewfinder can have a dB offset applied. This offset allows you to expose the HLG such that it is fully optimised for HDR viewing while seeing a correctly exposed SDR image. The details of the offset are stored in the cameras metadata and then in post production as well as your already optimised HDR stream you add the same dB offset to the HLG to gain a stream that will look much better in SDR than it would do without any offset. This way it becomes much easier to deliver great looking and better optimised content for both HDR and SDR audiences.

Other new features:

The A and B recording slots can be individually assigned to the record buttons on the camera handle and body record button so that each button controls the recording of one slot. This allows you to record some shots to one slot and other shots to the other slot depending on which record button you press, or by pressing both buttons you can record to both slots.

The Multi-Function dial settings can be assigned to the hand grip dial so that the hand grip dial behaves in the same way as the muti-function dial.

FTP transfer speeds are improved.

More functions can be controlled via the touch screen.

Increased control functionality when used with Content Browser Mobile version 3.6 (you won’t be able to use earlier versions of CBM with the version 2 firmware). Content Browser Mobile version 3.6 is already available for download. 

This new version 2 firmware update is out just yet, but it will be available by the end of January.

 

 

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.

Understanding Sony’s Viewfinder Display Gamma assist.

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 as well 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 (Note that with the FX6, because LUTs are always available in the CineEI mode, viewfinder display gamma assist is not available in the CineEI mode of the FX6, you should instead use a LUT).

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 a monitor 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 such as when shooting in CineEI in HD with the FX9. 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 of 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.

FX6 Firmware Update Adds 120fps Raw.

Screenshot-2021-05-21-at-09.37.54-1024x160 FX6 Firmware Update Adds 120fps Raw.

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.

You will find the various firmware updaters here: https://www.sony.com/electronics/support/camcorders-and-video-cameras-interchangeable-lens-camcorders/ilme-fx6v/downloads 

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.

Vocas FX6 LCD Support Bracket – Brilliant!

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.

For more details take a look at the video.