Category Archives: PXW-FX9

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.




 

PXW-FX9 Version 3 Firmware Update Latest News

No, it hasn’t been released yet.  And it’s now not expected to arrive before the end of November. But it will be worth the wait.

We already knew about some of the new features but there is much more to this release than first announced. Let’s take a look:

Touch to focus, focus tracking: Yes, you heard it right. You will be able to use the touch sensitive LCD to touch on an object in the shot and then the camera will track that object as it moves around the shot. A box will appear around the touched object and you will be able to monitor what the AF is focussing on by looking at what the tracking box is over. This is a feature available on the A7S3 and FX3 that is VERY useful.

Anamorphic De-Squeeze. It will become much easier to shoot anamorphic with the FX9. When shooting Anamorphic the image produced by the lens is squeezed horizontally, and that’s what you record. But to monitor it correctly you then need to de-squeeze it by squashing it vertically by the correct amount. The V3 firmware update will allow the image to be squashed vertically (de-squeezed) for the LCD viewfinder so you can view with the included VF in the correct widescreen aspect ratio. Do note however that the SDI and HDMI outputs will NOT be de-squeezed, so to monitor externally you will need a monitor with de-squeeze, but most of them have this these days.

Super 16 Scan Modes: The camera will gain a 2K center scan mode that can be used to shoot at up to 180fps in full HD. Using the center scan mode for slow motion above 60fps will eliminate the aliasing issues currently seen when using the 2K FF or 2K S35 scan modes. Additionally you will be able to use Sony’s 2/3″ B4 lens adapter. When using the B4 adapter the camera will support ALAC  which corrects for chromatic aberrations in lenses that support this feature.

Switch Scan Modes via Assignable Button: This has been something on everyone’s wish lists for years. Now at last you will be able to set up an assignable button to switch scan modes. 

Add Camera ID and Reel Numbers to Clip Names: You will be able to use clip names that are prefixed by a camera ID number and a reel number similar to the clip naming system on the FS7.

Modify the Status Page List: This function allows you to remove pages from the status page menu. So you will be able to remove the pages you rarely use.

DC IN Alarm: Don’t get too excited just yet, but in V3 you will be able to set a low voltage alarm for the cameras DC input as well as the extension units DC input. This does NOT mean that there will be a low voltage warning with the current 3rd party V-Lock battery adapters as these convert the battery voltage to a fixed 19.5v supply that never changes. But it does mean that a clever manufacturer could now design a V-Lock adapter that could reduce it’s output voltage when the voltage of the V-Lock battery gets low allowing you to have an alarm in the camera before the battery cuts off.

Proxy Upload while recording: Currently you cannot upload proxies while recording. This will be improved in V3 and the camera will be able to upload proxies in the background while you are recording.

Zero Focus Distance function: When working with a lens that shows the focus distance on the LCD screen you will be able to focus on an object and then “zero” the focus distance. Then as you change the focus distance the the screen will display a +/- value that is how far from zero the focus is. You will be able to use this for a pull focus. Focus on the end object and set the focus distance to zero. Now focus on the start object. To pull focus turn the focus ring so you are back at zero again. Not actually sure how useful this will be, but hey – it isn’t costing us anything.

Change Network Settings via Mobile Phone App: You will be able to use a mobile phone to change the cameras network settings making it easier to enter addresses and passwords of FTP servers etc.

USB Phone tethering: you will be able to connect a couple of mobile phones to the camera via USB to use it them as modems for internet streaming (I believe this is via the USB ports on the top of the XDCA-FX9).

LCD Gamma Adjustments for SR Live: SR live is a type of HDR workflow developed for live productions that will be broadcast in both standard dynamic range and high dynamic range. This setting allows you to change the gamma of the LCD screen between SDR and HDR range when shooting using HLG in the HDR mode. This allows you to preview either what a viewer will see watching in SDR or a good approximation of what a viewer viewing in HDR will see.

S700 Remote Control: The camera will be able to be controlled remotely using s700 protocols (via ethernet).

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 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.

Important Firmware Update For The FX9

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.

 

Before-preset5500k_1.1.1-1024x576 Important Firmware Update For The FX9
PXW-FX9, 5500K preset WB, before the firmware update

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.

 

After-preset5500k_1.2.1-1024x576 Important Firmware Update For The FX9
PXW-FX9, 5500K preset after updating to firmware V2.10

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.

 

Wipe between before and after the firmware update with saturation boosted.

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.

https://pro.sony/en_GB/support-resources/pxw-fx9/software/

FX9 to get Anamorphic In Firmware Version 3.

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.

You will find the full announcement here: https://sonycine.com/articles/firmware-updates-announced-for-fx9-and-fx6-cinema-cameras/

Setting The White Balance When Using The Variable ND Filter

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.

How Good Is The Raw From An FX9 Compared To The F55?

This is a very good question that came up in one of the F5/F55/FX9 facebook groups that I follow. The answers are also mostly relevant to users of the FX6, FX3 and the A7SIII.

There were two parts to it: Is the FX9’s raw out as good as the raw from the F5/F55 and then – do I really need raw.
 
In terms of image quality I don’t think there is any appreciable difference, going between the raw from an FX9 and the raw from an F5/F55 is a sideways step.

The F5/F55 with either Sony Raw or X-OCN offer great 16 bit linear raw in a Sony MXF package. The files are reasonably compact, especially if you are using the R7 and X-OCN. There are some compatibility issues however and you can’t use the Sony Raw/X-OCN in FCP-X and the implementation in Premier Pro is poor.

The 16 bit out from the FX9/XDCA-FX9 gets converted to 12 bit log raw by the Atomos recorders, currently the only recording options – but in reality you would be extremely hard pushed to really see any difference between 16 bit linear raw and 12 bit log raw from this level of camera.
 
Recording the 12 bit log raw as ProRes Raw means that you are tied to just FCP-X, Premiere Pro (poor implementation again) and Scratch. The quality of the images that can be stored in the 2 different raw formats is little different, 16 bit linear has more code values but distributed very inefficiently. 12 bit log raw has significantly fewer code values but the distribution is far more efficient.  AXS media is very expensive, SSD’s are cheap. AXS card readers are expensive, SSD adapters are cheap. So there are cost implications.

Personally I feel the reduced noise levels from the FX9 makes footage from the FX9 more malleable than footage from the F5/F55 and if you are shooting in FF6K there is more detail in the recordings, even though they are downsampled to 4K raw. But the FF6K will have more rolling shutter compared to an F55/F5.

Working with Sony Raw/X-OCN in Resolve is delightfully easy, especially if you use ACES and it’s a proper grading package. If you want to work with ProResRaw in Resolve you will need to use Apple Compressor or FCP-X to create a demosaiced log file, which even if you use ProRes444 or XQ not the same as working from the original raw file. For me that’s the biggest let down. If I could take ProResRaw direct into Resolve I’d be very happy. But it is still perfectly possible to get great footage from ProResRaw by transcoding if you need to.

As to whether you need raw, only you can answer that fr yourself. There are many factors to consider.  What’s your workflow, how are you delivering the content. Will the small benefit from shooting raw actually be visible to your clients?
 
Are you capturing great content – in which case raw may give you a little more, or are you capturing less than ideal material – in which case raw isn’t going to be a get out of jail card. Raw of any flavour works best when it’s properly exposed and captured well.

I would suggest anyone trying to figure out whether they need raw or not to start by to grading the XAVC-I from the FX9 and see how far you can push that,  then compare it to the raw. I think may be surprised by how little difference there is, XAVC-I S-Log3 is highly gradable and if you can’t get the look you want from the XAVC-I raw isn’t going to be significantly different. It’s not that there is anything wrong with raw, not at all. But it does get rather over sold as a miracle format that will transform what you can do. It won’t perform those miracles, but if everything else has been done to the highest possible standards then raw does offer the very best that you can get from these cameras.
 
As a middle ground also consider non raw ProRes. Again the difference between that and XAVC-I is small, but it may be that whoever is doing the post production finds it easier to work with. And the best bit is there are no compatibility issues, it works everywhere.

But really my best recommendation is to test each workflow for yourself and draw your own conclusions. I think you will find the differences between each much smaller than you might assume. So then you will need to decide which works for you based on cost/effort/end result.
 
Sometimes best isn’t always best! Especially if you can get to where you need to be more easily as an easy workflow gives you more time to spend on making it look the way you want rather than fussing with conversions or poor grading software.

Beware Fake Sony BP-U Batteries!

Fake-real-bpu-600x225 Beware Fake Sony BP-U Batteries!Can you tell which is genuine and which is fake? It would appear that a number of fake BP-U batteries are starting to show up on ebay and other less reputable places. The battery on the left won’t charge on a genuine Sony charger, this tells me it is not a real Sony battery.

If you look at the labels on the batteries the quality of the printing on the fake battery on the left is not as fine as on the genuine battery, in particular the ® as well as the box around the level indicator LED’s is not as crisply and finely printed.

The sellers are clever. These are not so cheap as to raise suspicion, they just seem very competitively priced. These batteries might be a little bit cheaper, but how safe are they and how long will they last? I have to say this would have fooled me and I have a lot of sympathy for others that have been tricked into buying these. But if the manufacturer can’t sell these by legitimate means under their own brand name I really do have to question their quality and safety.

Thanks to Zachary Këpël for the use of his image.

What Benefits Do I Gain By Using CineEI?

This is a question that comes up a lot. Especially from those migrating to a camera with a CineEI mode from a camera without one. It perhaps isn’t obvious why you would want to use a shooting mode that has no way of adding gain to the recordings.

If using the CineEI mode shooting S-log3 at the base ISO, with no offsets or anything else then there is very little difference between what you record in Custom mode at the base ISO and CineEI at the base EI.

But we have to think about what the CineEI mode is all about. It’s all about image quality. You would normally chose  to shoot S-Log3 when you want to get the highest possible quality image and CineEI is all about quality.

The CineEI mode allows you to view via your footage via a LUT so that you can get an appreciation of how the footage will look after grading. Also when monitoring and exposing via the LUT because the dynamic range of the LUT is narrower, your exposure will be more accurate  and consistent because bad exposure looks more obviously bad. This makes grading easier. One of the keys to easy grading is consistent footage, footage where the exposure is shifting or the colours changing (don’t use ATW with Log!!) can be very hard to grade.

Then once you are comfortable exposing via a LUT you can start to think about using EI offsets to make the LUT brighter or darker. When the LUT is darker you open the aperture or reduce the ND to return the LUT to a normal looking image and vice versa with a brighter LUT.  This then changes the brightness of the S-log3 recordings and you use this offsetting process  to shift the highlight/shadow range as well as noise levels to suit the types of scenes you are shooting. Using a low EI (which makes the LUT darker) plus correct LUT exposure  (the darker LUT will make you open the aperture to compensate) will result in a brighter recording which will improve the shadow details and textures that are recorded and thus can be seen in the shadow areas. At the same time however that brighter exposure will reduce the highlight range by a similar amount to the increase in the shadow range. And no matter what the offset, you always record at the cameras full dynamic range.

I think what people misunderstand about CineEI is that it’s there to allow you to get the best possible, highly controlled images from the camera. Getting the best out of any camera requires appropriate and sufficient light levels. CineEI is not designed or intended to be a replacement for adding gain or shooting at high recording ISOs where the images will be already compromised by noise and lowered dynamic range.
 
CineEI exists so that when you have enough light to really make the camera perform well you can make those decisions over noise v highlights v shadows to get the absolute best “negative” with consistent and accurate exposure to take into post production. It is also the only possible way you can shoot when using raw as raw recordings are straight from the sensor and never have extra gain added in camera.
 
Getting that noise/shadow/highlight balance exactly right, along with good exposure is far more important than the use of external recorders or fatter codecs. You will only ever really benefit fully from higher quality codecs if what you are recording is as good as it can be to start with. The limits as to what you can do in post production are tied to image noise no matter what codec or recording format you use. So get that bit right and everything else gets much easier and the end result much better. And that’s what CineEI gives you great control over.
 
When using CineEI or S-Log3 in general you need to stop thinking “video camera – slap in a load if gain if its dark” and think “film camera – if its too dark I need more light”. The whole point of using log is to get the best possible image quality, not shooting with insufficient light and a load of gain and noise. It requires a different approach and completely different way of thinking, much more in line with the way someone shooting on film would work.

What surprises me is the eagerness to adopt shutter angles and ISO ratings for electronic video cameras because they sound cool but less desire to adopt a film style approach to exposure based on getting the very best from the sensor.  In reality a video sensor is the equivalent of a single sensitivity film stock. When a camera has dual ISO then it is like having a camera that takes two different film stocks.  Adding gain or raising the ISO away from the base sensitivity in custom mode is a big compromise that can never be undone. It adds noise and decreases the dynamic range. Sometimes it is necessary, but don’t confuse that necessity with getting the very best that you can from the camera.

For more information on CineEI see:

Using CineEI with the FX6