This is another one from Social Media and it the same question gets asked a lot. The short answer is…………
Even with Sony’s earlier S-Log3 cameras you didn’t need to ALWAYS over expose. When shooting a very bright well lit scene you could get great results without shooting extra bright. But the previous generations of Sony cameras (FS5/FS7/F5/F55 etc) were much more noisy than the current cameras. So, to get a reasonably noise free image it was normal to expose a bit brighter than the base Sony recommendation, my own preference was to shoot between 1 and 1.5 stops brighter than the Sony recommended levels (click here for the F5/F55, here for the FS7 and here for the FS5).
The latest cameras (FX30, FX3, FX6, FX9 etc) are not nearly as noisy, so for most shots you don’t need to expose extra bright, just expose well (by this I mean exposing correctly for the scene being shot). This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t expose brighter or darker if you understand how to use a brighter/darker exposure to shift your overall range up and down, perhaps exposing brighter when you want more shadow information and les noise at the expense of some highlight range or exposing darker when you must have more highlight information but can live with a bit more noise and less shadow range.
What I would say is that exposure consistency is very important. If you constantly expose to the right so every shot is near to clipping then your exposure becomes driven by the highlights in the shot rather than the all important mid range where faces, skin tones, plants and foliage etc live. As the gap between highlights and the mids varies greatly exposure based on highlights tends to result in footage where the mid range is up and down and all over the place from shot to shot and this makes grading more challenging as every shot needs a unique grade. Base the exposure on the mid range and shot to shot you will be more consistent and grading will be easier.
This is where the CineEI function really comes into its own as by choosing the most appropriate EI for the type of scene you are shooting and the level of noise you are comfortable with and basing the exposure off the image via the built in LUT will help with consistency (you could even use a light meter set to the ISO that matches the EI setting). Lower EI for scenes where you need more shadow range or less noise, higher EI for scenes where you must have a greater highlight range. And there is no -“One Fits All” setting, it depends on what you are shooting. This is the real skill, using the most appropriate exposure for the scene you are shooting (see here for CineEI with the FX6 and with the FX9)
So how do you get that skill? Experiment for yourself. No one was born knowing exactly how to expose Log, it is a skill learnt through practice and experimentation, making mistakes and learning from them. In addition different people and different clients will be happy with different noise levels. There is no right or wrong amount of noise. Footage with no noise often looks very sterile and lifeless, but that might be what is needed for a corporate shoot. A small to medium amount of noise can look great if you want a more film like look. A large amount of noise might give a grungy look for a music video. Grading also plays a part here as how much contrast you push into the grade alters the way the noise looks and how pleasing or objectionable it might be.
All anyone on here can do is provide some guidance, but really you need to determine what works for you, so go out and shoot at different EI’s or ISO’s, different brightness levels, slate each shot so you know what you did. Then grade it, look at it on a decent sized monitor and pick the exposure that works for you and the kinds of things you shoot – but then also remember different scenes may need a different approach.
For some reason many people now believe that the only way you can shoot with S-Log3 is by “over exposing” and very often by as much as almost 2 stops (1.7 stops is often quoted).
When Sony introduced the original A7S, the FS5, F5, F55 and FS7 shooting S-Log3 with these cameras was a little tricky because the sensors were quite noisy when used at the relatively high base ISO’s of these cameras. When exposed according to Sony’s recommendation of 41% for middle grey and 61% for a white card the end result would be fairly noisy unless you added a good amount of post production noise reduction. As a result of this I typically recommended exposing these particular cameras between 1 and 2 stops brighter than the base level. If using the F5 or FS7 I would normally use 800EI which would lead to an exposure +1.3 stops brighter than base. This worked well with these cameras to help control the noise, but did mean a 1.3 stop loss of highlight range. In other examples I used to recommend exposing a white card at white at 70% which would equate to an exposure a touch over 1 stop brighter than the base level.
With the introduction of the original Venice camera and then the FX9 we got a new generation of much lower noise sensors with dual base ISO’s. It soon became clear to me that these new cameras didn’t normally need to be exposed more brightly than the Sony recommended levels when using their low base ISO’s and even at their high base ISO’s you can typically get perfectly acceptable results without shooting brighter, although sometimes a small amount of over exposure or a touch of noise reduction in pots might be beneficial. No longer needing to expose more brightly brought with it a useful increase in the usable highlight range, something the earlier cameras could struggle with.
Then the A7S3, FX6 and FX3 came along and again at the lower of their base ISO’s I don’t feel it is necessary to shoot extra bright. However at the 12,800 high base ISO there is a fair bit more noise. So I will typically shoot between 1 and 2 stops brighter at the high base ISO to help deal with the extra noise. On the FX6 and FX3 this normally means using between 6400 and 3200 EI depending on the scene being shot.
Even though I and many others no longer advocate the use of extra bright exposures at the lower base ISO’s with these newer cameras it really does surprise me how many people believe it is still necessary to shoot up to 2 stops over. It’s really important to understand that shooting S-Log3 up to 2 stops over isn’t normal. It was just a way to get around the noise in the previous cameras and in most cases it is not necessary with the newer cameras.
Not having to shoot brighter means that you can now use the Viewfinder Display Gamma Assist function in the A7S3, A1 or the FX9 (for those times you can’t use a LUT) to judge your exposure with confidence that if it looks right, it most likely will be right. It also means that there is no longer any need to worry about offset LUT’s or trying to correct exposure in post before applying a LUT.
Of course, you can still expose brighter if you wish. Exposing brighter may still be beneficial in scenes with very large shadow areas or if you will be doing a lot of effects work. Or perhaps simply want an ultra low noise end result. But you shouldn’t be terrified of image noise. A little bit of noise is after all perfectly normal.
And one last thing: I don’t like the use of the term “over exposing” to describe shooting a bit brighter to help eliminate noise. If you have deliberately chosen to use a low EI value to obtain a brighter exposure or have decided to expose 1 stop brighter because you feel this will get you the end result you desire this is not (in my opinion) “over exposure”. Over exposure generally means an exposure that is too bright, perhaps a mistake. But when you deliberately shoot a bit brighter because this gets you to where you want to be this isn’t a mistake and it isn’t excessive, it is in fact the correct exposure choice.
Many people wish to bake in the cameras Exposure Index settings when shooting using CineEI in order to avoid having to make an exposure correction in post production (given that the cameras are ISO invariant when shooting Log in reality it makes vey little difference whether you add gain in the camera or in post production – gain is gain). On cameras such as the FS7, FX6 or FX9 one way to do this is by baking in the built in S-Log3 LUT. To avoid confusion – that is using the CineEI mode with the “S-Log3” LUT enabled and in the LUT settings “Internal recording” set to ON so that you are recording the “S-Log3” LUT.
While this will bake in the EI change, this technique comes with many issues. For a start, just as when you use S-Log3 in custom mode and alter the ISO, whenever you move away from the cameras base ISO you loose dynamic range. When you bake in a LUT and change the EI, you are in effect changing the ISO and there will be a corresponding loss of dynamic range. When you bake in a LUT this loss of dynamic range is exacerbated by a reduced or altered recording range.
At lower EI’s the available recording range shrinks as the LUT is made darker and at the same time upper recoding level of the LUT is reduced. At 200 EI the recording range only gets to around 78%. At the bottom end the shadows are crushed and shadow information lost by the range reduction. This then causes a post production issue because LUT’s designed for the normal S-Log3 input range of 0-94% will now be applied to recordings with a much reduced range and after application of a LUT in post the final output won’t get to 100% without further complex grading where the image will need to be stretched more than normal and this degrades quality.
At high EI’s the LUT becomes brighter but the clip point remains the same. So for each stop you go up, 1 stop of highlights just disappears beyond the LUT’s hard clip point and can’t be ever recorded. Again in post this can cause issues because when you apply a normal S-Log3 LUT the heavy clipping in the recording causes the highlights to look very heavily clipped (because they are). Again, for the best results you will need to grade your footage to allow for this.
So, in practice the idea of baking in the S-Log3 LUT to eliminate the need to do any post production corrections doesn’t work because the addition of the S-Log3 LUT introduces new limitations that will need to be corrected if you want good looking images. Plus adding the S-Log3 LUT in camera and then adding another LUT on top in post is never going to deliver the best results due to the way LUT’s divide the image into brightness zones.
And – if you are baking in the S-Log3 LUT, then really this is no longer EI as there is now no longer an offset between the exposure and the recording, you are simply recording at a higher/lower ISO.
I have updated my guide to the FX6’s CineEI mode to ensure it is up to date and compatible with any changes introduced in the Version 3 firmware update. The revised and updated guide includes new graphics that I hope will make the CineEI mode easier to understand for those completely new to shooting S-Log3 and the Sony FX6.
If you are struggling to get to grips with CineEI in the guide I take a step by step approach to using S-Log3 on it’s own without any LUT’s or EI offsets, then introducing the s709 LUT at the base EI and then show how you use different EI levels to offset you exposure. There are suggested exposure levels for both white and grey cards as well as skin tones.
Click here to go to my updated FX6 CineEI guide.
First – What is “Exposure”
Something I find useful to consider is that “Exposure” is the amount of light that you put onto the sensor or film stock in your camera. It isn’t brightness, it is how much light. If you think about it, if you use a light meter to find you exposure settings, the light meter has no idea how bright the pictures will be, all it does is give you the shutter and aperture values needed to put the correct amount of light onto the sensor or film stock.
How Cine EI Works.
Next we need to think about how Cine EI works. You have to remember that when shooting using Cine EI the only thing that changes when you change the EI value is the brightness of the LUT and it is also worth considering that different LUTs may be completely different brightness. There is no change to the sensitivity of the sensor and no direct change to the brightness of what is recorded. To change the brightness of what is recorded YOU must change the aperture, shutter speed or ND etc. Normally you would monitor your images via a LUT and then you must adjust the exposure so the image on the viewfinder looks correct at the new Exposure Index, or use the waveform to measure the LUT and use this to set the exposure for the new EI. And by changing the exposure you are adding an exposure offset putting more (or less) light on to the sensor than would be normal at the base EI.
AE In Cine EI.
If you wish to use auto exposure in the Cine EI mode then you need to understand that the camera’s auto exposure system measures what is being recorded. It does not measure the LUT levels. The auto exposure system is unaware of your desire to expose the sensor more or less brightly than normal and will always base the exposure on the base ISO, not the Exposure Index. As a result if you are using AE and you go from 800 EI to 400 EI the image seen via the internal LUT will get darker by one stop, the AE will NOT compensate for the lower EI. If you were to manually brighten the exposure by one stop the cameras exposure meter will think you are now over exposed – because you are!
The only way around this is to add an offset to the AE system to account for the offset added by the different Exposure Index. For example if you want to shoot at 400EI (The LUT becoming 1 stop DARKER) then you would need to add a +1.0 stop offset to the cameras AE settings to offset the exposure 1 stop brighter. Each time you halve the EI you should add an extra +1 stop of offset. Each time you double the EI you should include an extra -1 stop offset.
There are a couple of ways to do this but the quickest is to use the Quick Menu function that is by default assigned to button 5 on the hand grip or button 8 on the handle. Press the direct menu button and then use the thumbstick to go the AE+0 indication just above the shutter speed indicator and add your offset.
Or you can long press the menu button to go into the cameras main menu then go to the – Shooting – Auto Exposure page and add your offset to the Level setting.
I don’t recommend the use of Auto Exposure in Cine EI. For a start AE uses the average brightness of the scene to set the exposure level, often this isn’t appropriate for Log. When shooting with log generally you want to ensure that it is your mid range is exposed at the right level and you don’t want bright highlights to result in an under exposed mid range. Additionally if the exposure changes mid shot this can make grading very difficult. If you do use auto exposure in Cine EI, then as well as adding any necessary offsets I also recommend slowing down the responsiveness of the AE using the “Speed” setting in the Auto Exposure menu. Using a value such as -60 will slow down the rate at which the AE will change the exposure which helps avoid rapid auto exposure changes for momentary light changes within the scene.
It is really important to remember that Exposure is NOT brightness. Exposure is how much light you put on the sensor. A light meter doesn’t know how bright you want your pictures to be. All it knows is the correct amount of light to put on to the sensor for the “correct” exposure. If using an external light meter provided you put the right values into your light meter it will give you the correct exposure settings, even though it has no idea how bright your pictures will be and the camera’s internal exposure meter acts in a similar way, so offsets are needed to match each EI you use.