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.
Wireless video transmitters are nothing new and there are lots of different units on the market. But the Accsoon CineEye 2S stands out from the crowd for a number of reasons.
First is the price, at only £220/$300 USD it’s very affordable for a SDI/HDMI wireless transmitter. But one thing to understand is that it is just a transmitter, there is no reciever. Instead you use a phone or tablet to receive the signal and act as your monitor. You can connect up to 4 devices at the same time and the latency is very low. Given that you can buy a reasonably decent Android tablet or used iPad for £100/$140 these days, it still makes an affordable and neat solution without the need to worry about cables, batteries or cages at the receive end. And most people have an iPhone or Android phone anyway. The Accsoon app includes waveform and histogram display, LUT’s, peaking and all the usual functions you would find on most pro monitors. So it saves tying up an expensive monitor just for a directors preview. You can also record on the tablet/phone giving the ability for the director or anyone else linked to it to independently play back takes as he/she wishes while you use the camera for other things.
Next is the fact that it doesn’t have any fans. So there is no additional noise to worry about when using it. It’s completely silent. Some other units can get quite noisy.
And the best bit: If you are using an iPhone or iPad with a mobile data connection the app can stream your feed to YouTube, Facebook or any similar RMTP service. With Covid still preventing travel for many this is a great solution for an extremely portable streaming solution for remote production previews etc. The quality of the stream is great (subject to your data connection) and you don’t need any additional dongles or adapters, it just works!
Watch the video, which was streamed live to YouTube with the CineEye 2S for more information. At 09.12 I comment that it uses 5G – What I mean is that it has 5Ghz WiFi as well as 2.5Ghz Wifi for the connection between the CineEye and the phone or tablet. 5Ghz WiFi is preferred where possible for better quality connections and better range. https://accsoonusa.com/cineeye/
I recently did a 90 minute long livestream Q&A in association with Visual Impact. Lots of topics covered from AF to S-Cinetone. Topics covered:
S-Cinetone, Differences between the FX6 and FX9, interlace output, AF zones and touch screen, using it in low temperatures, the LCD screen, 3rd party lenses and AF, differences between FS5/FS7 etc, Dynamic range, image quality, raw output, tuning the AF, Eye AF, Scan modes and crops, SD cards and recording media, changing the custom mode look using LUTs, Adjusting the knee to make the FX6 broadcast safe, High base ISO and noise, Scene files and Base looks, clear image zoom, base ISO levels, firmware updates.
Here are the guide videos I produced for Sony about the FX9. These videos cover most of the key features of the camera whether that’s shooting using S-Cinetone or S-log3 and Cine EI, farme rates and scan modes. Each video includes instructions on how to use the different modes as well as some guidance on things to watch out for. Some of the videos were produced with version 1 firmware so there are now some changes to the base modes, previously you had Custom Mode and Cine EI, now you have SDR – HDR – CineEI where SDR mode is the same as what was previously called custom mode. Also don’t miss the two videos linked at the end which cover most of the new features added in the version 2 firmware.
As there is no Glastonbury Festival this year the organisers and production company have been releasing some videos from last year. This video was shot mostly with Venice using Cooke 1.8x anamorphics. The non Venice material is from an FS5. It’s a behind the scenes look at the activities and performances around the Glastonbury Big Top and the Theater and Circus fields.
I couldn’t not post this. It’s a beautiful example just how nice the Sony Venice camera can look. Shot by DP Khalid Mohtaseb for Turkish Airlines and shown during the Superbowl in the USA. I don’t need to say any more, just take a look at the video.
One of the great features of the PXW-FX9 is the ability to connect a phone or tablet to the camera via WiFi so that you can view a near live feed from the camera (there’s about a 5 to 6 frame delay).
To do this you need to install the latest version of the free Sony Content Browser Mobile application on your phone. Then you would normally connect the phone to the cameras WiFi by placing the FX9 into Access Point Mode and use either NFC to establish the connection if your phone has it, or by manually connecting your phone’s WiFi to the camera.
However for many people this does not always provide a stable connection with frequent drop outs and disconnects. Fortunately there is a another way to connect the camera and phone and this seems much more stable.
First put the cameras WiFi into “Station Mode” instead of “Access Point” mode. Then setup your phone to act as a WiFi Hotspot. Now you can connect the camera to the phone by performing a network search on the camera. Once the camera finds the phones WiFi hotspot you connect the camera to the phone.
Once the connection from the camera to the phone has been established you should open Content Browser Mobile and it should find the FX9. If it doesn’t find it straight away swipe down with your finger to refresh the connection list. Then select the camera to connect to it.
Once connected this way you will have all the same options that you would have if connected the other way around (using Access Point mode). But the connection tends to be much, much more stable. In addition you can also now use the cameras ftp functions to upload files from the camera via your phones cellular data connection to remote servers.
If you want to create a bigger network then consider buying one of the many small battery powered WifI routers or a dedicated 4G MiFi hotspot and connect everything to that. Content Browser Mobile should be able to find any camera connected to the same network. Plus if you use a WiFi router you can connect several phones to the same camera.
There are already a few setup and staged video samples from the new Sony PXW-FX9 circulating on the web. These are great. But how will it perform and what will the pictures look like for an unscripted, unprepared shoot? How well will the autofocus work out in the street, by day and by night? How does the S-Cinetone gamma and colour in custom mode compare with S-Log3 and the s709 Venice LUT compare?
To answer these questions I took a pre-production FX9 into the nearby town of Windsor with a couple of cheap Sony E-Mount lenses. The lenses were the Sony 50mm f1.8 which costs around $350 USD and the 28-70mm f3.5-f5.6 zoom that costs about $400 USD and is often bundled as a kit lens with some of the A7 series cameras.
To find out how good the auto focus really is I decided to shoot entirely using auto focus with the AF set to face priority. The only shot in the video where AF was not used is the 120fps slow-mo shot of the swans at 0:53 as AF does not work at 120fps.
Within the video there are examples of both S-Cinetone and S-Log3 plus the s709 LUT. So you know which is which I have indicated this is the video. I needed to do this as the two cut together really well. There is no grading as such. The S-Cinetone content is exactly as it came from the camera. The CineEI S-Log3 material was shot at the indicated base ISO and EI, there was no exposure offset. In post production all I did was add the s709 LUT, that’s it, no other corrections.
The video was shot using the Full Frame 6K scan, recording to UHD XAVC-I.
For exposure I used the cameras built in waveform display. When in CineEI I also used the Viewfinder Gamma Display assist function. Viewfinder Gamma assist gives the viewfinder the same look as the 709(800) LUT. What’s great about this is that it works in all modes and at all frame rates. So even when I switched to 2K Full Frame scan and 120fps the look of the image in the viewfinder remained the same and this allowed me to get a great exposure match for the slow motion footage to the normal speed footage.
There are some great examples of the way the autofocus works throughout the video. In particular the shot at 0:18 where the face priority mode follows the first two girls that are walking towards the camera, then as they exit the frame switches to the two ladies following behind without any hunting. I could not have done that any better myself. Another great example is at 1:11 where the focus tracks the couple walking towards the camera and once they exit the shot the focus smoothly transitions to the background. One of the nice things about the AF system is you can adjust the speed at which the camera re-focusses and in this case I had slowed it down a bit to give it a more “human” feel.
Even in low light the AF works superbly well. At 1:33 I started on the glass of the ornate arch above the railway station and panned down as two people are walking towards me. The camera took this completely in it’s stride doing a lovely job of shifting the focus from the arch to the two men. Again, I really don’t think I could have done this any better myself.
Also, I am still really impressed by how little noise there is from this camera. Even in the high ISO mode the camera remains clean and the images look great. The low noise levels help the camera to resolve colour and details right down into the deepest shadows. Observe how at 2:06 you can clearly see the different hues of the red roses against the red leather of the car door, even though this is a very dark shot.
The reduction in noise and increase in real sensitivity also helps the super slow motion. Compared to an FS7 I think the 120fps footage from the FX9 looks much better. It seems to be less coarse and less grainy. There is still some aliasing which is unavoidable if you scan the sensor at a lower resolution, but it all looks much better controlled than similar material from an FS7.
And when there is more light the camera handles this very well too. At 1:07 you can see how well S-Cinetone deals with a very high contrast scene. There are lots of details in the shadows and even though the highlights on the boats are clipped, the way the camera reaches the end of it’s range is very nice and it doesn’t look nasty, it just looks very bright, which it was.
For me the big take-away from this simple shoot was just how easy it is to get good looking images. There was no grading, no messing around trying to get nice skintones. The focus is precise and it doesn’t hunt. The low noise and high sensitivity means you can get good looking shots in most situations. I’m really looking forward to getting my own FX9 as it’s going to make life just that little bit easier for many of my more adventurous shoots.
Over the years I’ve met many well known high end cinematographers. Most of them are really no different to you or I. Most of them are passionate about their craft and almost always willing to chat about ideas or techniques. But one thing that at first surprised me was how many of these high end movie makers cut their teeth shooting documentaries. I guess I had imagined them to have all been film school graduates that shot nothing but drama, but no, a very large percentage started out in the world of documentary production.
Documentary production is full of challenges. Location shooting, interviews, beauty shots, challenging lighting etc. But one of the big things with documentary production is that you very often don’t have a choice about what, where or when you shoot. You are faced with a scene or location needed for the story and you have to make it look good. So you have to think about how best to approach it, how to frame it, light it or how to use the available light in the best way.
A lot of todays aspiring film makers like to hone their skills by shooting beautiful people in beautiful locations when the light is at it’s best. These short beauty films very often do come out looking very nice. But, if you have a pretty girl, a pretty scene, and good light then really there is no excuse for it not to look good and the problem is you don’t learn much through doing this.
When you are shooting a typical TV documentary you will be faced with all kinds of locations, all kinds of people and the challenge is to make it all look good, no matter what your presented with. Having to take sometimes ugly scenes and make them look good you learn how to be creative. You have to think about camera angles, perhaps to hide something or to emphasise something important to the story the programme tells. And, like a feature film it is normally also story telling, most documentaries have a story with a beginning middle and end.
If you can master the art of documentary production it will give you a great set of skills that will serve you well elsewhere. If you move on from documentaries to drama, then when the director asks you to shoot a scene that takes place in a specific location you may well have already done something similar in a documentary so you may already have some ideas about how to light it, what focal lengths to use. Plus now you will probably have a more time to light and a much more control over the scene, so it should actually be easier.
In an ideal world I guess the best way to learn how to shoot movies is…. to shoot movies. But very often it’s hard to get the people, locations and good script that you need. So very often aspiring film makers will fall back on shooting 90 second vignettes of pretty people in pretty places as it’s easy and simple to do.
But instead I would suggest that you would be much better off shooting a documentary. Perhaps about something that happened near where you live or an issue you are interested in.
Go out and shoot documentaries in less than perfect locations with all the challenges they present. I bet the resulting videos won’t look nearly as perfectly pretty as all those slow-mo pretty girl on a beach/forest/field of flowers videos. But it will teach you how to deal with different types locations, people, lighting, weather and many of the other things that can be challenges when shooting features. It will make you a better camera operator. Making something that’s already pretty look pretty – that’s easy. Making what would otherwise be an un-interesting living room, factory or city street look interesting, that’s a much tougher challenge that will help bring out the creativity in you.