All posts by Admin

Updates

This page contains all the updates, corrections, additions and changes to the guide since your purchase. I’m going to sort it date-wise, with the latest being on top. This way, you can check back to see what has changed.

Dec 7th 2015

I’ve added two new videos you will find helpful:

Nov 19th 2015

It’s been a long time! I wanted to update you on two new reviews of both the Sony a7R II and a7S II, and I thought you might the conclusions interesting:

The guide to the a7R II is available now at a discount. There’s no additional discount for a7S owners, though there will be one when the guide for the a7S II arrives. It should be ready in a few weeks. I’ll probably also have an all-three package with a special discount just for you guys.

Jul 5th 2015

Lesson: How I use Cine1 (Case Study: Thrissur Pooram 2015)

Updated: My gear list

I believe this brings us to the end of the Sony A7s guide! I’ll still continue to add lessons and updates whenever necessary.

Jun 29th 2015

Updated: Rigging Gear Specific to the Atomos Shogun with July offer for the Action Pack, which includes an armor protection covering.

Jun 18th 2015

Lessons:

Updated:

Jun 11th 2015

Lessons

Added new lesson to Module D:

May 27th 2015

Lessons

Added final lesson to Module A:

Updated:

Other messages

What’s coming next:

  • My personal settings for Cine1 and a case study
  • My complete rig, an update with three options: run-and-gun, studio and shoulder mounted.

With these two lessons I think we’re more or less finished. I’ve been working on this guide for at least 8 months now! In the coming weeks, I’ll be shooting a few personal projects with this setup and I’ll have lessons on how I went about it – if they turn out okay!

If there’s anything you’d like to see or have me address this is the last and final call.

May 26th 2015

Lessons

Added new lessons to Module A:

Other messages

The guide to manual focus will be out next.

May 7th 2015

FAQs added to

May 6th 2015

Added the full Comparison of Cine profiles for skin tones section in Module C (#6), so I’m linking to the main menu: http://www.videoproduction.training/n1/

I’ll add the last lesson soon, because I’ve yet to edit the project I shot. It’s an entertaining set of visuals I assure you!

Other messages

I’ve received the Sony SEL2870 FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS and will start testing it for AF and stabilization. I’ll try to get this lesson out as soon as possible.

April 25th 2015

Updated two lessons:

April 16th 2015

Added new ‘lesson’:  New accessories announced at NAB 2015 (for both A7s and Shogun)

Other messages

Here’s what I’m working on right now:

  • Cine profiles and skin tones (due by next week)
  • Autofocus on the A7s (have ordered the lens, should be here in a few more days)
  • More FAQs – a ton of them!

March 30th 2015

Added new lesson: Very Important: Update Firmware Version ASAP – this corrects the ‘Skin smoothing’ problem (click to learn more).

March 29th 2015

Firmware update and lens compatibility

Sony has released firmware version 1.20 for the A7s. You can get it here. From Sony:

Improvements over version 1.10:

  • Improves camera function and provides picture improvement for the new lenses (SEL35F14Z, SEL24240, SEL28F20, SEL90M28G)

Benefits provided by previous updates and included in version 1.20:

  • Improves the power-on time after downloading the Smart Remote Control application of the PlayMemories Camera Apps.

Here are the steps to update your firmware (MAC OS X only!!): https://esupport.sony.com/US/p/swu-download.pl?mdl=ILCE7S&upd_id=10323&os_group_id=3

Important: I cannot and will not provide support for this, and it is extremely important that you follow the steps correctly in the order given. I have successfully updated to v1.20.

Sony also has a full compatibility list of all its E-mount, A-mount and Konica lenses that tells you exactly which features are supported by which lenses: http://support.d-imaging.sony.co.jp/www/cscs/lens_body/index.php?mdl=ILCE-7S&area=us&lang=en

March 27th 2015

Important updates to Lessons

March 25th 2015

Lessons

Atomos Shogun Review published. It also includes important information on why you’re seeing contrasty images when recording externally.

February 26th 2015

Lessons

My Gear List has been updated.

FAQs added to

Other messages

If you want to download this guide for offline viewing, you can. Videos can be downloaded via the direct links provided. For text and images, the easiest way is to use either of these two free softwares:

You just have to provide the site address and the software will do the rest in one go.

February 23rd 2015

Added new lesson to Module B: Rigging Gear Specific to the Atomos Shogun

February 18th 2015

Added new lessons to Module F:

Other messages

The guide is nearing completion. The only lesson left is my final review of the Atomos Shogun, which should be ready by next week.

Of course, as long as I shoot with the A7s, I will be adding and updating this guide.

February 17th 2015

Added new lessons to Module F:

February 11th 2015

Added new lessons to Module F:

How to expose correctly using the Shogun

  1. An Overview of the Tools Available for Exposure in the Atomos Shogun
  2. Rec. 709
  3. Cine modes
  4. S-Log2
  5. S-Log2 4K/UHD

February 8th 2015

Added new lesson to Module F: What hard drives to use with the Shogun, and a data strategy for 4K editing

Updated: Atomos Shogun Initial Impressions

Other messages

You can see the tentative menu for the Shogun and 4K workflows here. Tell me if there’s something you’d like to see.

February 5th 2015

Lessons

Added new lesson to Module F: Atomos Shogun Initial Impressions

My Gear List updated.

FAQs added to

Other messages

What would you like to know about the Shogun? If there’s anything specific you’d like to see in my review and workflow lesson, ask me now!

February 3rd 2015

Lessons

Added new lesson to Module G: How to Make Timelapses with the JJC TM-F2 Intervalometer and the Sony A7s: My Workflow

Here’s a picture of what’s coming:

Shogun

February 2nd 2015

Lessons

Added new lesson to Module G: JJC TM-F2 Review: Intervalometer for the Sony A7s

January 23rd 2015

Lessons

Added new Module (G): Timelapses. And the first lesson:  Understanding Bracketing in the Sony A7s

FAQs added to

January 8th 2015

Lessons

Added new lesson to Module D:  How to work with XAVC S S-Log2 in Final Cut Pro X

FAQs added to

Other messages

Happy 2015!

I only have a few more days left on the FCP-X demo. Once the demo is up, I will no longer be able to answer questions on FCP-X.

Next up is the timelapse tutorial. I’ll have a Shogun soon and then I’ll add lessons on 4K workflows, timecode, etc.

December 25th 2014

Lessons

Added new lesson to Module F:  How to expose correctly using the False Color tool

FAQs added to

Other messages

I’m working on the FCP-X workflow and timelapse tutorial now. I’ve managed to download a demo of FCP-X just for this. If you need anything specific, let me know now. Once the demo is up, I will no longer be able to answer questions on FCP-X.

Happy Holidays!

December 22nd 2014

Lessons

Added new lesson to Module B:  How to rig an external monitor and electronic viewfinder

Added new lesson to Module F:  How to connect and use an external monitor and electronic viewfinder

Other messages

These updates were due three days ago but for some strange reason Vimeo decided to stop working throughout India for 72 hours, and I’ve had zero help from Vimeo, even though I’m a Pro member. Thankfully, it did not affect viewing of videos. It’s all back to normal now.

December 18th 2014

Lessons

Added new module (F. External monitoring, recording and 4K workflows) lesson: What do you get with HDMI anyway? A detailed look.

Added an important warning in Auto White Balance vs Custom White Balance – When to use which?

Added a note about ‘red splotches’ in Usable ISO Range – How low can you go with the Sony A7s?

FAQs added to

Other messages

I wanted to publish another lesson but Vimeo is playing 404 on me right now! Will upload the next lessons in module F over the weekend. Here’s the roadmap:

  • FCP-X and XAVC S – a complete workflow from ingest to grading
  • Timelapse workflow
  • External recorder and 4K workflows – whenever it appears
  • A walkthrough of using the wolfcrow system on a project with lighting

Tentative:

  • Guide to balancing the A7s on a DJI Ronin – I’m having very low interest on this at the moment. It’s expensive to rent and learn, so I’ll only do this if there’s a lot of interest. If you want to see this, please let me know!

How to Make Timelapses with the JJC TM-F2 Intervalometer and the Sony A7s: My Workflow

In this lesson I’ll walk you through the steps of creating timelapses with the JJC TM-F2 intervalometer and the Sony A7s. I’m not going to be covering what timelapses are or how to create timelapses. I’m not an expert and the topic is really vast. There are tons of free videos and articles on the subject online.

However, I will share my personal workflow with you, what settings I use, and how I create sequences in post production.

Prep

Before you start worrying about technically accomplishing a timelapse, it is important to first consider what you’re getting into:

  1. Start with the end in mind. How long is it going to be, what frame rate is it going to play back in, and what resolution do you want it to be?
  2. Look at the scene or subject of the timelapse and ask yourself how many stops of latitude will you need in camera,
  3. How long will the actual event be. E.g., sunrise and sunset are events, a flower blooming is an event, and so on.
  4. Where do I place the camera, not composition wise, but location-wise: Is it going to be in a stable environment on a tripod or motion rig? Will there be wind, birds, vehicles or humans that can interfere with the operation of the camera? Will the weather be a problem?

The goal of asking myself these questions is to eliminate as many variables as I can. Once that happens, the technical solution to the problem usually emerges by itself.

Decisions

Now it’s time to choose.

RAW vs JPEG

The first major decision I need to make is whether to shoot RAW or JPEG. Obviously, JPEGs are easier on your computer and storage. RAW gives you more control. I pick the format based on how challenging the exposure is.

Here’s a quick chart comparing the two:

Advantages Disadvantages
JPEG Easy workflow, low storage needs sRGB color space conversion problem, image already sharpened or sharpening less effective, 8-bit only
RAW Best possible quality, can alter white balance, color space, sharpening, etc., has greatest dynamic range Large file sizes, hard to work with them directly in video software, computing HDR and stabilization takes a lot more time

Don’t get confused. All I consider are two things:

  • Do I have the time and patience to render frames and work with RAW?
  • Do I have enough storage space for RAW files?

If the answer to both are yes, then shoot RAW. Ultimately, we all want the best quality possible.

If the answer to the first is no, but the second is yes, shoot RAW but use Lightroom (or other RAW conversion app) to convert to TIFF. One cool technique is to use Photomatix Pro (or another HDR software) to work on just one RAW file to get the best dynamic range out of it. Then export TIFFs and proceed. The whole thing is sort of automated.

If the answer to the second is no, but the first is yes, then bracket JPEGs.

Storage needs

How do you determine storage needs? Here are things to consider:

  • The typical frame from the Sony A7s is 4240×2832.
  • RAW needs about 13.4 MB per frame.
  • JPEG can go up to 9 MB per frame. Often it hovers around the 6-8 MB range.

Let’s say you want to create a 10 second timelapse. The total number of frames needed = 10 seconds x 24 (assuming 24p) = 240 frames.

Here’s how they differ in storage needs (no bracketing assumed):

JPEG RAW
Seconds 10 10
FPS 24 24
Frames 240 240
Size per frame (MB) 8 13.5
Total Size of Source (MB) 1920 3240
Intermediate (MB)* 0 9720
Prores HQ Master in 4K (MB) 1100 1100
Prores HQ Master in 1080p (MB) 275 275
Youtube 4K (MB) 56.25 56.25
Youtube 1080p (MB) 24 24
Total size on drive for one copy 4K (GB) 3.0 13.8
Total size on drive for one copy 1080p (GB) 2.2 12.9

*When you shoot RAW you will typically need to use a RAW converter to convert files to TIFF.

Bracketing mostly means you need to triple your data needs. On average, you can say a RAW workflow will need about 3 to 5 times more storage.

Then you factor in the time it takes to process and work with RAW frames that are 12MP large. You need about 8-32 GB of RAM, and a fast storage array to make it work on a regular basis. One-off timelapses can be done on less powerful hardware, it will just take more time that’s all.

Workflow

I use Adobe After Effects for timelapses, shooting JPEGs. If I need higher dynamic range, I bracket exposures in JPEGs.

What advantages does After Effects offer me? Here’s a list:

  • I can play with color space and see how my final video will look like easily
  • Retiming and playing with the final result (temporally-speaking) is easy.
  • Image stabilization is brilliant with Warp Stabilization. In fact, the balloon lighting shot in the mall (in the JJC TM-F2 review) is totally handheld and image stabilized.
  • I can color grade and finish in After Effects, including adding titles and motion graphics.

If I were to shoot RAW, I would be forced to start with Lightroom because After Effects does not support the ARW RAW format from the A7s.

Then the workflow would go like this:

  1. Lightroom to process RAW files – white balance, image manipulation, color space, etc. Export to TIFF.
  2. If bracketing is involved, then bring TIFF files to Photoshop for HDR work. Export completed frames to TIFF.
  3. Use After Effects to create and finish timelapse.

I won’t be covering Lightroom workflows because it’s beyond of scope of this tutorial, and I’m not the right person for it anyway.

All of these need to be addressed before you even begin tackling the practical challenge of pulling off the timelapse.

Shooting

First, the camera. I always shoot in FULL manual mode. This means:

  1. Manual focus – because sometimes the autofocus can be fooled. Also, it saves battery life.
  2. Manual exposure (aperture, shutter speed). The camera meter can be fooled by passing objects in the frame. This will lead to flicker afterwards.
  3. If I’m bracketing, I set ISO to Auto ISO. Otherwise ISO is also set manually.
  4. I have to judge the ‘middle’ exposure of the timelapse (if it involves changing light like a sunrise, etc.). If the demands are greater than what the A7s can achieve, then I bracket.
  5. Image stabilization off. Use a tripod.
  6. To shoot in tough external conditions, you will need two things:
    1. Constant power, either AC or larger batteries or someone always changing batteries regularly
    2. Weather-proof enclosure fixed on a non-moving object like a pole. This setup is critical for long-event timelapses like construction work, etc.

To choose shutter speeds, think of motion blur, and start with the end in mind. If you want motion blur akin to 24p, then stick to 1/50s. If you want car trails (like the one shown in the review), then you’ll need it to be a few seconds. Night sky exposures need several seconds.

Then, you choose the lens based on the field of view, and the desired aperture. The night sky could use a large aperture (f/2, f/1.4, etc., focused on infinity), while a day scene might work with a stopped down aperture. It all depends.

Now it’s time to bring in the intervalometer. Let’s take the earlier example and assume we want to shoot a sunset that’s going to be 10 seconds long. We can speed it up later in post production, so it’s always a good idea to aim for more.

  • Event (sunset) takes 30 minutes, or 1800 seconds.
  • Final timelapse will be 10 seconds long. At 24p, I will need 240 frames.
  • This means, the Interval on the JJC TM-F2 should be set to: 1800/240 = 7.5 or 8 seconds.
  • I decide I want cinematic motion blur, so my shutter stays at 1/50s, or less than one second.

Using the JJC TM-F2

First, switch on your device:

onoff

Here are the buttons on the JJC TM-F2 so you understand me:buttonsWITHNAMES

Click the SET BUTTON to start inputting your settings. You will be taken to the DE (Delay) screen (There’ll be a small bar on top of your numbers, see below).

If the tripod is perched at a tough spot, or if the event will start only in a little while, set the delay to whatever you desire. Let’s assume it is 5 minutes. Click the SIDE ARROW BUTTON once to go to the minutes (It’s HOURS:MINUTES:SECONDS).

Click the UP ARROW BUTTON to increase the time. Click it 5 times for 5 minutes:

delay

Click the SIDE ARROW BUTTON twice to move to the exposure setting (BU). Set the camera shutter to 1/50s and the TM-F2 exposure time can be set to 00:00:00 (zero). Which means, do nothing. exposure

Just press the SIDE ARROW BUTTON thrice to move to the interval setting (INT). We’ve established our interval needs to be 8 seconds, so move to the seconds counter and click the UP ARROW BUTTON eight times.   interval

Click the SIDE ARROW BUTTON to move to the number of exposures setting (N). We need 240, so click the DOWN BUTTON and keep clicking. Whichever way is fastest. The F2 doesn’t speed up so this is a tedious process.

Remember, always choose more than you need. Here’ I’ve settled on 250:numberWhen I’m happy with all settings (you can use the SIDE ARROW BUTTONS to scroll through to check), I click on the SET BUTTON and it’s set. It beeps (if the speaker is on) to let me know.

When I’m ready, I click the START/STOP button and the camera starts counting down to 5 minutes and then the firing starts.

That’s all there is to it!

Post Production

This bit’s easy if you’re shooting JPEGs. Just import them as a JPEG sequence in After Effects and open a new composition.

I typically use a composition size that matches my final output. If I’m shooting 1080p, then the comp size will be 1920×1080. If I’m shooting UHD, then it’s 3840×2160.

I then resize the image using the scale option. You can create pans and tilts in after effects if you have a large frame to play with. The night sky shot (second to last timelapse in the review) was tilted down in post.

If necessary, I add the Warp Stabilizer VFX plugin. For the mall balloon shot, I set it to ‘No Motion’ so I got a rock solid result. You can also use tracking here. After Effects is really powerful with this kind of work. Typically, the image will be slightly cropped afterwards.

Then I grade and sharpen until I’m satisfied. I use Synthetic Aperture Color Finesse for it. None of the timelapses in the review were color corrected. Export to Prores HQ as master, and another smaller file for Youtube.

That’s it! I hope this glimpse at my workflow helps you with your own timelapses.

Click on the link below to the next lesson or head over to the main menu (above). If you need help with something, feel free to send me an email. I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

JJC TM-F2 Review: Intervalometer for the Sony A7s

This is the complete review of the JJC TM-F2 intervalometer for the Sony A7s. Let’s get started.

Goals

Before reading and watching the review, it is important to first understand the goals of the review. The two goals of this review are:

  • To check if the intervalometer is of sufficient build-quality to be trustworthy
  • To study and test its features to see how versatile it is in real-world situations
  • To ascertain whether it is a worthwhile investment

Why did I buy the JJC TM-F2 Intervalometer over the app?

I bought a specific intervalometer over the Sony timelapse app for these reasons:

  • I’ll have to upload the app to every subsequent Sony camera, assuming it is compatible
  • I don’t want to use the back LCD to change timelapse settings because it’s a huge battery drain
  • Punching numbers on the A7s is worse than pushing buttons on a physical intervalometer
  • I can be comfortably positioned even if the camera is at an odd angle or height
  • The beeps tell me the timelapse is working, and I don’t want the shutter to fire

I’m sure the app has its advantages, just that I’m not interested in them at this point.

Review of the features of the JJC TM-F2 Intervalometer

Here’s my review of the Sony A7s:

Notes: 

  • The price of the JJC TMF2 has fallen considerably since I purchased it. You can buy it for $25 or so on Amazon now. It’s slightly more expensive on Ebay but that includes International shipping.
  • The timer can be set from 1 sec. to 99 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds
  • Maximum shots is 399 or infinity
  • Weight: 72g

How does it perform based on the goals set for this review?

Is the JJC TM-F2 of sufficient build-quality to be trustworthy?

Yes. It’s not tough and weather proof, but for its price and features, you can buy two if you’re paranoid.

Is the JJC TM-F2 versatile in real-world situations?

Combined with the bracketing features of the A7s (or any other camera that has bracketing), the JJC performs admirably. What I don’t like is that it doesn’t have a maximum of 999 exposures, but it does have infinity, so you can shoot till the battery runs out.

Therefore, it has enough features for every timelapse application you can ask for. It just works.

Is it a worthwhile investment?

Absolutely. Buy two if you’re a professional timelapse shooter.

I hope you have found my review beneficial. If you need any clarifications, or know of better solutions, please let me know.

Click on the link below to the next lesson or head over to the main menu (above). If you need help with something, feel free to send me an email. I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Understanding Bracketing in the Sony A7s

In this lesson we’ll go through bracketing features in the Sony A7s. We’ll cover:

  • What is bracketing?
  • The two types of bracketing in the A7s
  • What the limits of the A7s are in terms of bracketing
  • The bracketing order
  • Merging images to HDR

Here’s the video:

Download Video

Here’s the chart shown in the video displaying the limits of the A7s in terms of bracketing (click to enlarge):

BracketingChart

 

The camera has a native dynamic range of about 14 stops in raw mode, and close to that in JPEG mode. Most of the time, you’ll be using a 1 or 2 stop EV. It’s a rare scene that will need a 26 stop bracket.

 

Takeaways

  • Use Single Bracketing for timelapses.
  • Use Continuous Bracketing for still HDR photography where the scene changes quickly from shot to shot.
  • The higher the brackets the more precise the HDR. E.g., use 5 images over 3 whenever possible.

Click on the link below to the next lesson or head over to the main menu (above). If you need help with something, feel free to send me an email. I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Quality of 4K recording

In this lesson we’ll look at two things:

  • General thoughts on the quality of 4K video from the Atomos Shogun
  • Which Prores/DNxHR version to use for 4K?

General thoughts on the quality of 4K video from the Atomos Shogun

Here are the three versions of Prores (HQ, 422 and LT) from the Atomos Shogun (click to enlarge):

Please note, these tests are mostly irrelevant because I’m using Color Finesse, which behaves strangely with Prores footage from the Shogun. Don’t use them. Skip straight to the conclusions below.

HQ2

 

422  LT

Here are my general thoughts on UHD Prores HQ:

  • You don’t have a choice if you’re recording 4K!
  • S-Log2 in Prores/DNxHR works similarly to what you get in XAVC S.
  • The resolution is definitely better, and you will get a better 1080p result if you start in 4K.
  • There are only two things important when shooting 4K: Can you handle the data rates, and is your computer good enough to handle the workload (four times 1080p)?

Which Prores/DNxHR version to use for 4K?

If you study the above images, you’ll see:

  • Visually, there is no difference between the three.
  • However, Prores HQ really shows more ‘stuff’ (data). This means, you might want to use Prores HQ for any intensive grading, chroma keying, compositing or rendering work. For DNxHR, use HQX, because it’s 10-bit.
  • For web-based work, Prores LT/DNxHD LB is more than adequate.
  • For work that needs grading but does not need Prores HQ, you will do well with Prores 422 or LT, or DNxHD SQ or LB. You can ask yourself the same questions as in the last lesson.

How to choose between Prores LT and 422 (or DNxHR SQ vs LB) for grading?

It’s about data. Here’s something to read for starters.

In short, it is not by accident that broadcast standards demand a minimum of 50 Mbps for interframe compression, and 100 Mbps for intraframe compression, for 1080p. UHD has four times the data, which means, just to match the quality of a 100 Mbps intraframe 1080p stream (Prores is intraframe), you need 400 Mbps.

This is provided by Prores LT, just as it provides 100 Mbps for 1080p. The difference in data rates between 422 and LT are not sufficiently large, but you save 30% in disk space, and your hard drives and CPUs are stressed less.

The equivalent DNxHR codec that surpasses 400 Mbps is SQ.

Therefore, when in doubt, shoot Prores LT or DNxHR SQ. If you feel a particular scene might be difficult to grade, then shoot Prores HQ or DNxHR HQX.

Click on the link below to the next lesson or head over to the main menu (above). If you need help with something, feel free to send me an email. I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

My Recommendations: Should you shoot 1080p Prores/DNxHD over XAVC S?

Here are my recommendations on the 1080p Prores vs XAVC S problem. Remember, this only applies to 1080p and not UHD or 4K!

Follow this simple flowchart:

1. Are you shooting chroma keys? Or is there compositing work involved?

If yes, shoot Prores HQ/DNxHD 220x.

If no, go to step 2.

2. When grading, will I be using more than one power window or mask per shot? Or Will I need multiple renders of a shot?

If yes, shoot Prores HQ/DNxHD 220x.

If no, go to step 3.

3. Are you shooting for strict broadcast delivery (10-bit 4:2:2)?

If yes, go to step 5.

If no, go to step 4.

4. Will my work be sent to a post house or studio who will convert to Prores anyway?

If yes, go to step 5.

If no, shoot XAVC S.

5. Will there be any grading at all?

If yes, shoot Prores 422/DNxHD 145.

If no, shoot Prores LT/DNxHD 145.

6. Are you a Windows user?

If yes, stick to XAVC S.

If no, and you are a Mac user, stick to XAVC S.

Here are some FAQs:

Should you shoot Prores or DNxHD at all in 1080p?

Yes, under certain conditions.

When should you shoot Prores or DNxHD?

You should shoot Prores HQ in 1080p for the following jobs:

  • Chroma keying work
  • Heavy grading work with multiple recompressions and rendering jobs
  • Strict broadcast delivery (4:2:2 footage, sometimes 10-bit)

Should you use Prores LT or 422, or DNxHD 145?

For 1080p work, I recommend XAVC S over either Prores 422 or LT, or DNxHD 145. For the times you need Prores, you need HQ and the data cushion it provides (For DNxHD, it’s 220x).

Therefore, forget 422 and LT for 1080p work, unless you’re in a special case (see below).

When should you NOT shoot Prores?

If you’re a Windows user, avoid Prores.

I’m grading my movie or project in Resolve or Speedgrade. Should I choose XAVC S or Prores HQ or DNxHD 220x?

Choose XAVC S for all normal to medium grading work, which is 99% of projects, even cinema-quality ones.

How do you know when to use Prores HQ or DNxHD 220x? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Will I use more than one power window or mask?
  • Is there any compositing work involved?
  • Will my work be sent to a post house or studio who will convert to Prores anyway?
  • Is my work intended to be delivered to broadcast (10-bit, 4:2:2)?

If the answer to any of the above is yes, then shoot Prores/DNxHD. If yes only to the third and/or fourth one, you can shoot Prores 422 or LT, or DNxHD 145.

Click on the link below to the next lesson or head over to the main menu (above). If you need help with something, feel free to send me an email. I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

XAVC S vs Prores: Latency, Grading and Chroma Key

In this lesson we’ll compare the quality of the internal XAVC S codec against Prores HQ, Prores 422 and Prores LT to understand when to choose which. I’ll only be focusing on 1080p.

In this part we’ll study latency, grading and chroma key. I’m going to be comparing XAVC S with Prores HQ, 422 and LT, so we know where each one stands. We’ll be testing all of the above codecs at 24p.

Latency

There is a one-frame delay between the internal XAVC S recording and the Prores versions. This latency is obviously from the camera via HDMI – first of all due to the inherent latency in HDMI, and secondly because it has to trigger the Shogun to record as well.

In a 24p timeline, one frame is the equivalent of 42 milliseconds. In practical use, it is a non-issue.

Grading stress test

Here are full frames (JPEGS, click to enlarge) of a double-Color Finesse layer on the same Cine1 image from the previous lesson. The first is Prores HQ from the Shogun:

GradedShogun

This is the XAVC S frame:GradedXAVCS

There is only a slight difference, especially in the green channel. It is not significant. This means, for light to medium grading with just one recompression step, XAVC S is perfectly fine.

For heavier grades or multiple compression iterations, Prores HQ should be used.

Chroma key stress test (including motion)

This comparison is quite telling (click to enlarge):

ComparisonHQXAVCS

The green screen stress test is the easiest way to judge footage. You prop up a poorly lit green screen, and wave a hairy object in front of it. Then, use a really good keyer (I used Keylight in After Effects, color picked at the exact same pixel) to study the images in various stages of motion.

Here’s what the original scene looked like:

SceneChroma

The Prores HQ version is miles better in the keying department. I have included versions for 422 and LT as well, but they are really unnecessary. I have spent countless hours keying images in heavily compressed 4:2:0, and trust me, if you want to shoot good chroma key, shoot Prores HQ.

My recommendations are in the next lesson.

Click on the link below to the next lesson or head over to the main menu (above). If you need help with something, feel free to send me an email. I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

XAVC S vs Prores: Resolution, Dynamic Range and Noise

In this lesson we’ll compare the quality of the internal XAVC S codec against Prores HQ, Prores 422 and Prores LT to understand when to choose which. I’ll only be focusing on 1080p.

What do I mean by ‘quality’? Here are three things we’re going to test:

  • Resolution, noise and dynamic range
  • Grading stress test
  • Chroma key stress test with motion

In this part we’ll study resolution, dynamic range and noise. I’m going to be comparing XAVC S with Prores HQ, 422 and LT, so we know where each one stands. We’ll be testing all of the above codecs at 24p in a custom white balanced setup (3100K) for the following picture profiles:

  • Rec. 709 in 709 Matrix
  • Cine1 in Cinema
  • S-Log2 in S-Gamut

Some notes:

  • DSC Labs OneShot Middle Grey was used for base exposure (0.0). It was at 1/50s, ISO 5000 at f/8
  • +3 Exposure was f/2.8, everything else as-is
  • -3 exposure was ISO 640 at f/8 for Rec. 709 and Cine1, and for S-Log2 it was ISO 4000, f/11 with an ND 0.6 (2 stops) filter.
  • In the scene, the area in the drawer (darkest) is 6 stops under
  • In the scene, the bulb is 5 stops over.
  • The scene easily has a dynamic range of 12 stops or more.
  • Even though I have tested 422 and LT, I am not including them here because it makes no difference visually.

Rec. 709 in 709 Matrix

Here’s how the Shogun compares with XAVC S in Rec. 709 (click to enlarge):

Rec709Comparison

Bottom line, there is no difference. You can use the Shogun exactly as you would use the A7s for exposure, as far as Rec. 709 is concerned.

Cine1 in Cinema

Here’s how the Shogun compares with XAVC S in Cine 1 (all Cine modes apply) (click to enlarge):

Cine1Comparison

Bottom line, there is no difference. You can use the Shogun exactly as you would use the A7s for exposure, as far as Cine modes are concerned.

S-Log2 in S-Gamut

The Shogun behaves normally. Earlier, I was seeing problems because I used Color Finesse, which is the problem, really. To know more, please read my detailed explanation in the Atomos Shogun Review.

I have deleted my earlier tests since they are irrelevant.

Bottom line, you can use the Wolfcrow system with the Shogun as well.

Results and Takeaways

  • Resolution and noise are similar between internal XAVC S and Prores
  • In all picture profiles, dynamic range is similar for XAVC S and Prores

Of course, this does not mean Prores doesn’t have its uses, which we’ll see in the next lesson.

How to expose correctly using the Atomos Shogun – S-Log2 4K

In this lesson we’ll learn how to expose S-Log2 in UHD using the Atomos Shogun.

The test is similar to what I used to explain the Picture profile modes, and I’ll be using a DSC Labs OneShot as reference. The lighting is pure halogen, custom white balanced at 2900K. The light is from the left that is why there is a small but negligible fall-off (the real world barely has zero fall-off).

The spot meter in the camera was measured within the large grey patch for exposure. Exposure settings are available in the first image.

Here are the results (click to enlarge):

SlogWCColorChart4K

Notes:

  • Look at the waveforms and vectorscope closely. You’ll see that the image in UHD has more ‘busy-ness’ than those found in 1080p S-Log2 (previous lesson – study the two side by side). Does this mean the uncompressed HDMI version has more information? We’ll look at this later in another lesson.
  • Everything else is similar to what we’ve seen earlier.

How to expose for S-Log2 UHD using the Atomos Shogun

It’s exactly the same as S-Log2 in 1080p:

  1. Use the wolfcrow system.
  2. Keep middle-grey at about 70 IRE and use 105 IRE to check for blown highlights. Use the waveform and/or zebra for this.
  3. Make sure the RGB parade lines up – this is a quick indicator of white balance issues. Forget the vectorscope.
  4. If using the false color, middle grey should be at ‘lightest grey’, and really dark skin should not fall below green. Avoid using the false color tool as a reference.

Click on the link below to the next lesson or head over to the main menu (above). If you need help with something, feel free to send me an email. I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

How to expose correctly using the Atomos Shogun – S-Log2

In this lesson we’ll learn how to expose S-Log2 using the Atomos Shogun.

The test is similar to what I used to explain the Picture profile modes, and I’ll be using a DSC Labs OneShot as reference. The lighting is pure halogen, custom white balanced at 2900K. The light is from the left that is why there is a small but negligible fall-off (the real world barely has zero fall-off).

The spot meter in the camera was measured within the large grey patch for exposure. Exposure settings are available in the first image.

Middle Exposure Test

First, we’ll expose S-Log2 for 0.0, or ‘middle-exposure’. Here are the results (click to enlarge):

Slog0

Notes:

  • Middle grey falls at about 35 IRE, which is fine. The theoretical middle grey is 32 IRE for S-Log2.
  • Color information is compressed so you can hardly see it on the Vectorscope! But the RGB parade tells us the information is there.
  • The zebras are useless, because they don’t go below 50 IRE.
  • The false color tools tells us middle grey is at ‘dark grey’ (24-43 IRE) and white is at ‘light grey’ to pink (54-60-ish IRE). There’s lots more room at the top!

Wolfcrow System Tests

Now we overexpose middle grey by three stops (+3), and these are the results of the wolfcrow system:

SlogWC

The same thing but the chart is not turned for the color patches (exposure is same, nothing has changed):SlogWCColorChart

Notes:

  • The spot meter is actually blinking at +2 and is three stops over.
  • The waveform tells us middle grey falls on 70 IRE, which is where it should be for the wolfcrow system. You can see that highlights have been clipped at 105 IRE. What is instructive is that the white patch is only showing about 95 IRE.
  • Under the color chart, the black is almost touching 20 IRE, which is where it should be.
  • The darkest skin patch lights up at Zebra 50 IRE, and the darkest skin will fall at above 40 IRE, as per the wolfcrow system. This actually will help with dark skin, which was impossible to pull of with the zebra on the A7s.
  • The Zebra at 70 shows up on the grey patch.
  • The false color tool shows the lightest grey on the grey patch (58-77 IRE). However, the blacks show up as black, instead of deep blue or purple. This must be a quirk!
  • Caucasian skin can creep into the yellow zone, though I would only advise this if the highlights are not blown out.

The false color tool is not always a precise tool for exposure, as we have seen earlier. It has its uses, but is more confusing than necessary.

The biggest problem is the fact that you can’t configure the false colors in the way you want, so it becomes very restrictive. Secondly, you can’t judge blown highlights (everything’s red!) and crushed blacks (why is it showing up as black?) very accurately as well.

Underexposing and blacks

Here’s how a scene would look like underexposed:UnderExposedRealworld

And here’s a scene totally underexposed:UnderExposed

You can see that the blacks are never truly black in S-Log2, and this was explained in the guide to exposing S-Log2.

What is strange is that the false color shows up as dark blue (2-8 IRE) here, but was showing up as black in the earlier tests. It never goes purple in S-Log2, and you never have to fear crushing the blacks.

Overexposing

When you overexpose, this is what the false color tool looks like:

OverExposedAs you can see, anything above 100 IRE is red, even though the A7s can go up to 105 IRE. You can’t judge blown highlights using this tool.

However, that doesn’t mean things are bad. Here’s the actual image (full UHD 1.5 MB) of the earlier test (click to enlarge):

ShogunActualUHDImage

 

Note, some level of color compression occurs because I had to compress to JPEG to reduce space. The actual image is way ‘smoother’ and totally filmic in its transitions.

You can actually allow this camera to blow out, and it handles it exceptionally well. Compare it to the sea of red in the earlier false color tool. Totally misleading.

Are there any image quality differences between the HDMI feed and the internal XAVC S?

No.

Some users and reviewers have stated that the Prores version is more contrasty. The A7s outputs a similar signal for both, and the Atomos Shogun even displays a matching waveform.

To know the details please refer to the Atomos Shogun review.

How to expose for S-Log2 using the Atomos Shogun

Here’s the easy way:

  1. Use the wolfcrow system.
  2. Keep middle-grey at about 70 IRE and use 105 IRE to check for blown highlights. Use the waveform and/or zebra for this.
  3. Make sure the RGB parade lines up – this is a quick indicator of white balance issues. Forget the vectorscope.
  4. If using the false color, middle grey should be at ‘lightest grey’, and really dark skin should not fall below green. Avoid using the false color tool as a reference.

Click on the link below to the next lesson or head over to the main menu (above). If you need help with something, feel free to send me an email. I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.