Category Archives: DataLUT

A Comparison of Noise Reduction Techniques for Log footage

If you don’t follow the wolfcrow system, you will end up with noise. If you underexpose, you will find yourself frustrated by the quality of your images. In this article and video we’ll go over the noise reduction options in Adobe After Effects, Photoshop and Adobe Premiere Pro (via Neat Video).

Noise reduction

What are we looking for? Which method offers:

  • The best noise reduction without a major loss in detail (resolution)?
  • The best preservation of edge contrast (acutance) without the introduction of additional noise or loss in resolution?
  • Better chroma noise reduction?
  • The least amount of additional sharpening required?
  • The fastest turnarounds in terms of CPU/GPU usage, and
  • The fastest workflows for busy editors and colorists?
  • Best return on investment.

The softwares I wanted to add to this comparison, but didn’t, are: Speedgrade (poor noise reduction, already tested earlier in another video), Davinci Resolve Studio (I don’t own it, and Lite does not have NR), and Digital Vision DVO Grain (arguably the best noise reduction plugin available, but expensive).

Noise reduction methods

All noise reduction algorithms work similarly. The basic steps are:

  • Create a noise profile from the footage.
  • Apply noise reduction – global, luma-only, chroma-only, channel-wise, temporal, etc. This varies vastly from algorithm to algorithm.
  • Tweak according to taste – there’s a lot of subjectivity when it comes to noise. Many people like film-like grain. I hate it!
  • Re-introduce detail by sharpening, etc.

Should you color grade before noise reduction or after?

Based on what I know about image processing, I’d go for after. Not because it is fundamentally better (it isn’t), it’s because if you make a mistake and discover noise while grading, you’d have to do it again. However, there is also a strong case for applying noise reduction prior to grading, for two reasonable reasons:

  • Preparation of footage beforehand so you can work in realtime with demanding clients. Noise reduction really brings even high-end heavy iron systems to their knees.
  • More accurate colors because you will get rid of color casts caused by chroma noise, etc., before you grade. It’s a ‘visual’ thing.

Finally, what’s the best way to get the least noise? Avoid it when you shoot! Of course, that’s not an option for an editor or colorist. You must work with what you get.

Comparison of noise reduction techniques for log footage

The tools I’ve used for this comparison are:

  • Remove grain + Extract in Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) in Adobe Photoshop
  • Neat Video + Extract (if required) in Adobe Premiere Pro

I’m aware of other plugins that compete with Neat Video, and I’m sure they do well under certain situations. I will test them individually later, this video is long enough as it is!

Here’s my humble comparison:

Notes:

  • Via the wolfcrow system, we know anything below 40 IRE will have noise by default (only true of S-Log2 shot on the a7S, a7S II and a7R II). This is why we use Extract, to isolate only those regions that need noise reduction. The same methodology can be applied to other sensors, but the numbers will change.
  • The 40 IRE rule does not take into account the noise introduced by high ISOs, which is different. But then again, that noise is all over the image, so masking isn’t going to help much. This is what we’ve done in the third clip, shot at 51K ISO or higher.
  • I don’t think you can load ACR in After Effects with video footage, but I could be wrong.
  • Neat Video is GPU accelerated. I’ve used version 4 for this demo. You can also get this plugin for After Effects, Resolve, Scratch, Mistika and others. Check their website for details.

Conclusion and takeaways

Here’s a chart that puts things in perspective:

Feature Remove Grain/AE ACR/Photoshop Neat Video
Luma noise reduction Not potent enough Not bad Excellent
Contrast and sharpness Good Excellent Excellent
Color noise reduction Unacceptable Excellent Excellent
Need for additional sharpening Not much Yes Sometimes
Computer usage Very poor Very good Excellent
Workflow for complex projects Passable Poor Excellent
Price Free Free Worth it

The bottom line is there’s nothing like Neat Video for the Sony a7S II, a7R II and a7S, which is also affordable. I’m aware of other plugins that claim to come close, and I’m sure they do well under certain situations. But Neat Video has been around for a long time and is very stable, fast and ubiquitous in most post houses. It’s a secret weapon. You (or your clients) either seriously need noise reduction or you don’t. If you do, Neat Video it is.

Look, I didn’t start out this comparison to extoll Neat Video (to be honest I was hoping I could do a good job with Remove Grain, and this is the first time I’ve ever used Neat Video), but I can’t deny the results. It’s drastically superior to the others.

I’m probably going to pick up a license soon, but first I will evaluate its competitors, and will publish my results in my guide. Is there anything better than Neat Video? Yes, DVO Grain by Digital Vision is the undisputed king of the noise reduction world, but I don’t have first hand experience with it.

 

Comparison of Film Emulation LUTs – Filmconvert vs Magic Bullet Film vs Juan Malera’s Free LUTs

In this article I compare three cool film emulation LUT software specifically to footage from the Sony A7s – in Rec. 709 and S-Log2. The three apps are:

I also wanted to try VisionColor but couldn’t find a free demo.

Points of comparison

As I’ve mentioned in the video (below), there’s no point comparing film emulation software based on color accuracy, but there are things we can look for:

  • It should preserve the dynamic range of your footage. If it reduces the dynamic range, then something’s wrong. To be fair, the conversion from log or RAW from 12 stops or more to the 6 stops in Rec. 709 reduces dynamic range. But then what’s the point of shooting Log or RAW? If you’re shooting Rec. 709 or a preset similar to it, then at the very least no dynamic range should be lost.
  • It must preserve the tonal range – if there’s banding or clipping or a lack of smooth tones, there’s a problem.
  • It should allow you to control grain. Some people prefer organic grain structure to mathematically created Gaussian grain.
  • It must allow you to make color correction changes after the LUT has been applied. LUTs by definition are definitive, but are not guaranteed to work automatically.
  • It must keep the look consistent across an entire sequence of shots. After all, matching shots is the most tedious part of color grading.
  • It must have a simple workflow and should support many editing and grading applications; and finally,
  • It should support the cameras and formats you are using. If a LUT has been designed with a specific set of criteria, then it will be the most accurate.

With these in mind, let’s watch the comparison.

Comparison: Filmconvert vs Magic Bullet Film vs Juan’s LUTs

Here’s the video:

Download Video

Notes:

  • I shot the tests in Rec. 709, S-Log2 standard (18% grey is 32 IRE), and S-Log2 wolfcrow system (18% grey is 60-70 IRE).
  • In the two-shot matching test, I forgot to expose the S-Log2 version of my close up one and a half stops over to account for the window, but the other two shots are fine.
  • In the shots exposed using the wolfcrow system, I used the S-Log2 +1 setting in filmconvert and brought down the exposure by roughly 0.50 to get it to look right.
  • I’ve reduced the grain on some shots, specifically the PIRD 600, in the two-shot matching sequence.
  • None of the film LUTs preserve skin hues, and they have to be corrected.
  • S-Log2 in standard exposure is already quite noisy, as explained in the wolfcrow system.
  • I was tempted to try filmconvert + Juan’s LUTs against Magic Bullet Film using the same stock, but I’ll leave that tedious task for someone else.

References:

All copyrights, logos and trademarks belong to their legal owners. Images and snippets only taken for educational purposes:

All film footage videos from Youtube

Juan’s LUTs: http://juanmelara.com.au/print-film-emulation-luts-for-download/

Darkness in a film theater, from Roger Ebert’s site: http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/the-dying-of-the-light

Color vs Slide reference: http://wwwca.kodak.com/CA/en/consumer/guideToBetterPictures/eStores/index.jhtml?style=&cat=3&subCat=1

Dynamic range of films stocks:http://www.dantestella.com/technical/dynamic.html

About film stocks:

Kodak Tri-X: http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/products/films/bw/triX2.jhtml

Kodak TMAX: http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/products/films/bw/tMax400.jhtml?pq-path=13399

Kodak Porta: http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/products/films/portra/400main.jhtml

Kodak 2383 dynamic range from Digital Cinematography: Fundamentals, Tools, Techniques, and Workflows By David Stump via Google

Kodak 2383 print film: http://motion.kodak.com/motion/uploadedFiles/US_plugins_acrobat_en_motion_products_lab_h12383t.pdf

Kodak Vision3 5207: http://www.motion.kodak.com/motion/uploadedFiles/Kodak/motion/Products/Camera_Films/Color_Negative/tech_data/TI5207.pdf

Fuji Velvia 50: http://www.fujifilm.com/products/professional_films/color_reversalfilms/velvia_50/#overview

Kodak motion picture videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbxEq4HrFy8F9CyrUiXPAMw

To buy Tri-X film for video, click here.

Why I chose the specific LUTs for review

Here are the LUTs chosen, with the reasons:

Filmconvert:

  • Kodak 5207 – because I liked it better of the two Kodak LUTs
  • Fuji 8553 ET – because of all the LUTs in all the apps this is by far the most pleasing to my eye. Fuji Eternia was renowned for giving the most naturalistic look and colors. Too bad the LUTs don’t adhere to that reputation.
  • Kodak P400 (Porta) – because Porta gives beautiful colors in still photography, and I wanted to see how it would look. I’m not impressed.
  • Pird* 600 (Polaroid) – This ‘red-tinted’ look seems to be the rage nowadays, and to be honest after the Fuji LUT this is the most interesting to me. I did spend some time playing with it, though I can’t imagine using it for more than one project, ever.

Magic Bullet Film:

  • Kodak 5207 + 2383 – because I wanted this to be a fair comparison
  • Fuji 8553 + 2383 – same reason as above

Juan’s LUTs:

  • Kodak 2383 print stock with Luminance mapping. I chose luminance mapping because it preserves the greatest dynamic range for log material.
  • Fuji 3513 – just as a variation, there’s no direct comparison to anything else on this list.

I did not bother with black and white stocks because they gave terrible results when compared to the real thing.

*Many film LUTs are given with pseudo-names possibly to avoid trademark problems.

If you want a free online film emulator, try this: http://29a.ch/film-emulator/ – though it only allows you to download the finished image. I believe the LUTs are open source and you can find them yourself.

My personal thoughts

Deep breath. It’s impossible to compare LUTs for generic situations. It’s like finding stock music – you listen to hundreds and you find what you like. Then you continue listening.

I really like how Magic Bullet Film allows you to grade in one plugin, and it offers many variations. However, it doesn’t do one thing well – it doesn’t take into account the camera and format you are shooting on. For this reason, I’d say Filmconvert is the most versatile tool if you just want to slap on a LUT and make some minor tweaks. It is also the best tool among these three for the Sony A7s.

Like I said in the video, I am not a fan of LUTs as finishing or grading tools, and I will not be using them on any project. After all, I don’t want my work looking like everyone else’s.

How to work with XAVC S S-Log2 Footage in Final Cut Pro X

In this lesson we’ll take a detailed look at working with XAVC S S-Log2 material in FCP-X. I’ll be covering:

  • Importing
  • Using the built-in S-Log2 LUT
  • Grading
  • Shot matching
  • Exporting

If you’re absolutely new to FCP-X, then please start by watching my primer on importing, exporting and data management:

Here’s the workflow for XAVC S S-Log2 in Final Cut Pro X:

Download Video

And here’s the completed one-minute sequence (I shot more than an hour of material, and this is just a five shot sample):

Notes and Takeaways:

  • The built-in S-Log2 feature only works if you have exposed to middle gray. Using the wolfcrow system, it will not work.
  • The shot matching will not work with the wolfcrow system. You must grade manually.
  • Obviously I made a mistake in scaling the finished sequence in Vimeo. The original aspect ratio is 2:1.

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 Edit XAVC S Footage

XAVC S is basically H.264 rewrapped to be simpler to edit, as compared to AVCHD. That’s it, really.

Should you transcode?

There is no need to transcode XAVC S to Prores or DNxHD any other codec. Its quality is sufficient for most kinds of productions, even features. If you need extreme grading (like a lot of secondary corrections, masks, LUTs over grades, compositing etc.) then it might be preferable to transcode to TIFF, DPX or OpenEXR, depending on your preference.

What about Prores or DNxHD? We’ll deal with that in another lesson when we look at external recorders. I prefer to use them as acquisition formats, especially Prores. Of course, if you’re creating proxies, Prores Proxy is fine.

As mentioned in the previous module, I would never use any codec other than XAVC S. Not only is editing easier with XAVC S, it also offers the highest data rate and most robust video file to push in post production. The camera does allow dual recording, though I’m not sure why anyone would use that. Even if I wanted to create dailies on the fly, I’d prefer H.264 in 1080p. The pixel aspect ratio of MP4 makes it useless for this purpose – though you could use them if you don’t have a problem with it.

Here’s a list of NLEs that support XAVC S, AVCHD and MP4:

  • Adobe Premiere Pro CC 7.0 onwards
  • Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.0.x via the Sony PDZK-LT2 plugin
  • Avid Media Composer 7 via the third party plugin MediaReactor Workstation from Drastic Technologies, $495 (Sony PDZK-MA2 plugin only supports XAVC, not XAVC S)
  • Grass Valley Edius Pro 7
  • Sony Vegas Pro 12
  • Autodesk Smoke 2014 onwards
  • Editshare Lightworks Pro 11

No matter which NLE you choose, editing Sony A7s footage is a breeze. I use Adobe Premiere Pro, and all I do is drag and drop the footage (or Import…) and edit. Done. Nothing else required. Even on an iMac with an i5 processor and 8 GB RAM, I have never found any hiccups.

What drive setup to use?

You will never need more than one hard drive (no need for RAID 0) for real-time playback. Even a portable 2.5″ platter drive via USB 3.0 delivers 65 MB/s or about 10 streams of 50 Mbps XAVC in 1080p. However, depending on the kind of projects you do, you’ll need a better setup.

For 1080p work

If you are looking for a cheap but faster drive, I highly recommend the HGST Touro S 1 TB 7,200 rpm drive. It does about 120 MB/s. You can connect 2-4 of these via a USB 3.0 hub like the Transcend TS-HUB3K or similar (which also deliver external power to the drives so you don’t have to worry). If you want, you could RAID them via software RAID. No need for expensive systems at all!

For 4K/UHD

As far as 4K is concerned, the story is different. Prores HQ 4K runs about 110 MB/s. A fast 7,200 rpm drive will not cut it when you add titles, grades, etc. Therefore, real-time editing and playback demands RAID 0 (at least 3-4 drives) or an SSD via USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt.

If you’re doing small 5-15 minute projects (finished length), then four of the Touro S drives in RAID 0 should work fine. If you’re shooting longer projects like feature-length movies or documentaries, you need larger drives. In this case, I suggest the G-technology G-Speed 4-bay series in RAID 0. It goes up to 16 TB if you want it to. E.g., if you’re shooting a 90 minute movie with a shooting ratio of 20:1 you’ll need only 12 TB.

That’s all as far as editing XAVC S is concerned. It cannot get any simpler than H.264 and/or Prores!

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.

A complete S-Log2 grading walkthrough in Adobe Speedgrade

In this lesson we’ll learn how to grade S-Log2 material.

What you need to know before grading

Grading S-Log2 is pretty easy and fun. The footage holds up well. I have not had any banding or posterization.

There are two ways to grade S-Log2 footage:

  • Use LUTs
  • Grade from scratch

Here’s my honest opinion: Use the latter system in grading. Applying LUTs/presets/effects without knowing what they’re doing is why most people get crappy banding and noise. Some important notes:

  • Always grade in a 32-bit float environment. Speedgrade, Resolve, After Effects, etc., all provide a 32-bit environment.
  • There is an official S-Log2 to Rec. 709 LUT by Sony, but it applies to the gamut of the Sony F55 camera, and doesn’t look all that good with A7s footage. I would NEVER use it.
  • All other LUTs are crap for A7s S-Log2 footage. Use the Cine profiles instead.

Overall, the footage from the Sony A7s in XAVC S-Log2 is very filmic.

Adobe Speedgrade Walkthrough

Follow my lead as I grade S-Log2 material in Adobe Speedgrade. You can use the same principles in any color grading software. I’ve made it as simple as possible so everyone can follow along:

Just in case you missed it, here’s the final graded Annakotta (Elephant Fort) sequence:

Download Video

In the next lesson you’ll find a printable flowchart on how to handle XAVC S!

FAQs

These are important topics raised by subscribers that shed more light on this lesson.

Q. What’s wrong with 3rd-party LUTs?

A. Third party LUTs are popular because they let you deliver good quality work faster to your clients. This is important in the video industry, where there is cut-throat competition. This is perfectly acceptable, and even desirable. However, anybody can do this – your work will look like everyone else’s.

And what happens when you buy a newer camera? You are still dependent on more LUTs and shortcuts. What if you learn to grade, and create your own LUTs? A little effort today will give you the confidence to use any camera in the future. It’s like using a calculator for a math exam – we weren’t allowed to use them, but I kept thinking: What’s the problem? People in the real world use them, don’t they? But of course, today, I get it – I can do the math in my head faster than it takes to reach out for a calculator and punch in the numbers.

Q. Can you use LUTs with picture profiles other than S-Log2?

A. You don’t want to!

When using one of the cine profiles, the look is already ‘baked in’. If you don’t like the look, you have two choices:

  • Tweak the profile as I’ve explained here, or
  • Shoot S-Log2 and use a LUT. This way, you can have more DR and better noise characteristics.

There’s a serious level of math going on in 3D LUTs, so here’s a rule of thumb – when working with LUTs, always opt for the highest “data-option”. In the case of the A7s, the data is the same, but S-Log2 and 800% offer the flattest profiles with the most information.

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 create dailies and work with LUTs using DaVinci Resolve

Watch the tutorial to see how easily DaVinci Resolve handles XAVC S:

Download Video

Important:

DaVinci Resolve does not support audio form the XAVC S at this time. So, if your dailies or transcoding needs do not include dual system audio (more later), then this won’t work for you.

Bottom Line

As far as free software is concerned, you can’t find many apps (if at all) that can beat DaVinci Resolve at logging, editing, grading and transcoding for field use. To really make it shine, make sure your laptop or computer has a dedicated GPU.

Unfortunately, neither of the two free apps are totally ‘worthy’. Catalyst Browse can’t batch transcode, and Resolve can’t take audio. The only ‘cheap’ piece of software that bridges this problem (but doesn’t have the LUT creation feature set!) is EditReady, which retails for $49.99.

FAQs

These are important topics raised by subscribers that shed more light on this lesson.

Q. How would we match footage from the Panasonic GH4 with the A7s?

A.You can match any two cameras by using a color chart.

I had spent an entire day testing my A7s with a friend’s GH4 in a studio. We then looked at both in Resolve in a color grading suite. I can assure you, they grade fine and will match in post. I would ‘fix the look’ with the GH4 because it has the weaker codec, and then probably use 800% Hypergamma as the picture profile in the A7s.

I would then use Resolve to match color charts, or use the Match looks function in Speedgrade. Where I would be careful though, is in resolution and noise. If you shoot in 4K in the GH4, the images will look crisp, though by default sharpening is low on the A7s.

Secondly, I would expose the GH4 normally, and use the wolfcrow system to expose S-Log2 on the A7s. Hypergamma shouldn’t be pushed that much, but I’d still overexpose by 1-2 stops to keep noise levels to match the GH4. Camera matching can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be, depending on your subject and delivery needs.

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 create dailies and work with LUTs using Catalyst Browse

Please watch the review of Catalyst Browse before you watch this quick tutorial:

Download Video

Important:

Sony’s free Catalyst Browse software product is currently not capable of batch transcoding of XAVC-S. It can only transcode one clip at a time.

Ian Cook from Sony Broadcast and Professional Services posted a short message on the Avid forum stating that he was working to get batch transcoding back into the Browse product.

What would I use it for?

I wouldn’t use Catalyst Browse as a replacement to ingest and logging software like Prelude, Onset Dailies, Resolve, etc. At this point it is too limited, though with future revisions things might change.

It is good for quick transcoding to Prores (only on Macs) and for the creation of LUTs that you can import in other software. The format is the standard *.cube 3D LUT. As mentioned in the last lesson, Browse is a good backup to Resolve, though Resolve has issues too.

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.

Sony Catalyst Browse review: What’s it good for?

Sony Catalyst Browse is a free software available for Macs and PCs. Here’s my review (version 1.0.2):

Important:

Sony’s free Catalyst Browse software product is currently not capable of batch transcoding of XAVC-S. It can only transcode one clip at a time.

Ian Cook from Sony Broadcast and Professional Services posted a short message on the Avid forum stating that he was working to get batch transcoding back into the Browse product

You can download it here: http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/catalystbrowse

You can find Sony Catalyst Prepare here: http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/catalystprepare

What’s the difference between Browse and Prepare?

In Sony’s words:

With Catalyst Browse, the user can:

  • Browse — Quickly browse the files on your device using a thumbnail view or detailed list.
  • View — See the details of each clip, check focus, mark in and out points, adjust colors, and edit metadata.
  • Fast Copy — Copy all clips on the media, a subset, or only the desired portion of a clip to save time and space.
  • Ultra Wide Color Gamut — Review with confidence the full range of color captured by your S-Log and RAW Sony cameras. Apply color looks, and import/export standard ASC-CDL files with other workflow tools to save time.
  • Clip Lists — Create, import, and export Sony Professional Disc clip lists for quick play-out needs.
  • Transcode and Cloud Upload — Transcode clips to the most popular video production formats. Upload clips directly to the Sony Ci media cloud for collaborative team review.

Catalyst Prepare, built on Catalyst Browse functionality, revolutionizes the post-production workflow with a variety of advanced features, including:

  • Import — Quickly view and import clips from the latest professional cameras, including Sony, Canon, GoPro, and others.
  • Organize — Organization is key: Prepare gives you the ability to organize your media into targeted, meaningful collections.
  • Edit — View the details, zoom into every corner, mark In/Out, edit metadata, adjust colors non-destructively, and create a storyboard to rough draft your vision.
  • Export — Export a file, a group of files, or a storyboard. Render to .MP4, DPX, OpenEXR, ACES, ProRes (Mac only), or XAVC in a variety of resolutions and frame rates, or upload to the cloud via Sony Ci media cloud for collaborative team review.
  • Confident Backup — Back up the entire camera media with the confidence of checksum verification.
  • Ultra Wide Color Gamut — Work with the same wide color gamut as your camera. Set the source color space and the grade color space independently. Grade in Rec.709, Log, or ACES.
  • Create a Rough Cut — Use the storyboard editor to sequence and edit a rough cut, then render the storyboard or export it to a variety of NLEs.

The points marked in red highlight the critical differences – the ones that matter in the real world.

Bottom Line

I think Catalyst Browse is a neat piece of software with tremendous potential. It runs like butter, so in that regard it is more laptop friendly than DaVinci Resolve. A dedicated GPU is helpful. I would use it as backup to Resolve, though Resolve has its own sets of issues.

Doesn’t hurt to have two free software on your system!

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.

File Organization and Metadata

In this lesson I’ll walk you through the file organization and metadata capabilities of the Sony A7s.

SD Card folder structure

The A7s records stills, AVCHD, MP4 and XAVC S. Each has its own folder path. This is what it looks like:

FolderStructureTopLevel

And here’s the exploded view:

FolderStructureExploded

The Yellow folder, DCIM, is for stills. You can create sub-folders within it (next section). The green folder, MP_ROOT, is for MP4 only, and it can also hold sub-folders.

XAVC S is stored under PRIVATE > M4ROOT > CLIP

AVCHD files are all under that one ‘file’ called AVCHD:

AVCHDFiles

You have to open it in Quicktime (or another app) to view the contents inside. It’s a messy way to work, which was why I recommended you avoid AVCHD.

The thumbnails for video footage are stored in the THMBNL folder.

This structure is fixed and cannot be changed. All video footage, regardless of codec, is stored in a *.MP4 wrapper. RAW stills are in the proprietary *.ARW wrapper, and JPEGs are in *.JPG.

File organization capability in camera

The menu for file organization can be found here:

SelectFolderMain

File Number selects how you want to ‘start’ numbering your files. You have two options:

FileNumber

Select REC Folder allows you to select which folder to record to:SelectFolder

Unfortunately, you can only record stills and MP4 files into folders, and not XAVC S! What a shame.

To finish off, you can assign two sets of folder names: Foldername

For stills:

  • the standard form follows this system: xxxMSDCF
  • the date form follows this system: xxxxMMDD, where MM is the month and DD is the date.

For MP4, whatever you create becomes xxxANV01. x is a digit.

Important: When you delete clips in-camera, newer shots will first be written to these serial numbers before carrying on. E.g., if you have five clips called 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, and decide to delete 2 and 3. When you press record, the next clip will NOT be called 6, but 2. The next one after that will be called 3, and the next one after that will be called 6, and so on. Confusing, so be careful when you delete clips in camera.

Either way, except for shooting stills, the folder organization system is pretty much useless.

One system of setting up folders for better organization

Since you can’t organize your clips in camera, the only way is to do it while you are ingesting (copying to a hard drive).

The traditional system is to divide each day into scenes or setups. Large scale productions might also still follow the REEL format, but that is beyond the scope of 99% of all productions.

In your hard drive, create a DATE folder, and within it, store a SCENE folder. Under the SCENE folder you can store a SETUP folder, for each shot angle or setup. Within this you have the takes specific for that setup. This is what it’ll look like:

DriveFolderStructure

You must replace DATE with the actual date, in a standard format like YYYY-MM-DD or whatever. Scene numbers can range from 1 to 100 or more, depending on the scale of the production. If you know you’re going to end up with 400 scenes (documentaries are a good example), then you can start with 001. If you know you’ll reach 1000, start with 0001.

The same principle applies to the SETUP and SHOT number. In case of the SHOT number, you must ideally follow what has been laid down in the shooting script, as that’s what the director will refer to later. Sometimes shots are made up on the fly, so you must use your best judgement. Ultimately, follow what the director or AD recommends.

You will then rename takes on-the-fly, on first viewing, for easier reference:

DriveFolderStructureRenamed

You can also name takes with descriptions, like Good or NG (Not Good) or whatever. The more information you put in here, the easier editing gets.

Finally, on top level, you have PRODUCTION, if you’re shooting more than one gig at a time. You can also create a CAMERA xxx folder if you’re shooting multi-cam, etc. Every production has different needs. You must find a system that works for you and anyone who has to use your media down the chain. There is no perfect solution that applies to every case.

It is pointless to Reset the file number in camera, since there is no reference to it anyway. E.g., you might forget to reset it once or twice in the heat of the moment. Why bother with the aggravation? Avoid it completely, and do it in Finder or Explorer or your preferred ingest application (Prelude, On-set Dailies, Resolve, etc.).

Metadata capabilities of the Sony A7s

In the above image, you will have seen that the A7s writes XML metadata sidecar files. What’s in them? Here’s a peek (click to enlarge):

XMLinside

The yellow box shows the frame count, and the red box displays the frame rate. Below that you have the start and end frame count. The data in  green highlights the date and time. Underneath that you have the camera identification information.

That’s it. Even without this XML sidecar, any NLE can find this information because it is basically in the MP4 wrapper itself. For this reason, you might want to delete all XML files to avoid clutter. Unless a future firmware update includes more helpful info, they are redundant.

As you can see, the file organization and metadata capabilities of the Sony A7s are rudimentary at best, so you’re on your own.

From the next lesson onwards, we’ll look at how to create dailies and LUTs, and then tackle a full-blown grading workflow.

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.