Shooting the Sony PXW-FS7 in CineEI Mode

Shooting the Sony PXW-FS7 in CineEI Mode

This is the second in a series, testing the Sony PXW-FS7 4K camera (part one here). I was shooting in Cincinnati’s Krohn Conservatory (much warmer, but I’m still indoors 🙂 ).  Much more light this time, not much to worry about regarding noise.

However, the very last shot in the clip below I used the Sony 28-135 wide open at f/4.0 and there was not enough light. Again I saw some noise. With a faster lens it likely would have been much less of a problem. Other than that shot, no noise. I am guessing FS7 owners may want to have the Sony a7S for when they need to shoot in low light.

These shots were all done in CineEI mode, which gives you no control over ISO or white balance. The Krohn shots also feature the Sony-Zeizz 24mm 1.8, the Metabones Speedbooster used with Canon EF 24-105 f/4L IS USM. I used the original Speedbooster which I own, not the ULTRA version which I don’t yet.

Now most people being sensible ask why move to 4K, you can hardly deliver in it. However, actually now you can deliver 4K with both YouTube and Vimeo. I happen to believe that the Internet is where folks in the future will be viewing all content. When iPhones and then iPads first came out few people thought they would take over the viewing of the Internet. Our stats are showing that now about 50% of all pageviews come from mobile devices. Projections suggest that by 2017 the rate will expand to 70%.

Similarly 4K viewing will increase, but at a much slower rate. Of course you either need a 4K TV or 4K monitor to view 4K content and that will take more time to penetrate than a new mobile platform like the iPad as it involves replacement costs more than acquisition. If you have been in Best Buy lately you’ll see that 4K is everywhere, so my guess is that more and more folks will be buying 4K in the future.

If you want to deliver in 1080p, you can still shoot in 4K and use 4K for cropping or image stabilization. After I did a quick edit of the Krohn 4K project, I resized the entire project to 1080p. I selected all of the clips and did one massive Auto image stabilization in FCPX, no tweaking. You’ll see that it certainly helped the handheld footage, and contributed very little warping, etc., since there was so much room for FCPX to play with inside the constraints of a 3840 pixel wide image. I would think some judicious tweaking of the stabilization setting would fix any warping or distortion that you may see.

The Krohn experiment was just a quick test for me to learn the CineEI mode of shooting, with Cine Slog3. Only later did I think anyone else might want to look at it. You’ll see my FCPX graded images followed by 4 second versions of how the original came out of the camera.

When using the CineEI mode with a LUT, you lose the on screen monitors. No waveform, histogram, or vectorscope. However, the tiny waveform monitor is not really that great anyway, so using the Rec 709(800%) MLUT on the VF only seems to be the easiest method. Pretty much what you see is what you get. Another way to do this on the job is send 1080p out of one of the SDI ports and view the footage with a Convergent Design 7Q Monitor/Recorder. It is great because you can see what the ungraded footage looks like using the 7Q, the LUT on the camera VF, and then on the 7Q you can hit the LUT button and show your client what it looks like. You don’t want clients having to look at Cine Slog3 footage, they won’t be able to understand it.

One last warning: working in 4K takes real CPU and GPU horsepower. Editing 4K is basically the same as editing 4 HD streams at once. You need a Mac Pro if you can get one. With a fast Mac you won’t notice much of a slowdown. However, I found even with a fast system rendering large effects can take a while, and exporting to YouTube and Vimeo take a little bit of time as FCPX transcodes before uploading. Rendering can really take time if you use a de-noiser plugin like Neat Video.

A word about noise: Since CineEI does no noise removal in camera (while Custom mode gives you 3 flavors of de-noise), you basically want to avoid noise by watching your exposure and keeping it about 1-2 stops away from danger. All the information will be there in the XAVC-I codec and you will be able to crush the blacks in post without losing highlight detail with this method. If you need to de-noise CineEI footage you will need to do it in post. Historically I have used De:Noise which now uses GPU processing and is a little faster than Neat. Neat Video has some pretty good advanced controls, so for now I am sticking with it when needed.

The Sony XAVC codec is a breeze to work with in FCPX. I import directly and don’t worry about converting to Prores optimized footage. When viewing the footage below, take the time to download the original 4K files.

My takeaways:
1.) I think that auto focus should be reserved for run and gun only, as 4K needs critical focus and that can only be done manually.
2.) Use a tripod… camera motion at 4K is annoying.
3.) Shoot in CineEI mode to get the most out of the camera, without going to the raw option as that will require more work in Resolve. The XAVC-Intra codec works great in FCPX.
4.) Keep the camera out of low light or at least have fast lenses to compensate.

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