Picture profiles on the Sony NEX-FS100

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PHILIP BLOOM:

The Sony NEX-FS100 is a powerful camera. Amazing image, great price. I am not a fan of the design as I find it awkward as hell but you get used to it! It’s damn fiddly to operate but everytime I use it I am wowed by the image and that is the most important thing. 

I have asked FS100 owner James Miller, who assists me on many shoots and is also a great cameraman in his own right to take a look at picture profiles for the camera. I used the Frank Glencairn one one my last FS100 shoot and was very pleased with the results. Richard Crook from Crooked Path Films has recently come up with his own. James Looks at both of these and after that Richard Crook himself explains how he created his profile and why below.

JAMES MILLER:

I imagine that in the coming months camera manufactures will be shipping all cameras with a Log profile or at least a pseudo version of one. Until that time we will have to settle with our own attempts to manipulate the profiles as best as we can. In this blog I am reviewing a small selection of some of these profiles.

Disclaimer:

The images in this post are not scientific, but I have tried to control the shot across the profiles so the conditions are the same. Please don’t rely on one of these profiles for a paying job, test out before committing and be aware you may need to hold different profile creations for different scenarios.

Whats wrong with the built in ‘off’ default profile?

Nothing is inherently wrong, technically the camera is set up to try and give you a balanced image across the board. But there is something aesthetically missing from this. It’s plasticky looking, artificial, video like. It wasn’t that long ago that we were all trying to make our DV videos look like film, and customising the profile is one way to get as far away as possible from the video look and at the same time maximising on the available latitude the camera can render

Of course these days folk around here like to colourise, grade, balance their footage wether it be to match another camera setup or to bring a feeling or a certain look into the shot.

What flat profiles are out there? 

There are a few profiles for the FS100 floating around, I myself have created numerous versions, some good and some truly terrible ones.

There’s ‘G-Log’ and variants from Frank Glencairn, pseudo based log profiles and recently ‘CPF-LOG’ from Crooked Path Films, again a flat log based profile but not as flat as Franks. And theres mine the MMLOG, created whilst testing for this post. (Links to all at the bottom of this post)

The one thing you have to remember is that one profile doesn’t have to do it all, used different profiles for various situations.

Really profiles needs to cater for these types of scenarios:

• Bright sunshine with a blue sky. 

• Cloudy & overcast.

• Dusk, light falling.

• Interior, tungsten lighting.

It’s not a good idea trying to set up a profile under tungsten lights and hope it will perform well in bright sunny weather as it probably won’t. It’s a case of trial and error. I like my profiles to have a certain aesthetic quality, a filmic look a profile that suits me, and thats whats its all about. Don’t be afraid to play, you need to know the boundaries of your camera and what it can do just remember to have a profile to fall back on when you mess it all up 😉

How do I install the profiles?

it’s as simple as pressing the ‘Picture Profile’ button on the side and selecting a profile and following each of the settings one by one as listed here or on the creators website. It’s a good idea to check here or their websites from time to time as I know Glen has updated his G-Log a few times.

The preset profiles can all be used, you just need to note the number and its profile for reference.

What to look out for in creating or using custom profiles.

Really you need to create a profile for each of the scenarios above as you come across them for the best results. Your may find that the profile that looks great at dusk may work well under tungsten lighting.

• Highlight detail, how it rolls into the mid tones, how intense over exposed tungsten light looks, is it too yellow and flat?

• Blue skies are they really natural? are the blues blue or cyan/aqua, with a touch of yellow or purple. Gamma tones and Color Modes will effect this dramatically, you may think you have nailed a great profile only to find out it looks terrible when the skies clear.

• Whats the profile like when you turn up the gain or exposure? you really need to look at 100% pixel size on an external display for this.

• Over expose your image and see on what point you are holding information in the highlights and midtones. Cycle through your profiles to see the differences in noise levels.

• Look out for is shadow clipping. You may get a profile looking great in strong daylight with sun and shadows but try to use this profile later in the day when the sun has set and it’s most likely that your shadows will be clipping. Look at the histogram display on your built in screen to judge if you are clipping the shadows.

• Look for distant tree branches against a sky to gauge resolution detail and highlight holding power. Some profiles will actually lower the quality of the shot, similar to a lower recording bitrate. If in doubt open the rewrapped clips in photoshop or similar and zoom into them at 100% switching between shots and different profiles.

• Watch out for the detail setting it’s brushed over and tendencies are to drop the sharpness all the way down like a DSLR. But is this best all the time? I have found not with this cameras AVCHD codec I have to keep sharpness up just above 0 sometimes unto +4. Again run some tests but too low and your in danger of muddying the picture and then post sharpness is then not fully achievable. Try and use a monitor that show 1:1 pixel to really judge the settings. You want to avoid high levels of fake USM (unsharp masking) effects where detail lines have light and dark lines around the object.

Your find as the light falls to dusk and the sun has gone down the more forgiving and usable the profiles are.

This camera is very sensitive to high contrast scenes, you really have to watch for blown highlights as especially specular highlights that may aliase with jaggies.

If your handing over your rushes to a client you will need to make sure they know what you have used. They may not want a flat profile and giving them one may cause more hassle than its worth. Last thing you want is to scare your clients with dull looking shots. Additionally they may not be aware what detail they can recover from the highs and shadows so bear this in mind whilst shooting high contrast scenes.

Here are the profiles used in the test shots.

(Of course there are many other profiles this is just the latest creations)

All shots recorded at 5200k and gain ranging from 0db to 24db

 

G-LOG: http://frankglencairn.wordpress.com

G-LOG A 1.1:

Black Level: +15

Gamma Standard

Black Gamma: middle, +7

Knee: 80, -2

Color Mode: ITO709, +8

Color Level -2

Color Phase -7

Color Depth: R+6, G 0, B+6, C+5, M+6, Y+5

WB-Shift: LB-5, CC+2

Detail -6

(Not shown in tests)

G-LOG B 1.1:

Black Level: +11

Gamma Cinematone1

Black Gamma: High, +7

Knee: 90, +2

Color Mode: Cinematone2, +8

Color Level -2

Color Phase -7

Color Depth: R+6, G +2, B+6, C+5, M+6, Y+5

WB-Shift: LB-5, CC+2

Detail -6

———————————

CPF-LOG: http://www.crookedpathfilms.com

CPF-LOG: http://www.crookedpathfilms.com/Sharing/CPF-LOG_NEX-FS100.pdf

 

Crooked path use a LUT just for in camera profile to set exposure and lighting to go with their flat profile.

Follow the links above for more details.

 

CPF-LOG:

Black Level: +8

Gamma Standard

Black Gamma: low, -3

Knee: 80, -2

Color Mode: Cinematone1, +8

Color Level 0

Color Phase -5

Color Depth: R-4, G+2, B+3, C 0, M+2, Y+2

WB-Shift: LB-3, CC-3

R Gain -1

B Gain +1

Detail (No Manual) -7

 

———————————

General flat LOG profile:

MMPP1:

Black Level: +4

Gamma Standard

Black Gamma: high, +7

Knee: 80, -1

Color Mode: Pro, +8

Color Level -1

Color Phase -1

Color Depth: R+5, G-4, B+2, C+1, M-1, Y-1

WB-Shift: LB-3, CC-1

Detail +4 Type3 Limit 7

 

My Personal Favourite (I’m totally biased 🙂 )

Filmic Grade, Punchy (care needed in exposure)

MMPP2:

Black Level: +11

Gamma Cinematone2

Black Gamma: high, +7

Knee: 75, -1

Color Mode: Cinematone2, +8

Color Level -1

Color Phase +1

Color Depth: R+6, G-4, B+2, C+1, M+1, Y-1

WB-Shift: LB-1, CC-1

Detail +4 Type3 Limit 7

Sony NEX FS100 Profile Test from James Miller on Vimeo.

Thanks James…not the creator of one of the profiles mentioned explains his thought process behind it…over to Richard.

RICHARD CROOK:

I have been a huge fan of the digital movement that has encompassed us all starting with lens adapters…then DSLRs…and now the newer prosumer digital “35mm movie” cameras.  With that, I have spent countless hours learning how to shoot digital properly to maximize color grading.  We’ve made special profiles for Canon DSLRs and now we at created one for the FS100.

First, why do we WANT to color grade our footage?  Color grading is an art form in itself.  We now have so many tools at our disposal to do pretty much anything we want to an image in post.  We cannot do those amazing things to an image with a baked-in look.  We want the most information from the sensor so we can decide later…not on the set…how we want the image to look stylistically.  (See my COLOR GRADING demo.)

There are several issues when recording a flat, log-like image and trying to color grade them:

  1. In 8-bit video, you only have 256 steps from black to white.  When you record flat, you are recording less steps (for example, 230 steps).  The problem comes when you try to add contrast back to that baked-in video in post…and you cannot add those steps back in.  So you see phenomena like banding and artifacting.  This is why I don’t like super-flat “log” profiles.  .  WHY YOU DON’T WANT TO SHOOT SUPER-DUPER FLAT IN 8-BIT AND GRADE IN POST
  • Shot with contrast added IN-CAMERA:

 

  • Shot with a super flat profile and contrast added IN POST:

 

 

  1. When you try to set your camera’s exposure, set your ISO, and adjust your color temperature while looking at a decontrasted and desaturated image on the set…you can very easily misjudge all of these.  You typically end up underexposing, having to fix wonky color shifts, adding more unnecessary noise, and other issues you have to deal with after importing your footage into the NLE.

So how do you sidestep or at least greatly minimize these issues?  First, let me explain what a LUT is ‘supposed to be’ used for.  Many folks apply a LUT to their footage in post as a replacement for color grading.  This is NOT what a LUT is designed for.  A Look-Up-Table is a tool to have the ability to quickly “look up” an image that is closer to a possible end-graded result.  This removes the possibility of accidentally exposing your image incorrectly because you can preview what the image could look like after grading.  You can see a contrasted image so you know where your highlights and shadows will end up.  You will see more saturation so you know if your color temperature is too cold or warm.  You can also use a LUT to apply to dailies or proxy-editing so the directors/editors/producers/clients don’t have to look at a flat, desaturated image before the colorist had a chance to do their magic.

SOLUTION:

  1. To minimize the possibility of banding in an 8 bit image, you CANNOT add a lot of contrast in post.  This means you have to get it “close” in-camera while still keeping your profile flat enough to get more information out of the sensor.  We believe our CPF-LOG profile is a safe median that doesn’t eliminate too many steps out of the given 256.
  1. To eliminate the second issue; misjudging the exposure/ISO/color temp, you must use a LUT when adjusting those settings.  We created the CPF-LOG LUT to provide a profile you can use to set all of those things before switching to the CPF-LOG profile to record.  The LUT fools you into thinking the highlights are going to clip sooner and the shadows are being crushed.  If you set your lighting and exposure to this, you will be inadvertently making sure you are well into the “safe zone” when you switch back to the CPF-LOG to record.

OUR LOG PROFILE, THE LUT, AND THE WORKFLOW:

 

CPF-LOG Picture Profiles for the FS100, with in-camera LUT from Crooked Path Films on Vimeo.

For complete instructions on the workflow and the profile settings, GO HERE:

“CPF-LOG” PICTURE PROFILE for the SONY NEX-FS100 with LUT!

 

Hope FS100 users can find this a very helpful technique/profile to adopt into their workflow.  As always…many thanks to Philip and all of you digital filmmakers and DPs for your feedback and support!

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Richard Allen Crook a director and cinematographer and owner of Crooked Path Films in Dallas, TX.  Join their FACEBOOK PAGE.