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Sunday, June 21, 2015

••◊ How To Setup The Sony FS-7

I know the title sounds a bit overly authoritative, as if there's just one way to setup a camera.  However, this is the way I've found to do it after shooting three projects with the Sony FS-7.  I *love* this little (OK, it's actually kind of big) camera.  With S-log3 and the new color gamuts this camera just rocks.  It's nothing like the bad old days with the FS-700.  With the right settings I feel like I'm looking at a movie...OK, enough with my camera crush, let's get to the reason you're reading this blog entry.

The first thing I like to do is to make sure there is a card placed in each slot.  The FS-7 can quickly change between the two slots by using the "slot select" button right next to the card door.  This way I don't slow down the production when a card runs out of room.  In XAVC-I and UHD the card uses approximately 2GB/min so the 64GB cards that come with the rental kit run out pretty quick.  When the DIT gets handed a card I can continue shooting without a production delay.

One thing you should immediately become familiar with is the button interface on the operator side of the camera body.  Arguably the most important button on this interface is the "user menu" button on the left vertical panel.  This takes you to most (not all) of the settings you'll need to setup the FS-7.


The first thing I do is make sure that both cards are formatted.  This operation is pretty obvious, so I won't dwell on it.

As for the base setting, my personal preference is to use the CineEI mode because that takes away a lot of the internal processing, which makes my life easier since I typically turn the internal processing off anyway.  CineEI has some limitations, so read the user manual and understand if you can live with these.  I also like to use the S-Gamut3.Cine color space.  I discussed this in a previous post, which shouldn't be too hard to find, so you can read about it there.

The next thing to setup is the resolution of the camera and the recording codec.  The FS-7 can record in either HD or UHD (which some companies use interchangeably with "4K".  I don't use raw recording and for the budgets I work on I generally don't recommend it either.  S-log3 is about as raw of an image as the producers generally feel comfortable working with.  As for the codec; if I don't know what the producer is going to do with the footage I'll deliver it in XAVC-I.  If it's just a corporate video or a narrative scene it might make more sense to use XAVC-L to use less disk space.  With a sit down interview XAVC-I isn't going to buy you more than XAVC-L.


One of the really nice features of this camera is the ability to over- and under-crank footage.  In HD you can record up to 180fps.  In UHD you're limited to 60fps.  Also, be aware that the monitor LUT gets turned off when you go into over-crank mode.  I'll talk about the viewing LUT a bit further down, but this is somewhat inconvenient for setting focus and exposure.  The really nice feature here is that you can set the frame rate in 1pfs increments.
To turn on and off the S&Q (slow and quick) mode all you have to do is press the S&Q button on the side of the camera.  The frame rate has to be set in the menu system.

For the default user menu (yes, it's custom configurable) the last item I configure is the viewing LUT.  The "category" setting is set to "LUT".  Then I set the "LUT Select" to "709 (800%)" because rec.709 has much more contrast than S-log3 delivers.  My thinking is that if exposure and white balance look OK with this viewing LUT turned on then my footage should look even better and I probably nailed exposure by eye.  Also, it makes pulling focus feasible.  Pulling focus with the S-log3 look is nearly impossible.  Notice that the "viewfinder" setting is set to "MLUT On"
(monitor LUT = On).  Using a viewing LUT does not affect your recording, it just makes your display look like a post processed image.  The nice thing here is that you can create your own custom LUTs with external software packages and upload them to the camera.


A setting that's not in the user menu by default is the setup for ISO/gain.  I always set this configuration to ISO since gain doesn't really make any sense.  What exposure meter reads in gain?  In CineEI mode you use the three settings marked EI.  There's a corresponding H,M,L switch on the side of the camera that allows you to set the camera to the ISO settings you have here.  Each of the EI ISO settings are user configurable.  I always set the M setting to ISO 2000 since that's the native ISO for CineEI mode and what I typically stick to.  Note in the second picture below that the camera shows you the highlight range for each ISO setting.  For ISO 3200 it's 6.7 stops above neutral gray.  For ISO 2000 it's the standard S-log 6 stops above neutral gray.


The next important setting in the "camera" menu is the "shutter" setting.  This is just my personal preference, but I like to use shutter angle instead of a time setting.  That way when I switch frame frames the shutter speed is always set to the typical 180-degree shutter angle by default.  If you do it by time then you'll have to mess with the shutter speed when setting up an over-cranked or under-cranked shot.  I'm also used to dealing with shutter angle and find it more efficient.  When you press the shutter button on the side of the camera you'll see the second picture below.  Last night I was recording a sports event with a 45-degree shutter angle to give the footage a more "attacking" feel as they often do for action movies.

The camera I have is a rental camera so I just double check the "audio" menu just to make sure that they didn't do anything strange in here.  There's no special settings I use.  I just don't want to be messing around with this on set.

The viewfinder settings allow you to turn on and off the "advertisements" on the LCD.  I prefer to turn as many of these off as possible so I can actually see the image I'm recording.  The FS-7 has a good array of scopes (luma, vectorscope, histogram).  However, when you turn on a viewing LUT, as I did for the viewfinder, you lose the scopes!  So what I do is turn on the scope I want, then disable the viewing LUT when I want to see the scope.  It's much quicker than doing both operations every time I want to turn on a scope.


Lastly (at least most of the time...), I setup peaking so I can pull focus.  By default the peaking is set to monochrome.  I typically use the color peaking with red color.  When I want to turn peaking on and off I just use the peaking button on the side of the LCD.


Hope this helps.  Leave a comment if you have questions.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

••◊ New Work: "You're Everything"

Director Tommy Friedman and I shot this music video for Jorandy a few months back, primarily at Jorandy's Mother's home and Belmont Park at Mission Beach.  I used the Canon C100 on a DJI Ronin stabilizer to keep the camera moving at the park and shot on sticks at the house.  By the end of the day my shoulders were completely ruined and I had to give the camera to my AC to do the final shots.  Those handheld stabilizers are amazing, but very strenuous.

One problem we had was that Tommy was super nervous on the roller coaster and kept stopping the camera, which meant the entire cast and crew had to ride the coaster three or four times to get the 3 seconds you see in the video!  Everyone came off that last ride looking a bit green.  I also guess-timated the focal length and rented my friend's Zeiss 15mm ZE lens.  Turns out it was perfect for the roller coaster and a heck of a great lens. (self-pat-on-the-back)

The gaffer and grip, who shall remain anonymous decided to not show up.  So there was a lot of work moving equipment around and keeping track of it all.  We were also chasing the winter sun since the director decided to shoot some of the scenes in places where the setting sun was quickly stealing our light.  Most of the Park scenes were shot using shiny boards or handheld reflectors to provide some "sunny day" contrast to the images.

Stephen Mickelsen of Bad Cat Films did the final color grade and did a really nice job.  The song is a bit bubble gum teeny bopper for my taste, but I think the images sort of match that younger free and fun feel.