The Color Grade: Episode 2 of the Cinema Camera Mega Test

The Color Grade: Episode 2 of the Cinema Camera Mega Test

Episode One of the Cinema Camera Mega Test gave us the opportunity to see how the #RedCine Epic, #SonyF5, #SonyFs7, #SonyFs5, #URSAMINI4.6K, and Canon #C300MK1 performed in our over and under exposure stress test.  If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch the results in 4K here.

In this episode, colorist Eric McClain, of Digital Pix Post, details the color grading process that was used for this test and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each camera.

RED EPIC DRAGON

Of all the cameras tested, the RED Epic proved to be the easiest to work with. The image right out of the camera rendered a well-balanced image. Hardly any work needed to be done to produce a neutral image from which to start the grade. The Epic performed very well in our overexposure test. For the most part, recovering the image to neutral from an over exposed capture was simply a matter of readjusting the exposure compensation in RED RAW tools. There were no adjustments required to the color or gamma settings.

Underexposure was a bit more of a challenge. As with most cameras, there was a fair about of noise in the underexposed images.  At -2 to -3 stops, it could be argued that the noise was acceptable, maybe even pleasing. Starting at about 4 stops, we found the noise to be far less acceptable. It suffered from harsh coarseness and poor color response.

Sony F5

The F5 was captured in S-GAMUT/SLOG-3. In Divinci Resolve, a REC 709 Input transfer was applied to render a neutral starting image.  Much like Epic, The F5 produced a very well balanced image right out of the camera. In our over exposure test, the F5 seem to thrive from being over exposed and pulled back down.  It easily retained highlight detail, even at +4 stops. When the overexposed image was pulled back into proper exposure,  much the shadow noise was eliminated. This produced a cleaner image than the properly exposed shots. It was necessary to make a few color adjustments to bring each over exposed shot back to neutral, but it was very light work.

Underexposure also proved to be an area where the F5 performed at the top of the group. At as much as -4 stops, the F5 continued to render a fairly usable image.  With a little noise reduction, -4 stop pulled up to proper exposure could be quite acceptable. That said, the underexposed F5 had much more difficulty reproducing the color and gamma of the properly exposed image.

Sony Fs7

If you’re looking for a good companion or alternative to the F5, the Fs7 proves to be an excellent choice. In our stress test, it performed almost identical to the F5. The differences presented themselves at the extremes. At +3 and +4 stops, the Fs7 isn’t able to retain the highlight detail and roll-off was well as the F5. In our under exposure test, the Fs7 at -4 stops produced far more noise and unacceptable color artifacts.

URSA Mini 4.6k

We chose to shoot RAW with the URSA Mini. Using the RAW tools to transform the image to REC 709, produced an image with a strong blue bias in the shadows and mid-tones.  (It should be noted that this test was conducted before the Black Shading firmware update. Maybe that would have help to produce a more neutral image) With some light color and Gamma adjustments, the URSA Mini produced very pleasing images. Of all the cameras tested, the URSA Mini rendered the sharpest image, without any sense of harshness. Much like the Sony F5 and Fs7, it seemed to thrive when overexposed, with any visible noise being eliminated when pulled back down to proper exposure. Both the F5 and the URSA Mini were strong performers at -4 stops.

Canon C300 MK1

The Canon aesthetic has long been a favorite. This stress test proved that Canons also produce a very a robust signal.  Our test footage was captured at 1920x1080p 23.98 (all other cameras were 4K) with REC709 baked in. The put the C300 MK1 at would should have been a significant disadvantage. In reality, the upscaled C300 footage looked just as good as the native 4k from the Sony cameras.  In general, the C300 had a slight green bias, but not nearly as pronounced as the blue bias of the URSA Mini or even the slight yellow bias of the Epic. At -4 stops the upscaled C300 performed about as well as the F5, in terms of noise and color artifacts. While this test is not the most comprehensive look at the image scaling capabilities of the C300, It does show that the canon workhorse can hold it’s own in a 4k workflow.

Sony Fs5

The big disappointment of this test was the overall performance of the Fs5 internal 4K. In HD, this camera shows great results. In 4k, It would seem that the combination of the 4:2:0 color sampling, 8-bit data, and log-GOP compression put it at too much of a disadvantage.  The Fs5 required the most manipulation is Resolve to render a neutral and balanced image. Like all the cameras in this test, the Fs5 benefitted from over exposure in terms of noise reduction when pulled back down to proper exposure. Of all the cameras, it required the most re-balancing of color and gamma to return to a neutral image. At -2 stops it was possible to recover a fairly clean image, but the challenge was returning to neutral color balance.  More the 3 stops of underexposure proved not to be recoverable.

Conclusion

In the end, the choice is up to you and the needs of your production. This test shows that not only are all of these cameras capable performers at overexposure and a fair amount of underexposure but with just a little effort in Resolve, you could easily mix most of these rigs in a multi-camera production.

Luxli Viola – One of the BEST On-Camera Lights!

Luxli Viola – One of the BEST On-Camera Lights!

On-camera lights come in a lot of forms these days. LEDs, for their low power consumption, light weight, and versatility, are the most popular. There are options in daylight, Tungsten and Bi-color. The Luxli Viola takes it a step further, adding full RGB color output.

Viola is part of the Orchestra Series from Luxli. Along with its elegant design is an equally elegant iOS app  (no Android yet) that offers full wireless control of animated lighting, color programming, eyedropper selection, and the ability to instantly control groups of Luxli Orchestra lights. For only $350, the Viola would be a valuable addition to any kit.

Luxli Viola Features

  • Light panel
    RGBW LED
  • Bluetooth version
    4.0 LE
  • Battery
    Sony L-Series type
  • DC power input
    2.1 mm 7.2–12 V
  • Dimensions
    5” x 1” x 3” (12.7 x 2.5 x 7.6 cm)
  • Weight
    .75 lb. (340 g)
      • 3,200K  –  597 lux
      • 4,300K  –  624 lux
      • 5,600K  –  643 lux
      • 6,400K  –  610 lux
      • 7,200K  –  612 lux
      • 10,000K  –  614 lux
      • Red (0°)  –  80.7 lux
      • Yellow (60°)  –  343 lux
      • Green (120°)  –  264 lux
      • Cyan (180°)  –  380 lux
      • Blue (240°)  –  143 lux
      • Magenta (300°)  –  194 lux

In the box

  • Orchestra Viola LED
  • Shoe-mount ball head
  • NP-F550 battery
  • Battery charger
Cinema Camera Mega Test 2017 – 4K Review

Cinema Camera Mega Test 2017 – 4K Review

About the Mega Test

With so many great cinema cameras on the market, at a wide range of prices, It can sometimes be tough to decide which one is the best choice to buy, as an owner operator or rent for a project. We had the opportunity to get 6 popular cameras together to do some basic testing. This was an opportunity to get an idea of some of their strengths and weaknesses shooting in 4k (UHD).  

Cameras Tested

RED Epic Dragon

RAW 3:1
ISO 2000

Sony F5

CineEI S-GAMUT3/SLOG-3
ISO 2000

Sony FS7

CineEI S-GAMUT3/SLOG-3
ISO 2000

Sony FS5

S-GAMUT3Cine/SLOG-3
ISO 2000

URSA Mini 4.6K

(pre black shading 4.2 update)
RAW 3:1
ISO 800

Canon C300 MK1

REC709
ISO 800

Let me start with one caveat. This in not a shoot-out to prove which is the overall best camera. Our goal here is to give you a little insight with regard to color, exposure response, and grading.  There are so many other subjective factors like price, ergonomics, post workflow, compatibility, etc, that go into choosing a camera. We just couldn’t address everything in this project.

Given the time we had available with all the cameras and our free studio space, we decided to limit our test to an exposure stress test. The RED and URSA Mini were recorded in RAW 3:1. All of the Sony cameras used SLog-3. The Canon was shot in Standard REC709 (we initially were not planning to include the Canon after our C300 MK2 got booked on a job.) Each camera was set to it’s “base ISO” and recorded at several stops over and under proper exposure. We used a grey card, in camera exposure tools, and our professional judgment to determine the best exposure for each camera.

Overexposure

All the cameras in this test performed extremely well. They easily recovering from as much as 4 stops of overexposure to render a pleasing image. It was not much of a surprise to see that the Sony F5 and FS7 were almost identical in this test. They both were able to recover from almost 6-stops of exposure while maintaining reasonably good detail in the skin tone of our fair skinned model (Claudia). The C300 performed much better than any of us expected, considering that it’s an HD camera that had to be up-rezed to 4K (UHD).

Underexposure

I know there are all sorts of ways to maximize the low light capability of each of these cameras. Without jumping thru too many hoops, we wanted to see how far under proper exposure they could go and still manage to render a usable image.  At 2 stops under, just about all of the cameras rendered an image that we all agreed was useable, after some basic primary adjustments in Davinci Resolve.  When pushed to 4 stops under, the Sony F5 rendered the most “usable” image. I’m sure that we would have gotten better results from the RED using the Low Light Optimized OLPF (optical low-pass filter). Similarly, the Sony cameras would have benefited from a switch from SLog-3 to one of the Hypergammas, like HG3. (Of course, we could have just bumped the gain, but what fun is that.)

The Grade

Colorist Eric McClainAll the footage was shipped out to Eric McClain (Digital Pix: Motion Picture Imaging) to be graded in Davinci Resolve. There is a lot that can be done in Resolve to make all these cameras really shine. Eric chose to limit this test to a single primary grade – opting to get each camera to clean and neutral looking baseline.

We’re working on a video that covers the entire grading process and will be posting it soon. As a quick overview, it turns out that the RED was the easiest of the group work with. This is much improved from its past reputation of having a difficult and lengthy post workflow. The Sony F5 and FS7 the next easiest to color correct. They required virtually identical tweaks to render a neutral baseline image. The URSA Mini required the most manipulation to get a neutral image. In the end, the result is one of the most pleasing (IMHO).

Conclusion

Really the conclusion is up to you. Take a look at the video. Watch in 4k on a decent monitor and keep in mind what’s important for your style of work.  I hope this gives you a better understanding of the capabilities of these 6 cameras.

Derek Allen

Derek Allen

Cinematographer / Editor

Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson

Cinematographer / VFX

Chris Downing

Chris Downing

Video & Sound

Eric McClain

Eric McClain

Colorist

The Charters Pole Takes Lightweight Cameras to New Heights

The Charters Pole Takes Lightweight Cameras to New Heights

THE Charters pole is the brainchild of Hollywood cinematographer Rodney Charters ASC. It is a multi-purpose lightweight carbon fibre pole that can be used on any production. Intended to be used by anyone who needs that high angle shot that is impossible to get any other way. It can be used to support a lightweight brushless gimbal, small VR cameras, a small compact camera or GoPro for photography, small lights, flexible LED panels or a microphone.

It has a unique combination of price, construction and performance that separates it from all other poles on the market.

Unlike a regular audio boom pole it is designed to carry a range of objects and has a standard 1/4 20 thread on top. It is available in 2 sizes, the 6m Production pole (1m closed length) and the 4.35m Compact pole (0.8m closed length). The Compact pole is short enough to fit in most large suitcases for travel.

The carbon fibre used is strong, yet lightweight, and is lightly ribbed to provide a firmer grip. Optional accessories will allow the pole to be clamped or attached to objects for greater stability.

The Charter’s pole comes with a small ball head that can be used to mount accessories and compact cameras. Some cameras and gimbals will require specialised mounting and third party accessories for attachment.

The new feature of this pole now allows for adjustable thread length on the top point that you would fix your equipment to.  The new feature allows for versatility in fixing 3/8” as well as ¼ 20 screw threads, and with different depths.  Yes, you can alter the screw length to suit the product being supported! 

Rodney is acclaimed for his work on ’24’, Dallas,Shameless and The Last Ship, he has also shot many documentaries and more recently a major motion picture with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. An avid adopter of new technologies Rodney has already tested the pole on several big productions. He said “I designed this pole to be the most practical, yet affordable production pole on the market. Great for productions big and small. I’ve used it for video, lighting and photography. I’m sure users will find even more applications and I’m really excited to see how it’s used in the real World.

Like any pole, The Charter’s Pole must be used with due caution. Do not use the pole within 50m of overhead wires. Contact with electricity can result in serious injury and death.

Care must be taken to avoid other objects and persons who may be injured if coming into contact with the pole. Do not use the pole over persons, animals or property that is outside of your control. Do not use in any area where you where you do not have appropriate permissions or rights to use. Do not use in high winds or thunderstorms.

It is not a toy and serious injuries may occur if used incorrectly. The operator must exercise extreme caution to avoid injury to themselves either by collision or trip hazard.

This $550 accessory is offered in two versions, the Production Pole and the Compact Pole. Features include:

Production Pole Compact Pole
Max Height 6m / 19.6ft 4.35m / 14.2ft

Min Height

1m / 3.3ft 0.8m / 2.6ft
Sections 8 8
Max Diameter 4.6cm / 1.8in 4.6cm / 1.8in
Min Diameter 2.3cm / 0.9in 2.3cm / 0.9in
Rod Material High Quality Carbon Fibre High Quality Carbon Fibre
Net Weight 1.77kg / 3.9lb 1.44kg / 3.2lb
Max Load 500g / 1.1lb 500g / 1.1lb
Temperature Range

-20°C to 50°C

-20°C to 50°C

For more info, visit Genus Tech

 

Aputure COB 120 Fresnel Mount Has Landed

Aputure COB 120 Fresnel Mount Has Landed

The long awaited Fresnel Mount for the Aputure COB 120 LED lights has started shipping. This new lens attachment makes this already useful LED flood light a much more controllable light source. Jem Schofield of theC47 takes a close look at the fresnel attachment.

The Aputure COB 120 LED light has been a hot property ever since it was launched in early 2016. The Tungsten balanced COB 120T version was the first model released follow recently by Daylight, COB 120D version.

COB 120 Features

  • Features CRI96+ and TLCI96+, excellent color reproduction. Integrates 324 powerful luminous chips, with Bowens Mount Reflector attached, provides 14000lux@0.5M(1.64ft).
  • Ultra Silent Fan, Noise Low to 18dB. Dual Cooling Mode, One Key Switching. COB 120D has a remarkably intelligent temperature control system. The fans rotation will be varied based on the correspondent ambient temperature. Furthermore, the fans will go to the maximum of rotation when you press the Auto/Force mode. This complex fan system is convenient for both improving the dissipation efficiency and light lifespan in complex shooting environment.
  • Dual Power Supply via Power Adapter or V-Mount Battery(Not Included). 2.4G FSK wireless control within 100M, no blind angle.
  • Unique Light-Control Separation Design allows people to control illumination on the COB120’s controller box no matter where it is mounted and greatly reduces the traditionally top-heavy weight of mounted fixtures.
  • Featuring a Tough Aero-Aluminum body, the LS C120D is remarkably tough and durable. Portable and lightweight, weights similar to A Macbook Pro.

If you’re looking for more info about the Aputure COB 120 LED Lights, cinematographer Eric Naso has done a great review. Check it out.