After completing the multi camera shootout at Visual Impact, one thing was bothering me about the pictures from the PMW-350 and that was the way the specular highlights in the tin foil were artificially enhanced. During the test the camera was set to factory defaults, which IMHO are too sharp, but the foil in particular looked nasty. Since then I have been further refining my paint settings for the 350 and looking at detail and aperture. Today I was replicating the tin foil test and looking at the aperture settings (not the knee aperture) and I noticed that turning aperture on and off had a very pronounced effect on highlights but a much smaller effect elsewhere in the image. Normally I would expect the aperture setting to act as a high frequency boost making subtle textures more or less enhanced, which it does, but the amount of enhancement appears to vary with the brightness of the image with specular highlights getting a really big hit of correction. If you look at the images to the left at the top you have aperture correction on at +99. There are big ugly black lines around the highlights on the foil and the texture of the carpet has been enhanced. To some degree this is the expected behaviour although I am surprised by how thick the edges around the highlights are, this looks more like detail correction (it could be “ringing”). The middle images are aperture off, not zero but actually off and you can see that the edges on the foil have gone and the carpet is no longer enhanced. The bottom picture though with aperture on at -99 though is very interesting as the carpet appears slightly softer than OFF, which is not unexpected while the foils is sharper than OFF and this is not expected. I don’t like this behaviour I’m afraid to say as a typical way to get a filmic look from a video camera is to turn the detail correction off to give a natural picture and then use Aperture correction to boost high frequencies to retain a sharp image. On the PMW-350 you can’t do this as this as a high Aperture setting will give you those nasty edges on highlights. So what can you do? Well the 350?s native, un-enhanced resolution is very high anyway so it doesn’t need a lot of correction or boosting. The default Detail and Aperture settings will give some really nasty highlight edges so you need to back things off. If your going for a filmic look I would turn OFF aperture correction altogether, for video work with pictures that have some subtle enhancement I would use Aperture at around -20, certainly never higher than -15 unless you like black lines around specular highlights.
My current prefered detail, aimed at giving a very slight, not obvious enhancement are are as follows:
Detail Level -12, H-V Ratio +15, Crispening 0, Frequency +30, White Limit +30, Black Limit +40 (all other detail settings at default)
Aperture OFF for filmic look, Aperture -20 for video look.
I have also made some changes to the Matrix settings. I have been finding the pictures from Sony cameras to be a little on the Green/Yellow side so I have tweaked things a little to remove the yellow cast and put in a bit of red, this is a subtle change but really helps with skin tones, stopping on screen talent from looking ill! These settings work in the PMW-350, EX1/3 and PDW-700.
On an EX1/EX3 this works best with the Standard Matrix, On a PMW-350 or PDW-700 you can use it on it’s own or mix it with one of the preset matrices as a modifier. User Matrix On, R-G 0, R-B +5, G-R -6, G-B +8, B-R -15, B-G -9
OK, not very scientific I know, but for those that want to see how close the pictures from theses two cameras are I have shot a quick clip with each and put them in a 54mb zip file for download. The PMW-350 clip is a 35Mb/s MP4 and the PDW-700 clip is a 50Mb/s XDCAM MXF.
The cameras were both set up with similar paint settings using Hypergamma 4. The detail is backed off a bit from the factory settings on both and I used the same lens on both cameras which was the Fujinon 16×8 lens that comes with the PMW-350. The clips have not been adjusted in any way other than trimed in length, this is how they look out of the camera.
Both are remarkably similar. I can see that the 350 is more highly saturated and that you can just about make out the difference between 4:2:0 and 4:2:2. The interesting area is how the 350 handles the overexposed sky behind the trees, or rather the way the trees don’t appear to blur into the overexposure as with the PDW-700.
I’m off to Arizona on Thursday for a long weekend to shoot the monsoon thunderstorms. I had postponed this trip from earlier in the month when the weather just wasn’t right. This tim around the forecast is really good (for storms that is). I will be shooting with my PDW-700 and my EX1. I will also be giving the Nanoflash a shake down making good use of the cache function to capture what I hope will be some great lightning storms.?Anyone want to join me? I have a couple of spare seats in the car and motel rooms are peanuts.
The PDW-700 cameras are balanced for daylight optically and then corrected electronically for tungsten etc.
Traditionally cameras were balanced for Tungsten and then added colour correction optical filters to get to daylight. This was done as CC filters absorb light and thus make the camera less sensitive. Normally when shooting outdoors in daylight sensitivity is not an issue while shooting indoors under tungsten light you used to need every bit of sensitivity you could get.
The down side to this approach is that tungsten contains very little blue light so to get a natural picture the blue channel was often running at quite a high level of gain which increases noise in the blue channel and thus overall noise. In addition when you rotated in the CC filters to get to daylight the sensitivity of the camera was reduced, so you did not have constant gain.
With the PDW-700 (and also the F350 I believe) the cameras are essentially balanced for daylight, without the use of any CC filters, which helps reduce noise in the blue channel. Then for tungsten shooting you electronically re balance the camera. By doing this the overall sensitivity of the camera is constant whether shooting at 3.2K or 5.6K and you only get additional blue channel noise while shooting under tungsten. If you are worried by blue channel noise you can always correct from daylight down to tungsten with an optical CC filter (80A) and leave the camera set to daylight, although this will reduce the systems overall sensitivity by around 1 and a half stops.
The PDW-700 and F800?s are sold body only, so you have to choose which viewfinder you want. there are 3 choices. A cheap HDVF 200 mono CRT finder that is 480+ lines resolution, the mid range (top of the CRT range) HDVF-20A which is 500+ lines resolution and then there is the expensive colour HDVF-C35W.?I got the HDVF-20A. The viewfinder is a critical part of the package and I wanted a good viewfinder. For the past year my main camera has been my trusty EX3 which I love. This has a really good colour viewfinder with an excellent colour peaking function and image magnification. When I use my EX3 it is rare for me to not get my pictures pin sharp and spot on in focus. Plus I can frame my image taking into account both black and white contrast range and colour contrast. With the EX3 judging exposure is easy, you can see when your overexposing as you can see colours washing out. If I don’t want (or can’t) take a colour monitor on location then I really can light an interview or check colour balance without just using the EX3?s finder.?Now with the PDW-700 I am struggling. Going back to a mono CRT has been a bit of a shock, to be honest I am struggling with it. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the HDVF-20A but I have become used to working with a colour VF. I’m not sure I can live with the CRT VF for very long. I guess I am going to have to start saving my pennies as I think going back to a mono CRT is a retrograde step. I just wish the C35W was a little cheaper. Perhaps Sony could bring out a VF for the 700/F800 based on the rather good EX3 finder.?If I was making the purchase again I would opt for the more expensive C35W. I no longer see a colour VF as a luxury but more of an essential item. When you work with cameras day in – day out you want the tools that make your life as easy as possible and a good colour VF is one of them. On it’s own the C35W may seem expensive at £5.5k compared to the £3.5k of the 20A, but in terms of the total packing it’s another 10% to the cost but in retrospect I think it would have been worth it.
Just got back from my first PDW 700 green screen shoot. We were in a tiny room and it was a hot day, so it was certainly warm! Everything went well although I have to say that I am really struggling with the CRT viewfinder. I have become so used to a full colour viewfinder on the EX3 that it really is horrid going back to a monchrome viewfinder. I shall be playing with the footage on Monday so I’ll let you know how well it keys then.
We were filming 9 replica first world war aircraft doing mock dog fights. The weather was near perfect. We had a couple of Sony PDW-700?s, 2x PMW-EX3?s and a couple of Sony’s mini-cams, the HXR-MC1P. It was a great day and we came away very pleased with the results, but we also came away with a smug feeling that with the camera kits that we now have (Me and DoP Dave Crute) that we could produce a programme about just about anything at top, no compromise quality. Ever since I picked up the prototype PDW-700 at IBC 2 years ago I new it was going to be a good camera. I am a big believer that when something looks and feels right then it generally is. The 700 is no exception to this. The balance is perfect, it sits on your shoulder like it belongs there. The camera controls are all where you would expect and the HDVF20 viewfinder is clear and sharp. One thing I would say is that having used the EX3 with its supurb colour viewfinder for some time it was a bit of a shock to go back to a black and white VF. Dave has a colour VF on his 700 and it is much nicer to use than the mono VF. We didn’t spend a lot of time setting up the paint settings on the 700?s yet the pictures they produced were superb. Back in the edit suite it was all but impossible to see the difference between the EX3 and 700, both cameras produce incredible, clear, sharp pictures. It has to be said that the EX3 represents incredible value for money and for some jobs the EX3 will be the better camera to have. Especially when portability is important such as on my current trip. On the flip side I do love the disc based workflow where you never have to delete your master clips as you do with the EX’s solid state workflow. The HXR-MC1P’s also produced amazing results and we have some really nice air to air shots of the dog fights. One shot was spoilt by a bug hitting the lens of the camera as the aircraft took off, but in terms of visual quality these little cameras are way better than anything that I have used before. These are for me exciting times. I have the tools available to produce top quality programmes. The whole workflow is smooth and easy. I can shoot, edit and output from my office at the bottom of my garden programmes to be proud of efficiently and quickly, without fuss or hassle. It’s taken a while to get here but file based workflows and NLE editing have finally come of age.
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