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Sony NXCAM NEX-FS100 CineAlta
An interchangeable lens AVCHD camcorder using E-Mount lenses.


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Old February 8th, 2013, 05:52 PM   #1
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Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

As most FS100 users know, the FS100 tends to have a "videoish" look right out of the box, and there has been a lot of discussion regarding why this is the case. A lot of things can be modified, like Picture Profiles, lighting, camera movement, composition, etc. But one thing that has stubbornly remained has been the way the camera renders motion. It is certainly possible to overcome this, because I have seen a couple of short films out there that look filmic, but nobody seems to know the magic formula for replicating the effect.

So now that it's 2013, I'd like to get some feedback on any "best practices" people have discovered to make their films look more like cinema and less like corporate videos and documentaries. Here are the things I have noticed that seem to get it close, but not quite there:

1. Obviously, the standard out-of-camera practices like composition, lighting, camera movement, etc. Without that, nothing is going to look good.

2. Picture Profiles. I personally love the G-Log Ultimate that Frank Glencairn came up with, but any other suggestions are welcome.

3. Vintage Lenses. I just picked up some Canon FD lenses and I absolutely love the way they look compared to the super clean, too-clinical-for-film modern lenses like my SAL1650 and Zeiss ZE lenses.

4. Longer Focal Length. Along with choosing vintage lenses, it seems like a lot of the more filmic shots I have seen have come from telephoto lenses. Does anyone else feel that way? I know that shallow DOF has been really popular lately, and was a great way for me to cheat a filmic image with my T2i, but some of the shots used a pretty deep DOF (maybe F8?) and still got a filmic look out of it.

5. Higher Gain. For some reason, it seems like the FS100 renders images at 12db in a more cinematic way than 0db. Does anyone else have any experience with this? Maybe the grain from the ISO breaks up the super-clean image enough to trick the brain into thinking it is looking at film?

Okay, those are the five I have. Let's see what you all have come up with.
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Old February 13th, 2013, 04:41 PM   #2
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Re: Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

Use an external recorder, especially in high-gain settings to preserve noise grain, which gets turned into mush by the AVCHD codec.
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Old February 13th, 2013, 05:52 PM   #3
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Re: Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

I would have to say the "post production element". I can't say I know of any films I've seen that were the finished product right out of the camera and have the "Cinematic" look.

Color correction and grading can make the world of difference in regards to the "Cinematic" look. I also don't practice adding grain with using a gain level but if it's part of a "Look" I'm after I will add a film grain in post instead. What you do with contrast and color in post is just as important as composition and lighting IMHO. The majority of the time I set up to film for post rather than try to capture a "Baked in" look.

I'm also a believer that the "Cinematic" look is just as much about what you don't see as it is what you do. I don't believe you can detach the look from the experience, if there are distractions, you won't be very successful at pulling off a "Look".

So I would have to say that expanding my post skills has actually had the most influence and its been a huge influence on how I set up and operate the camera.
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Old February 13th, 2013, 08:23 PM   #4
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Re: Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

Woody: I understand what you're saying about post, and I agree that the look won't be cinematic right out of the camera in most cases. But what I'm really after is getting the motion to render in a filmic way, because I have seen a lot of films where the coloring/grading looked fantastic but the way the camera rendered the movement of the actors and objects in the scene pulled me out of the story. Can you post some before/after examples of how grading took a videoish film and made the motion look like cinema?

Al, what about situations where high gain isn't needed? I specifically mentioned using high gain on purpose simply because it made the footage seem a bit more cinematic. Do you have some internal vs. external high gain footage that shows what you're talking about? Does using the external recorder make it any more filmic?
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Old February 14th, 2013, 12:36 AM   #5
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Re: Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

Sorry Jonathan, your post didn't lead me to believe you were just specifically speaking about "Motion", especially when you spoke of using gain to introduce noise. I add film grain to footage in post at times and it has the same effect but its not motion that it influences as much as sharpness. Your comment in regards to vintage lenses also suggested color and sharpness to me. While these things and others complement motion in one way or another they are not any means of influencing motion itself.
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Old February 14th, 2013, 01:04 PM   #6
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Re: Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

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Originally Posted by Jonathan Perry View Post
Al, what about situations where high gain isn't needed? I specifically mentioned using high gain on purpose simply because it made the footage seem a bit more cinematic. Do you have some internal vs. external high gain footage that shows what you're talking about? Does using the external recorder make it any more filmic?
I had a nanoflash hooked up to an FS100 and did unsystematic tests for a few days, and the difference in the grain quality was very significant. I specifically shot stuff at 24 or 30db in smewhat bright situations (stopping down the lens and using ND filters) to see how things looked like -- the grain was very attractive to my eyes, not distracting at all, and made the footage less unnaturally perfect. In low light the difference was also very clear.

Very sadly I don't have that much to show you aside from a couple of screen grabs (first at 30db, the second at 24db) from my brief experiments. The FS100 HDMI connection is not secure, and nanoFlash can't read its time-code or be triggered, so in the end I gave it up. (The Ninja, which can be triggered by the FS100, is too bulky for me.)

And in regards to motion rendition, I still am not sure what is meant by it (I am aware that it's an important but hard to define thing from many forum discussions), but I remembering finding the nanoflash footage more attractive with sudden drastic camera movements as well as sudden transitions between light and dark, and these probably pertain in some way to motion rendition.
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Filmic Look and Motion Rendering-vlcsnap-2013-02-14-10h55m31s168.png   Filmic Look and Motion Rendering-vlcsnap-2013-02-14-10h58m30s177.png  

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Old February 16th, 2013, 08:26 PM   #7
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Re: Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

Thanks, Al. That grain looks much more usable than I would have thought, about on par with a DSLR at maybe 1600 ISO. Like you said, without seeing the video itself I wouldn't know how it affected motion. Anybody else have suggestions? There are thousands of us out there with FS100s, and I've seen a couple films that had none of the motion issues I'm talking about, so somebody has to have gotten this stuff figured out by now.
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Old February 16th, 2013, 08:30 PM   #8
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Re: Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

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Originally Posted by Woody Sanford View Post
Sorry Jonathan, your post didn't lead me to believe you were just specifically speaking about "Motion", especially when you spoke of using gain to introduce noise. I add film grain to footage in post at times and it has the same effect but its not motion that it influences as much as sharpness. Your comment in regards to vintage lenses also suggested color and sharpness to me. While these things and others complement motion in one way or another they are not any means of influencing motion itself.
What I was trying to get at was that it might be that the noise from higher ISO and imperfections in vintage lenses might break up the super crisp, non-organic image the FS100 renders, and in doing so, maybe cause the motion to render in a more filmic way. I think the FS100 has some built-in de-noising and sharpness enhancements that can't be totally disabled, which is how it gets such clean images at higher gain. I think that might have something to do with why it looks video-ish, almost like it's been processed too much to get the right motion out of it. Does that make sense?
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Old February 17th, 2013, 04:54 PM   #9
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Re: Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

Fascinating discussion. Jonathan, you mention that you have seen a few FS100 films that don't have the motion issues...any chance you could point one or two of them out to better clarify what you're talking about? And then maybe a sample of a FS100 film (preferably of equal production value) that shows the "videoish" look you are comparing it to? Would love to see the two side by side.
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Old February 17th, 2013, 07:48 PM   #10
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Re: Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

James,

This one is probably my favorite example of FS100 footage that has decent filmic motion, despite the high shutter speed and shaky cam:


Contrast that with this one by Frank Glencairn. Great coloring, well-graded, well-shot. But although the scenery looks very filmic, as soon as the guy walks into the frame in the first part of the movie, you can see that his movement looks video-ish. It seems like people are the hardest thing to get right when it comes to motion:


Right in the middle of those two would be Philip Bloom's Portrait of a Boxer. Some stuff looks really filmic (like when he's punching the bag) and other stuff looks very "documentary", despite all of it being wonderfully shot and colored:


Does this make sense to anyone else? Maybe not many of us can see this? I've heard some people can't tell the difference, while to others (like me) it's night and day.
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Old February 19th, 2013, 06:33 PM   #11
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Re: Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

I think most people can "see" it, but very few can verbalize it, much less quantify what they see. This topic tends to invite macho-sounding dismissals ("if you can't see it, you suck and I can't help you"), and I appreciate that you're giving concrete examples and taking a real stab. I've watched these videos before and just rewatched them. I think the visual differences between Glencairn's (tripod, 180" shutter, generally wide shots, less contrasty) and Social Cops (handheld, no stabilization, closer shots and more variety in framing, faster shutter, more stylized and more contrasty) are quite clear. And of course the latter's much quicker-paced editing probably strikes most of us, weaned on recent Hollywood conventions, as more "cinematic" and less "documentary." (Interestingly, the shaky-cam verite aesthetic has made several full circles from documentary to fiction back to documentary back to fiction... in part thanks to "Reality TV.")

The more telling comparison seems to be between Social Cops and Bloom's boxer. In this case I do have trouble verbalizing how the first is more cinematic than the latter. I'm not even sure if it is. What makes you say so?

By the way, the fact that all three videos were shot on the FS100--doesn't this answer your initial question about "motion rendering" specific to this camera? That is to say there's nothing inherent about the FS100's motion rendering that makes it incapable of cinematic footage? Do you think high shutter speed and handheld, unstabilized camerawork, which you've already identified in example 1, are actually the ingredients in creating an impression of cinematic footage?
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Old February 20th, 2013, 02:28 AM   #12
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Re: Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

Al,

I think Portrait of a Boxer has both cinematic and non-cinematic shots, which is why I put it in the middle. When the boxer is jumping rope, sitting on the bench, etc. it looks very good, but doesn't have that intangible magic that the scenes of him hitting the bag do. I agree that there is a gray area in between filmic and nonfilmic motion, and Portrait of a Boxer kind of lives in that area. And that gray area is about the closest I have gotten any footage to looking cinematic.

The fact that they were all shot on FS100 shows me that it is possible to achieve that proper filmic look and motion rendering if shot very carefully. The problem I'm having is that unlike film and many digital cameras like the Alexa and F65 all the way down to the GH2 and 5D Mk II, which naturally capture some of that magic in the way they render motion, the FS100 naturally captures an ENG-style image that doesn't lend itself to cinema very easily. For crying out loud, if people can take an entry-level camera like the T2i, with it's 9-stop dynamic range, no proper audio or monitoring, and make it look cinematic, surely there must be some kind of fairly standardized formula to hack the FS100 in a similar way? Why is nobody jumping all over this? It baffles me.
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Old February 26th, 2013, 11:38 AM   #13
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Re: Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

Okay, here is my first attempt at getting that cinematic image. All shots except one were done using a Canon FD 135mm F3.5 lens. Mostly using G-Log Ultimate and Nirv's everyday PP. All shots on tripod, graded lightly in Premiere. Let me know what you guys think.

The Pond - YouTube
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Old February 28th, 2013, 12:42 AM   #14
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Re: Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

Well, your going to have to forgive me for being a "Color Nazi" again but I think you had some footage that was just to cold to show mallard ducks, the blue just crushed the green of their heads. I think you were warmer on the grass in the start and that set the tone for the rest of the clip that turned cold. Gwar :-)
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Old February 28th, 2013, 12:58 AM   #15
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Re: Filmic Look and Motion Rendering

Thanks for the feedback. :) I used two different picture profiles, and it's pretty clear where the shift happened. The warmer stuff was shot after the ducks, and I was using one of Nirv's profiles as opposed to G-Log Ultimate for the duck footage. Rather than try to match them, I chose to leave them as they were. The learning process continues.
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