In anticipation of the “Hangry” spot I recently shot for Infigo Films, my first shoot with the nx1, I did a lot of testing with the camera.
I went through every “gamma” adjustment and contrast, saturation, and sharpness setting I thought relevant to the cameras image performing better.
My first iteration I created a super flat look, something that matched the a7s quite well, and it held onto highlights and shadows amazingly (shadows performed even better than the a7s). Problem was, it was prone to severe banding (look at the walls), and loss of color fidelity, something I didn’t have to worry about with the a7s.
Ultimately, and to make a long story much shorter, I settled on what is going to work best for me in most situations.
some stills from the tests (did a lot more than is represented here)
I found that normal gamma gives me the most consistent colors, as well as predictable shadow, highlight, and banding (lack of) performance, so I played around with contrast and saturation and found virtually no benefit in toning down saturation in camera, but that turning down contrast, we could eek out just a little more usable latitude. -5 contrast seemed to be the sweet spot as -10 began to introduce banding again into gradients, which is too bad, because it provided nearly a stop more detail. I initially thought I was going to use gammaDR, as it’s pretty flat without much banding, but the shadow detail seemed to be worse, so I went back to normal gamma to keep a cleaner look.
I then created a lut to bring the footage back into a normal looking space (which you could do manually by just adding a bit of contrast and saturation to taste), and because I find myself often trying to save highlights, the lut also pulls them back down into an easily workable space. Even though the image out of the camera appears pretty crunchy (compared to slog2) there is still about 1-1.5 stops of highlight and shadow information, respectively, that can get pulled back and used. I would say that leaves this picture profile in the 10.5-11ish stops of latitude range. A far cry from the 14 the a7s could get us in slog2, but the image is much easier to work with in post.
We also discovered if you have highlights you want to protect but can’t bump up your skin tones on set, you can under expose your mids by about 2 stops and still have good usable detail.
Finally, here are the settings we landed on:
Gamma: Normal Gamma
Master Black Level: 0
Luminance Level: 16-235 (for internal recording) 0-255 (for external high bit-rate recording, ie shogun/odyssey)
Picture Wizard: “Custom 1”
Adjust “Custom 1” settings as follow: Color (leave default settings) Saturation (-2) Sharpness (-10) Contrast (-5) Hue (0)
It should be noted that these were shot on the criminally underrated Sony Cine Alta (2nd Gen) series of lenses, which have been described as “a cross between cooke and zeiss”, which I’d say is pretty accurate. Not quite as warm and 3 dimensional as a Cooke, not quite as precise and sterile as a Zeiss, but a pretty good mix and amazingly sharp (and heavy… and cheap).
200% crop on the picture of Allie Rae:
And here is a 300% crop on the picture of Allie Rae:
Thats even looking through a 1/4 Hollywood Blackmagic filter. Sharp sensor, sharp lenses.
I think I’ll be happy with this camera, even with it’s limitations. I’ll miss the low-light, lens support and latitude capabilities of the Sony, as well as the online community found for virtually any other camera system (sony, canon, panasonic etc), but I feel like Samsung did a great job on both the color-science and quality of the 4k video image. I should mention that these were all captured on the Atomos Shogun. I actually prefer editing the native h265 codec of the camera, however the internal image tends to macro block in the shadows which can really kill fine detail, externally the macro blocking is much reduced and looks closer to video noise.