I’ve been shooting a little more with my NEX-5N, also reading a little more, especially about color settings to retain detail across the maximum brightness range (i.e. squeeze maximum latitude out of the camera) while minimising artifacts to deliver the most gradeable footage out of some pretty difficult, harshly-lit situations.
- Some people have encountered banding issues in areas of smoothly-graduated tones, e.g. skies. I have not — yet.
- Some folks recommend using the ‘Sunset’ Creative Style setting to deal with this (Menu > Brightness / Color > Creative Style > Sunset) e.g. http://www.eoshd.com/content/3995/optimising-the-sony-nex-5n-for-cinematic-video . I don’t like this Creative Style as it brings an extraordinarily warm color balance to virtually every scene and I couldn’t be bothered to deal with that every time I shoot.
- As some others have found, the ‘Portrait’ Creative Style is very low contrast, and I have found it retains noticeably more detail in bright highlights than the ‘Standard’ Creative Style with fewer weird colors than ‘Sunset’.
- I’ve experimented with tweaking the contrast, saturation and sharpness settings within ‘Portrait’, and conclude that to get the most gradeable footage with the fewest artifacts all three must be set to -3. Yes, this will give you very flat-looking images before you tweak them, but lowering the contrast gives you even more highlight and shadow tone separation, lowering saturation minimises the effects of chromatic aberration (so-called ‘purple fringing’) that unfortunately plagues many Sony lenses, and lowering sharpness noticeably decreases halos and other artifacts along contrasting edges.
In summary: For most gradeable, smoothest, least artifactual (haha) video, use the ‘Portrait’ Creative Style with contrast, saturation & sharpness all set to -3.
AND ANOTHER THING: I find the NEX-5N suffers badly from rolling shutter / jellocam when moved around rapidly, filming fast-moving objects or walking while shooting. Don’t move during that shot, folks!
Please let me know what you think in the comments.
UPDATE: Sony is offering its US customers a free ‘performance improvement’ to address the clicking problem the NEX-5N has when shooting video. Whether this is a 100% fix remains to be seen, but if you call the Sony helpline on 888-868-7392 they will email you a voucher so you can send it to them for free. According to the Sony customer care rep I spoke to, the fix will take between 5 and 7 business days to complete once your camera arrives at their facility in Laredo, Texas. I don’t know of any similar offers made elsewhere in the world.
I had boxed up my NEX-5N and was about to return it when this announcement was made, so I’ve decided to keep the unit and will be posting first impressions soon. I can already confirm that my unit clicks when shooting video with even very modest, normal movements, not just the ‘sudden’ motion that Sony claims causes the problem.
I pre-ordered an NEX-5N as an experimental b-camera for my NX5 when it was announced. It arrived today from Amazon.
On taking the cam out of the box I instantly heard the awful clicking sound that has ruined the videos of many early adopters. Something is definitely loose inside.
Amazon will not take returns unless they are in unopened/pristine condition, so before I even put the battery in I called the Sony US helpline to ask if, when Sony figures out how to fix this problem, the repair will be free.
The Sony rep would only say that Sony are aware of the issue. He would not say when or if a repair would be forthcoming, and even after asking twice, would not commit to the repair being free.
So, sadly, I will be sending my NEX-5N back to Amazon without even shooting a second of footage with it, and I advise any of you to whom audio is of any consequence to cancel any orders you may have for this camera. It’s a real pity because I was really looking forward to producing some interesting images with this extremely small unit.
Sony, this is simply not good enough!
I’ve been very busy lately with small jobs and securing funding for a big project leaving me not much time to blog, but I’m still getting a lot of hits here so I’ll be adding more material as soon as I can.
I’ve been considering buying an NX70 to use alongside my NX5 – but the sample unit I tried out at B&H in New York a few days ago had a very unfriendly zoom rocker. It was impossible for me to get an even or slow zoom.
No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop the zoom from jumping in speed as it went through the range. It also went from zero to 60mph in no space at all.
It was so bad it’s made me rethink my purchasing plans, and although there are very few reviews of the NX-70 on the net, I did find a reviewer that has had the same problems as I have: http://www.hdwarrior.co.uk/2011/06/23/review-of-the-sony-hxr-nx70/
Have any readers had similar experiences? Is there a bad batch of NX70s out there or do they all have unusable zoom rockers? Your comments would be most welcome!
I’ve occasionally used the HXR-NX5’s Smooth Slow Rec feature. It’s a lot of fun. The NX5’s manual, in typical Sony style, is a little unclear on exactly how to use it and what its limitations are; this blog post aims to get past that.
What is it?
Smooth Slow Rec (SSR) is a feature that allows the recording of 1080 High Definition or Standard Definition clips at four times the normal frame rate, which, when played back at normal speed, slow action down four times. What I mean by ‘normal’ frame rate is the default frame rate of the recording format your camera is using: In NTSC-land this is (almost exactly) 30 frames per second, in PAL-land this is 25 frames per second. Using SSR, you can shoot at 120 frames per second in NTSC-land mode, and 100 frames per second in PAL-land mode.
(The HXR-NX5U shoots what I call ‘NTSC-land’ frame rates, the HXR-NX5E shoots ‘PAL-land’ frame rates. You can get a WorldCam upgrade for either of these models which allows you to switch between PAL-land and NTSC-land modes. Ask your local Sony pro dealer or service center.)
1) You can’t shoot SSR footage at 720 lines’ resolution – only 1080 High Def and Standard Def.
2) You can’t shoot progressive-scan footage in SSR mode – it’s interlaced only, whether you’re shooting High Def or Standard Def.
3) No audio is recorded in SSR mode.
4) You can only use shutter speeds of 1/250th of a second and higher, up to 1/10 000th of a second.
5) You can only record clips of 3, 6 or 12 seconds’ duration in SSR mode.
6) 1080 HD SSR image quality is noticeably worse than normal frame rate 1080 HD. Furthermore, it gets progressively worse the longer the clip – 12 sec clips are worse than 3 sec clips. (Standard Def SSR clips are not significantly degraded relative to normal frame rate clips.)
6) SSR clips can’t be shot back-to-back because the camera needs about four times the clip length to record each clip to memory after it has been captured, during which time the camera is inactive. In other words, a 6-second SSR clip takes about 24 seconds to record to memory. This is true for both High Def and Standard Def clips.
7) You can’t record SSR clips to the onboard Secure Digital/Memory Stick memory and the FMU128 simultaneously, in other words you can’t do a realtime backup. You have to choose whether to shoot Standard Def or HD, and record this to one destination.
8 ) The camera cannot record an SSR clip across more than one memory card, in other words relay recording is deactivated. If there’s not enough space in the selected destination memory card for the whole clip, the camera will cut the clip short.
Smooth Slow Rec setup:
1) To put the camera into SSR mode, push either of the MODE buttons, select CAMERA via the touchscreen or navigation buttons, then select SMOOTH SLOW REC.
2) You’ll then get an option to choose whether to shoot Standard Def or 1080 HD footage, and whether to record this to memory in the Secure Digital / Memory Stick slots or to the FMU128 unit (if you have one). Make your choice.
3) You’ll then have to select the length of SSR clips you’re going to record. Choose either 3, 6 or 12 seconds.
4) You’re now set to go. Push a Rec button (don’t hold it down) to start recording a clip.
5) But wait, there’s more! Once you’re in Smooth Slow rec mode, you can hit either of the MENU buttons for more options. Do this.
6) At the top of the column of icons in the overlay that now appears on your screen, you’ll see a little film frame with SLOW on it. This is the SMOOTH SLOW REC SET menu. Here you can select the image quality of High-Def SSR footage under HD REC MODE. I always use the 1080/60i FX option for best quality, but this takes up more memory space than lower quality options.
7) The second item in the SMOOTH SLOW REC SET menu is REC TIMING, where you get to choose between START TRIGGER or END TRIGGER. This choice determines whether the camera records the footage stored in a buffer before the Rec button is hit, or the footage stored in the buffer after the Rec button is hit. When set to START TRIGGER mode, the camera will start acquiring a high-framerate clip in a buffer as soon as the Rec button is hit. Once the clip of either 3, 6 or 12 seconds is in the buffer, it then gets recorded to the selected memory. Buffering takes length of the clip in time, recording four times as long. In END TRIGGER mode, the camera is continuously recording a clip of the earlier-designated length to the buffer. When you push the Rec button, it will record the preceding 3, 6 or 12 seconds to memory. The Rec button is inactive during the buffering & recording process in both START TRIGGER and END TRIGGER modes, so once you’ve hit it you’re committed to the whole process of recording the clip. (I find END TRIGGER to be best for most occasions unless you can predict your subject’s movement.)
8 ) When in SSR mode, hitting either one of the MODE buttons will send you instantly back into regular MOVIE mode. You’ll have to go through the setup again to get back to SSR mode. Clip length, Standard Def vs. High Def and clip destination settings will have to be re-chosen, but HD clip quality and trigger settings will by default be the same as the previous time you used SSR mode.
You can change most of the camera settings in SMOOTH SLOW REC mode just as you do in regular MOVIE mode. SSR clips played back in the VISUAL INDEX appear slowed down, in other words they’re played back at normal frame rate.
What are your experiences with Smooth Slow Rec? Have I left anything out? Tell me by leaving a comment.
I’ve just read this very useful post by John Vasey on dvinfo.net comparing different ways of transcoding AVCHD footage from the NX5 to ProRes:
In summary: FCP 7’s Log & Transfer does
not carry timecode through *see update in next post* (as well as all the other problems with it) but there are image quality problems with the ProRes footage produced by Adobe CS5’s Media Encoder. Clipwrap produced ProRes footage of identical quality to FCP 7.
If you’re having trouble transcoding AVCHD footage using Log & transfer in FCP, make sure you upgrade to FCP version 7.03 before giving up. Log & Transfer in 7.03 brings through timecode and does its job far more efficiently than previous versions!
UPDATE 22 September 2010: Apple has released an upgrade to FCP, 7.03. Having used it for a couple of days I can confirm that FCP no longer has an issue with long clips shot with LCPM audio (they transcode very quickly all the way through, what a relief!) and original timecode is carried through (at last). However, Log & Transfer is still unstable and you must be careful not to preview clips by moving the scrubber manually in the L&T preview window while transcoding as it has a tendency (on my machines at least) to crash. High-spec desktop machines seem to have fewer issues with L&T than laptops, no matter how high-spec the latter are.
Note: All comments below are drawn from my experiences using Final Cut Pro 7.01 and 7.02. Not all problems will necessarily apply to both versions all the time.
Final Cut Pro (FCP) cannot handle AVCHD footage, like that created by the NXCAM, on the timeline. You need to transcode the AVCHD files created in the camera to another codec, such as ProRes 422, in order to edit the footage (this transcoding is also called ‘ingesting’). This is accomplished via the Log and Transfer (L&T) tool, which can be found under the File menu in FCP.
You can use L&T to ingest footage direct from recording media (via a card reader, for example) or from AVCHD files stored on a harddrive. [*note: AVCHD files should be stored on harddrives along with all companion files created in the camera – in other words you should copy the whole contents of the recording media into a folder together, not just the .mts files alone. L&T will not be able to deal with .mts files that have been separated from their companion files. I create storage folders with names that begin with the date that the footage was shot on in the order YYYYMMDD_Subject , for example 20100223_JimmyBirthday . This way the folders can easily be arranged in date order.]
However, I’ve encountered a few problems with L&T. I’ll list these along with workarounds, if any.
1) L&T takes extraordinarily long to transcode long AVCHD clips shot with uncompressed LCPM audio – by long clips I mean more than a couple of minutes. Short clips of a few seconds will often transcode in less time than the duration of the clip; clips of 20 minutes can take an hour and a half to transcode. Workaround: Set the camera to record Dolby Digital audio – MENU > AUDIO SET > AUDIO FORMAT > DOLBY DIGITAL – and yes, yes I know, LCPM audio is one of the selling points of the HXR-NX5, don’t tell me…
2) L&T sometimes populates the clip menu (if that’s what you call it) automatically. This can be a real pain in the rear end because it can take ages if you’ve plugged a drive with masses of clips on it into the computer and, I’ve noticed, it also OFTEN does not find all the clips or folders on the drive, so you’re left having to add those to the menu manually anyway, using the ‘folder-plus’ icon in the top left of the L&T window. Workaround: It’s not 100% reliable, but if you make sure to remove all AVCHD clips from the L&T clip menu before closing L&T they tend not to reappear next time you open the tool.
3) L&T does not bring the source timecode of the clip through when transcoding. Each clip, after transcoding, has timecode starting at zero. This can be a serious issue if, for example, you plan to transcode into a low-resolution version of ProRes 422 like ProRes Proxy for an ‘offline’ edit and then reconform the project by re-ingesting the footage for a final ‘online’ edit at higher quality; FCP will not be able to find the points in the original files to ‘know’ which sections of those files to re-ingest because the timecode in the transcoded footage is not the same as that in the ‘parent’ AVCHD files. Workaround: Ingest and work in a high-quality ‘online’ format like ProRes 422 HQ from the start so you don’t have to re-ingest, or a format at least as good as that which you want to deliver the project in. Yes, this can take a lot of disk space!
4) The L&T playhead is screwy and moving it around can cause FCP to crash. L&T offers users a preview window for looking through clips prior to ingestion. In theory, you can look at a clip and only ingest the short sections you need by marking in and out points. However, I have found this to be very risky. Firstly, moving the preview playhead around too much can make it freak out and jump to the end of the timeline from where it will not budge. Sometimes it freaks out so much that it freezes or crashes Final Cut Pro. Sudden crashes can also occur if you try to ingest more than one section of a camera clip. Workaround: Transcode whole camera clips. Don’t scrub through clips by manually moving the scrubber arrow around – play through in real time using play button if you have to look at the clip before transcoding. Yes, it’s a pain, but you’re less likely to have FCP crash on you. [This bug has been carried over into FCP 7 from FCP 6, sadly.]
5) L&T often crashes if you queue up a lot of clips for transcoding. In my experience this happens if you queue up around 20 or more clips. No workaround that I know of other than to keep the number lower than that.
6) After FCP crashes and you restart it, L&T will sometimes not recognize the project you are working in. You will (yes, really) have to restart of the whole computer, not just FCP, so L&T can recognise the project. A real pain!
7) Sometimes L&T somehow thinks that there’s 0 space left on your scratch disk, even if there’s a lot. You’ll queue a clip, processing will not start and a bright octagon with a ! sign will appear in the status column. (If you try to delete the clip from the queue you will be told that the clip is in the process of being transcoded. This is not, as far as I can see, true.) Look down to the bottom of the L&T box for Total Free Space — if it says 0 and you know you have space on that scratch disk, you have this issue. Restarting FCP and restarting your computer will have no effect on this problem. I eventually discovered that if you change the scratch disk settings (Final Cut Pro > System Settings) to another disk and then back to the disk you want L&T will behave itself again.
In short, L&T needs a serious overhaul. You have to handle it very, very gently. It is a substandard tool within what presents itself as a world-class movie editing application. We all need to tell Apple to fix it via the help websites etc.
If any of you know of any other bugs in Log and Transfer, please add a comment to this blog post. If you have improvement suggestions, please mention those too, and I’ll send them on to contacts in Sony who will suggest them directly to Apple.
NOTE: It’s been suggested to me that Log & Transfer is more stable if you open L&T before attaching or turning on the device you’re digitising from.