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Smooth Slow Rec: The NX5′s slow-mo mode

February 22, 2011

Hi All

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.)

Limitations:

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.

More notes:

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.

Cheers!

Adam

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. tom hardwick permalink
    February 22, 2011 9:01 pm

    As a wedding filmmaker I’m invariably delivering on DVD so the image degradation caused by shooting the 3 seconds slo-mo (=12 seconds) when down-converted from the AVCHD is very difficult to spot on the finished DVD.

    But the slo-mo is just wonderfully smooth! I can track around table decorations etc hand-held at a telephoto settings that will give me differential focus, and the best thing is that the first take is the perfect take. In the old days I’d do that track (using the Z1) maybe 4 or 5 times to let me pick the smoothest track in post, and furthermore I’d have to do it at wide-angle to smooth the bumps.

    This 4x slo-mo means you can almost trip up as you circle the Rolls Royce badge and it’ll look like an arty intention. I just love it.

    tom.

    • adamwelz permalink*
      February 22, 2011 9:40 pm

      great comment, Tom.

      Adam

  2. Pepe permalink
    February 23, 2011 1:20 pm

    The AX2000 only records 3 seconds. There is not 3, 6 or 12 seconds menu. Only 3 seconds without menu option.

  3. Pepe permalink
    February 23, 2011 1:24 pm

    And the quality isn’t quite good. Very noise, pixelated…
    Good for the web, at 360×240, quarter resolution.

  4. bypro permalink
    February 23, 2011 8:35 pm

    new here, and i’m just writing to Adam to maybe blog on these topics (and if they are in your archives, please feel free to point me there):

    1) L&t is quite squirrelly about when it will read files and when it will not. ClipWrap seems to read practically anything i point it to, but there is the occaisional problem in ClipWrap,

    2) “could not determine format” shows up on the occaisional clip in ClipWrap. Clip is then not converted. Pointing to this same folder with L&T (IF L&T will even see this same folder!) seems to not notice any problems.

    3) workflow/archiving? At this point, when i’m on the road, i download the FMU128 daily to a PC laptop (hope to be using a Mac soon for this!) to folders named by date and location. For redundancy, i also download directly from the card to a USB drive as well. Reformat the card, shoot the next day, repeat. When i get home, i transfer those folders each to their own BluRay disc, then make sure that FCP (or at least ClipWrap) will read the folder from the BluRay disc before deleting the folders off the laptop and/or the USB drives from the road. Invariably, it seems FCP/L&T will not read those folders, but gives me ye olde warning: “WARNING “folder name” contains unsupported media or has an invalid directory structure. Please choose a folder whose directory structure matches supported media.” I point to the same folder with ClipWrap and off it goes…but i would much rather use L&T when possible.

    4) is there a way to rename the FMU128 from “NO NAME” to something pertinent to the shoot? It seems like this might help in the reading process…

  5. April 15, 2011 5:46 am

    Hi,

    I just got back my NX5 from service (worldcam update) and started to play with this mode. I will try it in NTSC and PAL mode as well. It looks fine on the LCD. It should be interesting.

    Cheers
    Attila

  6. July 18, 2011 11:04 am

    Thank you for useful information! I will read more of your stuff and honestly I was not aware of some of your tips here. When I first got hold of the NX5 I used slow motion to capture volleyball-action (sample video with a few slowmotion sequences http://youtu.be/bAl4mDm18ds ) As a newbie I was not aware of the quality degration at first but for YouTube and to capture fast movements it works fine. I use it for instruction. A turnoff is obviously the post-recording waiting time to write to memory card.

  7. tom hardwick permalink
    July 18, 2011 1:50 pm

    Another thing with SmoothSlowRec is that it won’t allow you to have the Active Steadyshot engaged – it automatically drops out of this mode into normal Steadyshot mode, presumably to claw back every tiny bit of image quality that the slo-mo is going to lose.

    • adamwelz permalink*
      July 18, 2011 1:51 pm

      I’ve not noticed that – good observation!

  8. July 18, 2011 2:01 pm

    I stopped using this mode as the quality was not acceptable for me. Instead I use Optical Flow with FCP Motion which is I think a better solution compared to this.

  9. July 18, 2011 3:50 pm

    #7 above is great news! Thanks for letting us know about that! : )

  10. December 22, 2011 8:59 pm

    hi there,

    Before few days bought Sony NEX-5N as well, read this post, but..cant find where is this SSR (slow motion) mode in menu, can someone help please ?

    email: vaidas_sankauskas@mikrovisata.net

    • adamwelz permalink*
      December 22, 2011 11:06 pm

      Hi Vaidas

      Read 1) under Smooth Slow Rec setup, above. Smooth Slow Rec is not in the general menu — you have to hit the MODE button to get to it.

      Cheers

      Adam

  11. December 23, 2011 12:55 pm

    hi adamwelz,

    thanks for reply
    Theres just shooting mode in menu, like this:
    http://content.reviewed.com/products/13492/specs/2878/SONY_NEX-7_FI_AUTO.jpg

    If i am wrong, coud you explain more, or maybe some jpg or video ?

    Regards Vaidas

    • tom hardwick permalink
      December 23, 2011 1:10 pm

      Are we all talking about the same camera here? Your screen shot isn’t of the NX5 Vaidas.

  12. December 23, 2011 1:16 pm

    well, i have SONY NEX-5N
    Review: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sonynex5n

    This is same as NEX-5 just with touchscreen and 16mpx + more..

  13. tom hardwick permalink
    December 23, 2011 1:21 pm

    Completely different camera Vaidas. But it brings up a good point – that too many cameras have very similar names yet are chalk ‘n’ cheese.

    tom.

  14. December 23, 2011 1:28 pm

    ups sorry, i didnt see that its HXR-NX5, its different camera – my mistake :)
    Just now read first topic line :)

    At first i thought that its NEX5..sorry

Trackbacks

  1. Smooth Slow Rec: The NX5's slo-mo mode at DVinfo.net

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