When it comes to being a Documentary Journalism student at the Missouri School of Journalism’s Murray Center, having access to the Sony PXW-FS5 is a pretty incredible benefit. Using the camera can be overwhelming at first, but once you learn to use–and fully understand–a few of the main features, it will quickly become your favorite tool.
One of the main benefits of the camera is having customizable picture profiles. It’s easy to read a users manual’s description of how to change these profiles, but unless you know that function’s purpose and how it works, it becomes a much harder task to select the appropriate one for each filming condition.
The picture profiles I recommend becoming most familiar with are CINE or Cinegamma profiles. Amongst them are CINE 1, CINE 2, CINE 3, and CINE 4. Rather than using my method of trial and error, there are a few easy things one can remember when it comes to choosing. CINE 1 should be used for bright light situations such as direct sunlight outdoors, CINE 2 is the same as CINE 1 except it curtails the exposure to make it safe for TV broadcast, CINE 3 is good for average lighting, or if lighting varies throughout the shoot, and CINE 4 is best for low light situations. Each of these will most likely need a bit of color grading to get the best results, but not much will be required.
Once you acquire good color grading skills, the S-Log picture profile can become very useful. The FS5 has fourteen stops of dynamic range, and the only picture profile that can hold on to all fourteen stops is the S-Log. Naturally, the wide range makes for an amazing image, but only if you have the post-production skill to bring it out. Not only does S-Log absolutely require color grading, but it also makes it difficult to read the image while shooting. S-Log naturally results in a very flat and washed out picture, and exposure levels can be all over the place, especially for whites and face tones. This makes it hard to shoot because footage can easily be overexposed or underexposed without knowing it. To slightly ameliorate this situation, you can use a viewfinder LUT. This tool allows you to convert from the S-Log2 or S-Log3 gamma, to 709 gamma (which is used for broadcast) so that the contrast of the image displays itself correctly; making it more conducive to correct exposure. The downside is that it only manifests itself through the viewfinder and not the display screen. In addition, the viewfinder LUT only changes the contrast, meaning the colors will still look grey and washed out. Ultimately, because S-Log holds on to all that dynamic range, when done right, the image can be color corrected to perfection. I recommend using an S-Log only when you’ve become very comfortable with color grading images.