Adventure Nomad

Adventure Nomad

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Newbie's Guide to Setting Up The Sony A7s Mkii for Video

So you've got yourself a Sony A7sii, and have yet to decide how best to set up the gammas, gamuts, autofocus modes, sound levels, etc.  If you're a newbie, you've probably come to the right place.  I have been experimenting on the best ways ways to set up the camera, to get the best results for an amateur filmmaker (like me), for adventure or travel.  This means that the camera has got to be quick, easy to use and produce good results.  There are a lot of options on this camera, and I'll cover what I think are the most important ones a newbie should know.

Base Frame Rate
I shoot NTSC 24p with a PAL A7sii.  This means I get an idiotic reminder everytime I start up my camera, slowing down an already slow start up.  I do this because I prefer the look of 60 and 120 fps slowed down to 24 fps in my editing program versus the look of 50 and 100 fps slowed down to 25 fps.

Customized Buttons
I configured the C1 button to start and stop movie recording.
C2 button is set to Clear Image Zoom.  This gives a better image than simply cropping in post.  It is not useable for RAW stills, and for the 120p video mode (which is already cropped in 2.2 times).

Configuring Movie Mode
Mine is set to XAVC S 4K, 24p 100M, Aperture Priority Auto, Auto ISO, Auto White Balance, Metering Mode Multi, Continuous AF, Wide.  This is my 4K mode.  I use this when I want the highest quality (gives me options to crop or stabilize in post), or for low light (24p will give me the lowest shutter speed).  I've selected Autofocus On by default, and set to Continuous Wide on all my video modes.  Video AF is usually useable, but slow on the A7sii.  If I want manual focus, it's a quick flick of the AF/MF switch to MF, and toggle the button (see 'Back Button Focus' in Setting Up the Sony A7sii for Adventure Photography to set this up).  I use Aperture Priority and let the camera select the shutter speed and ISO automatically.   I find that works well for me and allows me some creative control while not slowing me down.  I use the exposure compensation dial if multi metering mode isn't giving me what I want.  Auto White Balance on the camera has been working well for me.

Memory 2 on the Mode Dial is set to XAVC S HD, 60p 50M, with the other settings the same as above.  This is my 1080p 60fps mode.  I'll use it when something is moving or when I might want slow motion.  It's quite a good, general purpose frame rate, and I'd use it more often, except that in this mode, the camera goes into 'P' Program mode and I can't control the aperture.

Memory 1 is set to XAVC S HD, 120p 100M.  This is my extreme slow motion mode.  I sometimes use it if I need more reach as the camera crops in 2.2 times.  It's a huge crop.  It changes my 10-18mm E-Mount lens into a more useable 22-40mm.  The camera also goes into Program mode on this setting.

Gamma, Gamut and LUTS
Gamma refers to how the camera treats the difference between the dark and the light areas of the image, and Gamut refers to the range of colors available.  A LUT (Look Up Table) converts the gamma and gamut into a 'look', in this case, a 'film look'.  To a newbie, Sony offers a bewildering choice of Gammas and Gamuts.  I scoured the internet, keeping an eye out for looks that I liked, tried out the ones I liked, and decided on one which worked best for my workflow in my video editor, Final Cut Pro X.  I use Cine2 Gamma, S-Gamut3.Cine, with the Detail (Sharpening) at -7 in conjunction with FilmConvert LUTs.  Technically, you don't need to use a LUT, but I found a yellow/green cast in my footage that was difficult to correct.  Initially, I thought this was due to the use of Auto White Balance, unfortunately, that was the color that came out of this camera.  The good news is that LUTs, like the ones used by FilmConvert, are able to take color and gamma information and, quite easily, convert it into something pleasing.

Test Settings and Grading Sony A7sii from Kenneth Koh on Vimeo.

I find the built-in mics to be be pretty good for capturing ambient sound, and use these settings in general.
Audio Recording Level 20
Wind Noise Reduction Off

These are the settings that I'm using now.  I hope this was useful to get you started in setting up your own Camera.