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How to get the S-Cinetone look on the Sony a7S III

For many years now, Sony has had great success in selling REC709 TV cameras to the broadcast market, and clearly, having a consistent ‘look’ across the whole range was important. 

We all got used to the slightly magenta ST5 709 colors from Sony cameras until the Venice came along and changed everything. Suddenly we had a very pleasing ‘filmic’ look with great skin tones right out of the box.  Obviously, many people have been hoping that this ‘Venice look’ would filter down the whole range of Sony cinema cameras. First the FS5 II got something similar, but then the FX9 arrived with S-Cinetone and now closely followed by the FX6.

S-Cinetone doesn’t give you an exact copy of the Venice look, that would be impossible without the same sensor or CFA. However, it’s really close and provides a lovely cinematic feel which clients love, especially as it doesn’t need much in the way of grading.  It looks great right out of the camera.
The one new camera from Sony that doesn’t include the S-Cinetone profile is the A7S III.  This is strange because it’s clearly a video focused hybrid with the right 10bit codecs to make it a great ‘B’ camera for both the FX9 and FX6.  I’m sure many camera operators will want to use it this way and that’s why I decided to have a go at finding a close ‘Cinetone’ color profile to use on ungraded two camera shoots for my clients.  It was purely self-interest.

I used my FX9 as the S-Cinetone benchmark with controlled lighting and reference color charts routed through to Scopebox and Resolve. I also used a Blackmagic ATEM switcher so that I could half wipe between charts in real-time to a calibrated monitor. The picture profile in the A7S III was then adjusted to match the standard FX9. The strange thing is…. you can line everything up perfectly on the scopes and then find slight color differences in real-world pictures, so it’s a very time-consuming repetitive task of tweak and check until you get as close as you can. The process isn’t made any easier by the ‘Original’ S-Cinetone gamma which is missing from the A7S III.

In the end, I think I got close and it’s working well for me and my clients, but I’d really love to hear if it’s useful for other A7S III users as well.  I’m not precious about these settings and if anyone has suggestions on how it can be improved, I’d be happy to incorporate them.  Hopefully, at some point, Sony will succumb to pressure and give us an official S-Cinetone version as a firmware upgrade!

Below are the settings I used to achieve this result:

  • Black Level: -10
  • Gamma: Cine4
  • Black Gamma: Range Wide, Level -1
  • Knee: Mode Manual, 100%, Slope 0
  • Color Mode: Pro
  • Saturation -1
  • Color Phase: -1
  • Color Depth: R: +1 G; +2 B: 0 C: +1 M: +1 Y: +1
  • Detail: Level -7

These settings are designed to be used straight out of the camera with little grading. S-Cinetone is quite desaturated, especially in the highlights. You seem to get more contrast (and more apparent saturation) the lower your exposure goes.

For ‘out of the camera’ profiles like this, I try to expose normally, as if the pictures are going to be used by my clients without tweaking. In the past, I would only overexpose Log because you can reduce noise in the shadows by sitting on the levels in post. However, since the FX9 was launched, Sony sensors have been getting so clean in low light, that you can expose Log normally as well. No need for ETTR any more!

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