How a $9.00 Piece of Aluminum Solved All of Life’s Problems

Last night at a quarter to eight, there was a knock at the door. The landlady was standing there smiling, holding out a tiny white envelope; the Arca Swiss quick release plate that attaches to the bottom of my Tilta cage had really arrived! After waiting what seemed like forever, my local dealer suggested ordering one from Aliexpress, which I did; and shipping from China took a mere two weeks. At last I can mount the a7s III and Ninja V on my Gitzo travel tripod, solving several problems at once. a7s III footage is remarkably noisy even at base ISO and I’d much rather de-noise ProRes RAW once in post than be compelled to apply it a second time to XAVC files that have already been imperfectly processed in camera. ProRes RAW has gobs of chroma noise but looks more organic (for want of a better word) than the XAVC files. What I’ll be doing is batch transcoding the ProRes RAW files to ProRes 4444 in Compressor and using DaVinci’s excellent noise reduction software in Resolve. The extra 25% resolution of the 4.2K ProRes RAW files is frosting on the cake. Now that I’m starting to get the hang of white balancing and color correction and as I begin to push the files further, noise has become a far more pressing issue than the green cast.

Other problems it solves are of course monitoring and exposure. The LCD screens on modern mirrorless and cinema cameras are incapable of displaying the color and contrast of HDR. And using zebras can be a real nuisance! Let’s say that in the menus, I’ve got zebras Custom 1 set to 55% for 18% gray (for an ETTR of +1.66 stops) and Custom 2 Lower Limit set to 94% (the limit before clipping occurs with S-Log3). Each time the lighting conditions change, I’ve got to pass the X-Rite ColorChecker to the model, take a reading of the gray card, then dive into the menus and switch to Custom 1 to check for highlight clipping. However, because it’s an exercise in futility trying to see zebras with Sony’s ludicrously subpar low resolution LCD, it’s necessary to engage magnification; but wouldn’t you know, it’s no longer possible to adjust zebras while the image is magnified, necessitating doing this dance between the magnifier and zebras – by which time the light has probably changed and the model has collapsed out of despair. How much more civilized false color is! As long as there’s no bright orange or red, I know nothing is clipping; and I can effortlessly toggle between false color and the gorgeous HDR image displayed by the Ninja V without destroying the momentum of the shoot. On a positive note, Sony did greatly simplify custom white balance with the a7s III.

I almost forgot to mention one of the chief advantages of the new setup – which is that I no longer have to haul around the beastly iFootage Wild Bull T7 and Benro fluid head weighing in at nearly 6 kg every time I go out on a shoot!

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