Sony VENICE – Something​ Rather​ Remarkable

The​ ​new​ ​$42,000​ ​full-frame​ ​Sony​ ​VENICE​​ looks​ ​good.​ ​Really​ ​good.​

Images from the Sony VENICE Launch Event

The​ ​new​ ​$42,000,​ ​full-frame​ ​Sony​ ​VENICE​​ ​debuted​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Sony​ ​Pictures​ ​lot​ ​at​ ​the​ ​beginning​ ​of September​ ​and​ ​it​ ​looks​ ​good.​ ​Really​ ​good.​ ​Not​ ​game-changing​ ​good,​ ​but​ ​really​ ​good nonetheless.

Sony​ ​seems​ ​to​ ​have​ ​taken​ ​a​ ​page​ ​out​ ​of​ ​Arri’s​ ​book,​ ​both​ ​by​ ​naming​ ​their​ ​product​ ​with​ ​a​ ​word instead​ ​of​ ​a​ ​number​ ​and​ ​by​ ​putting​ ​that​ ​word​ ​in​ ​all​ ​caps.​ ​They​ ​also​ ​seemed​ ​to​ ​have​ ​borrowed the​ ​menu​ ​buttons​ ​well,​ ​as​ ​Canon​ ​did​ ​with​ ​the​ ​C700.​ ​Thankfully,​ ​that​ ​means​ ​Sony​ ​has​ ​ditched their​ ​notoriously​ ​difficult​ ​to​ ​navigate​ ​menu​ ​system​ ​for​ ​something​ ​a​ ​bit​ ​more​ ​tried-and-true​ ​or, “familiar”​ ​as​ ​they​ ​put​ ​it.​ ​The​ ​VENICE​ ​looks​ ​a​ ​little​ ​more​ ​than​ ​half​ ​the​ ​length​ ​of​ ​its​ ​Arri competition,​ ​so​ ​after​ ​assembly​ ​you’re​ ​looking​ ​at​ ​a​ ​magnesium-bodied​ ​camera​ ​weighing​ ​in around​ ​the​ ​13lb​ ​mark,​ ​depending​ ​on​ ​your​ ​rigging.​ ​It’s​ ​a​ ​little​ ​over​ ​8lbs​ ​naked.

The​ ​camera​ ​is​ ​aspect​ ​ratio​ ​agnostic,​ ​allowing​ ​you​ ​to​ ​use​ ​almost​ ​any​ ​lens​ ​you’d​ ​like​ ​as​ ​long​ ​as it’s​ ​PL​ ​Mount​ ​or​ ​adaptable​ ​to​ ​an​ ​E-Mount,​ ​including​ ​the​ ​new​ ​Arri​ ​65​ ​lenses​ ​and​ ​similar. Unfortunately,​ ​you’ll​ ​have​ ​to​ ​acquire​ ​the​ ​licenses​ ​for​ ​most​ ​of​ ​those​ ​resolutions​ ​as​ ​detailed below.​ ​While​ ​Sony​ ​says​ ​this​ ​is​ ​a​ ​6K​ ​sensor,​ ​it’s​ ​more​ ​honest​ ​to​ ​say​ ​it’s​ ​capable​ ​of​ ​6K,​ ​but​ ​out​ ​of the​ ​box​ ​you’re​ ​getting​ ​a​ ​4K​ ​camera.​ ​Depending​ ​on​ ​who​ ​you​ ​are​ ​this​ ​might​ ​not​ ​affect​ ​you​ ​but​ ​I would​ ​at​ ​least​ ​like​ ​to​ ​see​ ​the​ ​Anamorphic​ ​License​ ​done​ ​away​ ​with​ ​and​ ​included​ ​in​ ​the​ ​base package.​ ​The​ ​licenses​ ​come​ ​in​ ​weekly,​ ​monthly,​ ​and​ ​permanent​ ​flavors so you have options for​ ​when​ ​you​ ​finally get​ ​that​ ​6K​ ​gig​, as well as when you’re working with a​ ​pedestrian​ ​15​ ​stops​ ​of​ ​4K​ ​that falls into the category of “beautiful enough.”

You​ ​might​ ​have​ ​a​ ​real​ ​gripe​ ​in​ ​the​ ​frame​ ​rate​ ​department,​ ​though. You’re​ ​at​ ​best​ ​getting​ ​60fps with​ ​some​ ​of​ ​these​ ​resolution​ ​options,​ ​and​ ​at​ ​worst​ ​24.​ ​You​ ​can​ ​record​ ​at​ ​any​ ​frame​ ​rate​ ​you want​ ​in​ ​1​ ​frame​ ​increments​ ​for​ ​playback​ ​at​ ​the​ ​listed​ ​project​ ​rates,​ ​but​ ​there’s​ ​not​ ​even​ ​a​ ​1080p 120fps​ ​option?​ ​With​ ​how​ ​many​ ​options​ ​are​ ​available​ ​from​ ​the​ ​other​ ​team​ ​you’d​ ​think​ ​they’d​ ​try to​ ​compete​ ​a​ ​little​ ​there.​ ​There’s​ ​basically​ ​no​ ​rolling​ ​shutter,​ ​so​ ​there’s​ ​that.

6K​ ​3:2​ ​Full​ ​Frame​ ​(FF​ ​License​ ​-​ ​23,24fps)
6K​ ​17:9​ ​(FF​ ​License​ ​-​ ​23,24,25,29fps)
6K​ ​2.39:1​ ​(FF​ ​License​ ​-​ ​23,24,25,29fps)
6K​ ​1.85:1​ ​(FF​ ​License​ ​-​ ​23,24,25,29fps)
5.7K​ ​16:9​ ​​ ​(FF​ ​License​ ​-​ ​23,25,29fps)
4K​ ​6:5​ ​(Anamorphic​ ​License​ ​-​ ​23,24,25,29fps)
4K​ ​4:3​ ​(Anamorphic​ ​License​ ​-​ ​23,24,25,29fps)
4K​ ​17:9​ ​(Included​ ​-​ ​23,24,25,29,50,59fps)
3.8K​ ​16:9​ ​(Included​ ​-​ ​23,25,29,50,60fps)

Expensive​ ​resolutions​ ​and​ ​limited​ ​frame​ ​rates​ ​aside,​ ​at​ ​the​ ​end​ ​of​ ​the​ ​day​ ​most​ ​films​ ​are​ ​shot​ ​at 24fps​ ​and​ ​displayed​ ​around​ ​2K.​ ​So​ ​how​ ​does​ ​the​ ​image​ ​look?

Honestly?​ ​Great.

The​ ​short​ ​film​ ​they​ ​showed​ ​at​ ​the​ ​launch​ ​event​ ​directed​ ​by​ ​Joseph​ ​Kosinski​ ​and​ ​shot​ ​by​ ​Claudio Miranda,​ ​ASC​ ​was​ ​simple​ ​in​ ​execution​ ​and​ ​story​ ​but​ ​rather​ ​impressive​ ​visually.​ ​It​ ​was​ ​lit​ ​mostly by​ ​practicals​ ​indoors​ ​at​ ​night,​ ​and​ ​by​ ​the​ ​sun​ ​outside​ ​during​ ​the​ ​day.​ ​The​ ​latitude​ ​of​ ​this​ ​camera is​ ​nothing​ ​to​ ​sneeze​ ​at,​ ​coming​ ​in​ ​at​ ​a​ ​reported​ ​15+​ ​stops,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​color​ ​science​ ​is​ ​refreshingly different​ ​for​ ​Sony​ ​while​ ​also​ ​exceeding​ ​the​ ​BT.2020​ ​gamut.​ ​Also,​ ​if​ ​you​ ​find​ ​yourself​ ​becoming tired​ ​of​ ​the​ ​sensor​ ​in​ ​the​ ​VENICE,​ ​the​ ​block​ ​is​ ​built​ ​in​ ​such​ ​a​ ​way​ ​that​ ​when​ ​they​ ​release​ ​a​ ​new sensor​ ​for​ ​the​ ​body​ ​you​ ​can​ ​just​ ​unbolt​ ​the​ ​old​ ​one​ ​(in​ ​the​ ​field​ ​no​ ​less)​ ​and​ ​throw​ ​on​ ​the​ ​new one​ ​as​ ​it’s​ ​self-contained.​ ​No​ ​muss,​ ​no​ ​fuss.​ ​Very​ ​cool,​ ​if​ ​they’re​ ​able​ ​to​ ​stick​ ​to​ ​the​ ​one​ ​body​ ​for longer​ ​than​ ​a​ ​few​ ​iterations.

I’ve​ ​never​ ​hated​ ​the​ ​look​ ​of​ ​Sony’s​ ​cameras,​ ​even​ ​if​ ​I​ ​wouldn’t​ ​necessarily​ ​choose​ ​them​ ​first,​ ​but this​ ​new​ ​sensor​ ​puts​ ​them​ ​somewhere​ ​away​ ​from​ ​the​ ​sometimes​ ​videoy​ ​look​ ​of​ ​their​ ​previous offerings​ ​and​ ​more​ ​towards​ ​the​ ​color​ ​of​ ​the​ ​ALEXA.​ ​Both​ ​Joseph​ ​and​ ​Claudio​ made comments about​ ​how well​ ​the​ ​skin​ ​tones​ ​rendered​ ​straight​ ​out​ ​of​ ​the​ ​camera​ ​- requiring​ ​very​ ​little​ ​post​ ​work​ ​to​ ​get right -​ ​citing​ ​a​ ​pleasant​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​red​ ​and​ ​magenta.

In​ ​regards​ ​to​ ​latitude,​ ​Sony​ ​admitted​ ​they​ ​hadn’t​ ​fully​ ​measured​ ​it​ ​yet​ ​but​ ​are​ ​confident​ ​in​ ​their 15+​ ​stop​ ​number.​ ​From​ ​the​ ​example​ ​footage,​ ​I’d​ ​say​ ​that’s​ ​probably​ ​accurate:​ ​outdoor​ ​scenes​ ​in a​ ​dark​ ​black​ ​car​ ​with​ ​a​ ​black​ ​interior​ ​rendered​ ​the​ ​full​ ​range​ ​of​ ​lows​ ​and​ ​highs​ ​easily,​ ​looking directly​ ​into​ ​the​ ​sun​ ​demonstrated​ ​a​ ​very​ ​gentle​ ​highlight​ ​rolloff,​ ​and​ ​scenes​ ​lit​ ​only​ ​by​ ​overhead fluorescents​ ​showed​ ​little​ ​sign​ ​of​ ​sensor​ ​noise​ ​which​ ​was​ ​only​ ​made​ ​apparent​ ​in​ ​the​ ​1000nit showing​ ​of​ ​the​ ​film​ ​on​ ​a​ ​giant,​ ​almost​ ​theater-sized​ ​HDR​ ​LCD​ ​screen.​ ​Even​ ​so,​ ​the​ ​noise​ ​is more​ ​“filmic”​ ​than​ ​usual​ ​and​ ​isn’t​ ​as​ ​distracting​ ​as​ ​one​ ​might​ ​think.​ ​With​ ​a​ ​base​ ​ISO​ ​of​ ​500, that’s​ ​pretty​ ​impressive.​ ​We’re​ ​a​ ​long​ ​way​ ​from​ ​the​ ​low-light​ ​video​ ​look​ ​of​ C​​ollateral​​ ​here. 

So​ ​you’ve​ ​got​ ​a​ ​great​ ​image​ ​to​ ​work​ ​with,​ ​what’s​ ​the​ ​workflow​ ​like?​ ​The​ ​VENICE​ ​touts​ ​a​ ​few codec​ ​options,​ ​including​ ​4:2:2​ ​10bit​ ​ProRes​ ​HD​ ​for​ ​those​ ​looking​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​things​ ​blissfully simple,​ ​all​ ​the​ ​way​ ​up​ ​to​ ​16bit​ ​Linear​ ​RAW​ ​and​ ​Sony’s​ ​X-OCN​ ​16bit​ ​“Original​ ​Camera​ ​Negative” format,​ ​which​ ​they​ ​say​ ​results​ ​in​ ​an​ ​indistinguishable​ ​image​ ​from​ ​RAW​ ​but​ ​ends​ ​up​ ​being​ ​2/3rds the​ ​file​ ​size.​ ​Unfortunately​ ​you’ll​ ​need​ ​their​ ​AXS-R7​ ​recorder​ ​for​ ​that​ ​privilege.​ ​For​ ​those​ ​who don’t​ ​need​ ​the​ ​extended​ ​range​ ​offered​ ​in​ ​those​ ​two​ ​formats,​ ​you’re​ ​using​ ​SxS​ ​or​ ​AXSM​ ​cards. However​ ​if​ ​you​ ​needed​ ​you​ ​can​ ​run​ ​the​ ​R7​ ​and​ ​the​ ​cards​ ​simultaneously​ ​recording​ ​two separate​ ​formats.

One​ ​lovely​ ​feature​ ​which​ ​I​ ​hope​ ​Sony​ ​gets​ ​due​ ​credit​ ​for​ ​is​ ​the​ ​addition​ ​of​ ​an​ ​internal​ ​8-step​ ​ND filter​ ​system.​ ​Something​ ​I​ ​love​ ​about​ ​the​ ​Canon​ ​Cinema​ ​cameras​ ​(which​ ​I​ ​personally​ ​own)​ ​is​ ​the ND​ ​filter​ ​wheel,​ ​and​ ​Sony​ ​has​ ​more​ ​than​ ​doubled​ ​the​ ​options​ ​with​ ​the​ ​ability​ ​to​ ​adjust​ ​ND​ ​in one-stop​ ​increments​ ​between​ ​0.3​ ​and​ ​2.4​ ​with​ ​no​ ​color​ ​or​ ​IR​ ​shift.​ ​For​ ​those​ ​of​ ​you​ ​who​ ​don’t know,​ ​that’s​ ​both​ ​impressive​ ​mechanically​ ​and​ ​a​ ​huge,​ ​huge​ ​timesaver​ ​in​ ​the​ ​field.​ ​Now,​ ​the​ ​DP can​ ​selectively​ ​choose​ ​their​ ​DoF​ ​on​ ​the​ ​fly​ ​without​ ​having​ ​to​ ​mess​ ​about​ ​with​ ​the​ ​mattebox​ ​or worry​ ​about​ ​damaging​ ​the​ ​expensive​ ​glass​ ​filters.

On​ ​the​ ​monitoring​ ​side​ ​we’ve​ ​got​ ​a​ ​really​ ​nice​ ​1080p​ ​eyepiece​ ​made​ ​specifically​ ​for​ ​the VENICE,​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​four​ ​4K​ ​SDI​ ​outs,​ ​an​ ​HD​ ​SDI​ ​out,​ ​and​ ​one​ ​HDMI​ ​out.​ ​Thankfully,​ ​the camera​ ​info​ ​is​ ​​outside​ ​​of​ ​the​ ​image​ ​so​ ​you​ ​don’t​ ​have​ ​to​ ​guess​ ​what’s​ ​under​ ​the​ ​GUI​ ​as​ ​seen​ ​on other​ ​cameras.​ ​The​ ​settings​ ​are​ ​accessed​ ​via​ ​the​ ​aforementioned​ ​“familiar”​ ​menu​ ​controls​ ​on the​ ​assistant​ ​side​ ​of​ ​the​ ​camera,​ ​with​ ​all​ ​but​ ​the​ ​Menu​ ​and​ ​MLUT​ ​controls​ ​accessible​ ​by​ ​the operator​ ​on​ ​the​ ​other​ ​side.

All​ ​in​ ​all,​ ​Sony​ ​has​ ​delivered​ ​something​ ​rather​ ​remarkable​ ​here.​ ​While​ ​it​ ​doesn’t​ ​necessarily change​ ​the​ ​game” ​the​ ​way​ ​the​ ​RED​ ​or​ ​ALEXA​ ​did​ ​years​ ​ago,​ ​it​ ​does​ ​seem​ ​to​ ​position​ ​itself​ ​as next​ ​in​ ​line​ ​behind​ ​them​ ​in​ ​the​ ​grand​ ​scope​ ​of​ ​cinematic​ ​production.​ ​The​ ​image​ ​produced​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Sony​ ​VENICE​ ​solidly​ ​places​ ​itself​ ​as​ ​a​ ​high-end competitive​ ​option​ ​to​ ​Arri​ ​and​ ​RED.

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Kenny McMillan

Kenny McMillan is the founder and director of OWL BOT Digital Cinema located in West LA. His work spans the Internet from Vimeo to YouTube netting dozens of views. He’s previously worked as a local photographer for Red Bull.

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