Wednesday, June 18, 2008

SONY EX1: Rolling Shutter Issues - Footage

First off, none of the commentary included here is meant to be insulting in any way toward the videographers who have produced any clips included in this post. In most cases, they have found some interesting settings and captured some nice imagery. They have simply, in this relatively early stage of the camera's release, tested the limitations of the camera's shutter mechanism and had this affect their footage to some (usually minor) degree.

That aside, now that we've seen some of the best, we can look at some of the footage that pops up in worst case scenarios.

The potential issues that can pop up are the kind of stuff that is scaring some people back to the HVX despite the superior resolution, lens, record times and chip size of the EX1.


Now, I actually feel kind of bad even linking up to this particular bit of footage. It was filmed specifically to test the abilities of the camera, as I understand it. But the main issue with the footage is that it has had an aggressive smoothcam filter applied, which can create dynamic distortion of its own. The cameraman was running around handheld, trying to keep the camera steady barehanded, which is generally not a recipe for usable footage. Anyway, discount the effects you see by whatever factor you see reasonable for the smoothcam filter. I've had smoothcam warp and distort footage that was not shot with a rolling shutter. But anyway, here it is...

Let 20,000 Flowers Bloom from Matt Davis on Vimeo.

And don't let the rolling shutter and smoothcam completely detract from the fact that he found quite a nice setting and captured some otherwise very nice family footage. Damn rolling shutter!

Jellocam: These are not the WORST - They just show some Rolling Shutter Artifacts

Now, this following clip doesn't really belong in any "worst of the worst" list. They actually did a decent job with it and apparently won a contest with this clip. But what it does do is illustrate some more subtle Jellocam that can result from going handheld or run-n-gun with the EX1.

For some people, the Jellocam effect may not even be detectable here. For others, it may be intolerable when it pops up. Anyway, this is a bit more of a realistic illustration of what you might run into if you are simply doing your best with minimal filmmaking accessories and end up testing the rolling shutter's limitations.

Yes, I Do! from Dennis Roelofs on Vimeo.

Again, here's another clip that really shouldn't be in a "worst of the worst" post but more a "medium of the medium." It's another case of relatively subtle Jellocam that pops up in handheld footage and also when handheld in addition to the vibrations of a moving car. Once again, this may be barely detectable (if at all) to some, and a deal breaker to others.

The controversy that is popping up over whether rolling shutter effects are detectable with this camera in "normal use" is becoming fuel on some of the message boards that can often cause academic discussions about the properties of the camera to degenerate into a Panasonic vs. Sony Jihad that sometimes makes me wonder if I am reading educated opinions on videography or getting a unique glimpse into cult behavior. Either way, it seems to be a matter of personal taste and "wobble" threshold.

sacked from r. alverson on Vimeo.

On the other hand, if you are going to be spending $7000 plus on your camera, you should not be doing the bulk of your "money shots" barehanded anyway...

The following link is to a clip under relatively challenging circumstances - handheld in a helicopter.


As you can see, the videographer caught some sweeping and stunning imagery from this position. On the whole, the CMOS chip seemed to hold up pretty well, though I can't say that there weren't ANY rolling shutter artifacts. Jello crept in a little from time to time.


Here's an example of the skew you can get from side panning.


Bear in mind that in normal filmmaking, one typically would not pan back and forth this rapidly, and also, there would be some kind of compelling subject matter to draw focus away from the skew. Usually we don't film straight vertical lines for the sake of showing how they skew.

Here is some more Skew footage:

And finally, there is even a POST ON PHILIP BLOOM'S WEBSITE with a still capture of some pretty grotesque skew he obtained while whipping the camera around. That said, I can't say how noticeable or terrible the skew was in the context of the action he was filming.

Partial Exposure:

Here is a link to a clip where we see partial exposure due to the sirens on a cop car:


And at the end of this clip, you'll see a streetlight flickering in a way that messes up the rolling shutter...

Test Sony PMW-EX1 from Dmitri Blueglass on Vimeo.

And again, on some outdoor bulbs...

Sony EX1 Harrods Test Footage from Simon Frances on Vimeo.

And Ned Soltz posted an EX1 CLIP AND SOME NOTES at the Dallas FCPUG site. The partial exposure effect in that clip is not a deal-breaker but it is worth noting its effect is mitigated by the fact that the point of division occurs on a white background (ice at a skating rink). So, if you are framing a shot where partial exposure is a risk, and you have any choice in the matter, a lighter background may be the way to go.

Finally, here is some rather nice footage that was captured on the EX1 of a fireworks display. As is characteristic of this camera, the image is sharp and clear. But in the later stages of the clip, some partial exposure issues do pop up. It's still a nice clip and the typical viewer might not even care, but there are some frames where the top half and bottom half are clearly divided in brightness.

Fireworks from Clem Kasinskas on Vimeo.

Now finally, make a note here that the following footage is not from a Sony EX1. It was shot with an HG-10 and it can not be blamed on the Sony EX1. I only post it because it shows a fairly extreme example of Jellocam due to a rolling shutter. Around the three minute mark, shit really hits the fan, and that is just on a tripod with high winds.

Anyway, this does not necessarily represent how the EX1 would handle the situation. Even the high-end RED cameras, considered one of the great recent innovations of digital filmmaking, utilize a CMOS rolling shutter and suffer from some artifacts. But anyway, here's an extreme, just to be clear on what the phenomenon looks like. And bear in mind that this fellow did capture some fairly nice imagery, rolling shutter wobble vision notwithstanding.

A windy day at the fjord from [ PIXEL VIKING ] on Vimeo.


dave said...

i've been looking hard for the right camera to get and i was loving the ex1 until i saw these shuttering distortions effects. i am very disappointed in this camera now. i would have thought that with all this great technology, they would be able to make a camera without a jiggly picture!
oh well, the search continues.

Anonymous said...

I am having terrible problems with a hired EX1. Had borrowed a friend's in the past and the footage was beautiful, but seemingly irregardless of what I set the hired camera on I get a terrible flicker (not visible whilst filming but on monitor and computer screen when transferred). Confused as to what it might be as have tried multiple settings and nothing seems to solve the problem- various shutter speed modes, etc. Any thoughts most welcome! I am rather urgently needing to solve this problem. Cheers, Barnaby

Anonymous said...

To anonymous: don't shoot with 1/48 shutter under fluorescent lights. Use 1/60. That'll stop the flicker/lines issue.