The Sony a7S II is one of the most popular mirrorless cameras on the market for video, but it calls for some extra color grading in post to get the footage looking just right.
Top image via Neumann Films
There are a few key factors that determine the overall image quality or feel from any given camera — dynamic range, resolution, sensor size, etc. But one of the most overlooked factors that should always be considered when working with any camera system is color science.
The Sony a7S II is a technical marvel. It offers a lot of incredible features such as internal 4K recording, image stabilization, and much more. However, one area where the a7S II isn’t particularly strong (at least in my opinion) is its color science.
Like most a7S II users, I primarily shoot in S-Log 3 because it offers an incredible amount of dynamic range and a very pleasing final image. Unfortunately, skin tones from S-Log 3 footage tend to have a bit of a magenta cast to them, and the colors in general can feel a bit lifeless.
These issues can certainly be corrected in the color suite. For the best results I recommend following these steps:
1. Use an ARRI ALEXA LUT
Image via Matt Hayslett
Whether you’re applying your LUT in DaVinci Resolve, Premiere Pro, FCPX, or otherwise, I highly recommend starting with the ARRI ALEXA LUT, as opposed to the native Sony S-Log 3 LUT. For one reason or another, the ALEXA LUT seems to create a better baseline to work from and offers a more neutral color palette with less obvious color shifting.
Bjork Visuals has actually created a really good blog post explaining how to use ARRI LUTs in your projects. If you’re new to this admittedly complex technique, I highly recommend checking it out.
2. Adjust Contrast
The ALEXA LUT will of course add a nice amount of contrast to your image, but you’ll likely want to dial down your shadows a bit to hide some of the noise associated with the Log picture profile. You can use a number of different effects to achieve this look. Popular options like levels and curves will work perfectly.
3. Warm up Your Midtones
Image via raredreamfootage
This final step is the most critical to ensuring you achieve an organic looking final image. Use the color wheels in your NLE or color grading software to push some warmth into your mids. You may want to try doing this in two separate steps, adding a bit of orange and a bit of green separately to offset the magenta-heavy midtowns of the S-Log 3 footage.
Once you’ve completed these three steps, your image should look very natural, and any additional stylizing or secondary color corrections will be more manageable.
To avoid going through this process each and every time you grade your a7S II footage, you can also create a LUT of your own and use it as a starting point when grading your S-Log 3 footage.
What’s been your experience when working with Sony a7S II footage? Share in the comments below.