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Matching Colors Between Sony and RED


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I’m working on a low-budget project next week that's slated to use one RED camera. For dialogue scenes, they want medium and medium closeup shots for each actor, along with a wide. I offered to bring my Sony a7sIII because I knew having another camera would save time, but the producer is worried about colors not matching.

So I did some tests to see just how well the Sony and RED color sciences could match up. Here are two stills, both using the same lens, with the subject the same distance away from the camera. White balance and exposure were kept consistent between both cameras.

324iB0F5F2879D6703AB.thumb.jpg.beb88a2280584a2fcbc17cd896fb0342.jpgRed Helium 8K on the left / Sony a1 on the right

With only a color space transform to Rec 709, the two shots look wildly different. The Sony footage is darker, and the reds are more saturated. However, by using a color chart to color match in DaVinci Resolve, we can get a lot closer.

325i68FA5FB358D1148B.thumb.jpg.81773071108d202a1e039ff86da99389.jpgNearly identical

The color chart helped to get these shots looking almost exactly alike. The RED footage has slightly more saturation in the reds, but with a slight adjustment, you can get them even closer.

326i55D9827FC97DB5B2.thumb.jpg.e0600f394cb6502f25df50c77035f159.jpgDesaturated reds and slight S-curve on the RED footage. Increased contrast on both shots.

After two quick adjustments, they look pretty darn close. When you're cutting between shots and not viewing them side-by-side like this, they will appear exactly the same. I assume the colors in the RED footage look slightly more vibrant because it was shot RAW, versus the a1 that was shot in 4:2:2 XAVC. If I had an Atomos Ninja V to record RAW from the Sony a1, the comparison might be a lot closer.

In an ideal world, we would always be able to shoot with matching cameras, but it doesn't always work out that way. Having a color chart on hand can save a lot of time matching shots in post. However, there are some things to watch out for...

The color chart can present a challenge when you’re shooting a backlit subject—if there’s not enough light on the chart, the camera won't record enough detail on it, and DaVinci won’t be able to match with it. Also, if you're working with miniatures or macro shots, you'll need a compact color chart, but that won't always fit in the shot either. Sometimes you can get away with copying the grades from similar shots you've corrected with the color chart, but if not, you're stuck tediously matching by hand.

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