Sony A7s Guide

XAVC S vs Prores: Latency, Grading and Chroma Key

In this lesson we’ll compare the quality of the internal XAVC S codec against Prores HQ, Prores 422 and Prores LT to understand when to choose which. I’ll only be focusing on 1080p.

In this part we’ll study latency, grading and chroma key. I’m going to be comparing XAVC S with Prores HQ, 422 and LT, so we know where each one stands. We’ll be testing all of the above codecs at 24p.


There is a one-frame delay between the internal XAVC S recording and the Prores versions. This latency is obviously from the camera via HDMI – first of all due to the inherent latency in HDMI, and secondly because it has to trigger the Shogun to record as well.

In a 24p timeline, one frame is the equivalent of 42 milliseconds. In practical use, it is a non-issue.

Grading stress test

Here are full frames (JPEGS, click to enlarge) of a double-Color Finesse layer on the same Cine1 image from the previous lesson. The first is Prores HQ from the Shogun:


This is the XAVC S frame:

There is only a slight difference, especially in the green channel. It is not significant. This means, for light to medium grading with just one recompression step, XAVC S is perfectly fine.

For heavier grades or multiple compression iterations, Prores HQ should be used.

Chroma key stress test (including motion)

This comparison is quite telling (click to enlarge):

The green screen stress test is the easiest way to judge footage. You prop up a poorly lit green screen, and wave a hairy object in front of it. Then, use a really good keyer (I used Keylight in After Effects, color picked at the exact same pixel) to study the images in various stages of motion.

Here’s what the original scene looked like:

The Prores HQ version is miles better in the keying department. I have included versions for 422 and LT as well, but they are really unnecessary. I have spent countless hours keying images in heavily compressed 4:2:0, and trust me, if you want to shoot good chroma key, shoot Prores HQ.

My recommendations are in the next lesson.