Sony F65 pays off on tough shoot
Faced with an overcast sky and rain but a script requiring a sunny exterior, director of photography Simon Raby and director Florence Noble knew they would be asking a lot of their footage during grading if they wanted it to 'pop'.
But once in the grading suite with the cut of New Zealand singer/songwriter Annah Mac's new 'Bucket' music video, it was obvious that shooting 4K RAW on the new Sony F65 CineAlta camera had paid off.
Any concerns about the look were dispelled by the depth of information from the images produced by the F65 camera and its 8K sensor and by the 16-bit 4K images recorded in the F65’s RAW format.
"Rain or not, it had to look warm and sunny," says Noble. "And the good thing about the RAW footage from the F65 is that we knew we could push it."
She readily admits that even in good weather her idea was always going to be a tough shoot, because it called for Annah Mac to lead a group of children through a sunlit orchard to a dress-up tea party that degenerates into a food fight.
"When the rain hit in the afternoon there was nothing we could do about it." she remembers.
"We knew that by shooting RAW it would initially come out quite desaturated, but in the grading suite it had so much information to work with we could do so much with it.
For Raby, the first step in the Images and Sound's Auckland Baselight grading theatre was to extend the contrast, a balance struck thanks to a handy function in the camera.
"One of the things I really like about the F65 is the great little button for looking at the exposure. You push the button once and it drops the image down to show you what is really sitting in the highlights, but then you push the button again it lifts it to show you what is deep in the bottom end.
"When you get to the grading suite, you have that whole dynamic range to play with and yet you know you haven't gone too far."
He says the shoot started with Annah walking up the hill through the orchard mostly in sunshine.
"Then as we moved to the party table it clouded over and got really nasty, so I started bringing in lights but the F65 seemed to smooth over the problem, you could see the dullness when we looked at the material, but it didn't take long in the grading suite to be able to give it some punch."
Looking back, Raby says the whole job happened quickly, and he didn't get to see the camera for the first time until the day before the shoot.
"I was impressed at how really simple and straightforward the F65 was to use," he recalls.
He also liked the simplicity of the Sony SR-R4 SRMASTER dockable recorder because it fits neatly onto the camera as an integral unit, despite the ability to greatly exceed the data rate and capacity of typical off-board recorders.
Another feature of the camera he used was the F65's mechanical shutter which is primarily used to eliminate the rolling shutter, or 'jello' effect, associated with CMOS sensors. However on this shoot he used it for another purpose – narrowing the shutter angle to give a brittle edge to the food flying across the table.
Raby, who has experience as second unit DoP on visual effects-heavy movies like District 9, says other shoots also benefit from shooting in 4K because it offers sufficient detail to reframe in post if desired, and when it comes to grading and special effects, there is more resolution and the keying process is more accurate.
It is a sentiment echoed by Alana Cotton, the colourist who was behind the desk during the 'Bucket' music video grade.
"I've worked with a lot of the new digital formats, and the F65 camera is amazing because it holds so much information, there is a lot of room to play with the images," she says.
Rather than single out a reason, she puts it down to the combination of 16-bit colour depth, a wider colour gamut, and the higher resolution of the camera and format.
"With some cameras you get some odd chroma aberrations like blue in the blacks, but I didn't find any of that with this camera," says Cotton.
"It is a very clean image. I did a quite a few luminance keys and chroma keys and you could really push the colour without any noise in the reds or anything."
It was also quick – ingesting for the Baselight did not involve any transcoding or de-bayering, which can be a long and tedious process with some types of RAW files.
"I was accessing everything straight from the F65RAW images, so I had all the information available to use, and even though on some shots I had seven or eight layers including tracking shapes, it was all playing in real time really smoothly," says Cotton.
"It was simple, we just loaded up the EDL and we were ready to go."
Following its completion, the 'Bucket' music video was made available to Sony to demonstrate its 84-inch 4K Bravia television in several Sony Centres in New Zealand and will also be used for the same purpose in the United States.