Shooting on the PMW-F5 for OConnor in Costa Rica

Back in March this year we were commissioned to produce a promo film for teh Vitec Group.  It involved travel to Costa Rica to make a film about how they manufacture the OConnor 2575 head. These tripod heads are the Rolls-Royce of camera support in the film industry.

I was travelling light as a one-man band Producer/shooter for this gig alongside the product manager from O'Connor.

Given that this film would be shown at trade shows and online to DOP’s and rental houses I decided to shoot the film on the Sony PMW – F5.

I wanted the film to have a cinematic look and the F5 seemed like the perfect camera to use on this job.

Den Lennie Shooting in Costa Rica
Den Lennie Shooting in Costa Rica

So how did the F5 perform?


PMW-F5 with Zeiss CZ 28-80 Zoom
PMW-F5 with Zeiss CZ 28-80 Zoom

We shot the O'Connor promo in only four days in 2 key locations, one in the UK and one in Costa Rica. In terms of lenses I used the Zeiss cine zoom 28 to 80 T2 .9 I also used the Zeiss ZF 85mm F1.4 and 18mm F3.5. For longer lens shooting I used a Nikon 80-200mm F2.8 that I bought used in Singapore for only US$600.

One of the most enjoyable parts of this particular shoot was not having to carry a heavy tripod on a long haul flight as there were plenty available in the Vitec factory. I used the O'Connor 1030D system which is an absolutely beautiful head if you ever get a chance to use one.

I began shooting the film using hyper gamma 7 because I wanted to have some sort of look baked into the image but I quickly found that I just didn't have a dynamic range I needed working in the factory and so I quickly switched to S-log 2.

The F5 has a huge range of picture profiles that you can choose to work in. Earlier this year my assistant Adam Mondon and I braved the chilly winter air in the UK and shot a bunch of different tests to help you understand how the different picture profiles would react in the same lighting conditions.

Here's a video that demonstrates those results:

You can read a more detailed blog post about the test here

Working in S-log 2

I found working in a S-Log 2 to a real joy especially with the X-AVC I codec.

Although I haven't actually tested it scientifically, I am told that there are approximately 14 stops of latitude in S log 2. S-log 2 is not as flat as S-log3 and I find that I can still expose and focus using S-log2 without using a LUT. At the time of shooting applying LUT was not possible in a S-log2 only in S-Log3 and at that time I didn't feel comfortable using S-log 3 as I hadn't spent any time testing it. The LUT feature on the F5 was only available in S-log3 mode.

Having recently shot the PXW – FS7 launch films in Japan where we did use S-log3.Cine I have a greater understanding now of how to shoot in that mode.

If you are new to working in log curves and come from a more traditional broadcast Rec 709 environment then you may find it a steep learning curve.

I'm planning on writing another blog post about my experience of exposing S-log from a practical point as in the field shooter who doesn't have time to digestive lots of technical manuals. My approach to exposing has always been to set up my viewfinder, have a waveform as reference, but largely to eyeball exposure because that's how I been doing it for the last 20 years.

Here are some graded shots and ungraded originals to illustrate how easy it is to take a flat log image and apply a strong look in post.

Sony PMW-F5 Before and after grade
Sony PMW-F5 Before and after grade

If you are intimidated by colour grading or are new to it then please check out our free tutorials on getting started with DaVinci resolve. These tutorials were created in DaVinci resolve 9 but the colour room hasn't changed dramatically in the current version which resolve 11.

Centre Crop Mode

One of the coolest features about shooting on the F5 is 2K centre crop mode. The camera will effectively create 1080p into distinct modes. In the first Mode the 4k sensor down samples to 1080p. In the second mode "centre crop" the 1920 X 1080 image is simply taking from the centre of the image. This has a very useful side-effect.

PMW-F5 Center crop mode
PMW-F5 Center crop mode

In the above image using the Zeiss 28 to 80 zoom lens I can effectively doubled my focal length when using centre crop mode. In 4K mode where the sensor is down sampling the 4K image to 1920 X 1080 I get the full focal length of 28mm-80mm. But when I engage centre crop mode the physical size of the sensor is smaller and therefore the effective field of view doubles because it's being magnified. So in centre crop mode the effective field of view would be the equivalent of having a 56mm – 160mm lens. The net effect is that by using one zoom lens I get from 28mm at the wide end through to effectively 160mm at the tight end. Working alone this means you can carry less gear. This is a feature that is only available in the F5 and the F55. (And not the PXW-FS7)

A few people have commented that with the launch of the PXW – FS 7 that the F5 has been devalued. I don't agree, the F5 is a far superior filmmaking tool on many levels and the centre crop mode is just one example of how this camcorder is an exceptional tool.

Anyway I'll leave you with the finished film.