I never ever take it for granted when an opportunity to shoot a Launch video for a new camcorder presents itself. It's great to be the first hands on new technology and provides a chance to give feedback to the engineers directly. I started shooting professionally in 1994 and so have been making my living in and around cameras for over 20 years. Much has changed and continues to, but for me and my team, the camera remains at the core technology that we use to tell stories with and so working with cutting edge technology is always fun.
When Sony approached me early in 2014 they were very keen to bring a European eye into the process. I teamed up with my long time collaborator James Tonkin from Hangman Studios who was on a break from shooting a tour documentary with the Rolling Stones.
James and I first worked together when the FS100 launched back in early 2011 and since then have created content for the FS700 also. James and I have been big fans of the Sony large sensor line up for some time. We used 22 cameras in late 2011 to shoot Duran Durans's World Tour DVD and have since worked on documentary content with Cristiano Ronaldo and Robbie Williams Stadium tour using Sony FS700 camcorders. James has been touring with Coldplay and the Rolling Stones It's fair to say we're fans and the gear has served us well in demanding shooting conditions
More recently my team at our production company Lennie Motion helped create the Sony A7s launch films and after the success of those films (in excess of 1 million plays across various platforms You Tube and Vimeo) we were thrilled to be working with Sony again. We specialise in making launch films for the film and TV Industry and so with James also on board from Hangman we headed to Japan in early August for a 15 day trip.
We made 3 films in total. An HD film, a 4K film and a BTS film. We had 3 days of location scouting and camera testing followed by a 4 day shoot (2 days a piece for each the HD and 4k productions) and then 7 days of post in Tokyo. So all in all a pretty tight turn around.
Here's the BTS film which explains more about the camera.
Shooting the 1080p film
For the 1080p film we made a documentary in a Kimono making factory. I say factory but it was more like a serene, quiet artists residence with talented individuals crafting hand painted Kimonos that sell for in excess of US $20,ooo.
We wanted to maintain a true small footprint as far as we could (bearing in mind this was an early production model at the time of shooting and so we had a number of camera engineers on location with us to ensure everything was functioning as it should)
As a result we did end up with quite a large crew at times, but the essence for me as Director was to try to not interrupt the flow of the process and shoot around it as you would in a real documentary production. This camera is small and light so you can use the same tools you might use when shooting with say the NEX-FS700. James and I love to be small and nimble when we shoot.
Watch the 1080p Film
I wanted to keep the lighting to a minimum so that we could really see how well the sensor did in lower ambient light conditions. We were Shooting in S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log3 at ISO 2000 and so in most cases we could get a decent exposure in the ambient light of the main room due to the fluorescent lights that illuminated the work space. For the most part they were close to daylight although the main scenes of the guy sketching was very very green so I turned that light off and lit it from scratch.
Shooting the 4K film
For the 4k film we wanted to highlight using the FS7 in a more controlled scenario. James and I run boutique production companies and we produce a mix of work for clients that crosses documentary and more produced commercial projects. But in both cases we try to maintain a small footprint.
For the 4K film we wanted to create more of a creative piece that centred around the traditional way of wearing a Kimono and thus connecting the two films. The second element of the 4k film involves taking our Model Yulia and have her taking a traditional Chia ceremony.
1080p Vimeo version of the 4K film
4k YouTube version of the 4K film
The FS7 has a Super 35mm sized sensor capable of shooting 10 Bit 4.2.2 intra-frame up to and including full 4k resolution. (N.B. its only 10bit in the intra-frame mode otherwise its 8bit.) It uses XQD cards to record onto and is powered by BPU style batteries just like the ones use on the very popular EX-1 and EX3 camcorders.
It's worth noting here that all of the content James and I have produced prior to this project have been largely created using 8 bit formats and I still maintain here is nothing inherently wrong with 8 bit footage from an FS100 or FS700. Yet I repeatedly see discussions with online communities bashing 8 bit as if it's somehow inadequate. We have even shot cinema commercials on the FS7o0 so its utter nonsense to suggest that you cannot create great looking work on 8bit formats.
Just because a new camcorder has been announced does not make your existing camcorder any less valuable or capable than the day you invested in it. We live in a time when technology is getting smaller, more feature rich and cheaper as each year goes by. If you are unsure about buying a particular format then rent it until such times as there's a strong business case for owning.
In addition this camera will record continuous slow mo up to 180fps in 1080p and 60fps in 4k.
The PXW-FS7 is an E-mount camcorder just like the A7s, FS100 and FS700. I'm a big fan of E-mount because it means I can use almost any lens I own with an adaptor.
We used the Zeiss Touit a fair bit and being an E-mount lens keeps the profile of the camera really small. The lens Touit has contacts and so the aperture and focus can be controlled from the Camera controls.
We used a range of Sony A-mount and E-mount lenses for both shoots but we also used the Zeiss Touit and CP.2 lenses. In addition we had access to the new E-mount FE PZ 28-135mm F4 G OSS zoom lens
This is a powered zoom lens with a zoom servo that can be controlled via the hand grip or top handle zoom rocker or by using a small finger control on the lens. This means that you can effectively have a zoom controlled motor on any E-mount camera including the A7s.
The top handle has a zoom rocker (zoom demand) and the MI shoe which is a hot shoe with powered and communication contacts that means you can add accessories like the wireless mic adaptor that will allow cable free connection to Sony's UWP-D11 radio mics
The camera feels very much like an old Aaton film Camera on the shoulder. Its small and agile. I'm moving increasing towards smaller cameras. I had an F5 for a while but I found it just too big once I attached the lenses and power. You can add a V lock power adaptor and this will allow you to take a Raw signal from the camera for an extra cost. Personally I like the BPU style batteries that will be familiar to any EX1/EX3 owners.