Dubai-based rental house Atlas Television recently invested in the first Sony F65 cmera in the UAE. Director of Photography and Managing Director of Navigation Films, Mike Charlton, gives us his take on the camera When the Sony F65 was first announced, cameramen and DoPs were delighted that a 4K alternative to the RED would now […]
Dubai-based rental house Atlas Television recently invested in the first Sony F65 cmera in the UAE. Director of Photography and Managing Director of Navigation Films, Mike Charlton, gives us his take on the camera
When the Sony F65 was first announced, cameramen and DoPs were delighted that a 4K alternative to the RED would now be available in the market for mass consumption rather than to a few frontrunners, who had the foresight to invest in Jim Jannards technology right at the outset.
The Sony F65 is a high-end true 4K motion picture camera, utilising a Super 35 image sensor and recording onto solid-state SR memory cards. The camera aims to provide users with images that surpass the flexibility 35mm film. Its most spectacular feature is its 20 mega-pixel 8K CMOS sensor that sets it apart from other cameras in the market.
The Sony imager is the first to provide a dedicated green photo site for each pixel in the 4K output image. This is twice the amount of green resolution compared with traditional 4K Bayer pattern sensors, providing a significant improvement in image resolution that is ideal for VFX processing.
Once the photosite information is debayered, the resolution is a true 4K image that has been produced without the need for pre-filter blurring to reduce image artifacts as occurs with other supposedly 4Kcameras on the market explains Charlton.
Essentially, the green channel luminance is 4k and the Red and Blue are 2K. Once processed so that amounts to true 4K output unlike the RED camera. Of course, RED enthusiasts would probably argue that, explains Charlton.
The F65 that Atlas has runs up to 60fps at 4K and is soon to be upgraded by Sony to a maximum of 120fps. Other key features worth mentioning at the outset are its ability to create HD/2K or genuine 4K resolution images combined with outstanding dynamic range and high sensitivity.
One of the other specialties of this camera is its ability to provide 16 bit RAW output, according to Charlton.
It is is capable of recording RAW files and thats a huge advantage in post-production
Theres a dockable SR-R4 SR memory unit that records 16-bit linear SRRAW directly onto an SR memory card at up to 5 Gbps.
This can be further developed with industry-standard NLEs from companies such as Adobe, Avid, Apple, Film light, Quantel, Sony and other mainstream brands. For maximum operational flexibility, the SR-R4 can also support SStP (same as HDCAM SR) recording which can be used natively on the same NLEs.
The combination of an 8k sensor and the ability to shoot RAW apparently makes the F65 the first camera to support the Academy IIF-ACES — Image Interchange Framework, Academy Colour Encoding Specification.
It is all of the advantages above that made Navigation Films confident of creating a video for an IMAX screen in the region.
The camera itself is impressive and according to Sony, this is a true 4k camera that also gives you the option to shoot in HD/2k, explains Charlton.
This makes it one of the higher resolution cameras that are available in the market and so, shooting for an IMAX screen did not pose any challenges at all, explains Charlton. We were very impressed with the results of the reverse telecine to 65mm film that was done in LA. Our client has the choice of remaining in the digital world with 4K projection or projecting IMAX, and thats wonderful flexibility.
Perhaps one of the disadvantages of the F65 is that it is rather bulky. We placed it on a weighing scale minus the batteries, the lenses and so on, and the camera weighed a whopping 11kgs. Throw in a 11kg Angenieux 24-290 lens as the team did on the shoot one day along with batteries and other add-ons and the DoP was shouldering a little under 30kgs.
It is a heavy camera but it does have a shoulder pad for hand held filming, Charlton is quick to justify, and to record RAW with other cameras such as the Alexa entails an additional data recorder that make the camera less ergonomic filming off the shoulder .
Although bulkier than its competitors, Charlton says the wide range of colours the F65 can capture is even beyond 35mm, and sets it apart from the rest.
In that sense, it is so much like film. Its not grainy like film but your ability to pull pictures to control highlight areas, to see into the highlights, and to lift shadow areas is similar to what you can do with film. The Da Vinci system at Mile Studios has recently been upgraded to accept the RAW files from the F65, and we took some footage in for a test. Sony says the F65 can produce a colour range that goes beyond 35 mm and I agree. We were all amazed at what we could achieve in the colour grading, explains Charlton.
Another feature that Charlton finds remarkable about this camera is the mechanical shutter.
This one has a mechanical shutter, not an electronic shutter. With the electronic shutter, you tend to get a rolling effect when youre shooting verticals and moving quickly past them. This can be very prominent with HDSLRs such as the Canon 5D but not so much with the Alexas or the REDs. The mechanical shutter eliminates this concern altogether, explains Charlton.
According to the DoP, this camera is ideal for feature films, videos for the big screen as well as shooting TV series.
Event companies are increasingly looking for 4K acquisition primarily because of the format of the screens. Where you have 20x5m screens, the usual procedure is to have three shots stitched together to fit the screen, often with graphics on each side and a HD image in the centre. Now, you can have one shot that fills the entire screen, it is 4K and all you have to do is slice it on the top and the bottom. Increasingly, customers are asking for 4K delivery making this ideal, adds Charlton.
But he cautions that this camera is not ready to provide footage for live events owing to the size of the data.
You need incredibly high capacity fiber connection to carry this data, because its really very heavy as raw format. Plus, most of the existing systems used for live events may not be able to support this format, Charlton adds.
With increasing demand for 4K images, Atlas Televisions partner in the UK, Procam Television, has also invested in an F65.
Clients feel a lot more comfortable if they know that there is a backup camera in case anything goes wrong. By having one at each of our offices in Dubai and the UK, we can always share our resources depending on the need and nature of the shoot, explains Charlton.
Like most other cameras that shoot RAW, it is imperative that a Digital technician (DIT) be on set when shooting with the F65.
A DIT is essential. You come back with a lot of data so if youre not careful, you could be overwhelmed by the amount of footage you have shot. We are using a programme called Yoyota that manages that data and exports it to whatever file you want for it. So you would, for instance, convert it to Pro res for FCP, MXF files for Avid and so on, he adds.
There are cards ranging from 256 Gb and 512 Gb to 1TB.
We get about 30 minutes on a 1TB card recording 16bit RAW. If you were doing a commercial on the RED or on the Alex, thats no different and on an average, you tend to shoot about one-and-a-half terabytes of data a day, explains Charlton.
Charlton believes that if the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and especially free zones like Dubai Studio City and twofour54 continue to encourage the production of local and international films and TV series in the various emirates, this camera will have a role to play in that.
You clearly need a critical mass to look after it and feed it and this ecosystem has the ability to support such a camera, he adds.
Sonys F65 has come out just as many other manufacturers are also looking at 4K versions of their cameras at NAB. Perhaps the only serious disadvantage with this camera is that it is bulky.
F65 Digital Cinematography Camera:
Super 35mm CMOS Sensor
True 4K Sensor with 20 Mega Pixels
High Latitude of 14 Stops
Up To 16bit RAW Output
High Frame Rate of Up To 120 fps
Built-in ND Filters
Mechanical Rotary Shutter
Compact and Lightweight
List price: USD 63,000.