Educators adopt Sony F3 camera
Press release from Sony
The Sony PMW-F3 Super 35mm digital cinematography camcorder has struck a chord with Australian educators looking to equip their students with industry standard systems to meet current and future requirements.
Sony’s first professional handheld digital production camera with a Super 35mm imager was the right acquisition tool at the right time for three of the country’s leading tertiary institutions.
Faced with students trending to DLSRs, tutors were looking for a large sensor camera that could deliver the desired shallow depth of field ‘look’ without breaking their budgets.
F3 kit delivers DOF for Griffith Uni
“Students were chasing a 35mm aesthetic but DLSRs don’t provide enough functionality or sound recording options to make it practical option for a film school so we looked for an alternative,’ explained Dean Chircop, a lecturer at Griffith Film School, part of Griffith University’s Queensland College of Art.
“We were stuck with cameras with 2/3” chips or 16mm frame sizes but the students were after DSLRs because the chip size has a shallower depth of field. After discussions with local cinematographers to see where the industry was going and what the trends were, we looked at options ranging from ARRI to a fully kitted DSLR. Then we heard of the Sony F3 and set it up in a benchmark test against a Sony HDCAM HDW-750 and other cameras from Panasonic, Canon and ARRI.”
Based on the outcome of the shootout a PMW-F3 camera kit complete with three Sony prime lenses was ordered in May 2011 through local reseller Videopro. The decision was announced to third year students about to commence their graduate short film work and seven out of eight projects planning to shoot on DLSRs moved to the F3.
“Shortly after it arrived the F3 went straight into seven weeks of work, going from one student production to the next. Some of these projects were quite ambitious – one was shot 12,000 kilometres west with no quick back-up available but the camera came through without problems,” said Chircop.
“As an out of box solution that can be quickly built into a production camera for single camera acquisition it performs really well in terms of integration with existing accessories. The ability of the F3 to marry a full 35mm sensor with the PL prime lenses was a beautiful combination to curb students gravitating to DSLRs and I have no doubts the F3 will service the film school well.”
AFTRS adds F3s
At Sydney’s Australian Film and Radio School (AFTRS) the Head of Cinematography, Kim Batterham ACS, also noticed the industry’s move to large sensor cameras.
“In the last two years the television landscape has radically changed and there has been an acceleration of big sensor shooting, especially in Australia. AFTRS has been at the mercy of these changes and part of our teaching philosophy is that we need to have a certain industry currency where we reflect what is happening in the industry.
“We bought a RED camera in December 2009 because it was the cheapest to buy but in mid 2011 we bought two Sony F3s because we saw the opportunity to expand our large sensor offerings at reasonable cost and they fitted our teaching needs very nicely.”
Batterham explained that the F3s have enabled AFTRS to continue to provide training for feature film makers in the face of the declining use of film due to increasing costs. “It was becoming hard for students to practice in large format shooting but the F3s have maintained that teaching opportunity without the cost of film.
“Staging and lens choice with the F3s is very similar to 35mm film cameras. We have new Zeiss lenses and are also using Zeiss primes from 20 years ago which have a nice look. Panavision lent us older Cooke zoom lenses which work well with the F3 too.”
Batterham believes the Sony F3 represents the meeting of 35mm film with the handycam revolution of the late 90‘s where a lightweight, portable, shoot anywhere camera can be handheld or shoulder-mounted and deliver high resolution images.
“It also means we are giving students a camera that they can shoot with outside of workshop environments – the F3s don’t require professional technicians to take care of them.”
The F3s were first used for a one week television directing module and have since been utilised on an in-house project to interview well known AFTRS alumni including Alex Proyas. “The F3s were a natural choice for that – the images looked good and the cameras were easy to use,” said Batterham.
WA finds F3 advantage
At c at Edith Cowan University, Director John Rapsey also selected the Sony F3 to teach cinematography to his students.
The Screen Academy has a relatively small intake of local and international students with industry experience and offers them specialist classes in cinematography taught by leading local DOP Jason Thomas.
“We set up in 2005 with Sony Z1 camcorders then upgraded to the EX1s but a big issue was that we needed to have cameras with interchangeable lenses. We know the RED camera has made an impact in our industry but we understand it has limitations – it’s big and bulky and takes a lot of infrastructure to support it. So we began talking to Sony to find a camera that was light, portable and easy to use,” said Rapsey.
Working with Perth reseller Vizcom Technologies, the Academy put the F3 through three days of testing under a wide variety of conditions before ordering the camera and its three prime lens kit which was delivered in September 2011.
“The lenses supplied with the camera are surprisingly good considering other lenses cost much more. We are also waiting for the new Sony SCL-Z18X140 14x zoom lens. It is important that we have equipment that appeals to prospective students as they want to learn using the best cameras so they will go where the best cameras are. It has been a real advantage to us to have the F3,” explained Rapsey.
As the convener of the Academy's graduate third year production slate, he has already seen his students’ work gain international attention. After projects were screened at an international student short film festival in France, seven short films and six documentaries were selected for a festival of film schools in Russia.
An eye on future expansion
Both AFTRS and Griffith Film School tutors are keen to explore the expansion options available for the F3.
An RGB and S-LOG Gamma output option, the CBK-RGB01 delivers uncompressed 10-bit RGB 4:4:4 1080p, over industry-standard dual-link or 3G HD-SDI. This signal can be recorded on units such as Sony's SR-R1 SRMaster recorder or SRW-1 HDCAM-SR recorder that are capable of up to visually lossless 880 Megabits per second image capture.
“I’m looking forward to recording uncompressed to a hard drive with 4:4:4 capabilities – that’s the final frontier,” said Chircop. “4 and 8K image sizes are what people are heading to and with the F3 we are meeting the minimum requirements for digital projection being 1920×1080, so we are getting a toe into that market without a huge cost.”
“AFTRS has looked into getting a 10bit recorder to bring the F3 data flow up to the Apple ProRes standard,” said Batterham. “For our use the camera is able to be used native for television work or maxed out with dual-link output and uncompressed data capabilities so our students can train for high-end cinema shoots.”