LAH LAH’S ADVENTURES SHOT WITH SONY PMW-F55 CAMERAS IN 4K
Sydney, 17 December 2013 – 2014 will see a new children’s TV series called Lah Lah’s Adventures air on the Seven Network and Ceebeebies. The show was shot exclusively with Sony PMW-F55 4K cameras and the man responsible was Mick Jones, Director of LitUp Digital & Rusty Gate Films.
Jones explained, “When the Lah Lah's Adventures production came up there was some discussion around shooting the show in 4K resolution due to the fact that it was a green screen live action/animation production. This would give the compositors and animators more freedom for resizing elements closer to the foreground without compromising the resolution. So I started looking at options for 4K acquisition.”
Jones knew his serious options were limited as he needed a camera that would have a relatively simple workflow, 4K resolution and excellent reliability for the two-month shoot.
Jones continued, “My research very quickly told me that the Sony PMW-F55 was the camera for this job. I was one of the first to purchase the F55 and there was no time to play with one before placing a pre-order, so I had to go on specs and Sony's reputation. I was quite impressed with the versatility of the camera. Having a choice of codecs to come, high sensitivity and low noise, compact and lightweight were all factors, but the onboard compressed 4K option was a huge draw card for me.”
Lah Lah's Adventures will be finished in HD but after several discussions with the animation post house based in Canada, Jones decided to acquire the show in 4K. The shoot was all done on a green screen stage with the 4K resolution giving room for the digital camera moves of objects and people to shift within the frame without becoming pixelated.
Jones said, “For this show I enlisted the services of my good friend and colleague Bruce Logan ASC, as a green screen advisor. We had a limited budget and needed to be able to get an amazing key. Bruce brought so much knowledge to this production, his feature credits include some of the most iconic films of all time such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars IV (he blew up the Death Star!) and of course Tron. Bruce helped develop a green screen lighting plan that would work within our budget but also work really well for the compositors.”
“We were both blown away by how sensitive the F55 camera was. Compared to other green screen shoots we had worked on, we could use a fraction of the light. This kept not only the lighting budget low, but also the temperature on set making it much more comfortable for the performers and crew to work within the space as we weren't blasted with heat and light constantly. We did extensive testing of the different gammas, ISO and shutter combinations in order to find out what would work best for the compositors. As this is a 26 episode series there would be a lot of footage coming down the pipeline and we wanted it to be right. The feedback from the compositors was fantastic and they found it easy to work with the image.”
“I connected a ProRes recorder to the F55 camera in addition to the onboard XAVC 4K that we were recording. This meant that editorial could begin working immediately on scenes and producing dailies on one machine, while backing up the camera cards and sorting the projects with the XAVC footage. At the time we started shooting XAVC was not natively supported by Adobe so the ProRes material was used to cut the initial scenes. We then re-linked to 4K files for the shots that required scaling. The F55 camera performed flawlessly throughout the forty days it was on set. I was very impressed with the reliability of it. It truly is a workhorse camera.”
Prior to his purchase of the Sony F55 Jones had been using a variety of other cameras with varying results. He added, “I’d been using the Sony FS700 and FS100, Canon C300 and occasionally the Red Scarlet and Epic. They’re all great cameras in their own right but the F55 seemed to roll the best bits of those cameras into one unit – the low noise from the FS cameras, a nice log mode like the C300, 4K and high speed like the Red cameras. The F55 therefore became the most versatile camera I have used, which is why I’ve continued to use it beyond this production.”
Mick Jones is one of Australia’s busiest filmmakers and one who truly cherishes his craft. As an independent he appreciated the value of good equipment and the versatility it brings.
Jones said, “I love using the Sony F55 and I think it’s the closest I've found to a camera that, as an owner operator, has all the bases covered. The fact that there are three choices of compressed codec and a RAW shooting option is a huge plus. I like that once you set your shoot mode it is so simple to use. The six hot keys on the side let you get at the main functions really quickly and easily without having to dig through menus which is great. I keep coming back to the fact that the camera is so versatile. It does high speed, super clean in low light, the unit itself is very lightweight and easy to configure into a shoulder-mounted rig. I also love how you can choose from multiple codecs and also multiple resolutions HD, 2K or 4K all internally – another huge plus.”
Programme makers, like Mick Jones, are often looking for production equipment that gives them an edge and allows them to create content in a way no-one else has done before. When describing his Sony F55 in this context Jones said, “I think the S-Log 2/S-Gamut mode is fantastic and the range it affords me can really save time in the field. Recently shooting documentary content for the History Channel outdoors in harsh full sun with a backlit subject, I really saw how the S-log just nails it. I was able to get an exposure on the subject's face, keep detail in the shadows and the sky all at once. We had a gaffer with diffusion and scrim on hand, but sometimes a shot needs to happen without those elements. It's good to know just how much it can take.”
“It's also nice to know I can take it on almost any job and know that the camera will be able to handle it in terms of technical requirements. On one drama shoot in particular, before I had the F55, I used multiple cameras because I needed a high speed option for some action scenes which I shot on the Epic, a compact lightweight run ‘n’ gun body (the C300) and a clean, sensitive camera for some specific low light shooting – the FS700. If I was shooting that project today I would only be taking the F55 onto the shoot.”
Mick Jones has taken his F55 across the country and used it on a wide variety of different projects, something he is keen to share with his peers due to the performance of the camera and the results it has achieved.
Jones concluded, “I recently updated the firmware to Version 2 which allows for 120fps shooting onto the SxS cards in HD resolution. It looks amazing and again, I found it quite simple to dial in and flip between regular frame rate and HFR on the side screen hot keys. I recently shot some kite surfing and wind surfing with 120fps and also some cooking content. Not having to wheel in another camera for these frame rates is a big time-saver on set.”
“I’ve also been shooting music videos with the F55, in fact one of them – Troy Cassar-Daly and Adam Harvey’s Lights on the Hill – was nominated for a Golden Guitar for best music video in the 2014 Country Music Awards. I have also most recently been shooting more documentary content for the History Channel with the F55, where again the sensitivity of the camera comes into play with needing smaller lights and lighting kits to get beautiful results”
“In addition to all of the above I’ve also shot advertorials, commercials and corporate videos all with the F55 and all with the same amazing results. This camera really is excellent.”