Friday, September 7, 2012

Shooting With the Sony FS-700

Had the opportunity to shoot some gun sequences yesterday on the new Sony NEX-FS700 camera. We were working primarily in super-slow motion, with the expectation that we will use a good bit of speed ramping in the final edit. Derek Arwood and Jon Minnihan (standing next to me) worked on the project as well. I will post the final edit here once it is complete so you can see how it turned out.

As far as observations with the camera. The workflow when doing super slow-mo is very different, especially when trying to move on a quick schedule. Because the camera needs time to write shots to the drive, you are forced to wait a while between shots. This, coupled with the time it takes to review slow-motion footage (which we did often)--over the course of a day can add hours of extra down time. At 240fps (the maximum fps at full 1920x1080 resolution), an 8-second capture (the maximum recording time allowed) takes around a minute and a half to play back at 24fps. It seems to write quite a bit faster than real time, but still takes a while. And the wait for shots at 480fps or higher are excruciating.

There are three record-button options for Super Slow Motion. In the first option, pressing the start button will record the next 8 seconds. The downside with this is that it does not allow you to see what you are shooting in real time. The moment you press the start button, it immediately begins showing you what it is writing to disk--the slow motion version. That means this option is virtually useless if you are following action. I should note here that we did not consult the manual, so it is possible I am wrong about this. In the second option, pressing the start button will record the previous 8 seconds (the camera is always buffering). We found this to be the most useful. Once the action is finished, you simply press the record button and it accepts that as the out-point. The third option is a combination of the two, in which the previous 4 seconds are recorded from buffer memory and the next 4 seconds are recorded after that.

The most difficult thing I found was the timing of shots. Any kind of creative movement requires planning. For example, I had a shot where I wanted to come out from behind the shooter's head just in time to see the target explode. In order to make that happen precisely, we had to do a three count. On two-and-a-half, I would quickly whip the camera (on a slider) out from behind his head in order to catch the target exploding as he pulled the trigger exactly on the count of three. All of this to get a final shot that looks like a nice slow dolly shot. There are also considerations when shooting handheld. On the positive side, it is next to impossible to shoot shaky footage. Even when running handheld, the footage seems very smooth. On the other hand, the minor corrections you do handheld, such as panning slightly past the subject in a swish pan and then correcting back to the proper composition can be problematic. Once played back in slow motion, it may take 10 seconds for the camera to "find" the proper composition. In the meantime, the viewer is watching something that feels very off.

These are just some quick and simple observations. The FS-700 is a great camera and the footage looks amazing. Any criticisms I have are far outweighed by the advantages this platform brings to the table. I look forward to shooting much more with it in the future.