It’s the middle of 2015. Europe is being flooded with migrants coming from Africa and the middle east. Together with my BBC corespondent Bethany Bell, we traveled to Bolzano-Italy trying to witness first hand how those immigrants are trying to cross the Italian-Austrian border and then continue to Germany and northern Europe in hopes for a better future. It’s the end of June 2015. The Canon 5D mark III is already sold, my Canon 1DC is collecting dust and the Sony A7s is being deployed over and over again for news and documentary assignments. After all, it is an excellent, flexible working tool. I treat the Sony A7s as “the brain”. If I need it compact, I can travel almost incognito and still achieve excellent results. Do I need it large and on the shoulders? No problem, a few reliable accessories and I have a larger, well balanced tool to work with. I’ve tried to put together some tips and info regarding my setup for the above shoot. I hope these will help you when you might have to shoot in similar conditions or use the Sony A7s for broadcast. Sound: For this specific mission, the requirement was to be as compact and flexible as possible. In order to achieve that I “sacrificed” Sony’s XLR-K2M attachment and decided to have only 1 recordable audio channel. Since I didn’t know what to expect when shooting, I decided to rely on the camera’s internal microphone for ambient sound and when conducting interviews, I would quickly plug in my Sennheiser EW100 G2 wireless receiver. As a rule of thumb I always have a mini to mini audio L-shape plug extension on the camera headphone socket, so discerning the mic plug under pressure is easy. This also comes in handy when I use headphones. Cage and REC button: I also replaced my trusted motion9 Sony A7s cage with the new IndiPRO Tools Thor Video Sony a7S Cage. This cage has a “built in” tripod plate and its right hand side is open (unlike the motion9 cage). With an open cage is possible to use a new and ingenious accessory made by Cineasy Touch. This A7/S/R/ button enhancement accessory can be attached to the camera’s neck strap eyelet near the video button with a screw. The result is a much easier and reliable operation of the camera’s REC button. Lenses and ND filters: My “day to day” lens kit consists of the following 3 lenses: (used with a Metabones EF to NEX adapter mark IV). Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8. Although it’s an APS-C lens, it is the widest and fastest lens I can get. Great for general run&gun shooting, plus, the focus hard stops are as a god-send. Canon 24-105mm F/4. This has been my workhorse lens for a very long time. With a good built-in stabiliser and adequate focal length, this lens truly shines. Mind you that this lens has no hard stops so accurate focusing can be hard at times. Canon 70-200mm F/4.0 IS. For a long time I was debating with myself if I should purchase the F/4 or F/2.8 version of this lens and then decided to go with the F/4 one. With modern cameras being so light sensitive (especially the A7 family), the F/4 aperture is an acceptable trade-off, as the lens itself is much lighter and smaller then its F/2.8 brother (or is it the sister)?…. This suits my shooting style and constant traveling. Heliopan 77mm Vari ND. This variable ND filter always give me satisfying results especially when using long lenses. XUME Lens Adapter & Filter Holder. On of those simple accessories that makes life so much easier when changing lenses during running&gunning situations. Simply attach the supplied magnetic holder to any of your lenses, then attach the other part on your preferred “screw on” filter. From that point on, changing 1 filter between several lenses couldn’t become easier. Bottom line regarding lenses, 5 years into the large sensor camera revolution and there is still no manufacturer who offers a proper, modestly priced run&gun zoom lens. The only one that comes close is the Sony 28-135mm but this one will mostly suit a full frame camera and is quite large and heavy for some assignments. Eyepiece: Many of you requested to know the type of eyepiece I used and how to attach it to the Sony A7s EVF, so here we go: -Eyepiece -How to fit to the A7s EVF: https://vimeo.com/103261808 Camera settings and menu: On the left you can see my Fn quick access settings. I’ve also programmed the C3 button to allow me quick audio level adjustments and under “Custom key settings” Center Button is assigned to “Focus Magnifier” while the Down button is assigned to ISO settings. I also keep my camera menu ready for “APS-C Size Capture” so if I quickly need to change focal length (as demonstrated in the above video), all I have to do is press “menu” and voilà. (A quick access to this function can not be assigned as a short cut to any of the buttons). TIP: If you want to prolong your shooting time from a single battery, put the camera on “flight mode”. My decision was to shoot this report on PP7 (flat mode) and add the look I wanted later on. The LUT I used in this report is from Rocket Rooster. Together with James Miller’s DELUTS, currently those are my favourites LUTs. If you have any question about this article, don’t hesitate to drop me a line! Also check out Working with the Sony A7s for Broadcast – Part I Many thanks to Bethany Bell. The original BBC link to her report can be found here. Johnnie Behiri is a freelance documentary cameraman/editor/producer working mostly for the BBC and other respected broadcasters. He is also co-owner of cinema5d.comRead more
I would actually like to start my A7s article with writing about the Canon 1DC…Since it came out during March 2013, the Canon 1DC was my primary working tool be it for broadcast (when ever I could choose the equipment to work with), documentary, corporate, or any other narrative project. The combination of a clean full HD full frame video or 1.3 crop 4K internal recording plus what I consider to be “irresistible colour and general warmth” gave me the maximum flexibility to be creative and cater my customers with what needed best for the project. On the downside, the hefty price tag prevented it from becoming a popular camera and further more, it always felt to me like Canon was treating this camera like the “stepchild” of the “C” family, meaning, no real meaningful updates that could enhance and simplify shooting experience like “punch-in zoom” while recording, peaking, or good internal audio quality to name a few. Those shortcoming forced me to always work with an external monitor or EVF, external audio recorder, plus a rig when needed. Then came the Sony A7s. After purchasing that camera the first feeling I had was “liberation”…Now I could choose if I want to work with a rig or perhaps an external monitor/EVF, or “stay compact” and not defeat the purpose of its small size by using the build in excellent OLED EVF as my run&gun monitor. The key word was/is flexibility. Depending on the shooting scenario, I can now quickly adopt the camera to be “small” or “big”. Further more, Sony (unlike Canon) cleverly designed the camera to be part of a total solution for the documentary shooter. With the attached hot-shoe audio module XLR-K2M (or XLR-K1M if desired) or alternatively using Sony’s URXP03 (wireless solution) together with the SAMD-p3 adapter, one can now have high quality and up to 2 channel XLR audio solution connected directly to the camera. Additionally, Sony’s 28-135mm f4 stabilised ENG type motorised lens due to be release soon and will create a total working solution opposed to Canon ‘s “camera only” situation. Now regarding the above video. Together with Bethany Bell my BBC corespondent, we wanted to capture one of Vienna’s traditional art, the “Dudeln” (Vienna’s own indoor yodelling). Since I was visiting similar local places like this before, I knew that lighting will be challenging especially when I was required to minimise my disturbance to the restaurant guests and staff. For the task I opted for 3 800W redheads. Those allowed me to increase the restaurant’s light levels by pointing them indirectly to the white walls. Additionally, I could lit the dudler singer Agnes Palmisano from few meters away, again without disturbing her singing and her fellow guitar and accordion players. Next was sound. As I was alone without a soundman with Bethany in this assignment, it was rather challenging. Balancing alone and at times 2 audio channels (one of them with music) is not that easy…. For the opening sequence I’ve asked Agnes the singer to be aware of my queue signalling when Bethany is starting to talk and help me by lowering her voice to the point that Bethany’s voice is clear, then on my second queue, raise her voice again and continue singing. After 2-3 tries we were perfectly synced and able to execute a nice engaging opening scene. In order NOT to waste too much time and also keep simplicity, I’ve decided that the musicians won’t have their own microphone but rather be heard from Agnes’s one. A bit risky but here it worked perfectly!. My lens selection for that evening was all from Samyang. (14, 24, 35, 85mm). Those are modestly priced and perfect for lowlight situations work. When editing, I dropped the S-log 2 footage into Premiere CC 2014 (allows native XAVC-S editing) and after I was done, I’ve added 1 adjustment layer with “filmConvert” on it and chose the look I wanted. (Profile: Cine 1-Cinema, KD 5207 Vis3). On a second adjustment layer I’ve added 20% sharpness for enhancing the general look. Below you will find few “before” and “after” S-log shots: All in all, I had a very positive experience working with the A7s for broadcast. My next full length documentary feature is schedule for spring. I won’t hesitate using the camera again. The original BBC link to Bethany’s report can be found here. Many thanks to Bethany Bell and Agnes Palmisano Johnnie Behiri is a freelance documentary cameraman/editor/producer working mostly for the BBC and other respected broadcasters. He is also co-owner of cinema5d.comRead more
I’ve been working with the BBC as a freelance cameraman/editor for the last 7 years and recently came across the YouTube video below, published by “BBC College of Journalism”. I guess when you look at the video the instinct will be to shout “what happened to the world quality leader broadcaster and why is he approving the use of smartphones in the field”? Well, he way I see it, the move is aimed towards allowing the field journalists to use their “broadcast tools” in the best available way and this is a good thing. When you come to consider a news event and have the choice to film it with an “inferior quality device” or not filming it at all, I would vote for “filming it with what you have”. I’m happy to see the BBC moving forward and endorsing the new technologies in a creative and logical way. I hope other broadcaster will follow and mobile phone manufacturers will grab the opportunity to design and deliver a “broadcast mobile phone”, one that can become a journalist favorite. As for us, fellow cameramen, there is nothing to fear. As we cannot stop technology from evolving, we better accept the change and focus our talents elsewhere because they are definitely needed! More from BBC college of journalism can be found hereRead more
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