Working with the Sony A7s for Broadcast – Part II

A7s general viewIt’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:

A7s headphoneFor 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 Thor cage platemotion9 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.

A7s Cineasy

 

 

 

 

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:

A7s Fn button

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.

 

A7s APS C capture sizeI 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.com

Watch it on Vimeo

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Niall Megahey
Member

Great post. Could you tell me what the eye peice is youre using? Would you not find that using a monitor would help with this setup?

Joachim Richter
Member

What kind of stabilizer do you use for handheld shots?

Brian Dowling
Member

great post. Interesting to see the look you achieved with LUTs. I’m wondering how long it took to edit the film after.

Also on a side note. I wonder is sony really winning the race here in terms of new cameras and rooms like the 5d is kinda going away.

Gonçalo Ferreira
Guest

Great post. Especially to see the gear and review that is used with the camera.

Martin Hantich
Member

Excellent post on how (professional) news gathering can be done these days. For some projects, there is just no need to lug a huge PDW700 (with corresponding heavyweight tripod) around anymore. I myself recently shot a report for local TV in the mountains completely on my GH4, mainly because it was raining like crazy and we had to shoot in pretty dense surroundings.

Timothy Jace Tan
Guest
Timothy Jace Tan

Yes, i am also interested in the eye piece. haha

Eno Popescu
Member
Eno Popescu

A great post, thanks Johnnie.

Luke Holley
Member

Thanks for sharing as always.

I too love Rocket Rooster LUTS and DELUTS. To both are great buys for the price.

A7s has become my primary camera too, and anytime I have to go back to any other camera I find myself spoiled by the A7s ‘s low light shooting prowess.

Have you gotten to use the A7RII yet?

Riley Endicott
Member

Hey Johnnie thanks for the great info. Could you explain how you compensate for shooting with SLog2 in bright day light? I have an A7s and would love to use SLog more but it seems hard to do so outdoors without cranking my shutter speed, even with my Variable ND. Thanks!

Niall Megahey
Member

Hey Johnnie.

Do you ever find that you get a good bit of hiss when using the preamps in the Sony a7s? I have the Sony UWP-D11 wireless kit

Jonathan Constantinou
Member
Jonathan Constantinou

Very informative post, thank you. Glad the BBC accepted XAVC-S too.

I have a question about cages – Coming from a C100, I’m looking to get one for my own A7S. Unlike the C100 or larger cameras, the A7S doesn’t have space for 1/4 20 plus a securing pin, meaning tripod plates wobble and twist. This is my main issue I’m looking to solve with a cage – which would you recommend?

Gerardo Campos
Member

you must try the Sony 18-105m f4 G lens with power zoom; internal zoom, stabilization, nice optics, parfocal zoom, fast and really slow sppeds in zoom, face detection in A7s, little and light, since I own it is one of my “in camera all the time” lens ( I have more than 20 diferent lenses)

George Atanassov
Member

Great article. Really sad about the people and their kids. Hope one day we don’t have problems like these. Sadly though that run & gun zoom lens might come first.

Oscar M
Member
Oscar M

Hi Johnnie,
Awesome doc. looks really great and nice edit.
1. is it standard PP7
2. i would love to see your workflow in regards to the CC and how you
make tohose LUT´s look so damn good.

Ivan Forastiere
Member

Nice piece Johnnie,
The footage look with a kind of “fake” sharpness.
Did you add sharp in post?
Thanks

Christopher Roland
Member

Hi Johnnie. Your a7s posts have been super helpful! I was curious about your shoulder rig configuration as I’ve had some trouble getting the balance right, and solutions like the zacuto recoil rigs are a bit out of my budget at the moment. Any advice would be much appreciated!

 Alex Clear
Member
Alex Clear

I am curious about your lens choice … are you using the Canon lens because you had these or prefer the image quality/style over the Sony Vario Tessar 16-35 and 24-70 which seem to be paired with the Sony A7S?

L Ryan M Douthit
Member

I own and occasionally use the Sony Zeiss 24-70 with the A7S but the focus feel is terrible. This makes it a poor choice for run-and-gun video. Personally, I use Nikon lenses adapted for the A7S when doing documentary-style work.

 Alex Clear
Member
Alex Clear

Thanks Ryan, the 24-70 is my main lens right now, and I agree that sometimes (a lot) it is a little difficult to focus :-( Until now I was passing it off as being me!!! :-)

Simon Bailey
Member

The shipping charge from the U.S. to Australia is $56!!!!!!!! For a tiny little piece of rubber that would fit in the smallest envelope… America needs to learn how to export. China do free shipping. Not surprising the U.S. is now No. 2 “superpower”.

Daniel Harrington
Member

I don’t like the color grade, looks unnatural and it looks like a lot of other a7s grades, which is why I’m selling mine. The slog and even cinegamma’s aren’t very forgiving or malleable at 8-bit 4:2:0 internal, even with an external recorder the image isn’t forgiving at all.

Joachim Richter
Member

In my opinion you are right. Italian policemen do not wear cyan colored uniforms. For a documentary style film natural looking colors are also part of the job.

Bob Wall
Member

I agree – it was bizarre to see the teal/orange color scheme show up in a news story. I worked through all the Deluts recently and couldn’t find one that fit into a picture that was factual, not artistic, and so ended up using a more generic LUT to lift the PP7. Skintones, especially your host here, look strange and like the person had spray-on tan.

PiDicus Rex
Member

Johnnie : For Run n Gun ENG lens,… Sigma makes Parfocal Zooms ;)
They can pick up some gunk that makes the zoom not smooth enough, but you can always use a Follow Focus with the gear on the zoom ring to get a smooth action.
Snap in, focus, snap out, frame, shoot, roll the zoom.

Kepano Kekuewa
Member
Kepano Kekuewa

Johnnie, thanks again for sharing your perspective and work. I’m curious why you used a cage at all if you were trying to travel super lightweight on this job. I agree with your primary glass choice, however – the 24-105 is a great run-and-gun lens. I’m spoiled by my 2.8 zooms for photography, but for video work f4 is very versatile, as is the 24-105 range. I decided to purchase the Sigma version, but they’ve been out of stock at the major retailers here in the U.S. for a while. The lightweight setup that worked for me is the 24-105… Read more »

Mike Kozlenko
Guest
Mike Kozlenko

How has the Tokina 11-16 been working for you on the a7s? Do you get vignetting when using it with the speedbooster?

trackback

[…] The Track: field report shooting with the Sony FE 28-135mm, Zeiss FE 16-35mm and A7s (Mike Kobal). 40mm Voigtlander Nokton being used on a Sony A7…(Fridaysushi). Alpha-7 II and iOS remote control (SonyAlphaForum). Sony A7s for broadcast Part II (Cinema5D). […]

User Experience
Member
User Experience

– Johnnie, Great report and thank you for sharing your approach. Sound “… 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.” Can you please rephrase this info? Do you mean to say that you plug your 3.5 mini headphone connector into the different ends of the L-shape extension so that you can discern the sound coming form the camera mic and the wireless mic? If this is the case,… Read more »

trackback

[…] wouldn’t have to rent something else. Second, I wanted to stay small and mobile. This post by Johnnie Behiri on Cinema5D was a huge help on how to set up and use the A7s as a documentary […]

 Tracey Glover
Member

Hi Johnnie, Thanks for the great article. I have just bought the A7s and my lenses. Working now on sound. Do you think the sound quality is really high quality/pro recording through mics plugged directly into camera, or run through a zoom recorder, that’s plugged into the camera, or do you think for a cinema quality feature length documentary I need to record with a dual system and sync in post production? I am a total beginner and would like to avoid the post production sync but I don’t want to compromise the sound. Thanks so much for any feedback.… Read more »

 Pete Tomkies
Member
Pete Tomkies

Hi Johnnie, thanks for such a great post. Apologoies for asking a question on a two year old article but I wondered about the video fortmat. The Sony A7S only records in 4:2:0 and I read online that the BBC and other broadcasters require footage to be acquired in 4:2:2. How do you get around this? Thanks again.