Page 1

behind the scenes

issue 8

Live in Paris in 4K


Zero Point Zero Production Inc. One of the worlds first to use X-OCN and the AXS-R7 Jendra Jarnagin Shoots a feature film during a live triathlon Beyond Definition

Letter from the Editors This 8th issue of CineAlta Magazine is again packed with a diverse collection of production stories, all told by creative professionals – from live concerts to sports to reality shows and more. Here’s the quick rundown: Our cover story takes you behind the scenes of U2’s iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live in Paris, where the production company, Done and Dusted, used a mix of Sony HDC-4300s and F55s to broadcast live to the US and capture one of the biggest bands in the world. Hear from Zero Point Zero Production as one of the first in the world to use the new AXS-R7 recorder and capture in the X-OCN format. Professional golfers aren’t the only ones who need to worry about the perfect shot. No one knows that better than veteran DP Paul Berner, who’s shot professional golf for 20 years. Berner chronicles his format journey from HD into 4K, and how golf’s live production requirements have changed over the years. Director of photography Will Baldy outlines why the F65 was the right choice for the futuristic film, Franklin’s Brain. Working with director Scott Quinn, he describes the decision to shoot anamorphic and how the camera’s sensor captured the unique look needed for the film.

Cinematographer Christopher Baffa, ASC, has an extensive list of credits that range from film to television. In this revealing interview, Baffa talks about the changes he’s seen in technology, his thoughts on film vs. digital, and his experiences using the F55 on his latest projects. Some productions really test a cinematographer’s endurance, especially when the subject itself is a test of endurance. Director of photography Jendra Jarnagin went the distance to shoot a fiction feature film during a live triathlon. Sony cameras have been on the sets of reality TV productions for as long as the genre has been around, and director/DP David Thies has worked with every type of camera, from the earliest days of HDV with the Z7U and up to the F55 on the popular Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory. We hope you enjoy these stories and find them as informative as they are entertaining. If you’ve got a production experience worth sharing, please send it to us at and you might see it in the pages of an upcoming issue of CineAlta magazine. Thanks. Alec Shapiro and Peter Crithary

Alec Shapiro

Peter Crithary

President Professional Solutions Americas Sony Electronics Inc.

Marketing Manager (Twitter: @CineAltaNews) Professional Solutions Americas Sony Electronics Inc.


Done and Dusted produces U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live in Paris


Content 1 U 2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live in Paris 47 Zero Point Zero Production 59 A movie is made in prep 81 N  ot a fantasy for reality 99  A conversation with Christopher Baffa, ASC

119 F ranklin’s Brain 125 Tickled leaps to the big screen 133 S ports Television: the art and

Zero Point Zero Production Inc.

beauty of the game

ZPZ shoots X-OCN with the prototype R7 recorders and version 8 Beta firmware of the F55.




A movie is made in prep

Not a fantasy for reality

A conversation with Christopher Baffa, ASC

See how Jendra Jarnagin shot a feature film during a live triathlon that lasted 5 hours.

David Thies talks about shooting Rob Drydek’s Fantasy Factory and more on the F55.

Read what he has to say about the changes in technology and his experience with the F55.




Franklin’s Brain

Tickled leaps to the big screen

Sports Television: the art and beauty of the game

DP Will Baldy describes why they went with the F65 for Scott Quinn’s futuristic film.

Sony cameras captured the unique community of competitive endurance tickling.

DP Paul Berner describes his journey shooting golf events and how they have changed.

What’s new By Peter Crithary Sony introduces the AXS-R7 16-bit linear recorder, which joins the original AXS-R5. We created the R7 in consultation with cinematographers working in feature films, commercials, reality, documentary, wildlife, underwater and other genres. In response to their needs, the recorder delivers continuous 4K 120fps recording (with the F55), up to 30 seconds of cache recording, a more rugged chassis, more rigid attachment to the camera and dual media slots. In addition to 16-bit linear RAW in 4K and 2K, the R7 introduces Sony’s innovative 16-bit linear X-OCN recording format. The recorder attaches to the camera with four, widely spaced 1/4-inch hex screws fastened to a reinforced top plate, for far greater rigidity. The metal chassis is also thicker, splash resistant and – with a sealed ventilation system – dust resistant. While some systems reduce resolution and skip lines in the pursuit of High Frame Rates, the combination of the AXS-R7 and F55 achieves 4K 120fps in full resolution with no line skipping. When you play back at 24p, you get incredible 5x super slow motion. For shots that require even higher frame rates, both the F55 and F5 cameras can capture 2K 16-bit linear RAW at up to 240fps with the R7 and R5 recorders. Sony RAW utilizes visually lossless compression that does not change regardless of frame rates. To facilitate high-speed workflows in 4K at a continuous 120fps RAW recording, Sony’s latest AXS memory cards read and write at a sustained 4.8 Gigabits per second. The new AXS-A1TS48 and A512S48 (slim cards, black trim) come in capacities of 1 TB and 512 GB. The AXS-R7 also works with the A Series S24 media (slim cards, blue trim) which offer capacities of 1 TB, 512 GB and 256 GB. S24 cards support recording 4K RAW up to 60 fps and 2K RAW up to 240fps. The X-OCN acquisition format supports all A Series cards (S24 and S48). The AXS-R7 recorder is not compatible with the larger form factor of the first-generation AXS-512S24 cards.

The AXS-R7 can capture up to 30 seconds of 2K RAW or up to 24 seconds of 4K RAW before you hit the Record button. Cache recording times vary by frame rate, recording mode (RAW, X-OCN ST or X-OCN LT) and resolution (4K or 2K). In addition to 16-bit linear RAW, the AXS-R7 supports Sony’s 16-bit linear X-OCN recording. Short for eXtended Tonal Range – Original Camera Negative, X-OCN delivers uncompromising image capture at incredibly low data rates. The system takes advantage of Sony’s unique algorithm, specifically tuned for the F55 and F5 sensors. X-OCN produces file sizes much smaller than camera RAW, resulting in longer record times, faster file transfers and more economical postproduction. But unlike conventional codecs, X-OCN retains the quality of 16-bit linear encoding, far exceeding 10- or even 12-bit formats – often at lower bit rates. X-OCN is ideal for the most advanced workflows, including High Dynamic Range, Sony’s S-Gamut color, Rec. 2020 deliverables and 16-bit ACES postproduction. The X-OCN workflow is as easy to use as Sony RAW.

16 bit X-OCN, capturing big budget quality at a very modest bit rate

Look Up Tables and other parameters are not baked into the recording, the result offering tremendous flexibility in post-production. The AXS-R7 delivers two modes of X-OCN recording in both 2K and 4K at frame rates of up to 120p. X-OCN ST (standard) in most cases is visually indistinguishable from Sony’s camera RAW while X-OCN LT (Light) is ideal where lower data rates and smaller file sizes are critical.

In addition to the AXS-R7, Sony has updated our RAW Viewer application to v2.3, for support of X-OCN amongst many other features. You get playback, processing and trimming of X-OCN files based on imported EDLs, support for High Dynamic Range with active nit display, ITU-R BT. 2020 (Rec. 2020), Academy approved ACES v1.0, exporting of OpenEXR, DPX, ProRes (Mac® OS), and XAVC™ among many other features. RAW Viewer supports both Windows and MAC OS.

The X-OCN workflow is simple and straightforward, combining the decoding and size efficiency of traditional codecs with the quality and versatility of RAW. Instead of “baking in” your settings for Exposure Index (EI), color space, LUT’s, gamma, log and others, X-OCN captures these parameters as monitoring settings. This process is completely non-destructive, delivering the full potential of the original sensor data into postproduction. As a result, your colorist and editor are empowered with far greater decision-making flexibility than is possible with conventional formats. X-OCN 16-bit capture also retains the ultimate in grayscale expression, for powerful High Dynamic Range grading with S-Log3, SMPTEST-2084, Hybrid Log Gamma, ACES and other workflow options where 16-bit has a significant advantage.

Version 8.0 firmware for the F5, and F55 will accompany the AXS-R7 and also add support for XQD G series cards, XAVC-I Class 480 recording and more. For professionals who require an even higher data rate in XAVC 4K and QFHD recording, version 8.0 supplements the existing “Class 300” 10-bit 4:2:2 I frame mode with an even more robust, higher bitrate implementation. Introducing XAVC “Class 480” recording for 4K and QFHD. Already supported by leading third-party software vendors, Class 480 is available for the F55 as well as F5 cameras equipped with the CBKZ-55FX software license.

4K Bitrate comparison between X-OCN, Sony RAW, and Sony XAVC XAVC












































Done+Dusted produces

iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live in Paris Producer Jim Parsons

Photo Credit: Sam Jones


A production case study with Director Hamish Hamilton, Director of Photography Brett Turnbull, Technical Manager Bolke Burnaby Lautier, and Vision Supervisor Luke Chantrell.

Interviews by Peter Crithary Written by David Heuring



Director/Executive Producer Hamish Hamilton’s credits as a director and executive producer of live multi-camera television events include marquee productions like the Super Bowl Halftime Show, the MTV Music Video Awards, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, the Olympics and the Academy Awards. He’s won Peabody Awards and BAFTAs and has been nominated for Grammys and Emmys. But the job that may have meant the most to him personally was his most recent: U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live in Paris, filmed live for HBO. “I’ve always loved live music,” Hamilton says. “And I have been a huge fan of U2 since I bought their first record as a teenager. I’ve grown up with them, and the work I’ve done with them is maybe what I’m most proud of.” The U2 assignment was also perhaps the most complex of Hamilton’s career, and unusual in that it would be broadcast live on HBO, and

simultaneously recorded for a DVD to be edited together later from three performances. A workflow that mixed 4K F55 shots and imagery from other formats from dozens of cameras headed the list of technical challenges. Other tragic shocks were also in store for all concerned. Hamilton’s career path started in radio. He was trained in directing and producing television by the BBC, in a program that took him around the U.K. In Belfast, he observed someone live-directing musical numbers, and knew immediately it was his future. He credits BBC’s Rough Guide to the World, a single camera documentary series, with teaching him the importance of storytelling. On the Sunday Show, he got an education in multi-camera comedy, and he oversaw that show’s transition to live production, gaining valuable experience.

For U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live in Paris, Hamilton worked with the company he founded Done+Dusted... 3



“The technology was changing when I was starting out, and lightweight cameras and remote heads were coming in,” he says. “That really gave me the ability to do things differently, to lend a new energy to what I did. The technology enabled the ideas, and people responded. “I was lucky,” he says. “Things are a lot more conservative now. Giving someone in their 20s all that equipment – that doesn’t happen anymore. I was young, and I really ran with it. I got a few chances, and I made sure to capitalize. I tried to learn something different from every show. I did whatever I could to become the best in the world.” It was an adventurous time. Hamilton recalls putting handheld cameras into the mosh pit at punk shows 5

– a new way of presenting a subjective experience. Soon MTV and the BBC were giving him a dozen cameras and broadcasting the results live on television. Gig by gig, small jobs at rock clubs eventually evolved into massive shows like the one he handled in Red Square in Moscow for the band Prodigy. Bigger awards shows began to call, and one night in 2001 at the Brit Awards, he met the guys from U2, who were getting a lifetime achievement honor. “They said that they had checked out my work, and for that 15-minute sequence, they performed ‘Beautiful Day,’ and ‘Until the End of the World,’ which is one of my favorite songs,” says Hamilton. “I definitely had a tear in my eye.”

“First, I was blown away, then, I almost had a panic attack right there, because what I was seeing was almost unshootable.” – Hamish Hamilton Later, Bono called and asked Hamilton to help out with the band’s live DVD U2: Elevation 2001 Live from Boston. He soon found himself in a mobile truck, calling shots of his boyhood rock’n’roll heroes. It was the first of many jobs he’d do for the band. His passion for the work helped cement their relationship. While the U2 collaboration means a lot to Hamilton, he quickly adds that he is proud of almost everything he’s done. “You’ve got to be totally emotionally invested in it, otherwise you’re not going to be doing a good job,” he says. “And if you’re totally emotionally invested – and we always aim to be – then by default you should be proud of it.” 6


These days, Hamilton’s assignments tend to be unique. A production like the Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show, which starred Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars, is a good example. Everyone is aware of the unparalleled size of the audience. The preparation for those 12 minutes is intense, and it starts with a blank page every year. “These are big stars who do big shows all year round,” he says. “But for this show, they are completely focused. We’re going through the details step by step. They are on you with questions. We build the show with them, and it’s a big team effort. A huge number of technical issues need to be dealt with. The size of the tunnel, for example, can have a tremendous impact, because everything has to come down that tunnel in a very tight time frame. “A two-hour show like a concert already exists, and as a director, you’re working with that,” he says. “For the Super Bowl Halftime Show, we are guests at a very large sporting occasion, and that has the priority. We fit in around them. As the director, you have a strong voice at the table.” For U2 iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live in Paris, Hamilton worked with the company he founded Done+Dusted, the television production and event staging company. The project required thorough planning, rehearsal and storyboarding, but he always makes a point to save some room for reacting in the moment.

Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur


“We definitely have story points and emotions that we need to hit, but the important thing is to capture the ebb and flow,” he says. “Everybody has to be moving as a team. We have a structure. The entire team understands the story of each song. But sometimes there are many different roads to the same conclusion. How we get there doesn’t matter as much. If everybody understands the overall plan and the overall feeling and emotion, then it’s all good. If you go into it with an absolutely rigid mindset, you’ll come out with something that feels really dry and disassociated from the emotion of the evening.”

“We definitely have story points and emotions that we need to hit, but the important thing is to capture – Hamish Hamilton the ebb and flow.” Photo Credit: Danny North



During the planning stages, Hamilton wondered how to shoot a concert experience with a band that had essentially reinvented the arena rock concert experience. For this tour, the stage spanned the length of the venue floor, and was divided into three sections – one each representing innocence and experience, and a third serving as a connecting walkway. A 96-footlong double-sided video screen suspended above includes an interior catwalk that allows band members to perform fan favorites from latest album Songs of Innocence amidst the video projections – which include footage from the 1970s Ireland of their roots, among other scenes with global and biographical themes – with highlights 9

featuring “Cedarwood Road”, “Song For Someone” and an acoustic version of “Every Breaking Wave”, as well as career-spanning staples including “I Will Follow, Pride (In the Name of Love)”, “Vertigo”, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “Until The End of the World”, “Beautiful Day”, “Where The Streets Have No Name”. “First, I was blown away,” Hamilton says. “Then, I almost had a panic attack right there, because what I was seeing was almost unshootable. You’ve got this very unusual staging, and you’ve got the music and the emotion, which you need to capture. And the show also has a story, which you have to deliver as well.”

“You’ve got this very unusual staging, and you’ve got the music and the emotion, which – Hamish Hamilton you need to capture.”

Photo Credit: Danny North



Photo Credit: Danny North


“So it became like a science project,” says Hamilton. “And it’s live on HBO. It would be one thing to capture it and then spend six weeks editing. But we were going to put it out live that very night.” One advantage was that Hamilton and the band had worked together so often in the past. “That was a blessing,” he says. “You’ve got to be sharp when you walk in the room, because they’ll fire a few questions at you. If you can answer confidently, OK. We don’t wobble in that situation.” The first step was to create a camera book with each song blocked out and storyboarded. It came to about 100 pages and included lighting, camera positions and movement, photographs, and drawings. “Bono enters from here, cameras are shooting from the house right side, and lights are from house right,” says Hamilton, giving an example of the book’s information. “We need a transition from the proscenium that takes the viewer from one side of the screen to the other, so that it makes sense to someone who isn’t in the arena.”

Rehearsal time was at a premium, so the camera meetings were very long and detailed. The day after the first rehearsal, there was a 12-hour-long review process, where countless moments were freezeframed and analyzed. Hamilton says that he trusts the Director of Photography Brett Turnbull implicitly. “My team hasn’t changed for quite a long time, and that’s a huge benefit,” says Hamilton. “It allows me to kind of half-direct, half-produce, and to get above the technical detail. The people on my team are very good at the technical side. Sometimes that can become a bit too much, especially with things changing all the time. The team I manage allows me to look down from 10,000 feet. I’m not at sea level fighting all the minutia. I can step back and think about it in a more creative way. I don’t call every shot. Rod can scan those monitors quicker than anybody I know, and Hayley’s pretty good at it, too.”

“It would be one thing to capture it and then spend six weeks editing. But we were going to put it out live that very night.” – Hamish Hamilton 12



Cinematographer Cinematographer Brett Turnbull started out as an experimental filmmaker and musician, then trained at the National Film School in England. After graduating, he soon made a name shooting and directing music videos.

Since then he’s filmed many commercials, documentaries and features. Recently he’s become most known for his work on multicamera projects, especially on jobs where a mix of technologies is required.



Photo Credit: Danny North


Turnbull had previously worked with both U2 and Hamilton, but filming iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE in Paris presented some unique challenges. The brief was to transmit the show live to the US, while also recording in 4K for a post-produced DVD/Blu-ray. Along with Hamilton, he scouted shows on the U.S. leg of the tour and also shot camera and lighting tests in Amsterdam. Like Hamilton, he saw that the main challenge would be to effectively translate the scale and narrative of the live show onto television screens. The show features 360-degree staging where the band members interact heavily with video images shown on a massive, flown LED screen, inside which they sometimes perform. “We worked hard at figuring out how best to cover the show,” says Turnbull. “At times, it was challenging even just to see the band – especially when they were physically inside the giant screen above the crowd. The main stage was surrounded by audience on all sides, and linked to a satellite stage at the opposite end of the arena by a long catwalk that cut the room in half. Filming the show coherently, without people being confused about the geography, was tough in itself. In Amsterdam we flew a drone around the set before sound check, to help us figure out the best angles and map things out.”

“At times, it was challenging even just to see the band – especially when they were physically inside the giant screen above the crowd.” – Brett Turnbull 16

A company from Paris called XD Motion provided a linear cable-cam rig, the X Fly-2D, that also has a vertical axis of movement. “That rig was very important because it helped with transitions between scenes and issues of crossing the line. In that respect, this was a bit like shooting sport – the TV audience needs to know which direction the team are playing in, or it gets very confusing. We didn’t want that to distract from the emotional impact of the show.” Turnbull’s camera package included two dozen cameras, including 17 F55s – mostly fitted with Optimo 24-290 and 28-340 zooms. A couple of 75-400mm Fujinon and 14.560mm Canon lenses took care of extreme wide or telephoto angles. Several F55s with hybrid 17-120 and 19-90mm lenses were handheld in the crowd, others used on Steadicam, on a telescopic crane, or on dollies, both manned and remotely controlled. In addition to the F55s, another half a dozen 4300 2/3" 4K cameras were equipped with newer Fujinon 80x 4K lenses. As the pictures were being transmitted live, it was vital for the cameras to have remote iris and paint control in the outside broadcast truck via standard RCPs. The interface was achieved via a combination of Copperhead 3400 systems, “black boxes” of United’s own design, and C-motion ENG adaptors.


Turnbull’s camera package included two dozen cameras, including 17 F55s... 18


“It’s a big arena, and close-ups of the band were especially challenging because of the way the show was staged.” – Brett Turnbull 19

Turnbull says that the show’s most interesting technical aspect was the fully integrated use of the F55 and 4300 cameras in a live broadcast situation. “The priority had to be a seamless live broadcast, we wouldn’t get a second shot at this,” he says. The 4300s were chosen with lensing in mind. “It’s a big arena, and close-ups of the band were especially challenging because of the way the show was staged,” says Turnbull. “The four band members would split from the main stage and spread out across the thrust, from one end of the arena to the other. At times they’d perform inside a semi-transparent video screen flown high above the crowd, facing in totally opposite directions. We needed maximum flexibility from any cameras assigned to shooting close-ups of the band. The 80x zooms gave us that. By comparison, a 12:1 ‘cine’ zoom was simply not versatile enough for what we needed.”

Photo Credit: Danny North


Photo Credit: Danny North

The ability to combine and visually match the two camera types and take advantage of UHD broadcast lenses has been a godsend,” he says. “There’s never been a driving need in cinema for that kind of zoom range. Why would you need it, when you can just put the camera wherever you want? But that’s not something you can do at a live concert, the audience has also paid good money to be there and it’s important that 21

camera positions take that into account. The 80x lenses were purpose-built for this situation. Unlike cinema lenses, they’ve evolved out of covering sport and live event in stadiums and arenas.” In addition to Turnbull’s 24 cameras, another eight mini cameras from the tour’s regular package were feeding into the truck. The tour already carried a custom-made robotic dolly with a scissor arm that


“We replaced U2’s robotic dolly camera with an F55, but we had to make sure that we could still feed a picture to U2’s video wall...” – Brett Turnbull

tracked up and down the catwalk. It was vital from a dramatic standpoint that imagery from this dolly camera appear on the screen, Turnbull says. “We replaced U2’s robotic dolly camera with an F55, but we had to make sure that we could still feed a picture to U2’s video wall, as it was totally integral to the live show,” he continues. “So we took full control of the camera and fed it

straight into our live cut, then down-converted it back to the resolution and frame rate U2’s video team needed for their show. We had a number of things like that going on that were technically challenging. As always, the engineering team from United was outstanding at finding a way to make it all work.”



Photo Credit: Danny North


“They figured out how to get a very convincing match between the 4300s and the F55s.” – Brett Turnbull When it came to format, decisions were driven by budget and by the need to broadcast the live HD video output of the cameras. That precluded shooting RAW. “There was definitely a tradeoff between how many cameras we had, and what resolution we could record at,” says Turnbull. “This was a difficult show to capture in a way that would make sense on a smaller screen. The quantity of cameras in the end was more important than the image quality, in terms of storytelling. So we sacrificed being able to shoot RAW. However we did simultaneously record 4K XAVC in-camera with F55s, and externally for 4300s. It would have been great to record S-Log, to add some flexibility in grading footage in post for the DVD. However, we decided to shoot in ‘custom’ mode and ‘paint’ the cameras live, as the priority in this case was to transmit a seamless live edit.” Turnbull says that this approach complicated matters for the color professionals in the truck. “They figured out how to get a very convincing match between the 4300s and the F55s,” he says. “The cameras were set up so that even when shading on the fly, the look would still hold. This was very important, as the show was lit in a very dramatic and theatrical way. All the usual challenges of a rock’n’roll show were present – massive changes of intensity, deep saturated colors, and a variety of lamp types pointing at the band, with very different native color temperatures. Combine that with two different types of camera, and a whole array of different optics fitted – probably a shader’s worst nightmare! But the pictures held up very well.” 24



Technical Manager As tech manager, Bolke Burnaby Lautier of United played a key role in systems integration, making sure that all the various camera types played well together and overseeing a crew of more than 70. United is part of Euro Media Group. “We’re not just bringing a truck and some fibre,” he says. “We’re doing lenses, iris and other

camera controls, and the integrations for the camera operators, so they recognize what they have in their hands. It’s a one-stop shop, but we’re not asking the client for a list of boxes. We ask what they want to see and how they want to do it, and we come up with solutions. We put directors into their comfort zones.”



That meant integrating the F55 cameras, which are generally used for narrative production, into the live broadcast environment. The F55s were recording 4K onboard, sending a proxy, and also pushing Pro Res imagery to a DDP server. Those images were being edited in Adobe Premiere in near-real time as a backup in case the satellite links went down. The 4300 studio cameras were sending 12-bit 4K ProRes images to Ki Pro Ultras and Quads. We not only pushed a proxy, but also a full HD DNxHD 220Mbit. So we did 4 records 1-4K internal and to KiPro [that was DITed to a drive during the show]. 2-HD to Drive 3-HD to DDP server and 4-Proxy [30Mbit] to the same drive as the HDD record. And all that double to main and back up. A proprietary fibre solution was employed for the majority of the data distribution. United’s “black boxes” use standard SMPTE fibre and BNC connectors.


That meant integrating the F55 cameras, which are generally used for narrative production, into the live broadcast environment. 28


“Ours are much smaller compared to other systems, so we like those on the handheld cameras,” says Lautier. “For the long lens cameras on dollies, we used Multidyne to get the signal back and to send control signals to the cameras. In addition to ergonomics, the big advantage of our boxes is simplicity, which comes with reliability. It’s a very basic and simple setup. Other systems have more options. Ours has 29

incoming signals, outgoing signals, and more importantly, very easy control for the operator. It has simple buttons. A camera operator with a camera on his back standing in a mosh pit in the middle of a rock concert can easily raise the volume or find the button to talk back to his director. That’s all positioned where it’s easy to find and easy to use, so it’s very user friendly, and you cannot do very much wrong. You need to be

“For the long lens cameras on dollies, we used Multidyne to get the signal back and to send control signals to the cameras.” – Bolke Burnaby Lautier

able to act fast, and exclude potential points of failure, so that’s how we put it together.” During the show, Lautier sat near Hamilton, monitoring communications. He’s responsible for every part of the chain, from the lenses to the truck. “On a show of this size, under this pressure, there’s always something that requires my

attention,” he says. “I’m just troubleshooting, making decisions and keeping the show going. Hamish is always challenging us, pressing to get everything he can out of the show. Most shows are not going live at this scale and so they’re a bit more forgiving, with a bit less pressure. You’ve got a bit of time to fix things. On this live shoot, it just needed to work.”


The truck, OB14, is a XXXL triple-expanding outside broadcast facility, equipped with state-of-the-art equipment including a Sony MVS8000G mixer with 80 inputs and 48 outputs, a Sony MVE8000 DME, and a GrassValley HD router. “We designed this truck a few years ago, and it was one of the first to be engineerable,” says Lautier. “Now you see more trucks that are neatly done 31

inside. It has proven to be reliable. Everything in it is sizable. There’s no limit to what you can do, which is nice for these shows. Another good feature is that it’s completely open – on every position in the truck, you have eyeline to the director. Intercoms are nice, and it’s good to talk to each other, but sometimes one blink of an eye says more than a whole conversation, and that’s why people like it.


The truck, OB14 is a XXXL triple-expanding outside broadcast facility, equipped with state-of-the-art equipment including a Sony MVS8000G mixer with 80 inputs and 48 outputs, a Sony MVE8000 DME, and a GrassValley HD router. “I think one of the key things in what I do is not making things too complicated,” he says. “Engineers love putting new things into use. I try to know all the new tools, but I like to think about what it’s giving me, instead of using something just because it’s new. It needs to add to the solidness of the production. For example, people are stacking a lot of fibre channels into one fibre. I don’t really like that because when I lose a fibre, I’m losing a lot. I like reliability, so I’m trying to build a 4K system that behaves as it should, and is controllable and workable for everybody. “Looking back, almost every show has things you would do differently, but the U2 show was different,” says Lautier. “I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing. For me, it was one of the best shows I ever put together. It ran very smoothly, and the result was good. We’re building experience. My core team is about ten people, and we’re always looking for ways to improve. Most of all, I’m combining departments – getting my video engineers to talk to camera ACs out of the film world, and the video department talking to the IT department, the audio, the intercom. So I’m bringing these people together, getting them to come off their islands and build one system. Two groups of people, the film guys and the video guys, have to stand together and work in an integrated way.” 32



Vision Supervisor Vision Supervisor Luke Chantrell was in the hot seat. Chantrell studied television production at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication in London, and immediately thereafter began training and working as a vision supervisor at London Weekend Television. Today, his role is to work with lighting directors to control the picture quality and creative look

of the cameras. His credits include dozens of massive television productions, including the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sochi, London and Rio Olympic Games. Chantrell had seen the U2 live show in preparation for working on the Paris HBO assignment, and his first impression had been how stark it was.

Photo Credit: Danny North



Photo Credit: Danny North

“Typical rock’n’roll lighting – steep, hard, high-level key light,” he says. “And a massive LED screen, which would have to be balanced down for TV. So the danger was that we’d be looking at floating heads against black. The contrast was too great for television. The question was how to condense and compress this contrast and fill out some of the blacks.” Chantrell had to connect with the other members of the teams, including U2’s Creative Director Willie Williams. “The screen content is very important, because the levels are set for a live show, and when you’re going for a recording, obviously you have to ask them to adjust levels and parameters to help fit it into the space of the recording and distribution format,” says Chantrell. “It’s a conversation I have all the time. There are 50,000 people sitting in the stands, and there are five million people watching at home. In the arena, the human eye and brain are incredible enough to fix it. Let’s try and make it look good for television.” Chantrell knew lighting director Allen Branton from previous jobs. “He’s fantastic – I enjoy working with Allen tremendously,” says Chantrell. “He’s incredibly generous. He’ll listen to your point of view and try to help.” 35

“The contrast was too great for television. The question was how to condense and compress this contrast and fill out some of the blacks.” – Luke Chantrell



Their first task was to adjust for color temperature. “They were using a rig with about 60 moving lights that were key lights,” says Chantrell. “We had to track every one of these for color temperature. On a rock’n’roll live tour, you won’t notice if the color temperature is a little bit pink, a little bit green. But as soon as you put the cameras in there, there’s a color shift from one light to the next. That just wouldn’t have worked. So Allen would color correct every single lamp. That’s basic housekeeping.” Essentially, that involves adjusting color output on all the different varieties of light fixtures to emit light that appears white on the cameras, and then creating a user file in the lamp set-up that serves as the lamp’s white reference. In November, as the date neared, Hamilton and his crews shot three shows as run-throughs that were used to critique and further polish the final camera plot and shooting script. U2, known for being hands-on in these matters, performed the show one final time in an empty arena as a rehearsal.

As that final rehearsal was wrapping up, those in the empty arena heard sirens that turned out to be related to the horrific attacks in which terrorists massacred 130 people, including 89 at the nearby Bataclan Theatre. As a result of the state of emergency declared by the city’s Mayor, Live Nation was forced to postpone U2’s Paris shows. They were subsequently rescheduled the following month at the AccorHotel Arena in Paris in December. “When we came back, we put in the same numbers,” says Chantrell. “We gave it the same look. And those numbers were, in effect, quite punchy, hard numbers. We were using Gamma Table 6 and going with .4 gamma curve, and it would have been an EBU color matrix. We had signed it off and we were happy with the look. I was having dinner with one of the engineers, and it was pretty relaxed. I got a call to return to the truck immediately. Allen and Hamish informed us that U2 had been in and they’d seen it, and for the beginning of the show especially, they didn’t think it looked raw enough. They thought the pictures were too clean and perfect, and they wanted it roughed up a bit.”

“ soon as you put the cameras in there, there’s a color shift from one light to the next.” – Luke Chantrell 37

Photo Credit: Danny North


Photo Credit: Danny North

This was a bit of a shock, coming as it did four hours before show time. And in those lastminute discussions, Hamilton mentioned how in grades he had asked the colorist to make the blacks creamy. “We had to change the look, and because we were using the F55 in custom mode, we had to change the look blind,” says Chantrell. “Bearing in mind what the band and Hamish had asked for, I decided there were two things I was going to do. One was to come out of a standard Gamma Table 6 and put it in Hyper Gamma 3, because I wanted to use the camera’s ability to get more information out of the blacks, to make them more ‘Guinnessy’ or creamy. I didn’t want that video, clinical, black line. I wanted to develop color within the black.” 39

Photo Credit: Eoin McLoughlin

“You’ve just changed your whole balance that you spent two weeks working on.” – Luke Chantrell That meant going to each of the 17 F55s with a card and loading it, without the ability to see the result before the shoot. “But we did it,” he says. “We also desaturated the first three numbers, which were the punk numbers on the punk stage. We took out some color saturation via a DVE on the mixer. “So that was pretty scary,” he says. “You’ve just changed your whole balance that you spent two weeks working on. You’ve done it blind, and there’s no going back. When the show started, I was more nervous than normal, but as it developed, I was absolutely delighted. The adjustments gave us was the interest in the blacks that we wouldn’t have gotten using a standard Gamma Table, which would have been more punchy and clinical, and for some shows

perfect. But for this show, where we had a high contrast feel and we were trying to bring the blacks up and compress the whites a little, it was perfect. The best laid plans of mice and men . . . but that is often the way these things work.” Bono closed the show by bringing Eagles of Death Metal onstage, the band that had been scheduled to perform at the Bataclan. It was a show of unity and support for the band, Eagles of Death Metal, and their Paris fans. “It was great to see the band create some sort of positive ending, and the event became an opportunity for the community and the Parisian audience to finish their show, in a way,” says Turnbull.


Photo Credit: Danny North

“I often need a lot of cameras in the audience, where sightlines are a pain in the ass. 4K allows me to put one camera where I’ve had to use three in the past.” – Luke Chantrell

Photo Credit: Danny North



In the event, Hamilton was pleased with the broadcast, and with the subsequent DVD that incorporated footage from three nights of shows. He says that the evolution of technology continues to affect his creative thinking, just as it did in his earliest efforts as a director. “At Done & Dusted, we’ve always been obsessed by the latest bit of technology and how we can use it,” he says. “A few years ago, I would just use new technology because it was new technology. Now, I’m probably a bit older, a bit wiser and I think I’m more careful how I use it. Rather than molding things around the new tool, I’m more likely to look at the show, and decide if a new technology is applicable.

says. “Sometimes, you can see the emotion in a crowd. Quite often, even in HD, you can’t capture that emotion or the movement in the people’s eyes because it’s just darkness. You don’t want to put too much light on it, because that just kills the mood. In those instances, better range and more definition are definitely my friends. 4K really does help in those instances. When you’ve got a big close-up of an artist on a stage, their hair and makeup had better be flawless, because that’s a very big mirror to be holding up. You’re definitely getting more and more freedom, but you have to use it quite carefully.”

“I do love the jump from HD to 4K, but I’ve been frustrated by how long it’s taken to get into the live domain,” he says. “I often need a lot of cameras in the audience, where sightlines are a pain in the ass. 4K allows me to put one camera where I’ve had to use three in the past. On the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, for instance, I used two 4K cameras at the end of the runway, where I used to use five or six HD cameras. I can get a full body shot, a mid-shot and a close-up, because I can reframe the image. It’s probably not the truest use of 4K, but I’ll use it whichever way I can. On the VMAs, we’ll have a 4K truck, and I’ll have three outputs from that single camera, all reading down the same lens. It’s brilliant. We did a Peter Gabriel show in 4K a few years ago, and I couldn’t get the lens on the camera that I wanted for Peter’s closeup. I ended up shooting a cowboy and pushing into the image for the close-up. I watched it on the big screen and it still looked great. “I spend a lot of time taking the detail out of cameras. If they’re asking me to back a shot off, that can be a bad thing. For me it’s all about the eye. The closer you get, the better the emotional registration is. If I’m told to make it wider because there’s too much detail, that becomes an issue. “There are definitely times when more definition and more dynamic range will absolutely help,” he 42


Rather than more resolution, Hamilton sees a need for smaller high-quality cameras and smaller cranes in his work. And the sudden shift in the image when he cuts from a small, dronemounted camera to a bigger camera on a long lens can be jarring. “Smaller cameras mean fewer seat kills,” he says. “The artists are less conscious that they are there. Robotic heads are big. I actually want a super lightweight selfie camera on a super lightweight selfie stick. I would love to be able to do all these award show ‘thank you’ shots on a selfie stick. In my live world, what’s going to get you that kind of same registration with the lens, but with much better quality than an iPhone? I need to get close.” Hamilton’s creative imagination is also pushing lens technology forward. On the U2 shoot, he had to put two cameras on a rail running parallel with the video screen, where he might have used only one previously. He’s hoping for a lens that will make that additional camera unnecessary. “We started off in the camera plot having one camera on the rail,” he says. “But there are times when I wanted it to be nice and tight on Bono, but

then I wanted it to pull out wide to get a low angle that would include the whole screen. In the HD world, that’s easy – one camera, super long range lens. In 4K, I needed long and I needed wide to get the maximum use out of the extra resolution. So in a way, we were going backwards. The images were brilliant, but I needed two cameras. I want the art of 4K, but I want the practicality of live TV. I want the lens that can give me a close-up, and a big wide shot, too.” But in the end, the technical aspects of the job are always in service to the human aspects, he says. “It all goes back to emotion,” he says. “We are living in a world where people are streaming live to Facebook. That’s not necessarily about image quality. It’s about immediacy. And in the live domain where I work, I’m not making feature films. Sometimes I want it immediately. Image purity is one thing, and technical excellence is one thing. But at the end of the day, very few people want to watch technical excellence. Perfection and true representation is sometimes not the goal, especially when you’re dealing with artists who want to create magic. The audience wants to watch a story. They want to be emotionally engaged.”

“The audience wants to watch a story. They want to be emotionally engaged.” – Luke Chantrell 43

Photo Credit: Danny North



Congrats to all crew that makes the concert, the sound, the music and the visual experience come to life.




Zero Point Zero are always ahead of the technology curve being one of the first in the world to shoot X-OCN with the prototype R7 recorders and version 8 Beta firmware of the F55. Zero Point Zero is a media company guided by filmmakers, writers, producers, editors, and artists committed to making ambitious television, films, and editorial the hard way. We put story and craft first and see each new day as an opportunity to get better by doing everything absolutely differently. This is not an act of professional masochism or creative indulgence but a vigilant life-long assault on convention and cliche. Shows include but not limited to are ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN, THE HUNT WITH JOHN WALSH, THE MIND OF A CHEF, MEATEATER CITY BALLET, FOOD REPUBLIC. It’s early and muggy. The sun’s still an hour from rising but the crew is already poking around the back of the van, making the best of snack bars and bottled water because today’s going to be a long one. We’re up before dawn in the hope we can shoot some b-roll of garbage trucks picking up the remnants of last night’s haute cuisine. It’s not an odd place for a Zero Point Zero Production crew to be. We’ve shot around the globe for nearly twenty years and we always manage to find an interesting story in an interesting place. Batteries full, camera checks OK, fresh media at the ready. We’re on the road.


Zero Point Zero Production Inc.

This is week two of six our new 4K documentary entitled Wasted and we’re shooting a mix of cooking, interviews with chefs from all over the world, and the occasional trip to the town dump. With nearly 25% of the western world’s food ending up in the trash, it’s a topic that’s due for a hard look. Our crews are small, usually just two producers and two shooters. We don’t dump footage in the field, but rely on AXS or SXS cards to keep it safe. It saves us the need to wait for an offload and the line producer appreciates not having to house and feed a media wrangler. That doesn’t keep us from shooting copious amounts of footage. A typical show for network usually comes in at 110:1 shooting ratio. We’re expecting this project to be about double that. 49

“A typical show for network usually comes in at 110:1 shooting ratio. We’re expecting this project to be about double that.“


Zero Point Zero Production Inc.

Abel Cine and Sony approached us days before production began with an interesting idea. They were about to release the new AXS-R7 recorder and thought we might put it to good use. We begged off. Having just finished a long-form 2K RAW project, we knew trying to make 4K RAW work on the road would be cost prohibitive. Short shoot times, huge media backups, no slomo, extra time in post: we had done our research and didn’t think the trade-off was worth it. Then they showed us their new X-OCN codec. It’s really an incredible thing. 16-bits of wonderful crammed into a codec that’s barely bigger than the XAVC we were shooting before. We opted for the lightweight X-OCN LT flavor since interviews rarely run under an hour and even our 512GB cards (all forty of them) offered us more than two hours of record time. We found we could shoot an entire afternoon with just the two cards in the recorder.

“Short shoot times, huge media backups, no slo-mo, extra time in post: we had done our research and didn’t think the trade-off was worth it. Then they showed us their new X-OCN codec.”


Zero Point Zero Production Inc.


“Then they showed us their new X-OCN codec. It’s really an incredible thing. 16-bits of wonderful crammed into a codec that’s barely bigger then the XAVC…”


Zero Point Zero Production Inc.

“Since we shoot a large part of our work handheld, we worried about how much weight an additional camera component would add .... We found that the cameras actually felt better.�


Zero Point Zero Production Inc.

Since we rarely work with assistant camera people, it’s critical that our cameras just work. Whether it’s in a hot and chaotic kitchen, the nagging drizzle of a London street, or at the orderly Food Ecology Center in Sagamihara, Japan we have to trust that what we see in the viewfinder is what we will have in the edit. The AXS-R7 was reliable, easy-to-use, and well-integrated with the F55. We didn’t have to waste time cabling, securing, powering and checking signal. It snapped to the back of our cameras and off we went. Even in the beta release we were using, our footage felt secure and a nightly check back at the hotel confirmed it. Since we shoot a large part of our work handheld, we worried about how much weight an additional camera component would add. Lightweight ergonomics are important when a camera lives on the shoulder for extended period. We found that the cameras actually felt better. The length of the R7 pushed the balance point to the natural center of the rig. Our hands and arms felt more free to pull focus or quickly jump into high frame rates. It’s not an exaggeration to say this recorder and codec combination is revolutionary for long-form 4K and UHD work. Eliminating the worry about record time allowed us to no longer be concerned about if we had enough media to finish a scene. We shot what we needed and moved on. 56

Zero Point Zero Production Inc.

Since we had little time to test before we left the US, we sent back footage with a producer to double-check in Avid and Resolve. X-OCN LT lived up to our hopes with fourteen stops of usable exposure and a deep ability to dig into the S-Gamut3 color space to create a stellar finished picture. The highlights stayed coherent while shadow kept the detail. We found some bugs along the way. This was not unexpected since we had a pre-production version of the firmware, but nothing shut us down in the field. The R7 recorder would occasionally not shut down when we powered down the camera at the end of a scene. It would have been handy to have some 4K frame rates between 60fps and 120fps as well. We’re headed stateside on the overnight flight out of Heathrow and though I should be sleeping, I can’t help, but steal a few more looks at our footage in RAW Viewer. Good stuff. 57

“X-OCN LT lived up to our hopes with fourteen stops of usable exposure and a deep ability to dig into the S-Gamut3 color space to create a stellar finished picture.�


A Movie is Made in Prep: Shooting a Fiction Feature Film during a Live Triathlon By Jendra Jarnagin, Director of Photography

How we managed 9 camera crews, 14 cameras, a crew of 70 and a camera department of 24 people to shoot 19 pages of scripted scenes during a live event with 15,000 people that only lasted 5 hours.



A Movie is Made in Prep

I was Director of Photography for a great indie film, called TRI, directed by Jai Jamison and produced by Ted Adams, that provided me the biggest challenge of my career thus far.

race and the second day was the Sprint Distance. Between the two races, we needed to shoot 4 pages of content, featuring 2 characters: one participating in the race, and her brother there to cheer her on.

The ensemble film, about people training for their first triathlon, required shooting during three live triathlons. The first shoot, over two days during the Luray Triathlon in Virginia, was a good warm-up for the big one, Nation’s Tri in Washington DC. For the Luray event the first day was the Olympic Distance

The Nation’s Tri, on the other hand, is one of the biggest triathlons in the United States, with 4000 participants and over 10,000 spectators. Since the major roads throughout the heart of Washington DC are closed to traffic for the race, this event only spans 5 hours. Add to that the nexus of the race is


Jendra addresses the Nation’s Crew. Photo by Theo Adams

on National Park Service lands, and we’ve got a lot of red tape to add to the mix. As such, we had a whole separate Unit Production Manager and full time AD prepping just this one shooting day for over a month. And I as the DP had to prep this race while prepping the rest of the movie, which really took a lot out of me. Organization was the name of the game, and I’ve never created so many spreadsheets in my entire life! For the climax of the movie, 4 characters were participating in Nation’s Tri: 2 experienced athletes and 2 newbies. The husband of the main character was

there cheering her on, and the whole ensemble cast, consisting of other athletes and colleagues, comes together at the finish line to support their training teammates. So about ten actors were involved in this final sequence. How were we going to shoot 19 pages of content involving ten actors during a live event that we couldn’t control that only lasted five hours? Well the first step happened before they could even green-light the movie, which was to secure the 62

A Movie is Made in Prep

Director Jai Jamison and Script Supervisor Anna Asher watch a rehearsal. Photo by Jendra Jarnagin

involvement of the race directors, and make sure we had their support and cooperation. By the time we were in full-blown prep, our AD, Greg White, was speaking to the head of The Competitor’s Group daily. Step 2 involved identifying every possible scene or partial scene from the race that could be re-created on other days, or at other locations where we had more control. This was an effective approach for the running and biking scenes, which primarily happen in far-flung areas of the course where there are not many people around at any given time. For some of the other scenes, some ingenious re-writing was conceived to separate scenes in ways that we could cheat their location. This left the checking-in process, the start of the race, the swimming, the enormous transition area, and the finish line (which I address later) as the areas on which to concentrate for the actual race day. These were the aspects of the race where we would maximize the production value of the huge event, and that could not be re-created on our low budget.


For Step 3 we started by breaking down which scenes happened in which areas of the course, and began our shot-listing and assessments of how much time each scene required. This process led to the obvious conclusion that multiple units would need to be working simultaneously in order to cover the scenes of the various characters in the time allotted. Also, as we got more familiar with the course maps, and after several meetings and scouts with the race organizers, we learned that the ability of our crew to move around the course would be restricted once certain parts of the race were underway, and in many cases there was no way to get from Point A to B. So camera crews would need to be assigned to certain areas, not just to certain characters. Step 4 was a really big decision, with major financial ramifications. In advance of principle photography, we shot during the live Luray Triathlon, and learned some lessons the hard way: it became clear that there was no way we would be able to shoot the dramatic Finish Line scenes at Nation’s Tri without building our own Finish Line that we could control and take all day to shoot. That added a day to the

movie’s schedule, and a lot of expense in terms of needing to source and build the structure of the finish line, and hiring 200 extras to bulk out the crowd to a believable level. That day ended up being our toughest, as it rained intermittently throughout the day, making us have to jump around for continuity, as the background actors started deserting us due to bad weather. We also learned that we would not be allowed to have a boat that would be able to get close enough to the swimmers for the coverage we needed, nor a camera in the water during the race, (except for a Go-Pro that we mounted to a swim double’s head, which incidentally turned out to be one of my favorite shots, but was never used because the pace of it didn’t fit the edit.) So instead, we shot some tight shots with an underwater housing elsewhere in the Potomac River on a different day, to cut in with the swim footage shot during the live event. Sadly, we couldn’t use a drone for Nation’s Tri, because you are not allowed to fly a drone within a 15 mile radius of The White House. Drones are obviously great for big events like this, and we got some fantastic footage utilizing one during the Luray event.

Skyler played by Walker Hays leaves the Transition Area. Photo by Jendra Jarnagin

The crew waits for a participant to exit before we can cross. Photo by Jendra Jarnagin



A Movie is Made in Prep

“...we shot some tight shots with an underwater housing elsewhere in the Potomac River on a different day...�


A Movie is Made in Prep

SHOOTING MULTIPLE UNITS The main thing that is interesting to talk about is how we pulled off the planning and coordinating of all the different units shooting simultaneously. Here’s how we originally broke it down, before we learned the night before that our plans needed to change. • A Unit: 2 Cameras, shooting Natalie (the main character) & her best friend Skyler, participating in their first Triathlon. Shot with a lot of handheld camera to convey the chaos, nervousness and confusion of their experience. • B Unit: 2 Cameras, shooting the characters of Christy and Scott, two seasoned triathletes. Shot primarily on Steadicam, to contrast the smoother experience of the experienced racers. The DP for this unit was our A camera/Steadicam operator for the entire movie, Jim Ball. • E Unit: Shooting additional swimming scenes and coverage, and then shooting Rex, Natalie’s husband, as he entertained himself during the race. This unit was shot by DP Dominic Desantis, who had been our 2nd Unit DP at Luray.

AC Alex Guckert & Operator Stefan Wiesen by the Potomac. Photo by Jendra Jarnagin


• F Unit: Starting the day on a boat to shoot swimming scenes, and then was supposed to shoot from the back of a motorcycle throughout the far-flung areas of the course. When our last minute permit restrictions denied the motorcycle, we had Rich Patterson, a filmmaker who is a specialist in triathlons and other endurance races, focus on slow-motion B roll instead, using his Sony FS7 that he owns. • H camera was B roll, stationed by the Washington Monument and the Tidal Basin. • I camera was B roll, stationed by the Lincoln Memorial, using my Sony F3, recording to a Atomos Showgun recorder to take advantage of the 10 bit output that the camera is capable of. • J camera was B roll, up in a scissor lift above the Transition Area, with a 24-290 lens. • Then we also had 3 Blackmagic Pocket Cameras that we used for various uses such as mounting to bikes, and time lapse. We also used 2 Go Pro cameras: one mounted on a swimmer, and one as a time lapse.

Prepping 14 Camera Packages. Photo by Jendra Jarnagin

A crane by the Finish Line we built off site. Photo by Jendra Jarnagin


A Movie is Made in Prep


“Shot with a lot of handheld camera to convey the chaos, nervousness and confusion of their experience.� 70

A Movie is Made in Prep

THE BEST LAID PLANS… Since our normal crew of about 40 was growing to about 70 people for this day, and what we were doing was so complicated and spread out, we had a lot of people to get up to speed on what we were planning. So we scheduled an entire prep day for every single person involved in the Nation’s Tri shoot. Every PA, actor, swim double, AC, etc. needed to attend the full day’s meeting. We were shooting our first week of Principle Photography that week, Tuesday-Friday. The production meeting was scheduled for Saturday, and the race was Sunday, rain or shine. On Friday, we received our final permits, and we were thrown into a panic when we learned that most of what we had been planning was denied. We could only have 5 cameras with tripods on National Park Service land, and though Steadicam was approved, it said nothing about the Ronin Gimbal Rig we had planned on using, so since we had so much at stake with the threat of having our

Nation’s AD Greg White leads the Tech Scout. Photo by Jendra Jarnagin


permits revoked, we decided we better not chance it and had to cut the Ronin, several cameras, and even a few scenes that we would have to punt to another day’s shooting, since we had to choose our battles of what we could get with only 5 cameras. We were not allowed to park our trucks on site, and the permits even specified no sound recording! So after wrapping a full day of shooting on Friday, myself, the director, all the ADs and the producers pulled an all-nighter to revise weeks worth of planning to be ready to present a new plan to 70 people in the morning. Not only was I involved in many big-picture decisions of how we would handle the day based on our new restrictions, but I ended up having to re-think and re-do nine different shot lists. In the end, we still ended up with eight camera operators and unit DPs (not including myself) since we had a few camera positions outside the National Parks’ jurisdiction, and a few assignments that could be covered with DSLRs and no tripods.

A selection of spreadsheets, shot lists & maps. Photo by Jendra Jarnagin

Team Camera unloads from the bus. Photo by Jendra Jarnagin


A Movie is Made in Prep

THE PREP DAY Our call time for the shoot day was 4 AM, and we needed everyone to know what they were doing once they got there, without much communication. So we spent the whole day prior on communication. We started with a full company production meeting, including presentations about logistics, maps, division of labor, communication protocol, safety, etc. We even had to go over how a triathlon works, since a lot of people were joining us for the first time. The Supervising AD for the Nation’s Tri unit, the director, and I all gave presentations to a full conference room. Then we broke out into departmental meetings. I had prepared handouts consisting of event maps, camera placement maps, crew lists, shot lists and timetables for each unit, etc. The director called me “Generalissimo” because all my maps and spreadsheets constituted the “battle plans” to move the troops around. I presented visual references based on some footage we had shot at the Luray Tri, some stills and video from past years of the Nation’s Tri event, and our favorite Ironman promo video that showcased the emotion of the competitors in a unique way, made by a member of our crew, Rich Patterson, who we brought on specifically for this day. For me, my goal was to provide the proper information to empower all the unit DPs and camera operators to make their own choices that were in keeping with the visual style of the movie. We were not just documenting an event, we were telling a story. And as such, my goal was that nine other camera people’s contributions could be seamlessly integrated into a unified style to serve the director’s vision. I had come to know and be involved in this vision for months at this point, and I did my best to communicate that as efficiently as possible to all the talented people joining our team. Next, as a group, we travelled to the event site, and walked everyone through the different areas, explaining what our restrictions were in order to 73

The Camera Crew prepping the cameras the day prior.

not interfere with the race, and how to get around. And finally the enormous camera department of 24 people convened at our staging area to prep and build all our cameras so they were ready to be picked up at call time in the morning, where we immediately boarded a bus to the event. As people were finishing prepping their packages, I was having one-on-one meetings with each DP and Operator about their own assignments and shot lists.

“As people were finishing prepping their packages, I was having one-on-one meetings with each DP and Operator about their own assignments and shot lists...�

Jendra discusses plans with Operator Leland Crane & AC Natasha Cordoba.

Jendra lines up a Shot. Photo by Shepherd Lashley


A Movie is Made in Prep

THE SHOOT DAY The shoot day was a smashing success. After all the stress and energy that went into it, it was so smooth and easy, it was almost anti-climactic. We were done by 1 PM. Most of all it was really fun, and very emotionally moving to be a part of it. Nearly every unit successfully completed their assigned coverage, and we also captured some beautiful magic. It was fun to debrief with everyone at the end of the day and hear how everyone’s day went and what kind of footage they got. I never got a chance to watch all the footage, but we have such good notes from all our planning, it wasn’t too hard for the editor to make sense of all the pieces. The prep day, (consisting of all the communication with so many different people with disparate

assignments, keeping it all straight, and how much information we had to pack into one day) was by far the hardest day of work I have ever done and we didn’t even shoot anything. It was physically, mentally and emotionally draining. But Sunday was easy because Saturday was so hard: proof that a movie is made in prep. Also it proves firsthand what my more experienced mentors have told me: that the bigger the movies you do, the more it becomes about management, and the less about craft, which is more or less a given at that point in your career. In that regard, this was a big milestone with an immense sense of accomplishment, and my new professional goal is to get to shoot something bigger than this day.


A Movie is Made in Prep

“Most of all it was really fun, and very emotionally moving to be a part of it. Nearly every unit successfully completed their assigned coverage, and we also captured some beautiful magic.�


The Team utilized the whole line of CineAlta cameras.

MANAGING ALL THOSE CAMERAS For the overall movie, we shot 2 cameras, and I chose Sony F55s for several reasons. One was the convenient size and weight, which was a major factor due to many different kinds of camera rigs. Shooting swimming, biking and running sequences for all the training scenes in the movie meant a LOT of camera movement. Another reason was shooting 4K in case we needed to post stabilize any footage in the case of vibration, and being rigged to vehicles etc. And one of the biggest reasons was the dynamic range of the S-Log3 was really important to me. Most of the movie was day exteriors and with so much of the movie being on the move, we were very rarely able to do any augmenting of the existing daylight. For Nation’s Tri, I chose as many Sony cameras as I could, to match with our main cameras. We shot 2 F55s, 1 F5, 1 FS7, and 1 F3 that I personally own. For the rest of the cameras, we either used specialty cameras based on their purpose (such as DSLRs or Blackmagic Pocket Cameras) or a few other cameras we had access to, that made financial sense to use on our limited budget. 79

Another big aspect of this undertaking was coordinating all the gear, choosing the right tools for the various jobs, and making choices of how to stretch our budget in the most efficient ways. We had different teams of ACs for each unit, responsible for their own gear. And while shooting and prepping the rest of the movie, it became clear to myself and the A Camera 1st AC, Chris Horne, that we needed a dedicated supervising AC for the Nation’s Tri shoot. Someone needed to manage the overall gear order (including more spreadsheets) and to keep everything straight, since the gear came from about 7 different sources, including several owner/operators. On the day, we also had runners for batteries and media cards, a whole Data Management department, and separate ACs dealing with the unit assigned to all the unmanned rigged cameras attached to bikes, swimmers, etc.

HOW IT ALL TURNED OUT The movie has won awards at every festival its been in, including Runner Up for Best Cinematography at the Northern Virginia Film Festival (where it also won Film of the Year, Best Actress, Best Inspirational Film,

A Movie is Made in Prep

and many more.) I am especially proud of how seamless the third act of the movie is. You really can’t tell that it is shot by so many different camera people. Some of the shots took my breath away. The film does an excellent job of showing people what it feels like to participate in a triathlon, and makes a really strong impression on the audience. I have always believed in the importance of good prep, but this shoot was my first significant experience in having to let go, cultivating being “unattached” and empowering others to shoot on my behalf. Even though I wasn’t present, I still “directed the photography” with my choices, my prep, and my communication of the director’s and my vision. This was also a whole new level of complexity in terms of the collaboration with my director and with my ADs to pull off something this huge and logistically challenging. It was really an achievement of good leadership and I’m really proud of what we created. The sum is greater than the whole of its parts because we really trusted and let go, and had the confidence in our team and in ourselves to set people up for success.

TRI is doing a successful and ongoing DIY theatrical run, (over 85 screenings so far) and will be released digitally in 4th Quarter 2016. To check screening cities and dates, as well as digital and DVD availability, or sign up for the mailing list visit: For more information about Jendra Jarnagin, or to see a trailer for the movie, visit Jendra’s website

Jendra Jarnagin, Director of Photography By Christina Adams-Turner


Not a Fantasy for Reality Shooting Rob Drydek’s Fantasy Factory and more on the F55 By David Thies Director/DP

Produced by Mike DesRoches, Sr. Sales Support Engineer, Sony Electronics Inc. Twitter: @DesRochesSony

TVACOM Website: Instagram: @TVACOM Twitter: @TVACOM

In the world of reality television, more production companies are opting to purchase gear as opposed to renting. Unfortunately, as a DP or camera operator working on a reality show, you are often handed gear that hasn’t been maintained properly and in many cases isn’t fully functional. For that reason among others, I always make sure to bring my own gear to every production. That way, I can give the producers, crew and everyone else on board some extra sense of stability. 81

“...I always make sure to bring my own gear to every production.”

Photo: Andrew Dickieson

Over the years, I’ve also seen that owning equipment has taken my work in surprising new directions. Here’s the story.

It started with the Z7U I’ve always been an early adopter, whether it was directing the first country music video in HD (for Charlie Daniels) on Panasonic’s Varicam serial number 1 or owning a Red One very early on. Although it was serial number 832, I had to wait nearly two years to get my hands on it. Seven years ago, I had the opportunity to purchase three Sony HVR-Z7Us to use on a new run-and-gun style Discovery Channel show that required small cameras to execute the shots

properly. Around that same time, many shows were also starting to consider tapeless formats as a viable alternative. Since the Z7Us would shoot to tape and CF cards simultaneously, they were the perfect tool for the job. There were some challenges. For example, we didn’t have a DIT on set, so I had to dump 10 cards every night myself. Even so, the Z7Us were undeniably the best choice for that production and brought me into the Sony ecosystem. As the years went on, I felt like a madman on a constant search for new gear. With technology changing faster by the day, it became increasingly important to keep up with the latest, as I wanted to serve my producers in the best way possible.


Not a Fantasy for Reality

Richard Hammond’s Crash Course and the FS700 Three years ago, Executive Producer Rob Fox called to say he was working on a project with Richard Hammond, from the BBC’s #1 show, Top Gear. This was the new BBC America series, Richard Hammond’s Crash Course. When Rob asked me to help choose cameras, I immediately suggested the Sony FS700, which had just been announced and seemed like an optimal choice. I was extremely happy with the quality I was getting from the FS100 at the time, but the FS700 had some added functionality (including an ND filter wheel) that made it an ideal camera for docu-style shooting.

FS700 Rigs being built


Although I hadn’t yet shot with the FS700, I knew based on the specs and my history with Sony products that this camera would produce quality images. Working with some area contacts, I was able to get my hands on two FS700s shortly after they started shipping and right in time for the upcoming production. Another side-benefit of the FS700 is its lens flexibility via adapters. So we were able to outfit the camera with Canon EF lenses. The cameras were built up and tested while shooting the show and that quickly became my go-to camera.

TVACOMs’ shoulder/power rig for FS700/Eng Lens setup Photo: David Thies

I ultimately purchased a few FS700s and made home-brew shoulder rigs that served me well. Before long, I had reinvested the years of rental revenue into more gear and started supplying shows I was on with just about everything – lighting, audio, camera, even down to the walkie-talkies. So I was perfectly positioned for the next opportunity. Tara Fischer Producer, “Fantasy Factory”


Not a Fantasy for Reality

Rob Drydek’s Fantasy Factory

The show itself had a unique lighting setup. Initially, I decided to light the space by using spacelights to bring the 20,000 square foot building up to an F/5. We needed that much light as I was now using a 35mm adapter with 2/3” ENG lenses on the FS700. I was losing 2.5 stops of light, which hurts when you’re shooting interiors. Talking with my gaffer, Chris Pritzlaff, and DP Pat Metcalfe we decided to emulate a

Jeremy Ocampo shooting Photo: David Thies

2 F55s and a monitor Photo: David Thies


When MTV/Superjacket Productions called about my taking over the directing/supervising producer role on one of their most popular shows, Rob Drydek’s Fantasy Factory, I said yes, as long as I could bring all my gear onto the show. Again, this allows me to ensure a certain quality level and that things will run smoothly. MTV/Superjacket Productions was open to this, as they had been shooting the show on Sony Z7Us. So moving to the FS700 rigs I had built was a natural transition.

lighting setup we had success with on the Upright Citizens Brigade feature “Freakdance.” We added Par Cans with 750-watt bulbs in every corner of all three sections of the set. This gave us an edge light for however our cast turned, giving them more freedom to move. We did some camera tests before committing to it, and the production company loved where we were going. Even with all the lighting, I still had to shoot at an ISO of 2500 because of the adapter/glass combination. And even when pushed that high, the resulting image looked unbelievably clean. At that point, I realized just how innovative Sony had been in low-light/high-ISO capability. To this day, I’ve found that true across their entire lineup – from the A7S all the way up to the F55.

“...I realized just how innovative Sony had been...”

Photo: Andrew Terry

Andrew Dickieson showing his strength by lifting a pair of F55s to impress the ladies Photo: David Thies


Not a Fantasy for Reality

The next step up: F55 In fact, my colleague Noam Kroll who is a producer/ director/post-supervisor (and runs a popular blog –, recently had the opportunity to test out the low-light capabilities of the F55. He was completely blown away. Noam said he had “never seen low light results like this from any other high end cinema camera,” and that he would choose to shoot on the F55 over cameras like the RED Epic/Dragon any day. He told me, “It’s by far the most versatile digital cinema camera that I’ve ever used, and the image quality is second to none. I get astonishingly clean results at high ISOs, and the image is still so gradable in post-production. I’ve found that many cameras that shoot cleanly at high ISOs will produce decent results as far as the raw image goes. But when it comes time for color correction or VFX work, the images fall apart. Working with the F55 means that I have a lot more confidence both on set and in the finishing suite.”

Photo: David Kaplan

Another camera recently hailed as a great low-light option is the C300, but truthfully, I never took to it. Whenever I would get calls to shoot shows with it, I would turn them down. While the camera did perform relatively well in low light, that didn’t really matter to me. The ergonomics didn’t allow me to set it up in an ideal way for long shoulder mounted/ handheld days. I found the body to be too small, and not well balanced enough, which inevitably caused my shoulder rigs to become erector sets. I’m such a huge supporter of the Sony F55 because, unlike the C300, the F55 is so well balanced and can work really well right out of the box. That’s something I can’t say for most cameras.

David Thies(left) and Rob Dyrdek (right) Photo: Ryan VanAusdall


I first considered shooting on the F55 right around the same time I got the call to get ready for Season 7 of Fantasy Factory. I had seen some F55s around. But once I knew I could use the 2K Center Scan feature to put ENG lenses on the camera, I was

intrigued. With an adapter like the ones I use from MTF, my ENG lenses would cover the 2K portion of the sensor and I would only lose a little over half of a stop of light. Before purchasing the camera, I was able to test the F55 with an MTF 1.4 adapter and one of my 2/3” ENG lenses. After a thorough test day with the camera, the decision was easy. I quickly put in for two F55s. While

Rob Dyrdek Photo: David Thies

I had also been considering the F5, I chose the F55 in the end as it recorded 4K internally and had a global shutter. Those two features were important for my style of shooting.

“...never seen low light results like this from any other high end cinema camera...” - Noam Kroll

Cam Ops: Venessa Smith and Jeremy Ocamp Photo: David Thies

Photo: Andrew Dickieson


Not a Fantasy for Reality

When we prepping for Fantasy Factory, Sony invited us to the Digital Motion Picture Center on the Sony lot for some training on the cameras to make sure we were leading with our best foot. Our Sony instructors helped us determine that S-Log2 was going to work best for our show, and demonstrated how to best use Zebras. I learned that by using the 54% setting, instead of roughly 68%, we would keep our images as flat as possible and leave the most latitude for post. After doing a camera test using the suggested settings from Sony, we sent some files to our post-house so that the colorist could generate a quick LUT to use on set. When the post team saw the images, they couldn’t get over how much information was there. Neither could the producers. In fact, the production said that this was the best the show had ever looked.

Photo: David Thies


David Thies With DP Dan de Castro Photo: Andrew Terry

F55 for World Gym

Dan de Castro Photo: Andrew Terry

Soon after, I landed a directing gig for World Gym. In the past, I would have used my Red Epic for this shoot (as this production required 4K). But given the experience I had with the F55 on Fantasy Factory, I really wanted to try it in a commercial environment so that I could benefit from its versatility on set. While on set for the commercial, my DP Dan de Castro and I were like kids in a candy store – watching the incredible images coming off the camera and Zeiss Superspeeds. After the shoot, I sent over a few sample shots to Noam Kroll for some initial color grading so that we could see what we were working with. The images you see here were the S-Log, color grade and the black and white grade that Noam had sent to us, and that I later sent around to all my buddies. I just kept getting “holy cow!” People were blown away by what they were seeing in the graded stills, and these were just the test grades.

“I just kept getting “holy cow!” People were blown away by what they were seeing in the graded stills...”

Frame Grab from World Gym Commercial Ad Agency: Dog and A Duck PR


F55 Not a Fantasy for Reality

Landing the quad backflip for Nitro Circus Any time the phone rings with a possible new job, it’s always interesting to hear what the job entails. When I got the call from Executive Producer Trip Taylor to go to Maryland with Nitro Circus, I was intrigued because I have long been a fan of theirs. I was informed about two stunts that needed coverage and would happen within a week of each other: a triple back flip on a motocross bike by Josh Sheehan and a race between Jed Mildon and James Foster to land the world’s first quad backflip on a BMX bike. These would easily be the biggest action sports attempts, pushing their respective sports to the next level. We talked coverage for each of the stunts and I was excited by the challenge and by the opportunity to work with the Nitro crew that shoots with these athletes. 91

David Kaplan and David Thies Photo: Nitro Circus Productions

Kollyn Lund, David Thies, Jed Mildon and Dave Metty Photo: Nitro Circus Productions

Gavin Godfrey and Ethan Roberts Photo: Nitro Circus Productions

When we eventually landed and made it to the jump sites, we quickly came up with a plan deploying 32 cameras: Sony F55s, Sony FS700s, PMW-200 and 300, plus 15 or so Sony Action Cam POV cameras. For this event, we had the F55s shooting in 4K over cranked up to 60p as well as high-frame-rate in HD – both using the internal XAVC HD codec. Shooting stunts that set new standards in any sport always makes me nervous. I want and need a positive outcome. I am not there to cover carnage; I want to cover record-setting stunts where everyone walks away at the end of the day. First up was the triple back flip on the motocross bike. Josh Sheehan had practiced a few jumps to airbag and called to take the airbag away. Now there would be one chance to cover the attempt because falling from 90 feet wouldn’t end well. Sony cameras have always performed as needed and that day would be no

different. Josh would hit the ramp at over 60 mph and travel 90 feet up after completing two rotations and one more on the way down. To say it was a relief to shoot him landing this stunt is an understatement. Everyone gathered around the monitors 60 feet below the Condor as we played back the slo-mo shots from the F55s. The picture was so clear at 60 frames in 4K and 180 fps in HD. It was amazing to see Josh spot the landing every time he came around – something that you couldn’t see in real time.

David Thies with Canon 17-120 Photo: David Kaplan 92 92

Not a Fantasy for Reality

The race to land the first quad flip became the NBC Sports documentary Revolution Day: The Chase for the Biggest Trick in Action Sports History. This had the same coverage as the triple. James Foster landed so hard during the airbag practice sessions that he re-broke ribs from a previous attempt. So it would be up to Jed Mildon. Airbag deflated, Jed didn’t land the first four or five attempts and took hits harder than any athlete I’d ever seen. Yet he got up determined that this would be the day. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t comprehend how you could take a crash that hard and still talk yourself into climbing back up to the top of the ramp. And I was thrilled to contribute to the landmark event.

Action Cam Setup Photo: David Thies

My home The Condor Rig with Action Cam support Photo: David Thies


Between the main Sony cameras and the numerous ActionCams, we had all angles covered for any possible views the editor might need. I was impressed with the small size but powerful punch of the Action Cams, equipped with their watch monitor/trigger device. It was so easy to frame up the shot, and control the numerous devices. Cari Miller, the media manager, had her hands full from 32 cameras but enjoyed being able to preview all the different angles. I have to thank my crew, as always, because without them having my back and helping to stay up on current technology, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Dave Kaplan, Cari Miller, Ryan Van Ausdall, Venessa Smith, Noam Kroll, Robert Sanchez, Will Shipp, Dan de Castro, Andrew Terry, Daniel Terry and all the freelance crew that travels from job to job with me. Thank you for the continued support from Nir at Band Pro Media who was just an email away and everyone at Sony to answer tech questions from the

F55 Not a Fantasy for Reality

Photo: Nitro Circus Productions

Photo: Nitro Circus Productions

field when I have been stumped or concerned. It was truly amazing to be a small cog in the wheel with Trip Taylor and Nitro Circus Productions and to pull off two stunts of this magnitude in the same week. Having the Sony cameras to lean on was a relief, knowing that they would perform as needed. And they did, as always. Now onto the next job.

Triple Back Flip Take off ramp Photo: David Thies

Photo: Nitro Circus Productions

L to R: David Thies, Jed Mildon, Trip Taylor, and David Kaplan


Not a Fantasy for Reality

Capturing The Peanut Butter Falcon I was asked to join the production team of the indie feature the The Peanut Butter Falcon, written by directing duo Michael Schwartz and Tyler Nilson from Lucky Treehouse. It took me a few months to read the script. Don’t ask me why, but as soon as I did, I called them up and said, “I am in. How do we get this script made?” The Peanut Butter Falcon is an adventure set in the world of a modern Mark Twain. It begins when a young man with Down syndrome runs away from the retirement home where he lives to chase his dream of becoming a professional wrestler and attending the wrestling school of The Salt Water Redneck.

Artwork by Sean O’Brian


David Thies with Sony F55, Ronin and the Tilta Armor Man Vest

Actors Tyler Nilson and Zach Gottsagen Frame Grab Sony F55 and Ronin


F55 aNot a Fantasy for Reality Not Fantasy for Reality

Actor Tyler Nilson Frame Grab boat chase scene

Actors Tyler Nilson and Zack Gottsagen on the boat they built for their journey Frame Grab Sony F55 and Ronin

The script was generating a lot of heat, but everybody said it was execution-dependent. So before we could go to the next step, we had to prove that we could capture in-camera what was written on the page. We packed up a Sprinter with a pair of Sony F55s, an R5 recorder and an A7 camera with underwater housing. We were limited to a scaled down crew of three people total and available light. 97

We shot in S-Log2 on a DJI Ronin with CineMilled extension arms to handle the F55 with Zeiss Superspeeds. And we got exactly what we needed. The cameras captured the cinematic look we were going for. We pulled off shots on the water that just a few years ago would have been impossible. Sharing the test footage has opened doors for the project and brought on Oscar winning composer/producer

F55 Not a Fantasy for Reality

Co-Director Michael Schwartzs spots David Thies in boat chase scene with Tyler Nilson, Sony F55, Ronin and Zeiss Superspeed with Cinemilled Ronin extension kit Photo: Andrew Terry

Tyler Nilson Frame Grab Sony F55 and Ronin

“The cameras captured the cinematic look we were going for.”

Fun scene between characters Tyler and Zach Frame Grab Sony F55 and Zeiss Superspeed shooting wide open

Co-Directors Michael Schwartz and Tyler Nilson approve a shot Photo: David Thies

T Bone Burnett, whose sensibility fits the story and the team perfectly. The overwhelming response to the images off the F55 has been consistent across the board. Editor Michael Schwartz said, “Footage looks Sexy. F55 is Amazing.” Just about everyone agrees. That’s why the Sony F55 has been my go-to camera since 2014. I’m still impressed with the ways it adapts to the needs of each project, capturing the right looks for everything from cinematic films to adventure sports. 98

A conversation with

Christopher Baffa, ASC By Peter Crithary


Q: How did you get started? Chris: I was born and raised in Southern California, Los Angeles. I went to USC film school with the intention to direct until one of my favorite instructors told me that my films looked great, but they didn’t make any sense. That immediately launched me on the path of being a director of photography, which I’ve been doing for the last 25 years. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve worked on a number of great projects, in a lot of different cities and countries.

Projects - Step Sisters

- Popular

- Game of Silence

- Idle Hands

- Dominion

- Overdrive

- Ashby

- Carnival of Souls

- Crossbones

- Alien Avengers

- The Road Within

- Odd Jobs

- Growing Up and Other

- Tear It Down

- Lies

- True Heart

- Hit the Floor

- Suicide Kings

- Glee

- Humanoids from the

- American Horror Story


- Nip/Tuck

- Baby Face Nelson

- Glee: Director’s Cut -

- House of the Damned

Pilot Episode - Pretty/Handsome

- Sometimes They Come Back... Again

- Unaccompanied Minors

- Criminal Hearts

- Running with Scissors

- Piranha

- The Closer

- A Bucket of Blood

- The D.A.

- Sawbones

- Beethoven’s 5th

- The Crazysitter

- Bailey’s Mistake

- Aftermath

- Next Friday


A conversation with Christopher Baffa, ASC.

Q: Describe some of the projects you have worked on. Chris: I started with films like Suicide Kings and Next Friday, and then transitioned into television, almost by accident. I really enjoy TV work and have done a number of pilots: Nip/Tuck, The Closer, Glee, American Horror Story. I have been fortunate to work on some really great shows. Q: Why did you cross over from feature film to television? Chris: My agents wanted me to meet about a television show with Michael Robin, his partner Greer Shepard, and the show’s writer, Ryan Murphy, who I would later collaborate with on a variety of projects. My agents were very honest. They said, “We feel like these are great people” but at the time I was not interested in television. They convinced me to go for it, and they were right.


Q: So in hindsight it was the right fit? Chris: It felt good and we were together for a long time. I worked with Ryan on the pilots and the series for Nip/Tuck and Glee, as well as the American Horror Story pilot and Ryan’s first movie, Running with Scissors, based on the novel with Annette Bening, Brian Cox and Gwyneth Paltrow. Michael Robin and I also collaborated on The Closer pilot. Those collaborations really started a longterm relationship, which has been wonderful. I just found television to be the right fit. Q: You’ve worked with many different camera formats. What is your feeling regarding 4K, vs 2K (HD), vs film? Chris: I have concerns like I think everyone does. There seems to be a push for greater and greater resolution, which at times makes me afraid that we’re going to move further and further from the aesthetic quality of film.

I think the big misconception is that film is better. I’ve never believed it was better. It is simply different. We have almost 100 years invested in our collective filmic experience, and there exists an aesthetic that has created a psychological programming of sorts that we are attuned to with respect to the effects of sitting in a theatre with a projector sending an image onto a screen at 24 frames a second. That’s what we were all visually weaned on. Again, the quality of it, the resolution, the latitude, the color renditions, all of those things, are as good if not better with digital but the aesthetic is not quite there. Each year we inch closer and closer, with aspects like false grain. But I don’t even know that it’s a grain factor as I’ve heard some people that I really respect say that digital doesn’t have the grain structure of film. I don’t know if it’s grain or perhaps it is the depth of field needs to be more like film. I think that there’s a lot of talk about resolution, resolution, resolution. Obviously going to 4K, we’re going to eventually end up higher, and I feel like there’s a certain point where we don’t need it anymore. As directors of photography, we often go to great lengths to

knock that hyper-clarity back. Look, I want my Monday night football to be as razor sharp as possible, with colors popping and as flashy as anything, so maybe those are the applications, but when it comes to good, old fashioned narrative fictional storytelling, I don’t know that the hyperclarity is always the benefit.

“I think the big misconception is that film is better. I’ve never believed it was better. It is simply different.”


A conversation with Christopher Baffa, ASC.

Q: How did you get involved with The Game of Silence? Chris: I met Deran Sarafian, our executive producer and producing director, on the show Crossbones. He was the director of two great episodes and we really hit it off. As our friendship formed, we found we shared a lot of similarities and sensibilities. We really bonded. He called and said I am going to do this production, Dominion, which he and I ended up doing together in South Africa. We just have a shared ideology regarding filmmaking, as well as a friendship, which I truly cherish. Deran has a remarkable sense for film – and for imagery in general, and he’s good at pushing me. My wife will attest that I tend to be a little too safe at times, and Deran helps me come out of my proverbial box. There’s one scene in Dominion where we had a projector behind the character that was flaring the lens, and the character was very silhouetted. I said I have to add light, right? He said no, we’ll pick it up from a different angle and we’ll give him some light, but for this angle that image is striking. Deran’s not afraid to have something be a powerful image, and I am learning a great deal from that collaboration. Then he came to me one day on the Dominion set and asked if I had anything lined up after that project. That evolved into this project, and it’s really been great. It’s now one of my alltime favorite projects because it’s so well-written and conceived by David Hudgins. The actors are all phenomenal. The producers – including Deran, as well as Jean Higgins and Mary Courtney – are all so experienced. Jean goes back to the show Lost with Deran, and they are a great team. They’re all very aware of our issues and challenges, and they’re extremely supportive. Q: Tell me about the cinematography for this show, and your impressions of the F55. Chris: There are some fairly extreme events going on in this show. It deals with four adults who served time in a youth correctional facility. While 103

they were there, they were horribly brutalized. There are insinuations of rape and all these other horrible things that happened, with extreme emotional and physical torture. As adults, through the course of a couple of events that occur, they’re brought back into that world. There needed to be accessibility for the audience because I don’t know that they’re going to be able to identify with all of the circumstances and all of the characters. There’s a visual simplicity to the pilot’s execution in that it is very honest, and I feel as though we all respected that approach. There’s honesty to how things are portrayed, very naturally, and therefore I

“The images are hopefully not boring, but have a simple and natural element to them, involving a lot of soft, realistic light that is not overly stylized and maintains a sense of reality and truth.” am attempting to approach the visuals in an equally honest and natural manner. The images are hopefully not boring, but have a simple and natural element to them, involving a lot of soft, realistic light that is not overly stylized and maintains a sense of reality and truth. I try to keep contrast in there and add drama where applicable, and we have done some fun things that stretched the boundaries of this naturalism a bit for dramatic enhancement, which has also been fun. As an example, Deran directed a beautiful scene where we had one of our bad guys come in and kill somebody

in a shipping container, which Deran really wanted to play in silhouette. I thought that if we could leave the door at the end of the container open, then I could send sodium vapor-colored light in and let it bounce around. The guy being killed was wrapped up in plastic in the middle of the container, and we tented in the rest of the container to create a dramatic night fall off the light coming in the door. So the guy comes in through that door and he’s silhouetted by that splash of sodium vapor. It worked really well, and it was Deran’s support and pushing of me in his planting that seed of trying to come up with something dramatic in which we 104

“We have done overhead crane shots where we had a pretty hot sun on metal trains and with deep shadows. ... there was information in those shadows that would allow us to restore that detail in the final grade, and we held retention of our highlight values, with nothing blowing out or getting lost, which was quite remarkable. �

A conversation with Christopher Baffa, ASC.

could also see the whole container, and we wouldn’t need to worry about seeing lights. So there are moments when it’s very stylized and very artistic and very dramatic, but I think they’re very carefully selected and usually done in a way that still illustrates an emotional or dramatic concept. Deran wanted this scene to be brutal, but was also aware of the limits of network television. So we show the fear and the brutality, but in a way that still allows for audience accessibility, and one of the strongest components of it was the silhouette, which took away a little bit of the violence while not romanticizing it. Q: Artistically you’re putting it in the proper perspective for the audience. Chris: Exactly right, so naturalism is one of the keys, but also in knowing when we can stray from that naturalism just a bit for an increased stylization for dramatic, tonal, or emotional purposes.


Q: Tell me about the F55, you are five episodes in as of this writing . Chris: What I am seeing is remarkable, with respect to all of the buzz phrases of latitude – very filmic, color rendition is very filmic, skin tones are very natural and are also very filmic. I still have certain issues with digital. There are times when you’re off axis, and the color will shift and you’re really only a few degrees off the other camera, 107

but you can see the difference due to the lighting variations of the scene from camera to camera. But the beauty of that is that it’s all within a range of post-production adjustment. I’m getting more comfortable with the notion that if the B camera looks a tad greener or redder or a little more washed out than A camera, I know that it won’t be that way in the end, and is instead one sensor reacting differently than another. Maybe

A conversation with Christopher Baffa, ASC.

“What I am seeing is remarkable ... very filmic, color rendition is very filmic, skin tones are very natural and are also very filmic.” axis in film, the image remained more or less the same as long as your exposure was also the same, whereas in digital, we can sometimes have these shifts. I have to say, though, with the F55 even this scenario is minimal; I’m noticing it here and there, but not to the degree that I have in the past with other digital systems, and, again, it is all correctable in the final grading. In general, I feel as though the image capture capabilities of the F55 camera are quite remarkable, in terms of its ability to capture range and subtlety, I haven’t had the pleasure yet of doing my final color timing so that will be the real answer to the question. Q: At the time of this interview, you have not gone into post-production as yet correct? Chris: No but what I’m even seeing on the monitors is often times quite remarkable. We have done overhead crane shots where we had a pretty hot sun on metal trains and with deep shadows. We were a little down in the shadows, but there was information in those shadows that would allow us to restore that detail in the final grade, and we held retention of our highlight values, with nothing blowing out or getting lost, which was quite remarkable. there is more light hitting the B camera’s lens. We had that one day where we had one camera appearing much more washed out than the other. It was a bright sky and although it wasn’t a direct flare per se, it was desaturating the image and reducing the overall contrast more than it was for the other camera, so we pulled some filters out and reduced the ambient sky light from the lens with a flag and it all went away. That can happen in film as well, but generally if two cameras were off

I can recall the early 24p tests where you had bright sun hitting something and it was just gone, and you had to reduce lighting ratios to accommodate the limited latitude. You knew that if you had a light hitting the window sheer, you had to double it down, reduce it, so you could hold the detail. Well, now I don’t do that anymore. I light digital as though I am lighting film, because I can. I don’t ever look at a window and say okay that looks great to me, and if this were film I’d maintain my light levels, 108

A conversation conversation with withChristopher ChristopherBaffa, Baffa,ASC. ASC.

“I feel as though the image capture capabilities of the F55 camera are quite remarkable, in terms of its ability to capture range and subtlety...” but for digital, I’m going to reduce my highlight light levels. I don’t do it. I find that there may be a technical cutoff, but visually for me, I find that it is basically matching film. I had a DIT who became a dear friend in South Africa. He would sometimes lean over and say, “We’re clipping a little on that curtain,” and then I’d say, “I don’t care because it looks great. It’s glowing a little like it should. It’s 109

natural. It’s blinding sunlight in a white sheer. I don’t need to have detail there. There shouldn’t be. Let’s go with it.” In film, I would do the same thing. It is about what feels right for the scene, but I do not feel as though I am ever limited in any way by the digital format, which allows me to react organically and honestly to what I am trying to achieve emotionally and visually.

Q: The DIT is taking a technical approach, whereas you are taking an artistic approach. Chris: Exactly. Right. And he was great. He was doing his job with respect to informing me that we were technically losing details in the whitest highlights, which in reality, I would have probably not had detail in with film either. I was in New York a few years ago

on a digital shoot, and had a white building that was front-lit and I was in a shadowy street and I thought, well this is going to be a disaster. I knew I had to expose for the shadows, as that was where our scene was, and I was truly concerned about this building. I put a bunch of NDs in and I told the assistants pull the focus as far forward as possible so that at least 110

A conversation with Christopher Baffa, ASC.

this white building would be out of focus, a white blob. Well, to my pleasant surprise, I actually retained detail in this building! That is when I knew that digital had really expanded to a level of truly amazing latitude. Q: Tell me about your choice of lenses, and filters. Chris: We use soft effects filters mainly for the actors. We bump up to high ones for some of our leading ladies, but that to me is a default starting point on digital. I think we fly normally a quarter, it’s not meant to be too heavy, but it is meant to take a little of the digital edge off and then the rest I do with lighting. I try to use light to control the image on set as much as I can. Q: It’s interesting you’re doing that because you lose sensitivity with all filters, especially ND, right? You’re knocking it down. Chris: Yeah, a lot of times that’s strictly for depth of field. Some of it is storytelling – that we just need certain planes of focus or if we’re doing something where we’re shifting focus from one character to another character, for example. I’m enhancing those focus pulls with a shallower depth of field. Q: The F55 has internal ND filters, which ones do you commonly use?

Q: Tell me about how you manage LUTs on set. Chris: It goes back to an interview I read with Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC. I’m a huge fan of his work in general, and he has had a tremendous impact on my work. I love his use of soft, naturalistic light, and I often try to emulate the power of that approach. In fact, one of the references that Deran and I discussed for this series was Mr. Deakins work on No Country for Old Men, which I feel has a very naturalistic visual approach. To me, it is really a perfectly shot film, in that it somehow presents the story in both a natural, honest, and truly “real” way that allows accessibility to the characters and their emotions, while simultaneously maintaining an evocative and dramatic visual dynamic as well. This approach seemed wonderfully applicable to our story and characters in Game of Silence. With respect to LUTs, I seem to recall Mr. Deakins saying something about his desire to not necessarily have a number of different LUTs on a project. I identify with that sensibility. I try to keep the digital experience as close to my filmic experience as possible. When shooting on film, I was often a one film stock enthusiast. I would pick a stock that I felt was right for a project in question, and I would then try not to use a number of different stocks.

I really liked having a uniform grain structure throughout…a consistent canvas if you will, Chris: I personally tend to use glass ND filters, which regardless of whether I was in bright daylight, I am trying to move away from. Having the internal or dark interior. Transferring that ideology to our filters is truly a remarkable asset, and is an idea I am digital world, I therefore tend to shy away from attempting to warm up to. having too many different LUTs for different environments or conditions. I want different environments to be something I can affect in whatever way I choose, “I therefore tend to shy away from whether through light color or quality, or in final color timing. To me things having too many different LUTs for change when you go into a different different environments or conditions. environment simply because it’s a different environment. I like the purity I want different environments to be of that, the honesty of that, and having something I can affect in whatever way fewer LUTs allows me to better keep I choose, whether through light color or track of those changes.

quality, or in final color timing. ” 111

“Having the internal filters is truly a remarkable asset, and is an idea I am attempting to warm up to.”

It’s really an attempt to keep the world a bit simpler. I’m very overwhelmed by life in general, as a person first, and then as a cinematographer. It’s a way of me keeping things as straightforward as I can so I can focus on what I’m trying to create emotionally. I’m at a point in my career where I’m much more interested in the emotional impact of the image itself, having it be true whether it’s beautiful or not, and having it be in sync with the dramatic tonality. Those are

things that I’m really trying to explore in my work at this stage, so I think I’m trying to keep the other elements from distracting me from that endeavor. Earlier in my career, or if I was a young DP now, I might be very interested in having different LUTs. Now, I’m more interested in having a straightforward system that I know I can rely on and then I can affect the visual elements in the way I feel it should be affected in order to present or reinforce a story. 112

Q: Do you prefer certain types of lenses for different looks? What are your choices of lenses? Chris: I am interested in the emotional and dramatic characteristics of lenses. I love finding an appropriate and powerful composition, and of course lenses play a crucial role in that. I am also quite intrigued by the search for the proper use of a given lens for a desired effect, be it either a wide lens close to a subject or a longer lens further away, and the emotional power of each. However, I have never been too interested in specific types of lenses. Perhaps it is because lenses 113

today have reached such an amazing level of overall quality that it is just not something that I think about too much. The specific types of lenses are just not as crucial to my process as they may be to others. Of course I want quality lenses with great color rendition and resolution, or reduced resolution, and that can replicate what I am trying to capture visually. However, in truth, I suppose I’m more interested in what I am doing in front of the lens. I come from a lighting background, and I really enjoy the role that light plays in storytelling, and in the creation of moods and tones.

A conversation with Christopher Baffa, ASC.

“I am also quite intrigued by the search for the proper use of a given lens for a desired effect, be it either a wide lens close to a subject or a longer lens further away, and the emotional power of each.” One area where I am constantly amazed with respect to image quality of modern lenses is with zoom lenses. I tend to work with zooms a lot for their flexibility, which is a factor in this fast-paced production world, and we are at a point where there is no quality loss inherent to that decision. A director will say “I’d love to go tighter, but we don’t have time” to which I can respond “No, you know what? I can zap right in and let’s run with it!” Then you’re the hero, and I don’t have any problem with that because of the quality of the glass that we have across the board. Panavision, Arri, Zeiss – it

doesn’t matter what it is. Lenses are at such a level of workmanship now that it is unbelievable. Q: You’ll make it work creatively no matter what it is? Chris: Yes, with respect to lenses, I will. Even if I was faced with a less than stellar lens with respect to quality, I feel as though I could still tell the story that I wished to tell through my lighting and use of color, exposure, etc.


“Television is as great looking if not better at times than feature films, and I think with respect to subject and content, in many ways it is dramatically surpassing film. � Q: In your experience, characterize the difference in shooting television vs feature film. The disciplines of the two, etc. Chris: Well, the quality of the work being done in television is absolutely amazing. Truly wonderful work, and so we are no longer in the scenario where television is the neglected child 115

overshadowed by the feature film sibling. Television is incredibly competitive now, and yet, still relies inherently upon a greater speed and reduced budgets and schedules. This is challenging, in that we are trying to do better and better work with less and less. Having said that, I found the last feature I did was no picnic either. I mean everybody wants to go quickly and everybody wants to capture

A conversation with Christopher Baffa, ASC.

that lightning in a bottle so – yeah, it’s usually faster in television, but not always anymore. As a result, I tend, on a personal level, to not discern at all between the two with respect to my aesthetic approach or way of working. Actually, I don’t know that I ever did. I honestly approach what I do on this show the same way I would on a 100 million dollar feature film set. Part of that’s my work ethic, which I am grateful to my parents for instilling. I was raised to take my work very, very seriously, but part of it is also that even if I did want to slack off a little, there’s no room for it anymore. Television is as great looking if not better at times than feature films, and I think with respect to subject and content, in many ways it is dramatically surpassing film. Productions like Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire – these are beautifully done and are more engaging than most features. So I think that the approach to me is the same. Q: Low light versus daylight, what is the ratio on this production, and how is the F55 reacting in low light? Chris: With respect to low light vs daylight I think it’s been pretty evenly split. I hear so much about the shadow detail of the F55. Dailies are never too accurate with respect to really knowing what you have, so the proof will ultimately be in the final color timing pudding. However, what I’m seeing on the Sony PVM monitors looks really great, and the monitors are very trustworthy. Digital in general has reached the point where there is greater shadow detail in my opinion. I know when I photographed Dominion, when I had a wonderful DIT and we could actually explore the aspects of the image, I was often amazed at the tremendous latitude in the low light scenes. I was able to see details that were probably quite a ways down in the toe, as it were. And I know that in recent years I’ve seen things that

I thought or hoped would go away, such as dark cables on a dark floor, which in the past would not be an issue, but now I find myself saying “Hey, look at that, there’s the cable!” So that’s telling me that it’s getting in there and capturing things that are quite dark and with little or no light on them, and it is significant. I think I’m going to be pleasantly surprised when I go in and see the pristine images of our first color timing pass for this series. It’s going to be mind-blowing because I know that it is something that the F55 especially excels at and I’ve heard a great deal from a lot of sources that I trust that it’s unbelievable. And they say things like that: “You have a dark cable and it’s on a dark carpet”? Get the cable out because you’re going to be painting it out later. So that tells me something. It is exciting!

“...what I’m seeing on the Sony PVM monitors looks really great, and the monitors are very trustworthy.”


“I know that it is something that the F55 especially excels at and I’ve heard a great deal from a lot of sources that I trust that it’s unbelievable. ”

Q: Talk about the future. Where are you going? Where do you see yourself? Future projects? Where do you want to go? Chris: All kinds of future projects. There are so many more stories I want to tell! My main goal right now is just to do better work. I think I’ve achieved a lot of things I’m really proud of, but I don’t think I’ve hit my stride yet. I feel like there’s a lot in there that’s trying to get out artistically. I’m just trying to find ways to do that whether it’s working with my team better and planning better, trying to find those moments of creativity away from the set. I had an idea the other day and I thought oh I’m going to do that and I thought no – write it down because in all the hype and the hoopla that happens you’re going to forget. And I wrote it down and I was able to come in and say “Hey this is what I was thinking of…” and everybody says oh yeah we can do that. So I’m getting better at even that little step. If I hadn’t written it down, I might have given a threequarter version of my idea. “I had an idea it was something like this, I wish I could remember all of it…” and that would be depressing. So I suppose just being better, and doing better work, and having the true privilege of working with other passionate and talented people. I have been extremely fortunate in my career in that I have worked with some truly amazing individuals, and am doing so again on this project. That is so rewarding. I am grateful for that. In truth, I am just grateful that I am able to be a cinematographer, as that has been a dream of mine since childhood. I am truly blessed!


A conversation with Christopher Baffa, ASC.

Franklin’s Brain By Will Baldy, DoP Photos by Craig Thomas of TallBoy Images In August 2015 I was asked by director Scott Quinn to DoP a short film that had gone through the processes and been funded by the BFI under the iShorts scheme. The film called Franklin’s Brain is set in the year 2090 and takes place at a scrap yard on the outskirts of a city. Tom, one of our protagonists, lives here with Franklin, a rusty metal box with the mind of a man from the 1990s trapped inside. Together they keep each other company and we follow them on a particular day that challenges their friendship and morals. Pre-production started early August 2015. I was given just over 3 weeks to prepare for the shoot, and that was from reading the script to turning over on day one of the four shooting days.


Franklin’s Brain

Scott already had a library of all types of references and story boards he presented to me the first time we met. It was refreshing that Scott already had such a strong idea of how he wanted the film to look and feel. He told me he wanted to redo the entire shot list with me, using his as reference. So off we went on a week of recess in Wales. When deciding on a camera to use for the film it was narrowed down to either Alexa or Sony F65, both cameras give fantastic images but I found the F65 to replicate a picture more true to the eye, to me it produced a medium that replicated film closer than any other digital camera available. The mechanical shutter completely won me over when helping to replicate the feel of Film. From day one Scott told me he really wanted to show off the production design in the film as a lot of work was going into it. Felicity Boylett was the production designer and she did an incredible job at sorting through heaps of junk to create an organized mess that was the film’s hero location. From what Scott described I suggested we shoot anamorphic, that way we could get a wider scope to the film and really show off the sets. We also agreed that the attitude of anamorphic lenses would best reflect the world that the film was set in. We tested Hawks, master prime (anamorphics) and some old Kowas that we both knew the instant the Kowas went onto the camera they were the lenses for the film. These particular Kowas had a lot of aberrations and we loved the fact that the F65’s sensor truly picked up every bit of personality to a degree that I haven’t seen on any other camera. For the shoot we had planned some Steadicam work, James Chesterton, the Steadicam operator, was concerned about the weight when I told him we were putting an F65 and anamorphics onto the Steadicam, but after balancing the camera he noted that it has an even weight distribution with the bulk falling in the middle of the camera setup. One of the hardest days of the shoot was a night shoot in a muddy grave that originally was supposed to have rain fx but we decided to 121

drop that last minute for a number of reasons, however this was a relief to me and the crew as I was concerned about the rain giving away where my light sources were coming from. One particular shot on that night required a dolly and a Jan Jib all controlled via a remote head. A brilliant grip, Jodi Clark came in especially for that shot. It required us to start in the bottom of the grave with the camera, move up, out and dolly around our actor and into a 2 shot outside the grave. Jodi did an amazing job

“...I found the F65 to replicate a picture more true to the eye, to me it produced a medium that replicated film closer than any other digital camera available...”

at working out the logistics of it all and the shot worked a treat. I talked a lot with Scott about the lighting in this night scene. Early on I suggested we didn’t have a moon rig but instead use the 2 torches our characters had for light inspiration. We decided the scene will be small splices of light and big dark spaces, just enough to see what’s going on. It was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to light and I spent a long time with Scott carefully blocking the positions and movement of the torches in every shot since I was using additional sources to replicate the beams from the torches. The Kowa lenses only went to a T2.6 but the sensitivity of the Sony F65 really made up for that lack of stop. I didn’t even need to up the ASA, keeping it at 800 through the 122

Franklin’s Brain

entirety of the shoot. The rushes from this night looked fantastic! The DIT turned to me and said it looks just like 35mm. The way the sensor captured the brown muddy grave walls, and still popped the white eyes and skin tones, was incredible. At that moment I decided the F65 was now my hero camera. The film was graded at Dragon DI in Sony’s 4K suite in Bridgend, Wales. It was an entirely new experience seeing that footage in all its glory. I can’t thank Dragon DI enough, especially Paul Wright, the color grader, for this tremendous work on the film. Shooting this film was a lot of fun and the team was spectacular. I need to thank the gaffer, Colin Holloway, for his huge contribution to the film via his company eyelights and my focus puller Ben Mankin for putting up with old anamorphics. I can’t wait to do it all over again.

“The way the sensor captured the brown muddy grave walls, and still popped the white eyes and skin tones, was incredible. At that moment I decided the F65 was now my hero camera.”


- Funded and developed by Creative England iShorts 2, via the BFI Net.Work scheme - Produced by Liam Hobbs - Written and Directed by Scott Quinn - All photo credits are to go to Craig Thomas of TallBoy Images ( - Starring Nathan Sussex (as Tom) Director, Scott Quinn 124

Tickled leaps to the big screen Perhaps Tickled will be related to film school students as an example of the way documentaries are supposed to happen. You scrape enough together to start chasing a story but then you uncover something much bigger. So much bigger that the movie is catapulted from a somewhere-on-the-web release to a full scale theatrical release, a Sundance Film Festival premiere, and a Hollywood Reporter review that calls it captivating and jaw-dropping. The sudden expansion of the project called for a big step up from the stalwart 2/3 inch Sony PDW-700 XDCAM with which the two New Zealand filmmakers David Farrier and Dylan Reeve had begun the shoot. For the big screen quality and look they would need, they now turned to a Sony CineAlta PMW-F5 camera. The project began back in 2014 when television reporter David Farrier saw a cash offer for athletes to fly to Los Angeles for ‘Competitive Endurance Tickling’. Teaming up with Reeve, whose day job is post-production supervisor, the pair headed into a project that sounds like a comedy, but turned into a story of fear, mystery and intimidation. Their first US shoot exhausted their funds but was brimming with potential and the pair took their footage to New Zealand Film Commission CEO Dave Gibson, immediately winning enthusiastic support.



Tickled leaps to the big screen

Time for a rethink It was time for a rethink, and with cinematographer Dominic Fryer now on board, they sought a camera that was small enough to be practical with specs that would encompass the big screen. They quickly homed in on the Sony CineAlta PMW-F5 fitted with a Fujinon Cabrio 19-90mm T2.9 zoom lens that would give them speed and flexibility, while calling on a set of Zeiss Compact primes in the US when time allowed. The camera not only had the resolution and technical quality for the big screen, the Super 35mm CMOS Sensor would offer a 35mm cinematic look. “We talked about how we would want to shoot it,” says Reeve, the co-director. “We all agreed that it needed to be a big sensor camera, it needed to be reasonably portable, it needed to be available, and it needed to be affordable.” Alongside the Sony F5 CineAlta camera, they chose a Sony NEX-FS700 with Canon EOS lenses for occasional use as an economical B camera. All this took place back in January 2015 when the 4K option for the Sony CineAlta F5 camera was just becoming available. “So we shot interviews in 4K because we knew we would be able to push the shots in post,” says Reeve. “We could reframe them slightly, and in interviews you have the ability to bump up the size to give a little bit of flexibility in cutting smoothly between dialogue segments.” For the rest of the shoot, they shot in XAVC HD 1920x1080 with a lot of off-speed for the interior traveling shots and tracking shots used in the film. They pushed the rushes through DaVinci Resolve to DNxHD files for editing, and again though DaVinci Resolve for grading. “The workflow was simple and painless, and the S-Log XAVC footage gave our colorist, David McLaren, a lot to work with,” says Reeve.


“The camera not only had the resolution and technical quality for the big screen, the Super 35mm CMOS Sensor would offer a 35mm cinematic look.“


“Shooting S-Log3 enabled me to move from bright situations into dark ones without having to worry too much.�


Tickled leaps to the big screen

Easiest thing Behind the camera, director of photography Dominic Fryer says the easiest thing about the camera was the ability to quickly put it on the shoulder and start shooting without having to worry. He also likes the ability to quickly select built-in ND filters. “Luckily, there wasn’t really anything crazy that I couldn’t control lighting-wise except maybe in Michigan where we had bright snow. But the camera coped very well. Shooting S-Log3 enabled me to move from bright situations into dark ones without having to worry too much. Having 14 stops of dynamic range helped a lot,” says Fryer who had no assistant and pulled focus himself. “Over all we didn’t find ourselves hampered by the gear, and there wasn’t really any cases where we were struggling technically for any reason.” “For example we spent a day travelling on the New York subway and walking, and our kit was small enough and versatile enough that we could do that. We caught the subway over to Manhattan, we wander around did a lot of shooting in Manhattan, and then we literally walked back across the Brooklyn Bridge, with all our gear. There was only four of us on the shoot the whole time, so it was nice and simple.”


Tickled leaps to the big screen

Too good Reeve says that they’ve had some really good feedback on the cinematography, but ironically, there is a downside due to the quality of the images. “Sometime people look at the trailer or the film and think that because the images are so good it’s not real,” he says. “Their evidence is that it looks too good, it is too well shot.” But he says they all went into the project not knowing what to expect. “When we started, we’d never heard of competitive tickling, and we imagined a Vimeo online documentary. A few years earlier, it would not have been possible to make it look the way it does with the cinematic quality that we got on screen.” Reeve says the Sony F5 was a perfect choice, but that doesn’t make it an automatic choice for his next documentary shoot, simply because of the extended options now in the Sony range compared to when they shot this film. “If I was doing some technical camera tests for another documentary the Sony F5 would definitely be in the room, the Sony FS7 would be in the room, the Sony FS5 would be there, and for certain a Sony a7S,” he says. Tickled has seen theatrical releases in New Zealand, Australia, the UK and the USA. It will be widely available on VOD from November 1st through iTunes and will screen on HBO in 2017.


“Reeve says that they’ve had some really good feedback on the cinematography...”


Sports Television: the art and beauty of the game. DP Paul Berner on his career to capture golf’s magic moments



PGA Tour Brand shoot, 2015 BMW Championship

I always wanted to be on the PGA Tour, not with my 15 handicap, but using my creative and production experience to contribute to the Tour’s television arm, PGA Tour Entertainment. In fact, the PGA Tour was my first freelance client as a director of photography and, to this day, continues to be my best and longest client. I’m a lifelong Sony customer and back then I was shooting with my first Sony camera, the BVP 135

3 Betacam™, the first one-piece camera and recorder in the ENG and EFP market. The first camera I purchased for my own use was the Sony BVW 300A. With one more stop of sensitivity and improved Hyper HAD™ chips, this is the camera I used to launch my career as a freelance DP in the television sports production arena. I went on to purchase the Sony BVW 400A and eventually bought the Sony 600A.

Shooting Golf

2015 Barclays Championship, PGA Tour Playoffs

As Sony entered the world of HD so did I. I purchased a HDW-F900R for a series of golf instructional videos produced for Turner Sports and The PGA of America. These golf tutorial videos sold thousands of DVD’s. Shooting HD video in the world of 24fps, 16x9 video with a color viewfinder, interlaced video at 1920x1080 with variable frame rates opened a new world of framing and aesthetic perfectly suited for my work in golf and television sports production. Over the years, I have owned a PMW-300a, 400a and 600a. In addition to the HDW F900, I have owned the PMW-F3 and now shoot on the PMW-F55. Most, if not all of the golf and sports footage I’m shooting is in XAVC 2K and 4K. One of the features of the camera that I use most often on the F55 is the ability to capture highspeed frame rates up to 180 fps in 2K, in camera using one of the programmable camera assignable function buttons.

Turnberry, Scotland, Tom Watson Documentary for Golf Channel

NBC Sports, “Opening Day” with Tom Brokaw

Through every new camera and format enhancement over the last 20 years, I have been shooting and directing for PGA Tour Entertainment. It was there that I really found my niche as a golf director of photography. PGA Entertainment gave me the opportunity and freedom to develop my own golf shooting style, different in many ways from the standard coverage found on the major sports networks. The flagship show produced by PGA Tour Entertainment, Inside the PGA Tour is a weekly show now aired on the Golf Channel. It is a look at 136

Shooting Golf

what goes on inside the PGA Tour through a combination of live action and tournament recap and player profiles shot in a creative fashion. After many years of shooting “Inside” for PGA Tour Entertainment and developing my style of golf videography, I am now DP’ing national commercial spots for the brand and marketing division of the PGA Tour. A collaboration between PGA Tour headquarters, PGA Tour Entertainment and their advertising agency, this partnership produces the PGA Tour brand commercial campaigns aired during live golf telecasts on CBS, NBC and Golf Channel. I am honored that they have chosen to work with me on their commercial campaign. Shooting these golf related commercials for the Tour has led to shooting three national spots for ECCO Golf Shoes featuring Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell and Fred Couples. I also just completed three public service announcements with Missy Franklin for the USA Swimming Foundation. The Sony F55 fits perfectly for me whether I am shooting sports, PSA’s or nationally aired commercials. Golf television really expanded in the age of Tiger Woods. Through my association and work with the PGA Tour I was a beneficiary of the game’s new popularity. 137

Shooting sports, especially golf, is a specialty. Unlike shooting a feature film or television show there is no re-take of the action. What happens on the field of play happens once and then it’s gone. There is no ‘take one’ or ‘take two’ because focus was soft or the sound wasn’t pristine. As a sports feature/highlight DP, you get one chance at a great shot and then it’s on to the next swing, play or at bat. But unlike baseball, football or hockey, a golf-feature DP has to be in the right spot at the right time. There are many intricacies associated with this approach. As a golf DP I need to know the players, their swing-timing, the shape of their shot – whether its a draw or a fade, their pre-shot routine, how they mark their ball on the green and any other idiosyncrasies. I need to be on the correct side of the green or tee box when players are putting or teeing off to insure proper framing of the player, ball and the hole. And like tennis, I need to be there before the shot/swing happens because the etiquette of the game demands quiet on the course. I cannot change lenses in the middle of the action or be setting up my tripod or slider as the players are getting ready to hit their shots. At times I am a little further away from the players than I would like to be, however, shooting with the Sony F55 and the Canon 30-300mm PL mount lens allows me to shoot from a distance. I go into the menu and select 2K center scan and the image is just as clean and crisp as full frame.

2013 Presidents Cup Brand shoot and Official Film, PGA Tour Entertainment

As one of the first features and profiles shooters in the sports arena to use the Sony F55 after it’s release in 2012, I consulted with the CBS Golf Broadcast team about their purchase of the F55 for all of CBS on-course beauty shots and off-course olf stories. I also worked with NBC product and production managers on utilizing the Sony F55 for the Olympic Unit and NBC Sports Network for

2013 Presidents Cup Brand shoot and Official Film, PGA Tour Entertainment

Feature shoot with KJ Choi, Wando, South Korea, PGA Tour Entertainment Tour

their camera needs for their hockey shows. Before the F55 release, I owned a F3, which I took on location to the island of Wando in South Korea to shoot and direct a feature on KJ Choi, who had just won The Players Championship, The PGA Tour’s marquee event. In all kinds of climates and weather changes the camera worked superbly.

Shooting the Famous 17th Hole at TPC Sawgrass, 2015 Players Championship, Brand shoot PGA

Over the past eighteen months I have been back and forth to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil shooting a documentary for the Golf Channel on the creation and building of a Gil Hanse designed golf course which will be the course that golf will be played on in the Olympics for the first time since 1904. The documentary will air on Golf Channel and NBC during the summer Olympics 2016. The challenges shooting in Rio

during construction of a golf course in the dust, heat, sand and rain were no issues at all. I’ve shot all over the world with Sony cameras but perhaps my biggest sports project was the 2015 Masters Invitational Golf Tournament. PGA Tour Entertainment was hired to produce all the web content for this year’s Masters over a ten-day period. PGA Tour 138

Shooting Golf

Masters Golf Shoot, Amen Corner, 12th hole

Entertainment asked me to DP the project and I jumped at the opportunity. Together we produced, shot and edited 53 separate stories about The Masters Golf Tournament for the web. The ratings and website hits were the best they’ve ever had, reaching millions of viewers. This shoot was also one of my greatest challenges. The Masters is a very controlled environment to shoot in. There are places I could set a camera and places I couldn’t. CBS Sports is the broadcast partner of the Masters and, along with the 139

Masters television committee, had the final say as to when and where I could place my camera. There were many camera positions I wouldn’t have normally chosen. As a DP who tries to find the best possible framing to tell the story I was forced to find new angles and new focal lengths. But in the end, these challenges forced me to find new ways to use the F55 to find just the right shot for the piece I was shooting. As a dedicated sports fan, I’ve had the privilege of covering a wide array of events. Anytime I can be inside the ropes or on

the sidelines or in the dugout I am reminded of how much I love what I do. Over the years I’ve shot the World Series for Major League Baseball, the Super Bowl for NBC, the NBA Finals for NBA Entertainment, The US Tennis Open, all four Golf majors, The Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. In addition to sports my clients also include many Fortune 500 Companies. Before going out on my own as a freelance camera operator/ DP, I was employed at DWJ-TV, a broadcast video public relations company with offices in New York and Washington, D.C. I was fortunate to travel the world

Masters Golf Shoot, Hogan’s Bridge and Rae’s Creek

Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Camp

BMW Shoot at Indianapolis Motor Speedway


Copacabana Beach, Rio

Rio Sunset

PGA Tour Brand Shoot 2015 Deutsche Bank Championship


Shooting Golf

Rio De Janeiro, Olympic Golf Course Documentary, Golf Channel

with DWJ learning from some great DPs who were making the jump from 16mm and 35mm film to video. Long before 9/11, we traveled freely to countries such as Indonesia, Africa, Taiwan, Japan, South America, the Philippines, Europe, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. We shot on the then-new Sony Betacam BVP 3. I loved using this new one-piece camera. Gone were the days of lugging around a one-inch tape deck. I shot in African hospitals, on North Sea oil rigs, in natural gas fields in the Philippines, in nuclear reactors in Taiwan and Japan and in the sand dunes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The camera held up flawlessly in the hot, cold, dry and damp

conditions of these unique and challenging locations. Changing tapes was always done with care, making sure no dirt or dust got into the camera or made contact with the video record heads. Set up was a breeze with auto-center registration of the tubes as well as auto-white balance. Sony changed the ENG on-location industry with the introduction of the Betacam BVP 3. The Sony Betacam, HDCAMŽ, the PMW-F3 and now the F55, I’ve used them all. In all corners of the globe, in locations far and near, and in all types of challenging environments the Sony family of cameras, both video and digital cinema, have given me the tools to deliver exceptional pictures to my

clients. From the jungles of west Africa to the frigid waters of the North Sea, from the World Series and the Super Bowl to the US Open Golf and Tennis Championships, Sony cameras helped me develop my craft as a director of photography. In addition to being able to shoot in locations all over the world, I have been fortunate to work with the best sports producers out there creating stories and content which is seen by millions. If not for the collaborative nature of sports television production and working with such talented people I would not have been honored with a Sports Emmy Award for outstanding camera work for the opening sequence of the XXIX Olympiad. 142

Š2016 Sony Electronics Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Features, design, and specifications are subject to change without notice. The values for mass and dimension are approximate. Sony, Betacam, CineAlta, HDCAM, Hyper HAD, SxS, XAVC, XDCAM, and the Sony logo are trademarks of Sony Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


CineAlta Issue 8  

CineAlta Issue 8