The Sony PMW-F55 has been a broadcast workhorse all over the world ever since its release a few years back. Usually the primary camera on dramas, TVC's and corporate jobs, the 4K workhorse from Sony gives cinematographers and post-production professionals significant flexibility when it comes to recording codecs, colour space available, choice of lenses and much more. With options to master content at 4K up to 60p in Sony's highly efficient XAVC codec, or shoot even higher frame rates in 2K or Full HD gives DP's a lot of flexibility and lets them create powerful stories. The broadcast favourite MPEG-2 HD 422 is also present with a 50Mb bit rate, making native footage from the camera acceptable worldwide.
The electronic global shutter alleviates the headaches brought up by the unwanted “jello effect” in faster pans and fast moving objects crossing the frame, something observed frequently with rolling shutter cameras. More recently, Australian DP John Stokes, ACS, has been shooting “Winter”, an Australian mystery-drama-thriller television series currently airing on the Seven Network, exclusivelyon the PMW-55.
When asked why he chose the Sony PMW-F55 over other cameras like the ARRI Alexa, which is often used to shoot narrative drama, he said, “I wanted to shoot and see which camera looked the best for our lead actor, Rebecca Gibney, so I did side by side tests with the ALEXA, Sony F65 and the F55 and to tell the truth Bec looked equally beautiful with all of them. So I chose the F55 based on what the post budget had allowed for the data rate, its compact size and its excellent image quality.”
His capture choices were ALEXA ProRes HD 444 12-bit, F65 SStP SQ 444 10-bit or the F55 shooting 2K RAW with 16-bit colour space and the ability for the camera to ingest a 3D LUT in order to properly monitor the desired look on set.
He also added, “The F55 was my choice. Like most television drama you shoot at a very fast pace and as we were a location only shoot with some of the locations proving to be very tight, the F55’s compact size definitely influenced my decision. Also we were shooting lots of urban night exteriors with very small lighting packages and the high ISO rating of 1250 was also a huge bonus. Often, I would be bumping the ISO up to 2500 and on a few occasions up to 5000, with very pleasing results.”
Prior to shooting Winter on the F55, John had great success with Sony F-Series cameras shooting another highly-acclaimed drama, A Place to Call Home, on the flagship Sony F65 so he was very familiar with the camera’s capabilities. That said he was still very impressed with the F55 adding, “I think it is a very flexible, capable camera that delivers excellent image quality. I was particularly impressed with the F55’s image quality in low light, its ability to shoot 240fps and its compact size. Also the global shutter really does make a difference in eliminating the rolling shutter effect. I also liked the Centre Scan option which allowed me to blow up the image in-camera by 100% without any noticeable quality loss. So a 250mm became a 500mm at the flick of a switch. This was a real time saver on occasion.”
Winter was captured on three Sony F55's and those came in quite handy for scenes requiring him to shoot 2K RAW. Two F55's were rigged as standard studio setups and one acted as a dedicated Steadicam camera. With much praise coming from critics about how Winter looks, Stokes made mention of what goes into an attractive look and how much can be attributed to the camera commenting,
“As always there are many facets to making a show look good, not the least being the art direction and costume design. The F55 did an excellent job of capturing these.
Also our locations were diverse, from rugged sunlit ocean front cliff faces on the South Coast to the dark gloomy streets of Darlinghurst at night. We also had a large fluoro-lit office that doubled as Police HQ and was surrounded by windows, so everywhere you pointed the camera you saw the urban landscape outside. This was a great look but also was the most challenging location in so far as extremes in exposure go. Again the F55 handled all of our challenges beautifully.”
Post-production on Winter, was done by Blue Post with Annelie Chapple as the chief colourist. Stokes continued,
“Annelie and I created a single LUT in Da Vinci Resolve from early test footage. This was loaded into the F55 via an SD card. From that point onward what we saw on the on-set OLED monitors and monitors in the edit suites was the original look applied in pre and that carried all the way into the grading suite. So Annelie, the director and producers were all seeing exactly what I was seeing on set and Annelie would grade off the original RAW files with the LUT applied. This was an effective way of communicating the look of the show to everyone so that there were no surprises in the final grade. I’m delighted to say working with the F55 in post was very straightforward and the results were excellent. All in all the F55 performed very well throughout the Winter shoot. Its ability in low light is extraordinary and its compact size was a big plus.”
John Stokes expressed his immense satisfaction with the performance on the F-series camera, and he continues his relationship with Sony as he's chosen to shoot the next series of A Place to Call Home again with the Sony F65 4K CineAlta cameras.
Source: Content + Technology
The Sony PMW-F55 is very much alive, and over here at Visual Impact, as authorised Sony dealer, we have plenty of expertise in putting together the right F5/F55 kit for you. Get in touch at 0208 977 1222 and speak to our Sony specialists for your all you F55 and F Series cameras needs.