Monday, 6 July 2015

Working with the Sony A6000

It's always a little while in between blogs and i'm really trying hard to change that. I've learnt so much from reading blogs from guys like Philip Bloom, Nino Leitner and co in the last few years its such a valuable resource for information, trying things out and critical feedback on your work and meeting like minded film makers can only be a good thing. It's amazing now, we have the technology to put our work on show and share information so freely and I love being involved in back to the original statement. I will blog more!

The point of this post though is to discuss a camera I think I may love more than any i've used before, the Sony A6000. At the time of posting Sony are going a bit mad.....Sony A7S, A7 Mrk2, RX10, RX1000iv. Internal 4k, slow-mo, low light beats, incredibly quality all under £2000, some under £1000 (dollers if your not British) however the A6000 is something of an enigma. I think for stills, its beyond doubt it's amazing, the autofocus is insane and the quality is great at 24mega pixels. It has so much going for it, i'm not going to bother reviewing, thats been done a lot but I do think when it comes to video it gets overlooked slightly. Maybe because it's so small its not taken on professional shoots as frequently as more likely because theres a fair of amount of other small cameras out there competing with it.

I use a Canon C100 as my main camera, I whack a Ninja Star on there (the Atomos recorder, not the deadly throwing weapon) and its basically a C300, minus the EVF. Way round that is to stick a Z-Finder on the front and voila....a near perfect ENG camera. I love it. However I ALWAYS bring my A6000 with me. I use it so much its untrue. I can usually record 20minutes or so before I get a the overheat warning (yes its small and just like many DSLR's it overheats) but generally I don't use it in a multi cam situation where I know i'm going to be recording for a long period of time, thats just not what its for. As a 2nd camera on an interview or a small hideaway camera when shooting stealthily though, its awesome. The image is so....lovely.

Sony recently released new firmware which enabled the camera to record XAVC-S which at 50mbs is double the bit rate of the original AVCHD flavour in the camera. I updated a few weeks ago but haven't had chance to test it out until recently. ]

Luckily we've had a bit of a heat wave in England lately and last weekend their was an american car show on a few miles away from where I live in Manchester. I decided to take the A6000 down, eat burgers and wear a stetson.....

Shot entirely with the A6000 with no rig or tripod. I meant to bring my monopod but somehow I completely forgot to stick in the car DUUUUUHHH! Anyway, because the lens I used was a Sigma 24-105 with Optical Stabilisation it wasn't a massive issue. This is canon mount lens that I fit to the camera using a pretty cheap adaptor from Viltrox. Its an active adaptor and has electronic contacts so I can control the aperture from the camera, even the auto focus works! albeit slower than a native E mount lens which is what the Sony takes.

I shot this using the Neautral picture profile at -3 all the way, sharpness, saturation and contrast to get the image as flat as possible. I also shot using the dynamic range optimisation on the camera at +5.

Graded using the awesome LUTS by James Miller, these work so well even for footage that's already for a baked in look in camera. The A6000 doesn't have s-log like the A7S but the luts pack you can buy include a series of 'make log' luts in various different strengths. These really helped the image a lot when grading and gave me that extra bit of room to work with. Of course the extra bit rate with the XAVC also helped.

'Make log' lut added

Graded with the DE LUTS pack and Lumetri in Premiere Pro CC

As long as you get the exposure right in camera then you can tweak away in post. I found I could push the image quite far before it started falling apart. I can definitely do more now than with the AVCHD compression before.

Go check out the LUTS here they are fantastic and i've used them on both my A6000 and C100 footage. Whether you've shot in s-log/s-log or some other flat picture profile it doesn't matter, you can do amazing things with these, highly recommend!

On a final note, i'm using the 2015 edition of Premiere Pro CC and i'm loving it. The integration of the Lightroom style sliders and really simple colour workflow using Lumetri is working a treat for me. It's really quick and really as simple as you want it to be.

The final video is online at:

Bottom line, the A6000 is such a great little camera and I can literally take it anywhere and even with a hefty lens on I can still look inconspicuous and be stealthy if needs be. I have the RX100IV on order which will be my first 4k camera that also does insane slow motion....I am a bit excited.

Till later.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Driving Blind [UPDATED 18-5-2015!!!]

UPDATE - I've just completed a new film for Speed of Sight. Here we had use of  GoPro Hero 4+ which we've attached to the car and got some nice POV shots. Link to the new video at the bottom.

So, since the start of the year business has picked up dramatically. It's really encouraging for me after a few baron months since leaving full time employment. I'd like to think that this blog would serve as a bit of a helping hand to anybody working freelance in this industry and who's also currently working full time somewhere else. I did both for several years and it's tough.....really tough. The thing is though, I felt for a long time I could comfortably handle 2 jobs and I did. I was working for a major TV post production company and around producers and editors all day which taught me a lot. I got a decent wage from there that I could live happily on while slowly building up my own camera and sound arsenal and doing freelance jobs on the side.

Inevitably though, this couldn't last. I was prepared for it though and when I finally did give it up I was as ready as I could be for the world of freelance, which is a world of insecurity, at least at first. I'd been encouraged for a long time by my family and girlfriend to quit and follow my dream. I'm very grateful to them for pushing me and still supporting me and it looks like their trust is actually paying off.

So, personal stuff out the way that I wanted to talk about this fine fella here Mike Newman.

Mike is a 6 time Guinness World Record holder as the fastest blind man on the planet, on land or water. Mike founded a company called Speed Of Sight. They offer track days to visually impaired and disabled people allowing them to enjoy the excitement and thrill of driving around a race track. A few days ago, I got to shoot with them on a track with one of their sponsors Topcon, a huge manufacturer of optical equipment for ophthalmology and surveying.

The idea of the day is to offer people the chance to of experiencing not only driving a race car at stupid speeds round a track but to do that blindfolded. That way they really get a sense of what its like to have no sight. The instructor George took everybody round the track first sighted, they each did 3 or 4 laps to get a feel for the car and what it could do. Then afterwards they were blindfolded and set off again, this time relying on George to guide them round with just his voice. Crazy...

The car is basically a Caterham with a few adaptations, most notably dual steering and pedals.

My old but still very capably Sony EX1 in action. We shot all the interviews on this and attached a Rode NTG3. They performed amazingly.
My old but still very capably Sony EX1 in action. We shot all the interviews on this and attached a Rode NTG3. They performed amazingly.

In terms of gear, I used the Sony EX1, old but still a quality camera. When I do break it out, it performs brilliantly. It got drenched as well and kept on truckin'

B cameras were a 600D and my awesome little Sony A6000 which again, coped brilliantly in the weather.

On the interviews we used my Rode NTG3 which as most of you probably know is insanely good. Even with the rain and the noise from the car it did so well with the interviews, props go to my sound man and second shooter on the day Liam (he's the one in the picture at the bottom next to me with his name on his shirt, in case anyone wants to hire him)

A lot of people will read this and think, oh, a Sony EX1, thats proper old mate! and a A6000? Good camera but really! YES! Both performed amazingly given it was pouring with rain almost all day however the main reason we went down was to capture the interviews and that meant good sound. This is essential to everything and it annoys me greatly that people forget about it. Instead they but a blackmagic or a GH4 thinking, ohoooo filmic! Its pointless it looking great though if nobody can hear whats going on. Obviously for a narrative film you'll probably be recording sound separately anyway, hopefully you'll have the crew for that but here we had 2 people for the entire day for essentially a doc shoot. I could have used my Roland R26 recorder yes but why? It just means an additional bit of kit to hold or mount somewhere and when I have perfectly good XLR inputs on my EX1 it seems silly. I did bring it with me as backup but I didn't use it.

Because of how the day ran we were only able to get one run in the car ourselves to get footage and unfortunately at that point we were almost out of fuel and the car was struggling. It had been round the track probably 100 times that day though!

End of the day, standard group shot (minus John who was taking the pic, sorry mate).

Me on the left doing my thing with my trusty EX1. Soon to be replaced with a C100. Crap quality pic, its just a still taken from footage. This is from the second shoot at Three Sisters Racetrack in Wigan (Northern England) home of really, their famous for their pies.

Link to the videos: Cobham Three Sisters

You should definetly check these guys out because their a seriously good charity offering something so different and it really is an amazing experience.