Published on Wednesday, 01 February 2012
The Sony PMW-F3 Super 35mm digital cinema camcorder has been helping students at major
Australian film schools gain up to date cinematography skills and large sensor looks.
|Because their students had already been working on projects using DLSRs, the teachers were looking for a large sensor, cinema-style camera that would provide shallow depth of field, more functionality and better sound recording options, but stay within their budgets.
Dean Chircop, a lecturer at Griffith Film School, part of Griffith University’s Queensland College of Art said they considered options from ARRI to a fully kitted DSLR, and eventually set up the F3 in a benchmark test against a Sony HDCAM HDW-750 and other cameras from Panasonic, Canon and ARRI. Based on the outcome of the shootout a PMW-F3 camera kit complete with three Sony prime lenses was ordered in May 2011 through local reseller Videopro. The decision was announced to third year students about to commence their graduate short film work and seven out of eight projects planning to shoot on DLSRs moved to the F3.
“Shortly after it arrived the F3 went straight into seven weeks of work, going from one student production to the next. Some of these projects were quite ambitious - one was shot 12,000 kilometres west with no quick back-up available but the camera came through without problems,” said Dean. The F3 proved to be at its best as a production camera for single camera acquisition, integrating well with existing accessories, in particular its ability to combine a full 35mm sensor with PL prime lenses.
|At Sydney’s Australian Film and Radio School, Head of Cinematography Kim Batterham ACS had noted the preference for large sensor cameras in broadcast and wanted to keep students in line with the trend.
The school bought a RED camera in December 2009, due to its low cost, and in mid 2011 purchased two Sony F3s, taking the opportunity to expand their large sensor equipment within their price range. Before cameras like the F3, the rising costs and declining use of film was making it harder for students to practice large format shooting.
“Staging and lens choice with the F3s is very similar to 35mm film cameras. We have new Zeiss lenses and are also using Zeiss primes from 20 years ago which have a nice look. Panavision lent us older Cooke zoom lenses which work well with the F3 too.” Kim also feels the Sony F3 successfully combines 35mm film looks and high resolution images with lightweight, portable handycam style shooting, handheld or shoulder-mounted.
“It also means we are giving students a camera that they can shoot with outside of workshop environments - the F3s don’t require professional technicians to take care of them.” The cameras were first used for a one week television directing module and have since been used to shoot an in-house project interviewing well-known AFTRS alumni, including director Alex Proyas.
At the West Australian Screen Academy at Edith Cowan University, Director John Rapsey uses the Sony F3 to teach cinematography to his students. The school accepts a small intake of local and international students with industry experience and offers specialist classes in cinematography taught by local DOP Jason Thomas.
“We set up in 2005 with Sony Z1 camcorders then upgraded to the EX1s but a big issue was that we needed to have cameras with interchangeable lenses. We know the RED camera has made an impact in our industry but we understand it has limitations for us owing to its size and the infrastructure it requires. So we began talking to Sony to find a camera that was lighter and more portable,” said John.
Working with Perth reseller Vizcom Technologies, the Academy tested the F3 over three days of testing under a wide variety of conditions before ordering the camera and its three prime lens kit which was delivered in September 2011.
“The lenses supplied with the camera are surprisingly good considering other lenses cost much more. We are also waiting for the new Sony SCL-Z18X140 14x zoom lens. It is important that we have equipment that appeals to prospective students, who naturally go where the best cameras are,” John explained.
Projects from the schools student has been gaining international attention. After a screening at an international student short film festival in France, seven short films and six documentaries were selected for a festival of film schools in Russia.
AFTRS and Griffith Film School tutors say they are keen to explore the expansion options available for the F3.
An RGB and S-LOG Gamma output option, the CBK-RGB01 delivers uncompressed 10-bit RGB 4:4:4 1080p, over industry-standard dual-link or 3G HD-SDI. This signal can be recorded on units such as Sony's SR-R1 SRMaster recorder or SRW-1 HDCAM-SR recorder that are capable of up to visually lossless 880 Megabits per second image capture.
“I’m looking forward to recording uncompressed to a hard drive with 4:4:4 capabilities - that’s the final frontier,” said Dean Chircop. “4 and 8K image sizes are what people are heading to and with the F3 we are meeting the minimum requirements for digital projection being 1920x1080, so we are getting a toe into that market without a huge cost.”
“AFTRS has looked into getting a 10-bit recorder to bring the F3 data flow up to the Apple ProRes standard,” said Kim Batterham. “For our use, the camera can be used more or less as purchased for television or built out with dual-link output and uncompressed data capabilities so students can train for high-end cinema shoots.” pro.sony.com.au