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The Pretend One is an Australian feature film due for theatrical release in 2016. The film is directed by Tony Prescott, produced by Tony Prescott and Dinusha Ratnaweera and stars Geraldine Hakewill, Michael Whalley, Benedict Wall and David Field. It is also the first feature length film shot with Sony PXW-FS7 cameras.

DOP Robert Morton detailed the production’s choice of camera explaining, “Our shooting schedule was ambitious and given the limited amount of shoot days for the production phase, we employed a two-camera setup for a lot of scenes. This allowed us to get the coverage we needed quickly. Primarily, we wanted a camera with a cinematic look that was more lightweight and less cumbersome than other cameras on the market, so the FS7 was ideal. We also had a number of intricate Steadicam shots and the FS7’s lightweight design meant that we could handle them with ease. We also required a camera system that could record off speed, shoot low light or natural light and work quickly in changing lighting conditions and needed to be able to switch between PL primes and EF zoom lenses for particular shots. The film also included a number of VFX elements from green screen composites to sky replacement. All in all the FS7 ticked all our boxes.”

On set both FS7 cameras were put to the test, shooting all day every day without a break. As Morton described the production had a very ambitious schedule and could not afford any setbacks.

He added, “The cameras didn’t fail once which was unbelievable. The FS7s were also very maneuverable meaning that we were very agile and could shift setups really quickly saving us a lot of time on set. This also helped when transferring to Steadicam or a car mount. There were other major advantages to using FS7s such as the fact that we wanted a camera that was 4K and capable of recording up to 60fps, had internal Neutral Density filters to minimise filter changes when exterior lighting conditions changed plus had good colour and a wide dynamic range. Also the Sony Alpha mount allows for many different lens mounting options, changing between different mounts quickly. The bit depth of the camera in conjunction with the slog2 produced really fine gradation in colour and contrast.”

The Pretend One was shot internally with 4K XAVC–I codec as opposed to RAW for several reasons according to Morton who explained, “Though it would have been a preference to shoot RAW as I have done in situations where compression and colour subsampling were critical to the final result, we weighed up the benefits of shooting RAW for The Pretend One and decided against it due to the data requirements. In saying that, the 4K XAVC-I 10bit 42:2 codec is a data efficient codec which holds up well with the slog2 gamma encoding.”

When Morton describes putting the FS7s to the test it’s easy to see why the quality and reliability of the cameras was so critical to the production. He added, “We set the cameras up in full production mode; matte boxes, remote focus, remote video and audio, Vlock battery plates, PL Zeiss MK3 Super Speeds. We also employed a Ľ glimmer glass that gave the images a soft edged, blooming highlight with a rich image. The cameras were employed for a wide range of coverage including handheld, Steadicam, dollies, car (and tractor) rigs. Thankfully the FS7 allowed for a lot of freedom in shooting as it could switch between setups quickly – going from sticks to handheld in seconds utilising a Sony VCT plate.”

There was a wide range of images shot for the film which included a lot of exterior filming at specific time of day. It was important to Morton that the camera rendered dynamic range, colour, contrast and textures as, “This way we accurately and beautifully represented the landscape the characters inhabit. The majority of the film was shot hand held with the exception of car-mounted shots and some establishing landscapes and scene master wides to give a strong sense of place. The FS7 sits very well on the shoulder – balance and overall weight are very good. The button layout is also very well thought out, allowing for quick adjustments and access to various metering modes to be done by the operator whilst the camera is comfortably sitting on the shoulder like an ENG camera.”

The Pretend One is set on a magnificent cotton farm in rural QLD so there were a lot of broad sweeping exterior shots at varying times of day with the interiors largely set in a beautiful old farm house and a classic rural pub situated in the area. Morton also shot across a full spectrum of coverage; long complicated Steadicam shots, wide planametric shots, car mounts, hand-held and composed dialogue scenes.

With all this to take into consideration Morton was particularly delighted with the performance of the FS7 cameras saying, “The FS7 is gamechanger of a camera. To offer images that equate to a camera five times the price whilst offering amazing ergonomics and usability, it blows every other camera in its class out of the water. Besides the obvious budgetary advantage, the FS7 offers a cinematic feel, that coupled with the MK3 Super speeds gave beautiful soft images comparable to the best digital cameras on the market. Some of the shoot days had up to ten minutes of screen time scheduled for the day and the FS7’s lightweight nature and ease of operation meant the time between setups allowed us to achieve all scheduled shots. Light sensitivity was also outstanding meaning that we could shoot in very natural low light whilst still having a lot of detail, this allowed us to the versatility of shooting well into last light on the epic sunset days. The FS7’s latitude is also phenomenal, shooting externals in daylight, there was always a lot of detail in the highlights and shadows whilst still keeping our image low contrast and beautiful.”

A tough shoot that pushed his cameras and the crew to the limit left Morton exhausted but ultimately very satisfied with the result. He concluded, “There we’re no camera faults or malfunctions for the entire 19 day shoot which was amazing as these cameras were getting pushed all day in dust, cold and wet. I also have to say Sony have been fantastic to work with in servicing the cameras and removing the dust from the west QLD shoot. They have also been fast and responsive with the few minor repairs that were needed.”

Morton has recently also shot two 4K dramatic short films with the FS7 for the Australian National Maritime Museum inside the Onslow submarine and Vampire warship as part of their new $8 million installation at Darling Harbour. He has also shot a variety of commercial, music video and documentary projects with the FS7 including the latest Nature’s Own brand campaign.

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