Some helpful ideas for Producers and Cameramen

We are here to help you get your job done well, and that starts before we even go out to shoot. From choosing the right camera crew, the best camera, lighting and lenses, to getting the location right, filming safely under Covid and backing up the rushes quickly and safely.  The following guides aim to give you the information that you need in a succinct and clear way. It is aimed at producers, production managers, directors and camera operators, so please take a look and let me know if there is any subject you’d like me to add, or any other suggestions you have at all. And of course you can’t beat specific advice so please do call or email if you want some direct, tailored advice 

 

TV Crews, Carnets and Brexit

An ATA Carnet is a customs document that allows us to travel the world freely with our camera and lighting kits

At Capital Crewing we have been travelling and dealing with carnets for years. Because we often need to travel at short notice, we took the decision a few years ago to have an annual Carnet, and the great thing is that we choose from the list, what kit we need for each trip.

So we know the process inside out and even help the customs officers to fill them out. We also put stickers, (like signature markers on a contract) where they should be filled out and signed. And this helps us make sure customs gets it right even if we have just come off an overnight transatlantic flight. 

Carnets and Brexit

So whenever, wherever you need us to go, we are ready. And now that you also need an ATA Carnet to travel to Europe we are perfectly set up for it,  and know the procedures inside out.  It’s one less thing for busy Production Managers and Production Coordinators to worry about, and best of all it is cheaper than getting a dedicated Carnet for a trip 

A Carnet  lists our equipment and the serial numbers, and we get it stamped in and out of UK customs and the country we are travelling to – it’s actually very straightforward once you’ve done it a few times. And you can see a list of countries that are covered by the ATA Carnet system listed here

How quickly can we get a carnet?

 

Covid-19

 
  • This past year has given us many challenges but we have continued to be able to film safely and protect ourselves and those around us. One of the most important aspects is to make sure the guests or presenters know that we take it seriously, and are doing our utmost to ensure we all stay safe, so they feel comfortable and perform better too. 
  • Of course we wear masks at all times on location, sanitise our hands regularly and maintain social distancing but there are practical considerations that help and are always worth being reminded of
  • Avoid unnecessary stops on the way to the shoot and travel in separate vehicles
  • Keep our equipment organised and compact and separate
  • A little bit of extra time helps more than anything. Best practice is more likely to be overlooked when you are rushing
  • Keep the room ventilated where possible
  • Of course use boom mics when possible and sanitise any personal mics thoroughly
  • Communicate what you’re doing and why you’re doing – it will put everyone at ease
  • Here is a link to some guidelines to follow for filming safely 

The Recce

 
The recce is so important for some shoots – here’s some ideas of what you should look out for and what questions you should ask, especially if we can’t be there with you. 
    • Is there parking on site or nearby, and are there any height restrictions?
    • What are the room dimensions, including the height? 
    • Sound: Is there a busy road outside? Is the floor carpeted? Is there much of an echo in the room? Does the floor creak? Aircon with local control? Are there workmen scheduled in the building?
    • Will there be windows in shot and where will the sun be? How tall are the windows if they need to be blacked out?
    • Are there curtains or blinds that can be drawn?
    • Are the chairs right for the shoot? Do they swivel or creak?
    • Power sockets? Are they standard (not round 3pin  as in some hotels)?
    • Are there fixtures, beams or ceiling grids to hang lights from? 
    • Any low tables to have in foreground (if its a 2shot)
    • Any tables to move/dress behind?
    • What props are available to dress the background?
    • If filming a 1+1 interview will the 2 singles work as well as a 2 shot? 
    • Are there any mirrors in the room? 
    • Take a photo from each potential camera position as well as some big wides. A video can be really useful too
    • Any suggestions of anything we should add to this list? it’s aways great to have feedback. Give Mark a call or an email

Camera Crew Hire Terminology

 
There are so many terms for camera people these days, so here’s a guide to help you through it all
    • ​Lighting Cameraman – someone who will operate the camera but is also particularly proficient in lighting
    • Dop, DP, Director of Photography –  traditionally the term used for the person that will work with the director to create the look they want for a film, drama or commercial. They would normally have a lighting, grip and camera team under their control. In recent years as large sensor cameras have become much more available the term has been appropriated and used much more generically
    • Camera Operator –  this was originally used to describe the actual operator of the camera on a film set (although sometimes the DOP did operate too). Now the term is quite generic and often used to describe anyone who works with a camera, and has gained widespread use because it isn’t gender specific
    • Videographer – in the UK this is usually used for someone with less experience, and not for professional tv crews. However in the U.S. it is used much more widely
    • PSC – portable single camera. This describes a camera crew that might typically shoot on location for a documentary, feature or entertainment shoot. It can be used very broadly.  It is used a bit less these days but is often used to differentiate from ENG
    • ENG is short for Electronic  News Gathering and came about in the early days to differentiate from news gathering on film. It’s still used mostly to  refer to TV news crews,  but frequently for any single camera location shoot

Sony FX6 starter Guide

 

The Sony FX6 is an incredible new large sensor camera from Sony that sits alongside the FX9 and Venice in their Cinema Line-up

The Camera in a nutshell…….

    • ​4k full-frame sensor for cinematic looking images with shallow focus
    • UHD/4k Slow motion up to 120frames per second in full frame. And it can record up to 240 frames per second in HD
    • When used with modern E mount lenses this camera also has incredibly good, fast and accurate autofocus, face detection and even eye recognition. It won’t ever completely replace manual focus but it makes shots possible that could never be considered before without a focus puller
    • The FX6 has 2 native isos (like gain settings) that means it can basically see in the dark. . A real help when combined with high frame rates. This camera has so much going for it
    • Raw output – you can now record 12 bit Raw to the Atomos Shogun 
    • S-Cinetone colour science – basically a really beautiful looking picture that captures great flesh tones and has lots of range to preserve more highlights and see more graduation and texture in the shadows 
    • The FX6 is is  so small that it can be mounted on to a gimbal with ease – our favourite is the Zhiyun Crane 3 LAB
    • Despite its very small size it still works really well as a shoulder mounted camera, so it’s very versatile

Contact us to hire a lighting cameraman with the Sony FX6

 

The technical stuff……

S-Cinetone captures 10.5 stops of dynamic range (as opposed to standard rec709 which records about 6.5 stops). It’s designed as a great option for faster turnaround shoots that you want to look stunning. But it’s so good that it’s being used extensively where Log might have been used before. SlogS-Log3Cine is still a great option if you want to capture the full 14 stops dynamic range that this camera can deliver. And of course if you want even more freedom in post if you shoot Raw to the Atomos Shogun or Ninja (recently activated to work with Raw through HDSDI)
This is a very low noise camera and you don’t need to over expose in log to get clean pictures. However it’s worth knowing that the isos do change depending on the gamma curve chosen, but in Log3 they are 800 and 12800, and the higher rating is still an incredibly clean picture. In S-Cinetone they are 320 and 5000. One way to avoid confusion is to revert the camera to old school db rather than iso, then the camera always adjusts to the Gamma curve you’re using, and 0db will always be the base ‘iso’ setting. 

Exposing on the FX6

This is quite a complex subject but if you shoot S-Cinetone you can expose by look and zebras in a very similar way to Rec709. When shooting Log in CineEi mode then there are several options to help exposure such as zebras, wave forms and false colour on an external monitor. If you use a 18% grey card then you should expose the log image (no LUT) to 41% on a waveform, and white to 61%. I expose skin tones between 50 and 54% depending on the skin and the mood of the scene

The FX6 viewfinder

This the only let down on the camera. It comes with a touch screen that works really well but it has no loupe to exclude light on a sunny day. Although the FX9 loupe will fit, it is unworkable as it causes the screen to continually flop down. Several 3rd party solutions are on their way but in the mean time then it’s good to know that the FX9 viewfinder will fit the connector so you can add that as a complete solution as long as you buy a connector securely attach a 15mm bar to the camera (cheese plate and adaptor from Smallrig is a simple option). Of course there are plenty of 3rd party options out there too, such as the Zacuto Gratical Eye and the GraticalHD. If you use one of them, then you can mount the screen on top of the camera and still access the touch screen features when you need them, and someone else can see what you’re doing too, without a larger external monitor

Power options for the FX6

The FX6 can take power from a 19.5 volt dc jack input, the same as the FX9. Hawk woods make my favourite for this (the VLM-FX915 that mounts to 15mm bars) This, when coupled with a shoulder rig also puts extra weight at the back so the camera sits a bit more forward on the shoulder. This puts all the controls nearer to where you want them when working on the shoulder. And at only 18w power draw it will last all day on a vlock battery, but you can happily rely on a couple BPU 35 or 60 batteries for most jobs if you want to keep it compact. 
Hawk Woods also make a dedicated unit for the FX6 (VLM-FX) that connects directly in place of a BPU battery. This is reported to work very well and be solid but I like the fact that with the bar mount option, if the vlock battery does run out (you don’t get a battery warning when externally powered!) it seamlessly moves on to the internal battery. Great for peace of mind

Hand grip extension for the FX6 

If you want to use the FX6 as a shoulder mounted camera then you are provably going to want an extension for the hand grip. I have the Zacuto but Shape now do a version here that comes with the dedicated curly Lanc extension and I love the Shape quick release swivel joint for when you want to pop it on the floor. 

Top Tips for the FX6

  • Press and hold the assignable buttons, (and some of the others) and get more extended options. For example a short press of the S&Q button will put it into high frame rate mode but a longer press will let you immediately change the frame rate to what you want to record at. This works on quite a few options so worth experimenting. 

  • If using a 3rd part viewfinder, putting the display output on the SDI OR HDMI your using, still lets you navigate the quick access ‘direct menu’ with the multi function dial

  • You can use V90 SD cards to record anything in HD and all but the highest frame rates in UHD/4k. Some have reported that they have got away with recording UHD at 120fps on to V90 cards but it’s not up to specifications and not the worth the risk for anything you can’t afford to lose

  • If you want to dry hire the FX6 all rigged and ready to go, with lots of lens options then please contact mark on 07885 720111

If you want to delve deeper into the camera and its setting then I suggest reading some of Alister Chapman’s great resources

….and on a lighter note here are some videos that will hopefully bring a smile

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