25 Apr 2014

Prepping Sony F55 for Flying Tigers Doc

Hey, so today we are nearing the end of an intense month of preparing our Sony F55 camera package for our newest project, “Burma Road – Flying Tigers.”

If you are interested in some gear-head talk, read on. It all began one year ago in China. In April of 2013 during the filming of “Yangzhou – A City of Timeless Culture” my DP, Josh Miller, and I discussed what camera would best fit our needs in the future. That was the second film Josh did with us, both of which were shot on the Sony F3 with ZF.2 lenses from Duclos. We also had a Canon XF300 and 5DMKII that also used the ZF.2 lenses.

Josh with the Sony F3 in Yangzhou
Josh and I in Suzhou during the filming of ‘Jiangsu’ in late 2012. Sliding a 5DmkII on the Kessler Cine Slider.


Josh is an Arri fanboy and really wanted an Alexa. I totally get it – the camera is proven and simply gorgeous. I was already eyeing the F55 that had hit shelves just weeks prior. Understandably Miller didn’t trust Sony’s “lesser” cameras, meaning anything other than the amazing F65. I wavered and started looking into the Alexa, but got totally fixated on the minimum price tag of $55K and lack of comparable features to the F55, albeit most were to be released 8 months later with firmware updates.

When we returned to the States, I was completely swamped with finishing both the Jiangsu and Yangzhou films. Sometimes to fall asleep, I’d find test footage from the F55 and other cameras to get a feel for what look I wanted and the F55 kept on winning.

Come March 2014. We released “Diaoyu Islands – The Truth” with a bang, and immediately decided to make “Burma Road – Flying Tigers” with the ambitious production start date only one month away. Good thing I spent nights researching because I had to theoretically build this entire kit within one week to allow enough time for backordered parts to come in. First step was to grab the F55 before Sony stopped running the free lens promo 2 days later – awesome timing.

Then comes everything else to support it, and that was a lot of work. Josh had shown me the Alura lens family back when we were first discussing our “next” camera. I was in love… and yeah, I day dreamed about how the girls would all surround me when I had my big 18-80 swinging around. Can’t blame ’em; a damn sexy and fast cinematic zoom lens with pristine glass and the ability to cover 4K resolutions will get anyone who has read this far in the blog ‘revved up.’ If you’re a girl, see my point?

Am I right? Oh yeah.


I wanted the 45-250 too, but sometimes we trade off in the short term to focus all of our resources on maintaining the highest quality build. $36K for the big boy was eating into the budget a lot.

In place of the 45-250, we ordered a DJI S1000 from Aerial Media Pros and  got some other great tools like the FloatCam DC Slider from Matthews.

I’m waiting on DJI’s S1000 with the Blackmagic Pocket Camera Gimbal. This is crazy cool technology.
Matthew’s DC Slider is taking the place of my Kessler Slider and Seven Jib Compact.

Support for the F55 and Alura utilizes:
– the LMB-25 mattebox with a Rota Pola and Tiffen NDs
– an Abel Cine doubler to take the 18-80 to a 36-160 when we want some additional length
– the O’Connor 1030DS fluid head and 30L carbon fiber legs
– Arri’s F55 support system with a studio riser for the Alura and a dovetail to slide on and off for handheld – unfortunately, not nearly as easy as a broadcast plate
– TV Logic’s VFM-056WP (also used on the F3, now the B camera that I/others run)
– Preston Microforce V+F3 system with Heyden motor, attached to Duclos’ Alura Mount
– Arri’s MFF-2 Follow Focus & a shorty Audio Technica mic for production sound

We are recording internal to SxSpro+ cards using the XAVC 2K 10bit codec. For some select shots we might bump up to the 4K, and for others, we will rock the high internal frame rate of 180. I stayed away from the A-5 Recorder for the moment knowing that we already have a pretty massive jump in picture quality options without it now that the v4.0 firmware is out. See, nice benefits from not getting the camera the moment it came out. Now it is actually as awesome as I wanted it to be… save the lack of interval recording that Sony will release very very soon… blogging is how I get Sony to do what I want.

So what else? The Blackmagic 4K and the Blackmagic Pocket cam for use with the S1000 whenever DJI finally sends out some production units of the gimbal. Yeah, its like pre-new. Probably won’t have it for ‘Burma Road.’ Also have a KinoFlo Diva 401 for some real light, in a light package. See what I did there? Ok, and the little kid in me is so pleased that we got decent 2-way radios finally. Laugh at us – we had been using consumer Midlands and surprise surprise when they burned up on the charger… is it so hard to make 50-60Hz chargers? Josh Lim knows what I’m talking about. Right Lim?  … You can’t tell, but he’s grinning and pretty attracted to me at the moment for getting him stuff that won’t melt on the floor next to him while he slumbers.

A final word. All this stuff needs to move around a lot when we film. Docs are tough like that. I was leaving NAB in early April and on the way out the door, I got a glimpse of an Inovativ Scout 37. It stopped me like a red light camera. Why? It folds up like origami and travels like a thin hard case. AMAZING. Sold out EVERYWHERE though. Couldn’t even get a floor model. Thing is, I needed this cart like nothing else. Vu at Inovativ tried, but even he couldn’t get me the cart. In the end, I have Nir Reches of Band Pro to thank for asking one of his customers (who had been waiting for “a long time”) to let us have his cart given our tight timeline. The man lives in Australia and I don’t know his name yet, but “Thank you so much, mate!” We will make good use of it.

OK – photo time. I’ve not actually taken these for the purpose of this blog – if I had, you would know because they would actually be “good.” I’ll be sure to take some better photos an update this page with them.

Gazing at Alura in a kinda creepy way
Gazing at Alura in a kinda creepy way
F55 build at Abel Cine
F55 build at Abel Cine
Josh Lim (L) Josh Miller (Center) and Kevin Chacon (R) organizing
Josh Lim (L) Josh Miller (Center) and Kevin Chacon (R) organizing
FloatCam Matthews Slider with Sachtler DV 10 SB mounted!
FloatCam Matthews Slider with Sachtler DV 10 SB mounted!
The writing's on the... image.
The writing’s on the… image.
Yeah, thanks guys!
Yeah, thanks guys!
Like its not even there.
Like its not even there.
Non-melting 2 way radios!
Non-melting 2 way radios!


That’s it for this post – check back later for more.