Video: Blackbird, made with the Sony FS5, a kit lens, one battery and one memory card


Our video Blackbird really started on a whim. Mel and I were planning on taking an impromptu road trip. We weren’t sure where to. It wasn’t until we were packing that I suggested we shoot a short film with the FS5. My girlfriend and collaborator, Melissa Farley, is an actor so it makes spontaneous film projects something we can do together.

I have one of the first of batches of Sony FS5 cameras released to the market. We preordered the camera months before it shipped from B&H. Most of the work I do at The Arizona Republic and AZCentral revolves around video storytelling. On paper it seemed like the perfect camera for what I do. It shoots 10-bit 422, it’s light and compact, it has internal ND filters, and has great slow motion capability-a feature lacking on the Canon c100.

Up to this point I’ve been using it on a bunch of controlled shoots but wanted to see what I could do with it in an environment where all the odds were against me. Mel and I took it up to snowy Flagstaff, Arizona and decided to see what we could make with the Sony PXW-FS5, the kit 18-105 lens, one card, one battery and nothing else. We wrote a quick story arch on the two hour drive from Phoenix. The goal was to keep the equipment to a minimum and just try to tell an interesting story.

Snow can be a tricky subject. Besides the fact that it makes moving around difficult-Flagstaff had several feet of snow- the bright white makes for tricky lighting. When you get super bright whites mixed with shadows it makes for lots of contrast. Because it was so bright out, I found myself using the viewfinder a lot.

I was trying out the Cine1 picture profile after watching Alister Chapman’s video about the FS5. The Cine1 and Cine4 profiles seem like the best bet without having to shoot in log. With the cinegammas you get greater dynamic range than the standard settings but require less grading than shooting in Log. Also, the FS5 doesn’t allow for uploading luts so you are stuck with an overexposed looking screen unless you use an external monitor like the SmallHD 502.

I like the images I got out of the camera. I think any imperfections in the footage were more user error than camera error. I really liked the quality of the slow motion footage but maybe that’s because it’s a tool that wasn’t available to me until recently.

The clips were graded in Premiere using Red Giant’s Colorista III and luts by Vision Color.

The ungraded version can be found on my Vimeo page.

I’d love to hear about other photographer’s experiences with the FS5.

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