Jordan Westhoff

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Behind the Scenes: Shooting Sony 4K RAW

Recently, as part of the MPS Shootout we just finished, my shootout team and I had a great opportunity to shoot with some interesting Sony hardware since our main objective was to shoot and compare the RAW cinema capabilities of the Arri D-21 and the Sony NEX-FS700.

Natively, the Sony FS700 can’t shoot 4K. However, with a gracious software update from SONY that was implemented and installed by the RIT SoFA cage, the feature is unlocked. While the sensor and the camera on board hardware can handle the capture of 4K, the camera itself has no reliable method to record it. Without any hardware upgrade, the Sony FS700 only employs an SD card slot, which is not fast enough, nor high enough capacity to begin to think about recording 4K content. Hence, enter the Sony AXS-R5 +  HXR-IFR5 4K bundle. The school didn’t have these units available, but with a grant we were able to rent the equipment for a night in order to conduct our tests.

The most expensive hard drive toaster you ever will buy (for now until…8K?)

It was actually a pretty difficult feat getting our paws on this particular setup. The physical recording unit, the AXS-R5 is built and engineered for Sony’s PMW-F5 and Cine-Alta F55 cameras – not natively meant for the NEX-FS line. SONY solved this problem by engineering an “interface” unit – the HXR-IFR5. This unit takes in the 4K signal over an SDI cable and then pushes the signal to the recorder to be saved. Overall, the two units together cost just over $10,500 and that doesn’t include mounting, storage or other accessories. For our test, we used a single 512gb SSD, also manufactured by SONY, and it really did the trick! As a result of the difficulty in acquiring the devices, we couldn’t shoot for all of our test days but a small rental company out of Tennessee, pulled through for us! Enter LensRentals.com! With the unit acquired, I could then proceed to unbox it and start recording!

Initial Vanguard package containing our SONY gear.

Initial Vanguard package containing our SONY gear.

All of our SONY gear nestled inside of its shipping case.

All of our SONY gear nestled inside of its shipping case.

All unboxed and joined together - just need a camera!

All unboxed and joined together – just need a camera!

 

After the unit was unboxed, we were able to test it our in an actual scene! We proceeded to setup SOFA’s Studio B for our tests which gave us plenty of space to work, as well as plenty of lights, tables, and surfaces to set up our gear and mount our wall test targets. We shot a variety of scenes, mostly charts, but also we got a couple more shots featuring aesthetic objects as well for style.

Studio B setup for 4K RAW

Studio B setup for 4K RAW

 

This was our go-to setup. The camera (SONY FS700) was linked to the onboard SD media and the 4K unit via SDI which was also being monitored via the onboard signal feed. Since our 4K and HD were the same aspect ratio, the framing did not change, which meant we could safely use the Panasonic HD monitor to see what the camera was seeing from the DIT station. On set we had an Apple MacBook Pro to monitor files once they were recorded and ingested. All in all, the setup was far less complicated than some other setups, like the ARRI D-21 setup which was a spaghetti nightmare.

S.Two recording setup for the Arri D-21

S.Two recording setup for the Arri D-21

Mostly, all of our testing went well. We were able to gather all of the shots we wanted and several others. One snag did occur though, and I think that it is best described by the beautifully composed SnapChat that one of my partners, Carly Cerquone, sent to detail the issue.

Yup, that's right. We made the ol' rookie mistake.

Yup, that’s right. We made the ol’ rookie mistake.

In the end though, the project was a ton of fun and myself and the entire team learned a whole lot about the process of shooting and working with 4K. It is significantly different (and far more time consuming) than any other workflow currently around and you can find all of our findings and video information at the Shootout page on my blog here as well. Thanks for reading! As one final note, we decided to engineer our own dolly for pure creativity’s sake to capture the opening scene of the MPS SHOOTOUT Video – here was our super innovative approach. Below are some other photos from on set as well.

Carly and David, rocking the homemade dolly

Carly and David, rocking the homemade dolly

Carly, David and Matt lighting the scene

Carly, David and Matt lighting the scene

Matt lighting while some old B-Roll transfers

Matt lighting while some old B-Roll transfers

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Hey all!

I’ve been super busy away at university in Rochester, but here is one of my most recent works. This was an editing project in which we had to combine loads of footage we had no hand in producing an re-edit it to tell a different story than was originally intended.

Be sure to read my commentary and artists statement below!

Let me know how you like it!

ARTIST STATEMENT AND COMMENTARY

I wanted to tell a very specific story with this particular piece, although it can appear to simply be a visual overload. Essentially, I wanted to use the specific scene embodied in Inception to symbolize peace in life. For the period of time that the protagonists of Inception spend sitting on the bridge being assaulted by Fischer’s mind’s projections, I wanted to to give the illusion of conflict in daily life. When the van leaves the bridge and enters a state of free fall, well this, I consider to be peace. Everyone of us can find peace in God, peace is a gift freely available to all of us who choose to trust the Lord with our daily lives and our futures. Peace, while immensely satisfying and unceasingly calming, can be short. Our daily lives ensue, chaos breaks down the walls of that peace as our weak minds and spirit draw away from the Lord in an effort to conquer things in our own strength. Thus, the free fall of the van is my projection of peace in our daily lives. It lasts only a second or two, but is so crucial and enveloping that it’s presence can seem to be that of days or weeks. When the white van hits the water again is my projection of chaos in life rearing it’s ugly head once again. Entropy governs the universe, stating that everything is breaking down at a slow, deliberate pace. Life, too, is like this. No segment of our lives is made to be travelled without trial. The only thing we can do is cherish the peace that we find, and seek it once more after we have lost it. Christ is unending and gives us access to peace and guidance whenever we seek it. It is only ourselves that cause us to withdraw from that peace.

Inception is a finely produced work of motion picture art. I didn’t chose this clip because I’m a fanboy of the film (which I totally am, don’t get me wrong) but because it spoke to me as an image of something I see and notice in daily life and the lives of those around me with whom I am close. I also felt clips from the film Watchmen deserved to be utilized because the tone of their composition was indicative of the mood that I wanted to share. Grace, beauty and calm despite conflict and ultimately death. (Sound like life, anyone?) When coupling together both clips from Inception and Watchmen, the tempos overlaid perfectly and the synthesis overwhelmed me. This was the raw framework of my piece, the rest was filled in as a mortar around the bricks, to hold the theme together, if you will. It was a pleasure to make! Every time I see this displayed I think of all of the sleep this piece caused me to lose, but I can see how worth it the sacrifice this was. This may have only been a 5 minute edit, but it took almost 40 hours of work, in addition to a 14 hour final render. I will post the workflow below for the true film boys who’d like to take a peek at my style of composition and workflow.

For the rest of you, I thank you for watching! Feel free to stop by again soon, I will be uploading work on a regular basis and if you have questions, feel free to ask!

Please keep in mind that these are all clips that are copyrighted by fantastic people. The works are beautiful, that is why I chose them. No copyright infringement is intended, or has taken place. Clips of greater works have all been used in an educational setting for educational goals and I stand by this. I make no profit from this work. In fact, I count the seconds until I get bashed by some soul from the far corners of the internet for using Inception pieces. It’s only a matter of time, I suppose.

WORKFLOW

1. Rip all film works from their Blu-Ray counterparts. (Inception, Watchmen, 500 Days of Summer, Black Hawk Down and TRON were all ripped in this fashion. This alone took 4 days.

2. Transcode all of the BluRay files to ProRes 422 HQ for easy FCP and Avid Media Composer 5 ingestion.

3. Acquire all of the Philip Bloom, ARRI and Phantom Flex footage via official YouTube pages vis shameless download. But hey, it was in gorgeous 1080p/24. No shame.

4. Transcode those assets from their native mediocre interframe mp4 formats to Final Cut Pro native ProRes 422 HQ formats.

5. After this, I began previewing all of the footage and making preliminary marks.

6. Began compiling the soundtrack.

7. Edit.

8. Sleep.

9. Edit.

10. Sleep. No, wait. Edit instead.

11. Rough cut is finished and audio mastering begins. I took all of this in as 5.1 surround and mixed it to stay this way.

12. Edit more. Final cut on the way.

13. First render. Takes 4 hours, but it well worth it.

At this point the actual editing done and the rendering/compressing work horse is mounted. These are the final render settings for all of these pieces.

1080p/23.97 Final Cut Render in Apple ProRes 422 HQ

720p/23.97 web render, encoded by MPEG Streamclip in an H.264 QuickTime file container at a 10 m/bit data stream.

This project took nearly 250gb’s of hard drive real-estate but it was well worth it.

Sleeeeeeeep.

Thanks for reading!