Camera kits

When Ronnie met Mark

When Ronnie met Mark

The Panasonic AF101 Multicam Broadcast Shoot

The images feeding through onto the monitors are sharp, detailed and clean. However, it's the subjects that first grab the attention: Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood and music producer Mark Ronson in lively conversation, headphones on, amid a panoply of chrome guitars, Fender amps and a vintage drum kit.

SomethinElse's basement studio is the scene for the recording of an hour's  recording. Into this space are fitted the host and his guest as well as four HD camcorders with operators. In the producer's gallery, alongside the mixing desk and audio monitors, there's a fifth camera. Crossing over to the director's station, five HD decks capture the HD output, with LCDs displaying the action.

Ian Sharp, SomethinElse's Video Manager explains the conundrum the crew faced: “We are producing TV with the highest production values for a prestige HD channel and we are determined to deliver a high class look.  But we had to take into consideration the small space we were working in, so getting the right kit was essential. And as always, cost was a key factor.”

Crucially DOP Paul Lucas wanted a camera that would be relatively discreet in a small, intimate studio setting. Moreover, he needed a system that could deliver a shallow depth of field: if the background was not thrown out of focus, the result would be a very flat and unappealing picture. Paul explains:

“The look and feel of the show is relatively moody, and I wanted to deliberately underexpose elements of the black background and set dressing in order to create a differential between the talent and the backdrop. In such a confined space, you have to do as much as possible to separate the subject from the surroundings to create depth and atmosphere.”

Paul recommended using Panasonic's large sensor AG-AF101 camera. Smaller and more cost-effective than a traditional broadcast camera or a new digital cinema system, the AF101 fitted the bill in many respects. The system's ability to render a shallow depth of field, its good dynamic range and its compatibility with high quality interchangeable lenses, made the camera seem, at first glance, the ideal model. However, Paul comments that in some respects compromises had to be made:

“The AF101 can be noisy in low light. But we were able to resolve the issue to our satisfaction through in-camera settings and adjusting our lighting ratios in order to keep the noise away from our dark areas, without just crunching all the blacks.“

Importantly, the relatively low cost of the camera hire from VMI meant that the crew could invest in quality glass including a 15-40 Angenieux PL mount and Canon L zooms ranging from 16mm to 200mm. The moderate price of the camera also gave the director the ability to use five cameras for maximum artistic impact.

For Ian, the BBC's announcement that the AF101 was HD broadcast-approved was vital. As with direct competitors to the Panasonic device, true television-ready HD content is available only with use of an external recorder attached to the SDI port. Each camera was therefore equipped with a KiPro Mini to capture full resolution 50Mbs HD in Pro-Res 4:2:2. While storing data on 32Gb cards is a limiting factor, with each card filling up every 20 minutes or so, the use of multiple cameras meant that no fewer than four cameras were rolling at any one time, with down time for the fifth a matter of seconds.

The look achieved on the director's monitors is stunning. The blacks are deep, the chrome sparkles and the rugged facial contours of Ronnie Wood are faithfully rendered. Flare is occasionally invited into the shots to give a sense of a live performance, focus points change frequently reflecting the lively banter between the talent and camera pans are fluid and controlled, a beautiful cinematic result.

With the help of a range of new highly affordable professional equipment, Somethin'Else's basement studio has been transformed into a multicam HD production centre that is now ready for prime time TV. 

Ronnie Woods Show Video

The Ronnie Wood Show is on every Friday at 11pm on Sky Arts 1. See sky.com/arts

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