Camera kits

Alexa and Sony F-55 partner for a new gripping short film

Alexa and Sony F-55 partner for a new gripping short film

Circumstances conspired to give the crew on UK Residents Only the unusual opportunity to use the Arri Alexa and the Sony PMW F55 on the same shoot.

“We hadn’t planned it that way,” says director of photography Leigh Alner, “and we were concerned that using two different cameras could complicate the grading process. But at the same time, it was an intriguing prospect.”

UK Residents Only is a short film funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Young Roots and produced by Resource Productions. It tells the story of the exploitation of illegal immigrant workers and the pitiful living conditions of the protagonist, a Punjabi who is desperate to return home.

It’s a dark, gritty and edgy production, well suited to the grimy, impersonal interior of an industrial warehouse. Low light and close facial portraits are used throughout, combined with a slightly under-exposed, de-saturated look to create a tense, stifling atmosphere.

“We were able to control the picture because of the quality of the Cooke S4 lenses we hired from VMI, as well as the dynamic range the two cameras produced.” Observes Alner.

Using both camera systems to capture 4:4:4 video files, the production team was relieved to see how the footage from the two cameras were matched easily in the grading room, using DaVinci Resolve.

“We hadn’t factored this element into the post production schedule as we had originally planned to use a single camera. But in the event it was hardly an issue.” He notes.

With prior experience with the Alexa, Alner knew what to expect from the Arri camera: “It’s a staggeringly good piece of equipment. The results are great, but it’s the ease of operation, the placement of the buttons and switches, and the simplicity of the menus that make it the number one. For me it’s still the best out there.”

Commenting on the Sony camera, the DOP is enthusiastic: “Picture-wise I have no complaint at all. And in terms of handling, it probably has the edge, being relatively light weight and ideal for use on the shoulder. I’m also a big fan of its global shutter: it noticeably reduces jitter on fast panning shots. If there’s one shortcoming – and this didn’t really apply to me as I have experience with the EX1 – it’s that the menu system isn’t quite as intuitive. A newcomer to Sony may take a little longer to adjust and adapt to operating the camera and overall I don’t think it’s quite as slick. Still, if I needed a camera for extended handheld use or if the director wanted lots of fast panning shots, I’d choose the F55.”

UK Residents Only is in final post production before release to film festivals.

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