The Sam Willows, one of the up-and-coming bands under Sony Music recently released their second single For Love which has touched the hearts of many fans. The music video (MV) illustrating the love of a cancer-stricken mother for her daughter, has garnered over 250,000 views on their official Vevo channel on YouTube.
Shot with Sony’s PMW-F55, producer and director of photography Kelvin Chew shared with us his experience with the Super 35mm 4K CMOS sensor CineAlta camera
Q: What factors contributed in the decision to use the F55 for this MV?
KC: Multiple reasons; In terms of usability, the camera is easy to use. I am familiar with Sony cameras since I had previously used PMW-F5 together with the AXS-R5 4K RAW recorder on several occasions for multiple outputs including 2K, 4K, HD, etc. For this Sony production, we worked with two units of the F55 coupled with the R5 recorder.
The camera’s frame image scan function make it the camera of choice as action sequences make up a large part of the film. Although there are smaller cameras available in the market, I felt there was good balance between image quality, size and weight while shooting with the F55. Overall, it was a good experience and the F55 worked well for what we wanted to do.
Q: Did you use the camera in both indoor and outdoor settings for this MV?
KC: We did not have many outdoor scenes for this MV. It was mostly indoors in high contrast situations. The RAW files helped with the artist cutaway. The latitude it provided, helped to manage the large windows we had in that scene.
Q: What about shooting in low light settings?
KC: The low light control is quite good for the F55. Personally, I find that the sweet spot that you need to expose the file for F55 happens at a slightly higher point. So what I did for this shoot was to overexpose the files all by half a stop more. Without overexposing, you will still get a little bit of noise in the deepest black even though it has improved a lot compared to its predecessors. Therefore, to remove the noise completely, you need to overexpose a little and the files will be nicely shaped for post-production.
Q: Can you share with us the type of lens you used together with the F55?
KC: As weight was a concern, the camera setup was pretty stripped down and we utilized Sony’s CineAlta lens. Noteworthy, it was my first time working with the lens and I was pretty amazed. For the price point, it delivered better compared to other brands of the same class where sharpness is either similar or better. But I do note that we are shooting in 4K where images are already appearing sharper.
Interestingly, the lens does have a sort of its own character and definitely served well in contributing to the overall aesthetic of the MV. I am most impressed with how it controlled flares. Overall it was definitely a good first experience using Sony’s CineAlta lens.
Q: Can you share with us the format you chose to shoot and how did you arrive at that choice?
KC: We were shooting in RAW format so in terms of color and contrast, everything was shot flat to begin with. But I think with the R5 and working with 16-bit file, it gives a lot of headroom for post-production where you can pull a lot out of the file without it breaking.
What I enjoy the most using Sony’s RAW format is that compared to other RAW formats, Sony’s format behaves a little more like shooting in ProRes. This is because in terms of post-production, I felt that the amount of strain put on the computer is much lower compared to other cameras. So in terms of ease, the workflow is quite streamlined using Sony’s RAW as compared with other brands of the same price category.
Q: Let’s talk about post-production.
KC: One of the considerations for this shoot was post-production. If you look at the end product, it was heavily colored and which is why I insisted to have the cameras come with the R5 recorder. I think the step up from using the R5 is quite big for post-production perspectives in terms of the amount you can push in the colors, and the additional information you can pull out from the file.
In terms of scale of production, this is considered a medium-sized production. We didn’t have a huge arsenal of lighting gear but I was lighting the scene according to how much I know I can push in post-production so I guess the advantage of using the R5 gave me creative room to play around on-set.
Q: How would you rate the F55?
KC: I like it. There is a good balance between its price, ergonomic features and ease of use. Like its sibling F5, it is a versatile camera that I would use often in both commercial and narrative projects.
For someone who has never used a Sony camera, I think it may take them a while to familiarize or even figure out the right settings, as the terms used in the menu are very technical which users might not come across often. For me, I relied on Google initially to understand some of the terms as they are very specific. As such, I feel that the menu would be one area worth improving, for the ease of first-time users. However, for Sony users, the menu should feel right at home and operating the camera will feel intuitive right away.
For Love is available on Spotify, iTunes and all digital streaming services. For more information about the band, please visit www.thesamwillows.com.
Photos courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment Singapore, Kelvin Chew and The Sam Willows