High Speed at High Speed


I recently posted about a long term project that I'm very excited about, following the development of the 2013 Dodge SRT Viper.  Last month we travelled to Detroit to see the first production cars coming together at the Connor Avenue Assembly Plant.  This weekend the race program was in the spotlight as the team put the Viper to the test at the Petit Le Mans Race at Road Atlanta.  10 hours of punishing racing put the car under the most extreme performance test in the North American GT Series.  The race's challenges didn't end with the race team, we were tasked with covering 1000 miles of racing spread over a huge complex from predawn through to the dark of night while maintaining the carefully crafted style we've developed for the rest of the documentary.


We added a new tool to the mix on the Detroit trip, the new Sony FS-700 high speed camera and realized that it would be critical to covering the race the way we new the documentary required.  The low light capability combined with shooting at 120 and 240 fps allowed us to bring the race into another aesthetic space.  The scale of the event prevented us from really attempting "race coverage",  we left the knuckle biting minute to minute coverage to the guys from ESPN.  Our coverage needed to be a little more selective and subtle.  We are telling the story of one race team's experience of the event, not the event itself.  As such, the 700 let me slow the race down and dissect the nuanced action in individual moments.  With the exception of interviews, the 700 never left slow mo or time lapse mode.

After my first shoot with the 700, it became obvious that the ergonomics of the camera are awkward right out of the box, it really demands a proper shoulder rig and EVF to be a comfortable platform.  In the interim, we've added a lot to the kit.  

The biggest surprise was the Tilta Shoulder Mount, Cage, Matte Box and Follow Focus.  Since the rest of the show has been captured on HDX900s I was attracted to the Tilta's compatibility with standard Quick Release Plates and the value seemed almost too good to be true.  I was dubious that the build quality and engineering wouldn't be up to standard and was hesitant to put all of our eggs in one basket sight unseen.  My concerns were completely unwarranted, the Tilta system is beautiful, functional, and very well thought out.  Every piece feels solid and capable, they've really gotten it right.  My director, Andy Robinson kept commenting on how "it all just feels so German, it reminds me of Arri gear"


It fits the 700  nicely and is modular enough to allow for various shooting configurations as needed.  The top handle on the FS700 is robust enough and placed far forward enough to allow us to remove the cage and top handle on the Tilta to lighten the rig and make it easier to pack in a Pelican 1510.  We can always build up the full rig while shooting commercials or narrative where additional accessories will need the added rails space, but for a run and gun doc scenario, the stripped down version is more then capable.

Since Sony followed the Red Epic School of Industrial Design, the on board LCD is almost useless in hand held configuration so we added a Cineroid HD-SDI EVF to the kit.  I found the Cineroid to perform well and be very well made.  I like the mounting system for the optic much better then the pressure fit of the Z-Finder.  There is a noticeable lag in image reproduction from the 700 perhaps a frame or two of delay, I'm not sure if this is the fault of the Cineroid or the HDSDI output of the camera.  It isn't a problem under normal shooting situations but when tracking cars screaming by at 180 mph a few feet away it made for some frustration.  The biggest frustration is that the FS700 isn't able to output a usable signal while in high speed mode, this forces you to frame off the rear LCD.  This isn't a big problem when operating from sticks, the most likely configuration for high speed, but it does make me regret that we decided not to pack the clip on monocle for the 700's LCD.  For interviews, we mount the 700 on a Cinevate Atlas 200 slider operated by Kyle Clark.  Kyle discovered a very useful use of the on board LCD and Cineroid combo.  He placed the Cineroid in Pixel for Pixel mode for constant focus confirmation while framing off of the onboard LCD, genius!

Here's a rundown of the gear we used:

Sony NEX-FS700

MetaBones Canon EF Adapter

Canon 70-200 EF 2.8 AS II

Canon 10-22

Canon 17-45

Canon 15mm Fisheye

Tilta Matte Box, Follow Focus, Shoulder mount

Thank goodness for Delta's Media Rate for Baggage!

2 Panasonic HDX-900s

Canon 20x7.8

Fuji 4.6 Superwide

2 Sound Devices Pix 240 Recorders

2 Redrock Micro Matte Box

1 Panasonic Lumix GH2

Lumix 14-42

Lumix 7-14

6 RePlay XDs

Cinevate Atlas 200 Slider

Dykortek Advantajib

2 Sachtler V20s

1 Oconnor HD 2030

2 4x4 Kino

2 1x1 Light Panels

2 Light Panel Minis