Filmmaking

External recording with Sony FS5 and Atomos Shogun by Glenn Dixon

Readers are advised this article is quite heavy on what Xisca (my partner) calls ‘The camera settings!’. If that’s not your cup of tea, you are most welcome to skip all the text and watch the videos instead.

Recently I’ve been experimenting with solutions to utilise the raw image output capability of my Sony PXW-FS5. While I love the cameras form factor and image characteristics, its internal recording capability in 4K mode is restrictive to the point of inhibitive. This has not been a huge issue for me in the past because I shoot a lot of content in High Definition and the 10 bit 4:2:2 colour sampling is more than sufficient in most cases. In 4K UHD mode though, you are limited to 8 bit 4:2:0 colour sampling. Far from ideal if you want to do significant colour correction or any form of colour grading.

For a recent shoot I rented an external recorder, the Atomos Shogun, from my friends at VideoCraft. The test shots featured in the above video were captured on the streets around my office. I’m thrilled with the results. The dynamic range and depth of colour far surpasses anything I have experienced with the FS5’s internal recording. I also appreciate the slight increase in horizontal resolution as 4K DCI is wider than 4K UHD.

I used this recorder on a recent shoot for Tactica’s M250 hex drive toolkit. All the product close ups in the Kickstarter campaign video, produced by Burning House, were shot by me on the Sony PXW-FS5 paired with the Atomos Shogun. I love the way the external recorder helped capture expanded dynamic range; from the deep blacks in the material to the specular highlights reflecting off the metal.

Discovering the style of a video with diary sequences by Glenn Dixon

While in pre-production for a video project, I create a specific sequence or timeline to explore story ideas. It’s a great place to begin playing with editing techniques and developing a style that will eventually inform the video. I use this space to test image and sound juxtapositions, colour treatments and editing rhythms. This diary usually begins before any principal photography so I use video footage from other projects as placeholders. 

"I have to go through this diary process, so that I've answered all the questions that I've had for myself."

— Hans Zimmer | Composer

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Screenshot above: Example of a diary sequence in Premiere Pro.

To refine an idea I copy and paste a new section further along in the sequence. I don’t delete anything. This way I can see the progression of ideas and can revisit earlier fragments of thought. It’s the result of continually posing and answering questions. How can this interview transition into that exterior shot? What visuals can compliment that interview dialogue? Does this music tell the story of this place?

The idea of keeping a video diary was inspired by an online Masterclass with Hans Zimmer. It's a superb video series providing insight into Hans’s process for composing film scores. The chapter “Music Diary: Sherlock Holmes” is of particular relevance to this post.

"I try to figure out stylistically, harmonically and sonically where this is going.” 

— Hans Zimmer