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PXW-FS7 II shoots 4K HDR inside world's largest cave

05/08/2020

PXW-FS7 II shoots 4K HDR inside worlds largest cave posted: 05/08/2020

Our objective was to faithfully reproduce what we experienced the wide dynamic range and S-log of the FS7 II were exactly what we needed

Vietnam's S n o ng Cave is the world's largest at over 5km long, 150m wide and, at its tallest, over 200m high - able to accommodate the Statue of Liberty twice over. Estimated to be 2-5 million years old with a fast flowing subterranean river, it only became internationally known in 2009. It's the perfect subject for WOWOW Inc's 4K documentary series with an experimental 8K broadcast. For the documentary, Sony's FS7 II Super 35 camcorder was the production's first choice. Able to shoot high quality 4K at a cinematic 23.98P, the FS7 II is also robust enough to withstand the harshest conditions and has an ergonomic design ideal for shooting on uneven terrain. Alongside the FS7 II, an 7S II was used for shooting in ultra-low light conditions. We talked to production director Sota Koshino and camera operator Masahiro Hariu about their impressions of the FS7 II.

An opportunity realized after 7 long years

Koshino: The locations selected for this collaboration with WOWOW are mainly those never before captured on film. Our aim is to portray these places using state-of-the-art equipment and each episode actually features the filming crew as protagonists. Our first documentary was to reproduce the famous Earth is blue quote. To do this we visited NASA in Florida and flew jet fighters into the stratosphere. And since we went up last time, it made sense to go down and shoot a cave. I first found out about S n o ng Cave in 2010. I was amazed and began talking with our writer about shooting there. It took 7 years, but we were finally able to realize this dream with a crew of 70 in March 2017.

I felt that a camera like the FS7 II, that is capable of filming both cinema and documentaries due to its exceptional flexibility, is the best choice.

Harsh shooting conditions

Koshino: The entrance of the S n o ng Cave is a large vertical cavity that resembles a giant chimney approximately 70m deep and a large amount of vapour is spewed from the cave along with cold wind. The crew had to descend this chimney in pitch black and then faced a hike of about 10km - to reach the end of the cave system and return. Filming took a total of 10 days including preparations and we camped within the cave for four days to film enough material for the documentary.

Koshino: We also had to be very careful where we stood - due to wildlife conservation there were many restricted areas. Fortunately, the local Vietnamese staff we hired were familiar with this and carrying equipment in these kinds of environments. Transportation of the equipment was split across four people; one person each for equipment including tripods, lens, cameras, and batteries.

Choosing a camera for challenging conditions

Koshino: Humidity and temperature difference was a major issue inside the cave. Humidity within the cave was 90 to 100% at all times.

Hariu: We had prepared various methods to keep the equipment dry before departing, but after being in the cave for 4 days, everything became damp. We even took handmade battery powered fans that we thought would keep our lenses and cameras dry, but that didn't work as we expected. In the end, we just decided to keep everything open and allow the lenses to become accustomed to the environment. If the air outside and pressure are changed abruptly, each lens would become subject to condensation. If this happens, we would need to heat the lenses up for about 20 minutes, so we decided to allow them to be exposed to the outside air.

Koshino: Our choice of equipment was based on whether they could withstand this kind of harsh environment. The location had horrible footing and there was barely any spot that was level, so the ergonomics and robustness of the camera was as important as the image quality. In the end, the FS7 II was the ideal choice.

Toughness and reliability

Koshino: When filming projects like this that require 4K or 8K, cinematography cameras are usually the ideal choice, but when filming documentaries, lightweight cameras with high manoeuvrability are what we need. With this in mind, our immediate choice was the FS7 II. The reason is that we had taken the PXW-FS7 with us as our handheld camera when we went to the stratosphere for our previous project. When entering the stratosphere on a fighter jet, you receive a G-force of about 5 to 6G. Under these circumstances, sensors on consumer cameras malfunctioned, but there were no problems with the FS7. Its toughness and stability in harsh conditions made it extremely reliable. I was actually on the jet filming from my point of view with the FS7 and filmed in RAW format using a wide lens by fixing the PMW-F55 to the dashboard. As the actual time available for filming was limited to 5 to 10 minutes in the stratosphere, we selected a camera with flawless performance that fulfils the quality filming requirement within the limited time. That camera was the FS7. So when we faced another challenging shoot, FS7 II was the obvious choice.

A mix of high mobility and cinematic feel

Koshino: Compared to other cameras, FS7 II is well balanced and easy to handle when used handheld or with its telescoping arm. I believe the camera was really well designed to fit different applications, different users. This was really obvious to me on this shoot when the footing was so often bad, when we needed to react so swiftly to get a fleeting shot. If we'd used a cinematography camera, we may have missed some great moments since most of our time would have been spent in preparation. Using the FS7 II, we were able to film a large quantity of excellent material that gave us lots of good choices in editing. I can honestly sa
LINK: https://www.live-production.tv/news/4k-8k-arising/pxw-fs7-ii-shoots-4k...
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