With “Steve Shirley Shark Tagger, San Francisco Bay” complete, I wanted to share how I used my Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX10 for making my short doc. Please refer to this Sony link for specs on this camera.
- I knew I would be shooting outdoors, on a boat, or in misty weather. I wanted a camera that was waterproof.
- For much of the interview footage, I didn’t have time to set up a tripod. I had to hand-hold the camera, for what is known as “run and gun footage.” I picked a camera with built-in image stabilization so my footage would look less shaky.
- For interviews, I didn’t have time to change my lens, or space to store extra lens on the boat. My camera’s lens is a Carl Zeiss 24-200mm f/2.8 Lens (35mm Eq). It’s got the best of both worlds, a bit of telephoto and macro-functioning and a really nice wide-angle. A Carl Zeiss lens has a reputation of being superbly designed. The focus remains constant from the center to the edges. Others are apparently a bit blurry around the edges.
- I wanted the ability to have depth-of-field shots to lend a more ‘cinematic’ look to my documentaries. It’s a bit tricky and problematic to do that with a Sony RX10, but it’s possible. I did it by setting my camera on a tripod, standing about ten feet away from my subject, zooming out to 200mm, and establishing a composition in which enough of my subject in the foreground was in focus, throwing the background out of focus. It wasn’t a creamy-blurred background, but it was enough blur.
- The super zoom feature was helpful for getting ‘closer’ to the shot I wanted out on the Bay fast! I discovered that you can hear the motor while you are zooming; best to zoom in and frame your shot and then begin recording.
- Another way I achieved depth-of-field was by standing really close, like an inch, to my subject, leaving the lens at 24 mm, and filling half the frame with that extreme close-up while the other half was out-of-focus. This works well with objects, like the fishing rod in my film or the bait, but not so well with people. Who wants a camera that close to their face blowing their features out of proportion.
- I wanted an LCD viewfinder and the Sony RX10 camera has it. An LCD image contains near accurate color representation.
- I also wanted an adjustable screen viewfinder. In situations where the sun was behind me, I tilted the angle of the screen so I could see what I was shooting. Very important!
- I wanted a lightweight camera, less cumbersome than a DSLR. I sought one that didn’t overheat. My Sony RX10 is small and lightweight. It never got hot and turned off (like many of the DSLRs apparently do, although the shots I record are quick clips and I haven’t used it for long sessions of recording). It turns itself off after 30 minutes of recording though.
- I knew autofocus would be a big plus for recording live action. This feature is problematic on the Sony RX10. A couple of times I had to turn the camera off and back on again to get the focussing mechanism to work correctly.
- Having low-light sensitivity is important, and because this camera has a one inch sensor, it was better than the sensors in camcorders! There are bigger sensors in some DSLRs, but the cameras are bigger and heavier and their video doesn’t work as well or look as good.
- The variety of formats to shoot video; and the ability to shoot at different frames per second with the Sony RX10 is great.
- I also wanted a built-in shoe on top of the camera so I could attach other components, like lighting, or a shotgun mic to the camera.
- Sound recorded during filming uses a built-in stereo microphone. A major bonus is the external microphone 3mm jack permitting me to use plug in my Sennheiser G3 wireless mic system into the camera for a lav on my interviewee. Audio: AAC LC, AC3 (DSLRs require sound to be recorded separately–an extra step of syncing sound with picture in post production).
- The ability to take excellent stills with the same tool I use to film is another perk. It can take up to ten frames per second at 20.2 mega pixels.
- I really like that it records onto a memory card.
- It’s got versatile file formats to record in including: Still Images: JPEG, RAW
Movies: MP4, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, MPEG-4 AVCHD, XAVC S
- The options for the resolution you shoot at are versatile for your final viewing requirements. The variety means that your video footage will look great on phone, computer, t.v. or on a big screen in a theater 1920 x 1080: 60 fps, 30 fps, 24 fps; 1440 x 1080: 30 fps; 1280 x 720: 120 fps; and
640 x 480: 30 fps.
Basically, I love the camera. It would be better if it were full frame. My Sony RX10 has most of the features I want at a descent price. If it were a full-frame came with an improved color space it would be ideal. It would be better if one could rotate the viewfinder on its horizontal axis and not just tilt it vertically.
Anecdotes of Using the Sony RX10 for my Short Doc
I ‘filmed’ Sevengill Sharks in a tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium which was challenging. I had to find a place without lights from the exhibit reflected in it. I also had to wait for a Sevengill to swim through ‘my frame.’ Challenging but fun!
It fulfilled my wanna-be a National Geographic cinematographer fantasy to shoot video at dawn on San Francisco Bay last November. One Sevengill Shark was caught and tagged on basically the last day of the season. I also recorded a lot of interview footage out there which was unexpected but welcomed. The results with the Golden Gate Bridge behind Steve Shirley was fantastic.
I spent weeks scouting the SF Bay for a place to conduct a 3rd interview with Steve and finally chose Middle Shore Harbor in Oakland, CA. In the top of a tower there, where there are telescopes for bird watching, it worked well to have Steve standing with the San Francisco Bay below and behind him. I really liked the backdrop of the Port of Oakland nearby, as well as the brand new East Bay Bridge and skyline of San Francisco in some of the shots. I thought it visually communicated how his conservation efforts in the SF Bay are a challenge amidst such an industrial environment.