Peter Beeh and Sony PMW-F55 on Bentley TVC

Aerial shooting is quite a skill and one that requires a great deal of experience and the very best equipment at all times. With that in mind, aerial cinematographer, Peter Beeh, chose the Sony PMW-F55 camera to use on his latest project, a TVC for Bentley cars showcasing the 16MY Bentley Continental GT Speed being taken to its top speed of 331 km/h by Australian racing legend, John Bowe, on the derestricted Stuart Highway, Australia deep in the Northern Territory.

Beeh explained, “The Stuart Highway covers a distance of 2,834 km from Darwin in the Northern Territory to Port Augusta, South Australia – approximately the same distance as London to Istanbul or New York to Denver. It was hot and it was dusty. This was a shoot with a good, but not a huge budget, so we needed a camera that delivered very high quality images at a price that wouldn’t break the bank.”

For this particular shoot, Beeh looked after the F55 rigged within the Shotover F1 stabilised camera system while fellow DP Matt Gormley was in charge of the second F55 kit used for the more traditional ground-based shots. The first day with the Shotover rig was devoted to aerial shots and on the second day Beeh and his team remounted the stabilised head onto a simple tracking arm fitted to a tabletop ute. The ground tracking shots were shot at speeds of up to 180km/h with focal lengths of up to 400mm.

Beeh continued, “The ground camera run by Matt allowed him to move quickly and nimbly between setups. The compact form factor of the F55 was very helpful for this. The second camera was installed in a Shotover F1 stabilised camera system. We spent a day doing aerials and a day with the head fitted to a tracking vehicle. Again the form factor of the F55 allows it to fit well within a highly spec’d head like the Shotover F1.”

The look of the TVC was very specific and the team used their knowledge of the F55 and what it was capable of to make sure they got what they wanted.

Beeh added, “We wanted a large sensor feel and wanted to use cine primes and zooms so the F55 was ideal. As a two camera shoot we wanted a camera system where we could expect the images will match well without having to spend large amounts of time in post bringing them into line. With all of that in mind we also needed to be able to shoot at a range of frame rates and needed a camera that would record at higher frame rates with a good quality codec. RAW recording was not an option as the producers needed to turn around the some of the footage shot quickly, with minimal time in post and there were also some very long lens shots required. All in all there aren’t many other cameras that could give us all of the above. The F55 was perfect for the job.”

Beeh often remarks on the F55’s compact form factor and well matched 35mm sensors when describing how well the camera worked not only on this project but others too.

He continued, “The F55 has a good XAVC codec that simplified data management, allowed for some shots to be turned around very quickly and other shots to go through a much more comprehensive post path to deliver a more nuanced finish. It was a job featuring fast action and high speeds and the F55’s global shutter was essential in delivering quality images without the risk of rolling shutter.”

Working in remote, hot and dusty environment, Beeh was also quick to praise the F55 cameras for being well built, tough and reliable.
“There’s more to this camera too. The F55 centre crop function allowed us to use high quality cine glass for most of the shoot and then activate centre crop to be able to record direct to camera with a much more telephoto feel. The camera also delivered pictures that could be distributed quickly to media during the three day event and then used for a more finessed clip released a month after the shoot.”

All in all, according to Beeh the results were excellent and exactly what he has come to expect from the Sony PMW-F55. He concluded, “It was hot, windy and dusty. There was high vibration and we were always moving fast. The F55 is the most flexible large sensor camera on the market. It is the ideal camera to have sitting on the shelf – so to speak – because it can be treated like a quality broadcast camera or, with a few menu changes, much more like a cine camera. The global shutter was a big reason for using the camera on this job but in truth the camera performed flawlessly. I have been operating an F55 since the cameras were released and it has never skipped a beat despite being dragged back and forth across the nation and to many overseas locations.”

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