Sony’s new Cyber-shot RX0 is a tiny, rugged action camera capable of full HD slow-motion capture and external 4K recording. Unlike most cameras in its class, the RX0 offers a large 1 inch sensor and an option to record video in the S-Log profile, making it more versatile when imported into professional editing suites, and more easily compatible with professional video workflows.
Filmmaker Philip Edsel has been working with the RX0 (or rather, with a lot of RX0s…) for a while. His new piece, PARALLAX, was shot entirely using RX0 cameras alongside a variety of different peripherals, including a ‘bullet time’ rig. We spoke to him recently about the challenges – and unique opportunities – he encountered when shooting with the RX0.
What kind of challenges do you face when filming athletes?
When working with athletes for a film like this, our number one concern is safety. Having athletes perform crazy flips and jumps repetitively can most certainly be dangerous if you’re not taking the proper precautions. Thankfully our athletes were super talented and always landed their movements with ease. After that, the challenge was just capturing those movements in a way that did them justice.
What kind of gear would normally be considered appropriate or industry standard for a piece like PARALLAX?
This type of film would normally be shot on a cinema camera – something like an Arri Alexa or RED. If it was a personal project of mine, I would shoot it on my Sony A7S II or A7R III. Cine cameras come with a lot of baggage though – cages, rigging, external batteries, monitors, hard drives, etc.
What is your most important criteria when it comes to choosing the gear to shoot a piece like this?
The two most important criteria for shooting this film were quality and versatility. The quality of footage from the Cyber-shot RX0 was surprising. We shot 4K externally and when we were just handheld or shooting slow-motion, we shot HD. Always in S-Log, which really made the most of the dynamic range of its sensor.
As far as versatility goes, we needed a camera that could be nimble enough to take on any of the crazy ideas I threw at it.
What limitations did shooting with the Cyber-shot RX0 place on you?
We weren’t really limited by the RX0. If anything, it was the opposite – we were enabled to pursue all sorts of non-traditional angles and shot ideas. The only challenge that was specific to this production was battery life. We had ten cameras running pretty much non-stop, and no extra batteries. The batteries in the RX0 are small because the camera itself if so compact, which presented a bit of an issue at first.
Our solution was just to rig up a small external USB battery, and shoot while the camera was charging. We didn’t have a problem at all after that.
What did the RX0 allow you to do that a more conventional rig wouldn’t?
For this project we used the camera in just about every way I could think of. It was handheld, stabilized on a gimbal, crammed into tight corners and small spaces, used underwater in the ocean, and in an 8-camera ‘Bullet Time’ rig.
I don’t know of any other camera that would have allowed us to do all of that. We would have needed different cameras for different scenarios, or been restricted to more traditional angles and shot ideas. This camera’s size allowed us to be as versatile and creative as our athletes.
Behind the scenes of PARALLAX
Can you describe your shooting and editing workflow?
All of this footage was shot in S-Log. My Director of Photography Peter Longno did most of the organizing and sorting of the footage, which with ten cameras, was a lot of work. The bullet time footage had to be lined up and synced. I had a camera shooting time-lapse stills using an external intervalometer, and those timelapses had to be sequenced.
The edit took quite a while because we had a ton of footage, and we wanted to make sure the pacing of the film not only matched the soundtrack, but also created an energy that did justice to the talent and the product. I wanted the edits to reflect the wildly versatile uses of the camera.
Once the edit was finished, Peter brought the project into DaVinci Resolve, where we graded the Log footage. After it was graded, Peter brought the footage back into Adobe Premiere to add some of the glitching and composite effects.
What is the biggest technical advancement that you’ve seen during your career as a filmmaker?
If you told anyone even five years ago about the Sony RX0 or A9, they would have laughed at you. If I always use a brand new camera in the same way I could have used a camera five, ten, or twenty years ago, then I’m not really taking advantage of the innovation that’s happened in the meantime.
It’s inspiring to me because I try to use the advancements in technology as motivation to advance the art I create.