Recently Band Pro Film and Digital met with Eli Pyke of Zion Pictures to talk about his latest project and his newest camera, Sony's FS700.
Founder of Zion Pictures, Eli is known for his passion for creating beautiful images and striking compositions. Most often you can find Eli in the field or in the studio, camera in hand, working as a cinematographer and perfecting his skills.
Q: Recently you shot a project using the new Sony FS700. What were you working on?
I recently used the Sony FS700 to film a book trailer, which is a basically a movie trailer for a book. The book involves the back story to the evil Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, and follows a beautiful and innocent girl as she gains access to power and is eventually corrupted by it.
Q: How was it using the FS700?
Well I ordered the camera on Friday. It arrived Tuesday at 12:30 PM, and at 1 PM I started rolling on our first take. Pretty exciting day for me. I had also purchased a Metabones EF to NEX adapter from a guy in Iowa and it arrived the same day, so I was able to use my Canon EF primes (35mm 1.4 and 50mm 1.2) from my DLSR setup and capture great images right out of the gate. The great thing about the Metabones adapter and the FS700 is they work compatibly, and I can control iris on the EF lenses from within the camera.
One of the features I was most excited about was the super slow motion, which I had planned to use on a scene where two characters are being drenched by rain. It’s the scene where the girl falls in love for the first time, and I really wanted to capture that at 240fps, with raindrops almost suspended in the air. It worked perfectly. It’s an amazing function. And while I can only shoot 8 seconds of 240fps, that turns out to be a minute and 40 seconds of real-time footage, which is PLENTY of slow motion for most any application I’ll need.
The other aspect of the FS700 that I am completely happy with is its professional form factor. I’ve worked with many professional grade cameras on various projects, but up until now have made my mark with the Canon 7D. It’s a great camera. The FS700 with its multiple HD outputs (HDMI, SDI), compact flash drive for dual-recording, onboard XLR audio, and 4K upgradeability makes it worthy to be on any large shoot. And with the removable side handle, viewfinder, top handle, and lenses, I’ll be able to use it both as a film camera and an ENG style camera, making it the most versatile camera I’ve ever worked with.
Q: Any surprises when it came down to working with the camera?
I was thankfully surprised that I could pull it out of the box and have no trouble starting a shoot. Its menu and functions were set up logically enough that I only had to refer to the manual a couple times.
I was expecting greater dynamic range than I got from the Canon 7D, but was really blown away by the images I was getting. Having that flexibility of dynamic range really allows for strong backlighting, which is one of the keys to the style I’ve been developing. It really shows in the meadow/aspen scene of the book trailer.
The camera was a bit lighter than I remember from NAB, which was actually a pleasant surprise as my rig and camera setup is heavy enough for a small crew. Despite the lighter build, it still feels solid.
I think the biggest surprise (and delight) of all was the ability of the sensor to hold up under very shaky circumstances. As opposed to the rolling shutter effect on the Canon 7D (and other DSLR’s), the sensor on the FS700 captured the actress running barefoot through a meadow while I ran beside her shooting handheld. You’ll see the shot in the trailer, and while I hoped the FS700 would hold up, I was actually surprised to see that it did. I feel like I’m finally working with a cinema camera.
You can watch the final product here:
Q: Who’s at the top of their game doing this kind of work now? What’s the last thing you saw that really impressed you?
When I approach a book trailer, I look to cinema. And I’m both a romantic and a warrior. So one film that caught my eye recently was The Lucky One, shot by Alar Kivilo. We live in a truly beautiful world, but it takes someone who knows what they’re doing, and really appreciates that beauty, to be able to capture it. And Alar Kivilo shot a beautiful film with The Lucky One.
I also shoot lodges, restaurants, flyfishing, and other outdoor sports. In a similar genre, what Sean Thonson of Circle Productions in Vancouver, BC, did on Alberta Canada’s Remember to Breathe videos, was so inspiring! I saw what he did with super slow motion on those pieces and thought, “I need to be able to do that!” But his ability to blend the slow shots with high-speed heli and action shots is the key to making the slow shots shine.
Q: What’s the best way for readers to learn more about you and your work?
My production company is Zion Pictures, and my website is www.ZionPictures.com. It has a current reel, broad portfolio, a short bio, and ways to connect (Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, etc.).
I’ll be excited to continue sharing future projects shot on the FS700 on both the website and Facebook/Twitter.
Q: How was it working with Band Pro?
The Sony FS700 is the first camera I’ve purchased from Band Pro. It was a great experience. I met Jeffrey Feldman at NAB 2012 while I was checking out the FS700 and F3. He was able to get me in on a pre-order list right away and I ended up being one of the first producers to receive an FS700. They are very personal and willing to talk. The guys there who sell the cameras actually use them, which is refreshing in this day and age where most things get bought on the internet or from box stores. So while I hope Band Pro continues to get business, I hope they stay small enough to work with producers like myself on a personal basis. Thanks!
Q: What types of projects do you plan to use the FS700 on?
Like I said above, the form factor of this camera makes it both a cinema and an ENG camera all in one. I love to build it out with matte box, monitors, rails, etc, and fly it on a crane or use a dolly. So I’ll use it for more short and feature film, ad agency work, and book trailers. Then I’ll also break it down into my backpack and take it overseas. I contract for Compassion International, and in the past 3 months have traveled to India and Kenya to shoot. Whereas before I took both the 7D and HVX200 (not knowing which situation would demand what), now all I need is the FS700. And while I’m using EF lenses, may as well throw in the 7D body for b-cam and use the same lenses as the FS700.
Q: Do you have any reservations about the FS700?
I am looking forward to the “4K upgrade/recorder”, though am hesitant to get excited, since I have no idea what it will do or how much it will cost. I hope Sony offers a similar package as they’ve put together with the FS700 instead of providing an over-priced proprietary technology.