Bones, Lightmeters, Lonsdale, Sony F35

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Gordon Lonsdale, ASC is using the Sony F35 to shoot the Fox Network series Bones. While many were lamented the lack of lightmeters in evidence in frontboxes and belt pouches on digital sets lately, we were very interested (and delighted) to learn that he uses a lightmeter. “You don’t have to wait for the camera and monitors to be powered up—lightmeters save time.” When the show resumed this season, and they switched from film to digital, Gordon spent four hours testing, using a gray card and a calibrated monitor. “My tests with the Sony F35 determined that at 0 db, the camera was 400 ISO (ASA).” Here are his ratings:

0 db = 400 ISO

+3 db = 640 ISO

+6 db = 800 ISO

+9 db = 1000 ISO

Gordon uses a lightmeter the same way he always did with film, basing his aperture settings on those readings and not necessarily by the video village monitor.

Gordon continued, “Basically, the first episode was my camera test. I like not having actors facing the keylight, so the face is partly underexposed. With the F35, I use less fill light than on film. We replaced the eleven 20Ks we previously had on the big set with 9-Lite Maxibrutes, 1200 watt PARs and Kinoflos.” This, by the way, was necessitated by a $20,000 reduction in the lighting budget by production.

The Bones Sony F35s are rented from Otto Nemenz International, along with ZEISS Ultra Primes and Angenieux Optimo Zooms. They’re trying the new Fujinon 18-85mm zoom.

They record to Sony HDCAM SR tape. Backpacks may be great for camping, but it’s not necessarily what Sony had in mind for their 35mm format digital camera. We all watched the Sony F35 take off this past year, arguably fueled initially by labor issues, and then by word of mouth about its high speed, good look, wide dynamic range and consistent quality. Band Pro’s gurus helped make it a camera of choice on TV shows and HD 1920×1080 24p productions.

Lonsdale consulted Band Pro’s Jeff Cree, the go-to guy for most of us for all things Sony technical. Lonsdale said, “We talked about how the F35 processed information and how it could see beyond the visible spectrum of light. We talked about gain control, the dynamic range we could use without the need of ND filters, as well as gamma curves. The F35 gives a beautiful digital negative. I needed a raw image that I could work with and fine tune in telecine. The F35 does that. There is a great deal of latitude and I’m not worried about shooting in direct sunlight or going on location at night with this camera.”

The picture below, of camera operator Jerry O’Malley with Steadicam on Bones is ironic because, as cameras are becoming lighter, smaller, and faster, crews are still contending with tethers to backpack recorders or base stations. This will change very soon. In fact, Sony outlined their roadmap to solid-state storage last week in Europe, and will make a similar presentation in Hollywood on December 8th.

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Bones is from Far Field Productions and Josephson Entertainment in association with 20th Century Fox Television, starring the talented Emily Deschanel (daughter of the talented Caleb Deschanel, ASC).

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  1. This was a great read!

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