When the audience for the show you are about to shoot is projected to be over one billion people worldwide and the cameras you’ll be be using will be flying through the air, as they were for aerial cinematographer Peter Beeh at the recent Sydney new year’s eve (NYE) fireworks celebration, they’d better work as you want them to.
Beeh explained, “I specialise in aerial filming for broadcast, commercials and features. There is a lot of expense in running an advanced stabilised camera system from a helicopter, so by using a dual camera setup on the Sydney NYE shoot we were able to deliver a much wider variety of shot options for a relatively small additional cost.”
For this high profile production, Beeh used the Shotover K1 aerial camera system as it is designed to be able to carry multiple camera and lens combinations within one single gimbal.
Beeh continued, “In this way it is possible to configure a variety of multiple camera setups for different purposes. For Sydney NYE we configured the system with two Sony F5 cameras, one fitted with a wide to mid-range zoom, the other fitted with an ultra wide-to-wide zoom. With this setup we were able to deliver a much greater variety of shots from the one gimbal. It was also possible to deliver both a wider and a tighter image simultaneously from the one stabilised head using the one aircraft.”
Beeh and his crew used Sony F5 cameras on the Sydney NYE shoot, cameras chosen carefully and with good reason as he explained, “The F5s were chosen because they integrate well into a live broadcast workflow with essential CCU control. However because of their Super 35mm sized sensor they perform very well in low light. As this was a night shoot, optimising low light performance was key.”
It wasn’t just the low light that led Beeh to the Sony F5s, form and function also played key parts as he elaborated, “The size of the camera body was particularly useful. Our brief was to fit two fully independent camera packages into the one gimbal. The compact size of the F5 and its very ‘cubic’ form factor made the task of fitting everything into a tight space a lot easier. Also, remote camera and CCU control was critical. Sony defines the industry standard for this and it is very easy to design the wiring needed to connect multiple Sony RMB remote controllers to the cameras themselves. Generally this is not a complex process, but we needed to be able to pass all camera control information through one complex slip ring and because the RMB remotes are relatively easy to connect, with just four wires per camera, it was a problem that was easy to solve.”
Low light was just one of the challenges Beeh had to overcome to make the shoot truly represent the spectacular. He added, “Every year I test different cameras for their low light performance. I have yet to find a camera that delivers a better live HDSDI feed in low light than this one. Admittedly the F5 and F55 sensors are a few years old now, but I have yet to see better for this kind of purpose. It is a testament to the quality of the Sony sensor that it is still so competitive despite having been around for a while.”
Beeh delivered the big picture aerial component of the Sydney NYE fireworks for the ABC’s broadcast. The footage was also fed live worldwide a fact not lost on Peter Beeh as he concluded, “It’s a big deal for Sydney each year as it is the first big city to reach midnight. As such, the fireworks get seen by a lot of people. Estimates this year suggested up to one billion viewers saw the presentation across traditional broadcast and online media. As such the epic overhead shots of Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Harbour bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the city itself play a key role and we had to make sure the cameras helped us get exactly what we needed. In truth two Sony F5s inside a gimbal at 2500 feet above sea level did exactly that.”