Successful producer, director, DoP and owner of Paper Bark Films Gregory Read is a school friend of David Mayman’s – the rocket-obsessed businessman. When Mayman told Read he wanted to build a jetpack, Read suggested they make a documentary – now entitled Own the Sky – about the project and so began an incredible 12 year-long journey that had Sony cameras and mics at the very heart of it.
Read explained, “I first met David when I was 10, we used to make rockets in our backyards so I knew anything was possible with this guy. Making Own the Sky was an incredible 12 years of ups and many downs. To see your friend go through so much to realise a childhood dream and to see how he dealt with the consequences of his obsession was, at times, quite hard to witness. However the outcome is a story of triumph over the odds, he climbed that unclimbable mountain.”
For the initial ten years of filming the crew on Own the Sky consisted mostly of one person – Gregory Read. This in itself brought its own challenges.
He continued, “As the majority of the filming was just me, it was important to keep the film and sound equipment compact. So, the first Sony camera I used was a small Sony PMW-EX1. This camera was compact, reliable and easy to use in all lighting conditions. In 2010 in order to have two cameras covering David’s crazy RocketBelt attempt I also had the larger, broadcast, disc-based Sony XD with the help of Denson Baker NZCS ACS. By early 2015 I put away my well-worn EX1 and bought a Sony A7S. This compact camera was very good in low light giving me more flexibility in environments where adding lighting was not possible. With this DSLR camera I used an external recorder to record ProRes 422.”
In 2016 Read purchased a Sony PXW-FS7 for initial interviews and location shots. He continued, “The FS7 is simply a great camera which I continue to use today and in 2017 with the film finance in place I was able to get two great cinematographers, Jesse Brunt in the US and Australian Sam Collins, onboard for reconstruction scenes and final master interviews which we shot using the Sony F55. I have to say all the Sony cameras we used over the full 12 years were excellent and performed extremely well.”
The majority of Own the Sky is shot as a ‘fly on the wall’ ob-doc. This meant the Sony cameras had to perform inside and outside and in many cases deal with extreme highlights and shadows.
Under these conditions Read further extolled their virtues adding, “In 12 years no Sony camera ever let me down on this project. Even in the most punishing of environments like shooting in 40-degree heat within a gritty, concrete jet testing facility, they still performed and gave me great results.”
It wasn’t just Sony cameras that sat at the heart of Own the Sky, as Read also used Sony ECM-77BMP mics with UTX-B03 belt-pack transmitters and URX-P03 portable receivers throughout the shoot too.
He explained, “A lot of the environments I shot in were extremely noisy hence a close proximity, broadcast quality Sony ECM-77BMP lapel mic made it possible for me to hear intimate dialogue as I was shooting. I also used the lapel mics for all the interviews. All the Sony mics and audio equipment performed very well delivering clear audio in noisy environments.”
So, it’s fair to say that Gregory Read was not only happy with his choice and use of Sony cameras and mics when shooting Own the Sky but he also developed an admiration and fondness for the equipment and the results the gave him.
He concluded, “For me the one stand out benefit of using Sony cameras and mics was their ease of use. Own the Sky was my first experience actually shooting one of my films and the reliability and quality of the Sony products was remarkable as they performed under all sorts of extreme environments. In most instances I only had one camera capturing moments that could never be repeated. Not only did I get the moment, I also got quality images and sound that look great on the cinema screen. There were no artefacts or drop outs, just great results often in very hot contrasty environments. Amazing.”