Sony FS5 and Atomos Shogun Inferno Shine for ‘Christmas Lights’

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Filmmakers Nathan Ingalls and Sidney Diongzon, staff members at Azusa Pacific University, produced a short film with a hopeful Christmas message. They shot the project on a Sony PXW-FS5 using the Atomos Shogun Inferno and managed the production themselves, spending about three days on the shoot and 12 days in post production.
Nathan acted as DP, and Sidney blocked the scenes and directed the cast. As a team, they are quite efficient, having worked together long enough to know each other’s strong points. In post-production, Sidney did the editing while Nathan worked on the grade, side-by-side. They have found that the Sony FS5 with Shogun Inferno are a good match on set, and give very workable results. Watch the video here.

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Sidney said, “Most of the cast were students at the University, only hiring actors to play a father and child. Students from the Cinema arts program also lent a hand as extra crew, with up to 10 helping at any time.”

On the FS5, Nathan chose Sigma ART series lenses -18-35mm f1.8, 50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.4 - and used a Readyrig for stabilization, but without a gimbal because they wanted a handheld look. They attached the Shogun Inferno to the FS5 using a Cinevate accessory mount.

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Using the FS5 with FS-Raw upgrade allowed them to record direct from the sensor to the Atomos Shogun Inferno in 10-bit Apple ProRes. This output the best image quality they could achieve while taking other factors into consideration - for example, they recorded using S-Log3 gamma in Atomos’ AtomHDR mode to gauge exposure. This mode makes it easier to quickly assess the image, whether you are shooting  HDR video or, like this short, regular Rec 709 footage.
“We’ve done a lot of tests with AtomHDR and are aware of the amount of information we are getting with it,” said Nathan. “We find exposing between 1½ and 2 stops above normal to be the sweet spot.” Doing this reduces the amount of noise visible in the shadows, but still keeps well-balanced skin tones in most lighting conditions.

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They favour S-Log3 because, according to Nathan, it grades more quickly and gives them all the information they require in an image. They also credit Sony’s reduction of the lowest ISO for S-Log from 3200 ISO to 2000 ISO in firmware as improving the image noise performance. All these factors combined mean that the FS5 and Shogun Inferno produce excellent images for the price.
On the Shogun Inferno, the image recording is critical, of course, but the interface and usability are also important. Nathan especially likes the recorder's user interface. “I think it's very straightforward and simple.”

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He had the advantage of being able to light the film having already decided how he planned to grade it. His general approach is to light for the scene, allowing him the flexibility to shoot more freely in a space with minimal repositioning of lights. He mainly used Kinoflo Divas, a Chinaball and some LEDs. 650w and 300w Arri fresnels were also used on dimmers for a couple of the scenes. They used a simple aerosol for in-camera haze in the workshop scenes, as they didn’t have a proper haze generator.