A new survival-action film ‘Turkey Shoot’ was shot on the Sony F55 4KSony-Turkey-Shoot5
camera by DP Warwick Field, capturing RAW images to create a range of
looks in post and support the extensive VFX.

Sony F55 4K Camera Plays for Dangerous Looks on ‘Turkey Shoot’

A new survival-action film titled ‘Turkey Shoot’ was shot byDP Warwick Fieldmainly on theSony PMW-F55 4K CineAlta 4Kdigital cinema camera, to achieve the distinctive look and feel the director Jon Hewitt was looking for. A low-budget independent project with sci-fi story points to address in production, the movie follows a futuristic, video game-style story and is a homage to the 1982 Australian cult slasher film of the same name - also known as ‘Escape 2000’ and ‘Blood Camp Thatcher’. This story affected Warwick’s shooting style and choice of camera for different sequences, as well as influencing the colour grade in post production.

The violent, action-packed world the director envisaged would require a fair amount of VFX work, given the tight shooting schedule, low budget and limitations on set. They captured much of the gun fire, bullet hits and stunts in camera but also needed to create additional post-produced shoot-out effects and explosions, CGI aircraft, face replacements and green screen elements. Some of the props and backgrounds had to be rebuilt in post as well. The fact that the VFX studio,The Post Loungein Brisbane, was keen to have 4K images to work, was a primary reason Warwick Field and the director Jon Hewitt chose a 4K camera for this production.

High Action, Low Budget

Although the Sony PMW-F55 was still in its early build-version at the time, it could record onboard 4K, was compact and promised to perform reliably under the demanding conditions at the location. “I was going to have to work fast and I couldn’t afford downtime or cumbersome camera procedures that would slow the shoot,” Warwick said. “I had the camera fitted with theAXS-R5 RAWon-board module so we could record to AXS cards that could be swapped out for fast turnarounds between takes.


“We had several visual styles to develop for 'Turkey Shoot' because of the game-like linear ‘platform’ order the film follows, which meant that as our hero Rick Tyler makes his way through levels of the game, I needed to make new-look ‘worlds’ for each phase, both in-camera and in the grade. The shooting angle and camera operation also changed through the different worlds. Using the F55 to shoot RAW was a big help. Because I didn’t baked any specific looks into the images, we had plenty of opportunity to shift the hues and contrast without the pictures falling apart, and in post we could pull keys easily, isolate elements of the image and manipulate them as we liked.”

Intercutting Footage

During Warwick’s discussions with director in pre-production, it became apparent the film would also benefit from a variety of visual perspectives, many of which were quite subjective. 'Turkey Shoot' is set in the near future and the name refers to a popular fictional TV show in which the contestants play to save their lives. The show is watched every day by a massive worldwide audience and is played out mostly in real-time, ‘live’ to air.


“We see the movie audience watching the contestant and merciless assailants via live feeds, output through the hosts at the studio,” said Warwick. “These shots at the studio, in some cases recorded on other types of camera, were to be intercut with our F55 footage to juxtapose the objective and subjective points of view as a way of unsettling the film viewer. My approach was to create separate looks for the different worlds with the F55, as well as incorporate other types of footage. I tested analogue video, prosumer handycams and even iPhones but eventually found thatbcameras and aRED Scarletproduced looks that worked best for the production.”

On the F55 he shot using a Zeiss Compact 28-80mm T2.9, a Zeiss Lightweight 15.5-45mm T2.6 and a Canon 300mm T1.8. He especially wanted to be able to shoot some scenes around T2 or even T1.4 to keep the depth of field short to support the sets, which were often very sparsely dressed, but their shooting speed meant zooms were essential. Shot types ranged from lock-offs to travelling car interiors and exteriors, arrow-cam, helicopter POVs, handheld, dolly and tripod. Warwick also found that due to the camera’s compact size he could use it in bathrooms full of mirrors and doorways, despite the potential for camera shadow.


From the Dandenongs to Shanghai

“On occasions the space was so tight I had to operate from a monitor at arm’s length to the camera to avoid my reflection,” he said. “A few of our locations included the Dandenong ranges outside Melbourne standing in for a tropical jungle, the Malvern area as the Middle East, Melbourne CBD as a base for Shanghai, and a shipping container yard. The live TV studio shoot was in a disused office building in Armadale. We experienced everything from hot smoke-filled days to humid forests to dumping rain and icy winds, but my 1st ACMeg Perrottmanaged to keep the F55 running throughout.

“Because I served as DP on the movie as well as operating the A camera, both the picture and the form factor were important to me and my style of working. We needed to capture solid, RAW images with latitude equivalent to film in exposure and a good-looking colour space, and I wanted to use a camera that was small and fast enough to be able to shoot an action movie in 15 days with a small crew and numerous locations. I was planning to hang the camera off an EziRig for much the shoot, and also fit it into tight spaces. Compact size notwithstanding, the F55 still has most of the functions of the larger F65 and wasn't compromising the image.”

Camera Package

To keep within his tight budget, Warwick had to be prudent with the camera accessories and lens packages, hired fromLemac Melbourne. He said, “Another advantage of the Sony F55 for us was that it’s cheaper to rent than several other 4K digital cinema options. We could put the cost saving toward a greater choice of lenses, filters, monitors and accessories.”


For Turkey Shoot, the need to shoot 4K ruled out some possible camera packages straight away and left Warwick with a list of digital cinema cameras that met the director’s looks criteria, recognising the 1982 film. He has shot with other cameras in 4K or 5K several times now and likes the look for certain productions, but felt that some sensors have traits that wouldn’t benefit this shoot as well as the Sony, or have what he needed to complete the shoot on set.

He said, “To cover that many locations in only 15 days with a small crew, other cameras I was familiar with would have required more attention and coaxing than I had time for. Keeping the rental cost down in order to afford the lenses was another factor in the balance. Neverthless, in the end, the Post Lounge was able to extract the data they needed from the RAW images and the pictures look great. Post Lounge colouristNuala Sheridangraded the movie in a very limited time while I sat in on the sessions to help get the images into shape for the movie. Nuala was terrific and worked very fast to create the varied looks I needed.”


Digital Discussion

Warwick, currently the President of the Victorian Branch of the ACS, has worked on film through most of his career. But regardless of the medium the images are captured on - film emulsion versus electronic sensors and their adopted codecs - his approach as a cinematographer to projects still has to centre on the look and quality of the images. “When I look at the large variety of professional digital cinema cameras available now, the first thing I want is a pleasing image that is appropriate image for the project,” he said.

“The digital discussion can quickly descend into technical issues, which have their place, but ultimately some aspects of the image aesthetic can't be verbalised. For me the proof is how the image looks on screen without a barrage of post-production correction. When we shot on film, the DP's choice was the brand and model of camera, the lenses you liked to shoot with, and the film with the look you preferred. Those were the three criteria. In digital cinematography, you have the camera body and sensor - corresponding to film stock - combined, rolling the camera form factor and the look into one, plus the choice of lenses, leaving the cinematographer with just two criteria.”  http://pro.sony.com.au