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Advice working with an F900


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#1 Chris Keth

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 12:29 AM

Hey, everyone. I will probably be getting an AC job soon working with an F900. I have had my hands on one before but not much. Can anyone give me some advice on the care and feeding of a Sony F900? We'll be in Nevada next month. I expect it to be hot but not overly so.
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#2 Chris Keth

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 07:34 PM

Nobody can advise me with special concerns of working with this camera? I have the manual but I was hoping for some "make sure to..." kind of advice.
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#3 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 07:54 PM

Nobody can advise me with special concerns of working with this camera? I have the manual but I was hoping for some "make sure to..." kind of advice.


I'd advise taking one of the workshops on working with the F900. Gancie runs the Sante Fe Workshops which run you through all the menus and particulars of the F900 and other HD cameras. Find info at http://www.gancietv....egory=Workshop

For some reason, "film guys" think that video cameras should be easy because everybody has a camcorder at home, but there are more "gotchas" in an HD camera menu than you'll find in any film camera. Point is, being an AC is all about knowing the equipment, and if you don't know it, you've agreed to do a job that you may not be qualified for and no one can give you a crash course in something like this with an internet forum board. I've been using video cameras for about 20 years now and still invested the over $2000 in a workshop to learn "HD" plus the lost income from the jobs I turned down that week (total "loss/investment" = approximately $5,000) Taking the time to get the proper education has paid itself back tenfold since.

Try to get into a rental house in the meantime and barrage the prep techs with questions if possible. Other than that, good luck! :)
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#4 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 12:09 AM

Make sure you know how to get into the advanced menu. On certain Sony's you have to hold a combination of 3 buttons, which is rediculous because one of them is the power switch.

Just be immensely familiar with all the internal settings just incase they come up, and also know how to restore the settings to default and save them as well. I'm sure you will do fine if you read the manual and get your hands on one before productions starts.

jamie
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#5 e gustavo petersen

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 03:14 AM

Having been a regular contributor to this forum Chris, you can understand how difficult these kinds of questions can be. We don't know your experience, knowledge and comfort level with this camera, so simple questions can lead to lengthy replies that might not really address your concerns.

That said, there are some concerns I have that my ACs are responsible for on every tape show that doesn't have a proper DIT on staff.

First, I'll echo the "learn the menus" comment already posted. Finding menu items that need to be changed can eat up lots of time on set. One camera assistant I have prints quarter page sized cheat sheets of the menu tree from the manual.

You should check to see which F900 you'll be using. There are still many F900 that haven't gotten the software upgrade and by my count (and someone might correct me on this) there are 4 software generations to consider. You should also check with the show's DP to see what, if anything, he or she will likely need to adjust on a regular basis.

If you're using a onboard down converter, make sure it says cool and covered. I usually use Miranda, but it has been notorious for freezing up and causing image problems when it gets overheated. It doesn't take much.

Time code is a HUDGE issues for me. Time code should be continuous if it's on REC RUN. Be sure you know and are diligent with cueing (some call it re-racking) the tape. Time code breaks can still cause costly problems during post. Remember that you have to do it every time the you change the battery, turn off the power, take the tape out, or review the footage on the tape (something I would ask be avoided).

Back focus is still a concern even with cameras with modified blocks. Make sure you understand how to set the back focus properly and do it before the day starts, at lunch, and after significant temperature changes. Bear in mind that a temperature change doesn't just happen when leaving an interior for an exterior. It can happen while on a stage as the lights heat up the stage. (I'd also add setting up the monitor, but you only asked about the camera.)

Here's something you might want to consider. I have an AC that during short down times, he'll switch the camera to Save Mode and when the AD calls "roll sound" he'll then switch back to Standby mode. That way the heads don't sit on the tape too long and we save a little bit of power on the batteries. And let's face it, how often does little down time turn into a big one.

These kinds of questions remind me of when I borrowed my friend's car. I would ask "is there anything I should know", and he'd say "no". Then when I come back after the drive and ask "what's up with the clutch?", only to get "oh yeah, it sticks a bit". You just get accustom to things until someone brings it up.
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#6 Daniel Madsen

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 11:14 AM

If the budget of your film allows it, get a paint box. The paint box is an external computer that allows you to control all menu functions. It definitely makes what is an enormous menu much less intimidating and is great if you are doing a lot of in camera effects. The paint box isn't great for hand held or steady cam so know how to transfer the memory card from the PB to the camera body.
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#7 Paul Nordin

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 03:54 PM

The paint box isn't great for hand held or steady cam...


LOL- thats an understatement! I've hate having to steadicam with video & sound feeds, but a paintbox tether would be impossible or so nearly so as to make it ludicrous to try.
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#8 Chris Keth

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 04:31 PM

Having been a regular contributor to this forum Chris, you can understand how difficult these kinds of questions can be. We don't know your experience, knowledge and comfort level with this camera, so simple questions can lead to lengthy replies that might not really address your concerns.


Thanks, Eric. I know I should know better but I pretty much got what I was looking for. I don't expect a full primer on the camera and everything. I was just looking for some of the things to be diligent about that I might not know already. Your post helped a lot.
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#9 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 05:12 PM

LOL- thats an understatement! I've hate having to steadicam with video & sound feeds, but a paintbox tether would be impossible or so nearly so as to make it ludicrous to try.

It's not impossible at all. Actually, I'd much rather have the paintbox cable over a lot of the stiff BNC's out there. It's when you have a handful of them that it stinks.
On the first feature I did with the F900 I had two xlr's, two bnc's, the paintbox cable, and a power cable for an onboard eyelight. Now THAT was ludicrous!
The best option by far is fiber. One cable that does it all, including power if you like, and with a lightweight jumper you can barely tell it's there.

Chris,
As long as the DP is aware that it's your first job with the camera you should be OK. If you took the job under the pretense that you're familiar and comfortable with the camera then it might be time to make a phone call.
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#10 Chris Keth

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 05:48 PM

It's not impossible at all. Actually, I'd much rather have the paintbox cable over a lot of the stiff BNC's out there. It's when you have a handful of them that it stinks.
On the first feature I did with the F900 I had two xlr's, two bnc's, the paintbox cable, and a power cable for an onboard eyelight. Now THAT was ludicrous!
The best option by far is fiber. One cable that does it all, including power if you like, and with a lightweight jumper you can barely tell it's there.

Chris,
As long as the DP is aware that it's your first job with the camera you should be OK. If you took the job under the pretense that you're familiar and comfortable with the camera then it might be time to make a phone call.


Nope, I learned long ago to own up to what you do and do not know. He knows it's my first time with that camera.
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#11 Mike Williamson

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 10:22 PM

One piece of advice I have is to turn off the ITU-709 matrix. On the last two F900 shorts that I've shot, the first thing I've done in final color correct is to take out the red bias in the blacks. From looking at some of David Mullen's and Michael Nash's previous posts, it seems that this is a direct result of turning on the ITU-709 matrix setting. And it looks terrible.

You will probably also want to crank up the desaturation, I find a setting between -15 to -25 to be close to a more "normal" looking saturation level. I've set the desat in that range on my last two shorts, and then gone on to desaturate further in color correct.

I personally have never used the paint box, I'm more comfortable treating it like a film camera while I'm shooting. I like to get the settings in during prep and not have to monkey with it all day. That's my two cents, best of luck with it.
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#12 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 16 September 2007 - 04:31 AM

Nope, I learned long ago to own up to what you do and do not know. He knows it's my first time with that camera.

I figured that was the case. I just thought I'd throw that out there just in case....

Mike,
Not that any of what you wrote is bad advice....but being that Chris is the assistant it's not really his job to decide what to do with the settings, only to input the settings the DP wants.
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#13 Chris Keth

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Posted 16 September 2007 - 03:18 PM

I figured that was the case. I just thought I'd throw that out there just in case....

Mike,
Not that any of what you wrote is bad advice....but being that Chris is the assistant it's not really his job to decide what to do with the settings, only to input the settings the DP wants.


Yeah, I almost replied with that, Mike, but I didn't want to be rude. I'll certainly remember that stuff for future work, though. The ITU-709 change sounds like just the kind o thing that would drive me nuts in grading.


Yeah, Brad. I learned that lesson kinda hard my first year in school. I was filling in a day as 1st AC on reshoots for a thesis film. The DP asked, to make sure, that I knew how to properly check the gate through the lens. I didn't but thought I did. The shot they needed ended up with a big dancing hair right in the middle of the bottom of frame. it was a light set so it stuck out like a sore thumb. Since it was already reshoots and a student work they didn't have time or money to do anything about it. I had to watch the final cut in public screenings as everyone, it seemed, asked about that little wiggly thing in the otherwise nice scene. The DP was pissed but he was pretty good natured about not letting me forget it.;)
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