Zosima's Dance was filmed on location over the course of three days, with a team of four people, including myself, Jacq Andrade (choreographer), our performers Ann Trepanier and Meredith Busteed, and the help of friend and fellow cinematographer Luke McCutcheon. Shot using the Sony F900R, I was able to bring life back into what many consider a dated technology, by using a Codex on-board recorder and the often overlooked Zeiss Digi-Primes, getting a 10 bit Raw image output and remarkable optical performance.
The choice for the camera was based off of the film Pina, which was shot in 3D by director Wim Wenders. Utilized for it's smaller sensor size, the F900 is great for 3D application. But I noticed a difference in image quality which I hadn't seen before in the F900. I later learned that this was mostly due to the Zeiss Digi Primes and the use of external recorders. I had already worked with the F900 once before on tape, and knew of it's great colour rendition (vibrant blues, deep greens, amazing skin tones) and it's phenomenal 24p motion capabilities. Many benefits which can be had in a CCD sensor. By adding the codex external recorder I was able to take a 10bit RAW signal from the camera's SDI out, which showed a tremendous increase in image information compared to tape. I believe tape would be a 17:1 compression ratio in comparison. It's remarkable how good some of these old sensors look once you use them to their maximum potential. The only times I felt I was using something built in the early 2000's was when I was dealing with highlights. No matter what recorder you have, it won't change the dynamic range. But if you can control this issue properly, control the light and expose appropriately the camera can work wonderfully in your favour. And in my own case, I even went so far as to exploit the highlights, for outdoor scenes, as I felt I could use it in my favour (see image below).
Equipment supplied by Panavision Toronto
The two lenses which were mostly used are the 6-24mm and the 17-112mm Digi Zooms. I operated and pulled focus on the entire film, and surprisingly had little trouble handling the two tasks. A lot of help was given by the sensors small size(2/3"). The hardest shots were those including zoom, but the lenses easy back focus adjustment allowed for great tracking. The outdoor scenes filmed with the contemporary dancer were shot with the camera's shutter off, though this setting increases your exposure, its ends up giving you a very video look, much like 30fps. I turned the shutter back on at 180 degrees for the Ballerina's performance. I did this purely for aesthetic and story driven reasons and am happy with it's results.
At the end of it all I have to say I am very impressed what this old technology can do. It provided me with a unique and interesting image that I couldn't have gotten anywhere else. And it maintained a quality that you would see in many digital cameras on the market today. I'd say after using the F900 not to give up on older and more diverse technologies, sometimes it may fit your project perfectly, allowing it to stand out and create a look perfectly appropriate to the film.