SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:
In the May issue of Screen Africa we spoke to director of photography Willie Nel about the starring role that the Sony Venice 6K RAW camera played on the set of upcoming feature Die Verhaal van Racheltjie de Beer.
“By the end of a shoot,” he told us, “you know what a camera can or can’t do. With the Venice, there wasn’t an issue in sight. Honestly, it’s like the Swiss army knife of cameras to me, and definitely has set the new standard.”
With the launch of a brand-new, high-end accessory for the camera – known as the Venice Rialto Extension System – we checked in with both Nel and Goran Music (of local distributor Visual Impact) to learn more about how this latest piece of gear adds even more flexibility and performance to the Venice 6K RAW.
The Venice 6K RAW has won its share of fans – both locally and internationally – and it was, in fact, during “detailed discussions and further collaboration with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment” that a prototype of the Extension System was first engineered to meet the production company’s exacting needs (including 3D rigging) as they began shooting the sequels to Avatar, the highest-grossing feature film in history.
First demonstrated at Cine Gear 2018, though refined since then, the Rialto Extension System essentially allows the Venice to be broken into two pieces – so that the image block and lens may be placed in tighter spaces, or else simply positioned further away from the body of the camera.
For Nel, being able to ‘build’ the camera in this manner changes both “the shots you can achieve and the shots you are willing to achieve”; he explains that the system allows you to think differently about camera placement. He describes set-ups where he has been able to put the image block “on the dashboard of a car and still look at the driver” and enthuses about the freedom of movement the Rialto Extension System allows, commenting that he is able to operate the system with the agility of a hand-held camera while still being assured of the ultra-high-quality images that the Venice is known for.
HOW DOES THE RIALTO WORK?
The Rialto Extension System consists of a front panel cover, an image sensor block case, a 9-foot cable and a 9-foot extension cable. The addition of the Extension System, furthermore, adds an HD-SDI output and a 12V or 24V output for powering accessories such as lens servo motors and monitors.
The Rialto system boasts great compatibility, with operators being able to customise the camera for specific scenarios in under three minutes using a single 3mm Allen wrench. The image sensor block weighs just 1.8kg (with PL mount) and 1.4kg (using the native E-mount), and the cable system can extend up to 18 feet (5.49m), offering a highly-configurable, flexible and portable method of operation.
Crucially, the Rialto Extension System enables the Venice to be suitable for many different mounting configurations and filming scenarios, including use with gimbals and handheld stabilisers, underwater and helicopter housings and 3D/VR rigs. Nel points out that this easy compatibility has a significant time-saving benefit on set, as the Rialto Extension System balances quickly and easily with gimbal set-ups, avoiding lengthy breaks and disruptions to the momentum of the shoot.
FIRMWARE UPDATES ADD FUNCTIONALITY
Also recently available from Sony is the free Venice Version 3.0 firmware upgrade.
This further enhances the camera’s capabilities, with the manufacturers incorporating feedback from filmmakers and taking the decision to “protect the customer’s investment by allowing the camera to grow with the user.”
Version 3.0 firmware will add a recording profile within the X-OCN (eXtended tonal range Original Camera Negative) codec. This new profile, called X-OCN XT, captures the highest-quality imagery with the AXS-R7 portable memory recorder. Moreover, for demanding visual effects work and productions requiring the utmost in image quality, the new X-OCN XT profile maintains exceptionally economical file sizes (comparable to Sony’s F55RAW file size), making the workflow affordable and efficient.
Other firmware highlights include new imager modes – including 6K 2.39:1 and 5.7K 16:9 – for greater shooting flexibility, and additional de-squeezed ratios for various anamorphic lenses (x1.25, x1.3, x1.5, x1.8), as specifically requested by filmmakers such as Nel, who enthuse about the “dramatic anamorphic drop-off” the Venice 6K RW naturally provides. The new firmware update also provides for a 6G/12G-SDI switchable output enabling 4K SDI output and wireless remote control via CBK-WA02, for controlling and changing key functions and menu settings with increased flexibility.
For filmmakers, the Rialto extension to the Venice 6K RAW promises the perfect marriage between agility and performance, with the smaller footprint of the camera not compromising its exceptional image quality, nor its range of iconic in-built features like its Dual Base ISO (500/2500) and eight-step mechanical ND filter system.
For Nel, the “amazing sensor” of the Venice 6K RAW is the closest approximation of “what the human eye sees” he has discovered so far – and cinematographers can now combine this peerless performance with a highly adaptable set up that removes constraints and enables greater freedom and creativity on set. “The Rialto Extension is a revolutionary innovation,” concludes Nel. “It has turned the Venice into a brand-new camera for me.”