October 21, 2015

Learn All About Sony Cinema Cameras for Free at the Digital Motion Picture Center

Sony Digital Motion Picture Center
Sony has released digital cinema cameras at a dizzying rate the last few years, and all of them have pretty dense feature sets that aren't exactly the simplest to just pick up and shoot.

That's not to say they are difficult cameras to use, but whenever something new comes out, there's going to be a learning curve. This is about more than just menus and feature sets, this is about understanding a particular camera and how it fits into not only your workflow, but also how it stacks up against other cameras in general.

That's why a few years ago Sony came up with the DMPC (Digital Motion Picture Center) in Culver City, CA on the Sony Pictures lot (they've also got a similar spot at Pinewood Studios in the UK). This video is a bit outdated in terms of showing off the place (they've got a much better setup now), but it gives a great rundown of what the DMPC is all about:

Essentially the goal is for the camera-making side of Sony to join forces with the movie and TV side right on the lot, and teach people how to use all of their newest cinema cameras. Dan Perry, Keith Vidger, and Jo Chiaramonte gave me a great tour of the place, which included a presentation explaining some of the goals of the space, and how the industry has been rapidly changing and moving into 4K acquisition. While they obviously want Sony productions to use Sony cameras, they've let the shows themselves test in their studio to actually see the differences versus other cameras like the ARRI ALEXA.

For example, The Goldbergs is shot right on the studio lot, and while they were more comfortable shooting on the ALEXA in the beginning, they eventually moved to 4K acquisition with the Sony F55 thanks, in part, to demonstrations and support from the DMPC. 

Sony DMPC

The DMPC has also been a space to recommend features or changes with current and future cameras. The folks at the DMPC have a close relationship with Sony in Japan, and they've been able to provide feedback about how people are actually using the cameras. The shoulder rig for the F55 came out of this feedback, and a number of other changes have been made to the cameras thanks to suggestions from users visiting the DMPC. Sony Japan frequently visits the space, and while it's impossible to design a camera to fit the needs of everyone, they do listen to all suggestions to see how the cameras are being used and what can be improved. 

The Space

At Stage 7 on the Sony lot, the DMPC consists of two studio sets with a Fisher dolly, as well as a 4K projection room with quite a few seats for both reviewing footage, as well as going over menu settings and how they affect the image. In the back of that room is essentially a DI suite, so the image can be manipulated in a number of different ways and compared either against itself, other Sony cameras, or even cameras from competitors. At times they've also been showing off 4K HDR vs. Standard displays, so you can see the massive difference there is with High Dynamic Range images. 

Photo courtesy of Sony DMPC taken during FS7 class.

One of the more interesting parts of this entire setup is that while there is around $700,000 worth of Sony gear, there is actually over $1 million worth of third-party gear that's been loaned to the DMPC, including lighting, dollies, and much more. So it's not just a place to see Sony gear, but you can see a number of items that Sony doesn't make, and how they can work to make your experience better with the cameras. 

Sony DMPC 3-1

Besides technical demonstrations like a live 4K broadcast internally, the DMPC is constantly running events and classes that are free of charge and let you learn all about specific cameras and workflows. If you're in the area, this is a great opportunity to get some hands-on time with Sony cameras. 

Anyone Can Do Their Own Tests

One of the biggest advantages of this place for most of us regular folks, and one of the reasons I wanted to write this post, is that you don't just have to be working for a big show to get some time in their studio space. Anyone can ask the support team a question, and if you've got a specific project that might be using Sony cameras, and you want to see some tests, the space is free to use as long as it's open. You just simply talk to them ahead of time, and you can use either of their sets to see what a particular Sony camera can do. 

If you happen to be on the fence about two different Sony cameras — or even cameras from a competitor — this is a perfect place to test all sorts of exposure and color variables.

While they'd like to have spaces in all of the major markets, at the moment they have locations in Culver City, CA and at Pinewood Studios in the UK. If you're anywhere near either of these locations, it's a great place to learn about Sony cameras in a relaxed environment, and it's also a terrific place to do tests of your own. To see when they're having events, head on over to the DMPC site    

Your Comment

10 Comments

I wonder if they will mention the sensor grid pattern that shows up when the Sony F5 and F55 are pointed at or near a light source.

On the official Sony community forum page there is a thread on the subject thats over 100 pages long and Sony refuse to admit its there. Countless examples posted and countless shots ruined.

October 21, 2015 at 3:26PM

3
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It happens with the FS7 as well.

October 21, 2015 at 7:37PM

5
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Braden Storrs
Post Production Manager, Photographer
493

Sorry to hear that. I was thinking of an FS7 as an alternative. I wonder if the FS5 does it too?

October 22, 2015 at 12:44AM

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Many have determined the issue is Mac OS related.

October 22, 2015 at 8:33AM

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Josh Paul
Most often DP, Direct or Gaff
1273

Its not OS related. Its the physical construction of there the sensor is mounted. People have flagged/taped or masked the top and bottom and it seems to help prevent it.

Sony engineers in Sydney have checked it too but still no fix from Sony for everyone.

October 22, 2015 at 3:14PM

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I've been firing some pretty bright HMIs into the Fs7 this week and I've never seen that issue.

October 23, 2015 at 3:18PM

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Josh Paul
Most often DP, Direct or Gaff
1273

link please

October 21, 2015 at 8:36PM

6
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Max Ciesynski
Gaffer
604

Heres one

http://community.sony.com/t5/F5-F55/F55-Sensor-Grid-Artifacts/m-p/201051...

There were other longer threads but it looks like they've been deleted...

October 22, 2015 at 12:43AM

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Sony is one strange beast. You read such encouraging articles like this and think that Sony is tapped into the pulse of the community, unless that community is their own bulletin board. Still, the F55/5 is a great cinema camera line.

October 24, 2015 at 8:08PM

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Gilly
150

Red's own forums are a lot worse. The Sony forum you will only see complaints about this issue and perhaps some feature requests and why aren't they implementing this or that feature into the firmware, but the Red forum was a lot more heated for a long time. Perhaps its better these days.

October 29, 2015 at 4:06PM

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