Sony VENICE 2 Tackles a Real Production—And It's a Gun-Slingin' Good Time

Credit: Aether Films
NAB marked the release of one long-anticipated Sony camera—VENICE 2, the sequel to the brand's highly-rated VENICE camera

We've seen dozens of test videos produced with this camera, and it's pretty awesome. Aether Films, however, was the first to break out Sony's new VENICE 2 camera system in a real-world production environment two weeks ago.

The seminal work, a short western called Cowboy Currency, is turning heads. Once you watch it, you'll start to see why DPs and colorists are raving about VENICE 2.

Sony posits this thing as your all-around, 8K-capable full-frame cinema camera, one that shines particularly in post-production. What does Sony's latest have to offer you and your team? Plenty, from what we can tell.

Credit: Aether Films

Sony VENICE 2—Features We Love

Just like the rest of Sony's family of cinema cameras, VENICE 2 has its own unique set of features to offer. While not the smallest, VENICE 2 is a camera that fits comfortably in a number of contexts, which even includes drone cinematography and other forms of free-wheeling operation like Ronin work and Steadicam shots.

Along with its size and mobility, it's also quickly becoming famous for its ability to faithfully capture an image, outpacing its predecessor in more ways than one.

Still from 'Cowboy Currency'
Credit: Aether Films

True-to-Tone, Dual Base ISO

The VENICE series is celebrated historically for its achievements in color rendition, particularly in the realm of skin tones of every possible hue.

VENICE 2's 8.6K image sensor allows you to reach deep into low-light areas of the frame by way of dual base ISO. Essentially, this means that VENICE 2 is able to utilize environmental information through both its high ISO, high-gain protocol, as well as through its low ISO, low-gain protocol, all at once. Bright areas remain vibrant and beautiful, all without losing valuable data in the shadows.

These two features work together to pull every possible iota of detail and information from the shooting environment before it.

Sony Venice Rialto Extension System
Rialto Extension SystemCredit: Sony

VENICE 2 Extension System

Continuing along with one of the original VENICE's most-lauded innovations, VENICE 2 is an extendable camera system, colloquially dubbed RIALTO in its final, fully fledged form.

The ability to free the lens and the sensor from the recorder is very unique and can be awesome in a number of different scenarios. VENICE 2 is already extremely lightweight—the possibilities truly become endless with RIALTO factored into the equation.

X-OCN Internal Recording

VENICE 2's high-speed 6.6 Gbps AXS card is 8K, 60p-capable, and fast as all-get-out. It's a completely wireless arrangement that keeps your camera build compact and manageable, saving you time, labor, and frustration on set.

This system also supports Apple 4K ProRes 4444 and ProRes 422 HQ, allowing for a straight, streamlined shot directly into post. The pipeline leaves little to be desired. It was designed with much more than your shooting days in mind.

Direct import for LUTs, CDLs, and ART files also helps facilitate a speedy transition into post, usually without incident.

Sony Venice 2 Internal ND Filters
Internal ND FiltersCredit: Sony

Internal ND Filters

Another way that VENICE 2 keeps you light on your feet—a built-in series of eight-step neutral density filters. Knocking things down a stop is as easy as hitting a button—you won't even need to reach into your camera bag.

Aside from these, many love the camera's simple, intuitive, and easy-to-work-with physical interface. Adjustments can be applied on-the-fly with ease. Usability is one major selling point here—again, the ultimate low-budget documentary camera, scoring high in both reliability and accessibility in performance and design.

Sony Venice 2 Sensor Sizes
Two different sensorsCredit: Sony

Tons of Extra Resolution to Play With

One of the biggest asks that the original VENICE community had of VENICE 2's predecessor—more resolution. 6K of real estate just wasn't enough. We have to say, after seeing some of what this camera is capable of in 8K, we're inclined to agree.

Punching in never feels like it results in a cheap, low-quality insert of the previous shot.

VENICE 2 affords you an extraordinary amount of flexibility in post—some even go so far as to call it the king of low-budget, DIY, and indie filmmaking, especially for documentary filmmakers. While we're inclined to disagree when we see the almost $60,000 price tag, it truly enables every frame of footage to stretch further, delivering more production value at every intersection.

Cowboy Currency: Some Moments of Note

Cowboy Currency is the first short film shot proudly on VENICE 2. We'll try not to spoil too much. We recommend checking it out. It's a five-minute whirlwind that shows this camera system off at its absolute best.

The Opening Sequence

Haze infiltrates a dank, crowded saloon. As far as westerns go, this set-up is classic beyond words. Our protagonist delivers a lusty soliloquy as we dolly in slowly. It's a powerful oner, the perfect way to open into this nail-biting scene.

The dynamic range of this shot is already beyond the capabilities of many other cameras of this class. It's finessed into a scene that feels totally engrossing, all playing into the intrigue of the main character.

Credit: Aether Films

The First Big Action Sequence

Again, we'll try not to give too much away, but the colors of the antagonistic team's initial entrance are some of the most vivid we've had the pleasure of seeing in a long time. Good light carries some of the weight, but the way that the scene is rendered chromatically by VENICE 2 is stellar.

We have to commend the team behind this film for the charm that they bring to this quick and exciting story—lines that would have been completely cringe-worthy without the stunning visuals find new life as we glimpse into this world through VENICE 2.

Credit: Aether Films

The High-Production Value Stuff

Few things will frustrate a production like a large-scale set piece—or, worse, one that involves an animal. An entire band of horses? It's the stuff of nightmares, especially for a small production like this one.

Anamorphic lens flares flash across the screen as cowboys ride brazenly into the sunset. Moments that could have been cheesy are saved by the rock-n-roll soundtrack, and the same can be said for the motorcycle shots, too. It's a wild ride, one that would have been very challenging to shoot without the dynamic range and compact profile that VENICE 2 has to offer.

The forest shots are a simpler example of this talent at play, although they admittedly play a very small role in the film as a whole. They are absolutely gorgeous, all while remaining totally minimal, subtle, and, somehow, sort of enchanting, despite the context.

The Barn Scene

The final few really eye-catching shots take place in a dimly-lit barn. The ones involving the protagonist could not have been lit more elegantly. The low-light capability of VENICE 2 truly does shine in these moments especially.

We won't wax poetic about these extremely simple shots—instead, it might be better to see them in order to gain some understanding of what VENICE 2 can do, even with lighting set-ups involving only one light and one actor. Simplicity at its finest.

Sony Venice 2 on Cowboy Currency
BTS 'Cowboy Currency'Credit: Aether Films

Is VENICE 2 a Gamechanger?

Our time with this camera was brief, but one thing became abundantly clear. This camera is for technicians. It delivers a perfectly flat picture profile with more resolution than many filmmakers would even know what to do with. If you live in the coloring suite, VENICE 2 will feel like a godsend.

VENICE 2 is compatible with all of the same stuff the original VENICE camera system is. If you're already a proud owner looking for more, it's one upgrade you likely won't regret.

More power, more punch, more data, and more resolution all made VENICE 2 one of NAB 2022's biggest superstars.     

No Film School's complete coverage of NAB 2022 is brought to you by Blackmagic Design, Atomos, and Creative Solutions (makers of Teradek, Wooden Camera, and SmallHD).

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