Sony's PTZ Camera, the FR7, is a unique addition to the cinema camera market that borrows from the live production space.
Sony has announced that the Cinema FR7 Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) camera has been approved by Netflix. The PTZ camera becomes the first such model and joins over a dozen other Sony models, including Sony VENICE 2, FX9, FX3, and FS7.
So why is this a big deal, and why should you care, especially if you're not shooting for a Netflix show?
About "The List"
Netflix’s Approved Camera List has become the de facto cinema camera standard over the last few years, at least for Netflix productions. It was created to motivate creatives to use the latest and best camera technologies on projects for the streaming network. Not only from a technical standpoint but also from the perspective of ergonomics and efficiency.
The Cameras & Image Capture: Requirements and Best Practices was created after a comprehensive testing regimen that compares camera specs and performance to a list of specifications and works in consultation with industry professionals to ascertain which new camera models have the highest overall score to qualify for the list.
While the resolution is an important factor in determining what camera makes the grade, other important variables include dynamic range, color gamut, compression and noise performance, bit-depth, and camera reliability. Widespread codec support is also looked at.
Failing to receive an addition to the NAC List doesn’t disqualify filmmakers from using a camera on a Netflix project, but the streaming network restricts uncertified cameras to less than 10% of all footage shot to encourage all filmmakers to adhere to the standard. This isn't a hard and fast rule, however, as Netflix does take different requests on a project-by-project basis.
“One of the biggest priorities for us as a studio is to help our filmmakers do their very best work,” says Netflix camera specialist Chris Prygrocki in a video explaining the nature of the list. “We want our filmmakers to not only feel enabled but encouraged to use the very latest capture technologies to tell their stories.”
For creatives not shooting on Netflix shows, this list still matters. Not only because it provides a technical foundation from which filmmakers can learn and grow but also because it urges camera manufacturers to focus on developing tools that cinematographers and directors need. Industry standards are crucial, and the Netflix Approved Camera list is important for creating this baseline.
The First PTZ
With 15 stops of dynamic range, the Sony FR7 offers support for multiple lens configurations through its E-mount, an internal ND filter, and built-in pan-tilt-and-zoom functionality. The camera has an expanded ISO of up to 409,600 and supports recording in S-Log 3, S-Log3 gamma, wide S-Gamut3, and S-Gamut3.Cine color spaces.
The full-frame FR7 has quickly become a popular wish-list choice amongst streaming networks for live concerts and even, having recently been used for Elton John’s Farewell from Dodger Stadium on Disney+, as well as concerts featuring Lady Gaga, the Foo Fighters, the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame and the Kendrick Lamar Live from Paris shows.
The camera can also be used for remote camera operations, like in creating dangerous stunt work or explosions, where risking a more expensive higher-end cinema camera wouldn’t make financial sense to grab the shot. This means the FR7 frees up creatives to grab even more compelling shots without risking gear or crew.
Netflix's certification to the approved camera list also makes the FR7 the first PTZ camera to receive the approved camera certification from the streaming network. As a result, look for Netflix to showcase more live events in its streaming catalog.
Whatever your thoughts on "the list," having a solid foundation to build from, or at least reference, is crucial to making an industry where technology isn't the problem but a solution. We shouldn't get to set and fight the camera.