The Story Behind EL REY, A Boxing Film

SonyCine editor and filmmaker Jeff Berlin reveals behind-the-scenes details of his FX3/FX6 shoot

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EL REY is a short film shot by filmmakers Jeff Berlin, a Sony Artisan of Imagery, and Adam Feuerman. It was shot on the FX3 and FX6 cinema cameras, Sony G Master and the new Sony 16-35 FE C zoom lenses.

I’d been wanting to shoot a boxing film for a while, but it wasn’t until I connected with Javier Zinzun Jr., a manager of fighters, that I found the right subject and the message I wanted to convey – one of dedication, work ethic and humility.

Lázaro Lorenzana is a fighter on the rise who trains hard and packs quite a hook. Láz and his father, Ruben, live in San Diego, California and almost every afternoon, they cross the border to Tijuana, Mexico so Láz can train with his coach, “Drift” Cortes.

For EL REY, my friend and fellow DP Adam Feuerman, and I travelled a few times with Láz and Ruben on their daily trek to Tijuana.

Since we were such a small crew, just Adam and I – except for our day shooting at the Maywood Boxing Club in Los Angeles – our goal was to also keep our gear simple and minimal. Both the FX3 and FX6 allowed us to maintain a small, unobtrusive footprint at the gym, and on the streets of Tijuana.

Though Sony doesn’t officially publish dual base ISO values for the FX3, which we used almost exclusively in Tijuana, it’s known that both 640 ISO and 12,800 ISO are the values for S-Log3 and we mostly stayed at one or the other depending upon conditions. We shot everything with the FX3 set to XAVC S-I and XAVC-I in the FX6, S- Log3/SGamut3.cine with both recording a 4K 4:2:2 10-bit file at 24p with the exception of the fight scene, which was shot at 30p to give it a bit more of a TV-like feeling.

In post, we enhanced the TV-like feeling of the fight footage by adding some grain and texture, enhancing the toppy highlights even further, and running that sequence in a 4:3 aspect ratio in the final cut to make it feel a bit more like 1970s sports television. The rest of the film is in a 2.0:1 aspect ratio. We edited in Final Cut Pro and colour was done at Technicolor in DaVinci Resolve with our colorist, S.P. Arkle.

Cameraman with ILME-FX6 in boxing ring with two fighters

One lens we particularly liked was the new Sony FE C 16-35 T3.1 cine lens. We had it on hand for our Los Angeles shoot day, where we made some of the more styled interior shots in the film, creating a more blue/green fluorescent-like atmosphere in the boxing club.

Production Choices

Of course, the FX3 and FX6 will also export a 16-bit RAW file to an Atomos Ninja V or Shogun 7, which will record that file as 12-bit ProRes RAW. However, recording RAW would also have increased the size and complexity of our build, increased power management demands, and increased post-production workflow complexity so we decided to not go that route. Adam, S.P. Arkle and I are all quite impressed, and satisfied, with what we achieved recording internally. We think the internal 10-bit, 4:2:2 codec we recorded in looks great.

One lens we particularly liked was the new Sony FE C 16-35 T3.1 cine lens. We had it on hand for our Los Angeles shoot day, where we made some of the more styled interior shots in the film, creating a more blue/green fluorescent-like atmosphere in the boxing club. That lens paired with the Wooden Camera Zip Box Pro and Tiffen Black Diffusion/FX and Soft/FX filters we were running on everything throughout the shoot, really helped the footage from that day turn out exactly as we had imagined.

In recent years I’ve felt that we are seeing a true democratization in filmmaking, where the tools necessary to make great looking films are becoming more and more affordable and accessible. The FX3 and FX6 fit squarely in this category of affordable tools that helps filmmakers realize their creative visions without compromise.