Sony’s acclaimed PMW-F55 CineAlta camera is becoming the default choice for a growing number of prestige drama productions by leading Internet video platforms.
From the creators of The Matrix and Babylon 5, Netflix original series Sense8 has been shot in 4K using the F55 by DPs Christian Almesberger and Frank Griebe. Sense8 is joined by a growing number of other Netflix original shows shot on the F55, including Bloodline and The Blacklist. Produced by Picrow for Amazon Studios, Mozart in the Jungle is an Amazon Original Series that has been photographed in 4K by Ben Kutchins, using the F55 with Panavision Primo Lenses. Amazon has also confirmed that Mozart in the Jungle is the first series offered to Amazon Prime streaming customers that showcases the spectacular HDR (High Dynamic Range) capabilities of the F55.
The richness and on-screen detail of 4K is being increasingly embraced by major online video platforms. Ahead of mainstream 4K TV broadcasts, streaming giants Netflix and Amazon are future-proofing their own home-grown productions by producing major drama series in 4K Ultra HD. The PMW-F55 is the default choice for many prestige drama productions. As well as capturing peerless 4K images, forward-looking producers are taking advantage of the F55’s support for HDR (High Dynamic Range). With its large-format 35mm sensor accommodating a dynamic range of around 14 stops, the F55 is an ideal tool for capturing HDR images with a wider range of brightness levels – for sparkling peak highlights and deep, rich blacks.
Coupled with the extra detail and expanded colour space of 4K, HDR boosts audiences’ sense of dramatic engagement. Sony has already announced the addition of HDR compatibility for its BVM-X300 TRIMASTER EL Monitor and its BRAVIA X93C and X94C 4K TVs. And as the choice of compatible display devices grows, programme makers embracing HDR today will have another powerful differentiator for their 4K content.
Vanja Černjul ASC is one of three cinematographers shooting Netflix original series Marco Polo, a 13th century historical drama. For the show’s second season, Vanja has teamed the PMW-F55 with wide-aperture Cooke lenses, exploiting the CineAlta camera’s impressive sensitivity, low noise and 14-stop latitude to full effect with challenging low-light scenes.
“Netflix are very progressive, and they’re keen to future-proof all their shows”, notes Vanja. “The F55 was simply the logical choice for Marco Polo. Its HFR capability means it’s good for action-packed martial arts scenes. And for me there’s the additional attraction that it’s even more compact than the F65.”
For the current season, Vanja and other DPs on the show have been using the F55 with a custom LUT, created with the help of colourist Dado Valentic from London-based content services specialist MyTherapy. “Our goal was to simulate that classic Kodachrome look – like transparency film – with really rich blacks. Shooting wide open gave us a beautiful shallow depth of field with lovely lens flare in night-time scenes lit by candlelight and torches.”
While on location in Hungary and Slovakia, Vanja and team have also been exploring the F55’s support for HDR as an additional creative tool. “We’ve already done some tests on set, and it looks amazing. HDR gives you brighter highlights, and that extra dynamic range gives you the chance to push your material harder.”
The F55 was simply the logical choice for Marco Polo. Its HFR capability means it’s good for action-packed martial arts scenes.
Vanja Černjul ASC
Cinematographer, Marco Polo