Film-maker and editor Stephan Knight has worked across four continents, shooting music videos, promos and live events for TV broadcasters, major record labels and production companies.
In his recent commission for Sky Arts, Stephan joined a crew of four camera operators fielded by live video production specialists CC-Lab to cover the action at Festival No. 6. Held annually in the unique Welsh village of Portmeirion, this colourful arts and music festival attracts an eclectic line-up of major artists and comedy performers.
Working with long-term directing partner Ed Coleman, Stephan and team dodged bursts of torrential rain to grab artist interviews, live performances and B-roll footage throughout the four-day event.
Split into two teams to cover the site, the busy crew shot with a mix of Sony FS7, FS5, F5 and A7S cameras. Stephan’s own FS5 was rigged in his trusty gimbal mount, with an Odyssey 7Q+ monitor/recorder down-converting 4K RAW signals straight from the camera’s Super35 sensor to 4:2:2 10 bit Full HD. “You still get that wonderful full-frame look at lower bitrates, with no pixel binning,” notes Stephan.
Lens choices included an E-mount Fujinon 50-135mm, plus a Sony 18-105mm for wider shots of the village and beautiful estuary surroundings.
“I’d normally leave the lens wide open at F4,” Stephan explains. “But if I want to sharpen things a little bit I’ll stop down to F5 or 6.” Leaving the aperture pretty much fixed, he dialled in different amounts of the FS5’s variable ND filter to preserve depth of field while accommodating swings in light level from bright sunlight to dark, stormy skies.
By night, the crew’s brief switched to multi-cam capture of on-stage performances. Again, the ND filter was a big help with exposing for unpredictable extremes of on-stage lighting.
A self-confessed grading geek, Stephan knows exactly what look he’s going for. “With picture profiles I nearly always pick S-Log-2. I can go right down to ISO 3200 when I’m shooting in daylight. With the Sony it just looks great, and it still gives me plenty of leeway in post.”
For extra atmosphere, Stephan also shot rain-soaked leaves, waves and ravers at 100fps with a 1/100 sec shutter speed as additional inserts. When the moment dictates he’s even been known to capture flickering frames and other fast-moving action at 200fps: “stuff that’s faster than the eye can see.”
While he’s a big fan of today’s smaller DSLR-style cameras, Stephan is emphatic about the benefits that a ‘proper’ camcorder brings when you’re working against the clock. “Time is money. And with a dedicated camcorder like the FS5, I know I can work fast and get more great shots in a day. The picture quality’s fabulous, of course. And you don’t need to worry about building it up with a monitor, XLRs for audio and all that other stuff. Everything’s right there and ready to go.”