Take Off For the Sony BURANO

Oscar-winning DoP James Friend ASC, BSC takes us behind-the-scenes for The Wingman.

Yakovlev Yak-50 aircraft with sun behind it


James Friend ASC BSC eyes an F-type Jaguar through a circular polarising filter, checking the reflections in its immaculate bodywork. A Sony BURANO sits high on a Scorpio 45’ crane, a second nestling below on a Chapman dolly. The A-cam will boom down and swing around as the gleaming Jag pulls up outside a hangar at White Waltham Airfield, Berkshire, the B-cam capturing a classic long-lens approach shot on its Cooke Varotal FF 85- 215mm. The weather is unseasonably beautiful for October, backlighting the car perfectly as Friend and his crew near the end of their third and final day shooting The Wingman.

“It’s gone very well – a lot better than I’d hoped, because it was a very ambitious project for the time and money that we had,” Friend reflects later, as the crew pack down and champagne is poured. “There were a lot of elements in every scene that we weren’t sure were achievable.”

Expected to run at just a few minutes in length, The Wingman follows a pilot arriving at an airfield and taking his vintage aircraft for a spin. Tipping the hat to one of the VENICE’s most high-profile productions, Top Gun: Maverick, The Wingman is a showcase for the newest camera in Sony’s Cinema Line, the BURANO. The film is also a nod to Claudio Miranda ASC ACC – who shot Top Gun: Maverick – and is one of Friend’s heroes who he considers “one of the finest cinematographers working today”.

The Wingman is a film that Sony is going to screen at Camerimage, so I was very conscious it’s going to go on the big screen,” says Friend. “That’s quite exciting!”

Jaguar XK150 Roadster followed by Audi with BURANO on a Scorpio 45 crane

We’ve had three BURANOS which we have rigged into and onto aeroplanes, and we’ve shot out of a helicopter with Marzano Films - John Marzano was my aerial operator. That was excellent, going up in the chopper with him and discovering shots in the sky.

James Friend ASC BSC

DoP James Friend (second from right) with film crew and BURANO camera

Friend makes no claim to be a director, though he is effectively helming The Wingman in addition to DPing. A BSC member since 2014 and ASC member since 2019, Friend’s credits include Patrick Melrose and the upcoming Star Wars series The Acolyte, while his work with the Sony VENICE includes Your Honor for Showtime and night work in All Quiet on the Western Front for Netflix (the latter earning him an Oscar, a Bafta and a BSC Award).

The new Sony BURANO features an 8.6K full-frame sensor, the same colour science as the VENICE, and a compact form factor. It will hit the market in spring 2024, but Friend and his crew have a trio of prototypes. “We’ve had three BURANOs which we have rigged into and onto aeroplanes,” he explains, “and we’ve shot out of a helicopter with Marzano Films – John Marzano was my aerial operator. That was excellent, going up in the chopper with him and discovering shots in the sky. We also attached the BURANO to a car rig and on a Ukraine arm.”

First AC Tom Dunne notes that the car shots employed the BURANO’s in-body image stabilisation. “That’s a key feature,” he points out, “the electromagnetically suspended sensor.” The BURANO is the first PL-mount camera to include this feature as well as the first to combine it with electronic ND filters.

Friend continues, “It was important to me, when you test a camera, not only to test the image quality but also how you can utilise it. What are its strengths and what are its weaknesses? I treated it as more like a simulation process than an actual movie. It was an experiment really. And I’m delighted with it. It’s a fantastic camera: it’s lightweight; the image stabilisation in it is absolutely breathtaking; the variable ND, for me, was a brilliant tool.”

To read the full 4-page article by British Cinematographer’s Neil Oseman, please click below and download Creator magazine issue one.

Yakovlev Yak-50 aerobatic aircraft flying over ocean

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