Paradise captured: Stéphane Couchoud tells island adventure story with the FS5

Film-maker, adventurer and VFX wizard Stéphane Couchoud has a well-developed taste for the unexpected. One of France’s most exciting visual artists, his eye-catching clips attract millions of views on YouTube.

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Ten days in paradise

In November 2017, Stéphane headed to Bora Bora in French Polynesia to document the Pacific island’s stunning natural beauty. Prime choice for the ten-day shoot was our FS5 Super 35 mm camera, beloved for its potent blend of image quality and portability. While Stéphane is a fan of Sony’s 18­105 mm F4 image-stabilized 6x power zoom G Lens, he broadened his options for the trip with a selection of Zeiss E-mount optics. Covering all angles, Stéphane also took the tiny RX0 camera that squeezes cutting-edge imaging into a shockproof, waterproof body. Sharing space in his Bora Bora kit bag, the Sony a7S II offers full-frame 4K recording plus incredible low light sensitivity — an asset on any shoot.

Beautifully matched

Filming in Full HD, Stéphane recorded directly to the FS5’s internal storage, using a Sony SDXC Class 10 media card with 128 GB capacity. Ensuring a tight match between footage from different camera sources saw him shooting in Picture Profile CINE 4 on both the FS5 and RX0. You’ll hardly see the joins in a dramatic pull-back that transitions from underwater (RX0) to top-side boat scenes (FS5) and then a high-altitude drone shot. Thanks to some clever posting, everything looks like one seamless sequence. “In CINE 4 it’s easy to achieve some really nice color grading because you’ve got a whole lot of dynamic range to work with,” notes Stéphane, who always shoots at his camera’s maximum bit-rate. “I’ve also created some of my own personal LUTs that I like working with.”

Right now it's simply the world's best camera for run-and-gun style documentary shooting.

Capture the night in HLG

Dynamic range was a prime consideration in the clip’s dreamlike fire-eating scenes, shot at the water’s edge as dusk turned into night. “Shooting slo-mo in HLG with the FS5 gave me great skin tones and color science. It gives the footage an almost HDR feel,” confirms Stéphane, who opted for a fast shutter speed to capture the flames’ rapid flicker. The same sequence features the a7S II, handheld by assistant Karim Yatrib to film Stéphane at work.

Entertaining every audience

So what’s the secret of making videos that appeal to fickle online viewers? “Of course my creativity is influenced by the needs of my audience,” notes Stéphane. “I have to keep right on top of latest trends in stuff like music and transitions. Before I even started shooting this project, I already had in mind the soundtrack I’ll be editing the footage to.” And his last word on the FS5? “It’s beautifully small and light, with great ergonomics and a fantastic workflow. You can get what you want with a minimum of menu diving,” says Stéphane. “Right now it’s simply the world’s best camera for run-and-gun style documentary shooting.”