Action sports video test with Sony A65
Action sports video test with Sony A65
Mar 18, 2012
I have been a video producer and studio owner for the last 30 years. In addition, still photography was added as one of our services about 10 years ago. From Betamax (Beta 1) in 1981 through 3/4" U-Matic through Betacam SP video formats over the years, I have sought the sharpest, clearest original video that I could record under the prevailing circumstances and limited budgets. I added medium priced HD cameras when the prices were reasonable several years ago, and now have added DSLR-type cameras to fit certain situations.
I am currently shooting action sports promotional footage for racetrack promoters and we just completed their Winter Series which was held in daytime, but the track finals was to be held at night, and would feature two of the very best from America - current World Champion and current U.S. champion. The opportunity to shoot footage with these 2 guys fighting it out would probably not come up again in 2012.
This track has always been a very low-light venue, and I was looking for the best camera set-up to handle this as well as the night-time summer series starting in April. I had a couple of Panasonic GH2 cams in hand-held rigs, but I finally concluded, after testing, that they were not going to give me the footage that I needed in such a dark environment, as the specifications that I required were: 1920 x 1080 60p, and the GH2s could only shoot 720 60p. In addition, I shoot manually and the shutter has to be 1/120th for the slo-mo that is the primary purpose of this footage. Even with the Nikon adapted manual 1.4 50mm, the GH2 footage was just not there and had no in-camera image stabilization for the hand-held work.
Whenever I read the early tester reports of the Sony A65 that would record in the new AVCHD 2.0 format in 1080 60p, and had the OLED EVF, excellent focus peaking, and in-camera stabilization, I ordered one with the 18-55 kit lens whenever they first came in from B&H. I added (4) additional lightly-used Minolta AF lenses, via Craigslist. All of the Minoltas tested well and together only cost me $250.00. I made sure to include the 50mm 1.7.
Still photos are also part of my duties, and I wanted just one camera that could do both well. In addition, I do not use auto-focus for video (most video pros do not as well, and most broadcast-level video cameras do not even include it). Although powered zooms are the norm in action sports, I had non-DSLR cams for those situations, but the gain (iso) settings results available for these are not acceptable to me. Unless you spend really big dollars for the latest, true broadcast-level cameras, you are going to be facing a noisy, ugly picture in post production.
Unfortunately, this last race-night finals was unbelievably dark when I got there and set up, as (4) of the auxuilary light stands that had always been there to supplement the regular lighting had been temporarily removed, as this county owned facility was going to get a lighting upgrade (adding a 3rd sodium vapor lamp to each pole - big deal!).
So my setup was: A65, In camera audio, video mode set to manual, auto white balance (I normally white balance manually), 1/120 shutter, Minolta 50mm 1.7 (wide open), camera image stabilization turned on, ISO 800, manual focus, OLED EVF dialed into my contact lens corrected left eye, focus peaking on, handheld without shoulder rig but using a one-hand camera grip (similar to my old super 8mm days), matte box and French flag. Shooting only turns 3 and 4 for the 6 lap Handicap Main Event. I stayed with the 2 American champs as they worked there way up from the very back (they started from 60 yards behind the start gate (Handicap!), and the guy in the black and yellow helmet won (another camera shot all the laps wide). So far, under these tough conditions, I feel that the purchase and early testing of the A65 is the right move. This is a short clip of one of the laps from many different race heats. Edited in Adobe Premiere 5.0 with auto-color and unsharp mask added. Speed slowed to 20%. Non of my previous cameras that I have owned would have done this well (yes I am well aware of the "flying flares" in this clip!). By the way, we used the A65 for a corporate greenscreen shoot last month with excellent results. Here is the link to the Speedway Motorcycle test clip:
Video looks very stable, and well framed, colors and speed are excellent.. I do have a few questions.. Why the A65 and not the A77? ... its a tougher camera, magnesium shell, and its resistant to the elements, water and dust resistant.. Also why no audio in that Video ?
Thanks for sharing
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I will probably add an A77 as the main camera, and move the A65 over to my other operator now that I am convinced that I made the right move. At the same time I bought the A65, I also bought the just released JVC PX10 Hybrid camera which has the highest resolution and cleanest picture of any camera that I have ever demoed/tested and which will, in addition to stellar 1080 60p, shoot 2.5 seconds of 4K to a framebuffer which I slow down to 20% as well. But it is not lowlight and does not have a removable lens, and of course is not a Sony which keeps it out of this forum. I half expected I'd have to send 1 or both of these cameras back to B&H at the beginning of this year, but it didn't happen. So, depending on the job, lighting condition, etc., I have 2 new tools in the box. I make purchasing decisions very carefully and keeping the doors open in this economy is challenging, to say the least. Best thing is, the Sony takes great stills!
Forgot to mention, the full edit of this 6 lap race (with only turns 3 & 4) does have graphic ID's, music and engine noise (when not in slomo), but that is not allowed on this forum. If I am not just testing, I usually run dual audio recording on a full aluminum rig.
Very nicely detailed explanation and samples of what these new SLT cameras can do for serious video work. The images are crystal clear for those light conditions and very smoothly captured. Those little Minolta 50mm 1.7 lprime enses have to be one of the best bangs for the buck in the whole world of photography and this sure shows that off well.
Quite amazing riding skills to boot.
Thank you for your detailed and informative post on your professional encounter with the a65 and video and also your PP workflow.....and yes, it's ok to talk a little about the JVC PX10 here too, because after all; It also has a Konica Minolta lens parked on the front of it?
That is quite a piece of work for $1000 worth of equipment. You are very smooth with the panning. Great action under dim light!
Dennis Mullen has used the A-65 underwater pretty effectively:
You'll likely have to cut & paste the entire link.
Question: What do you do all week?
Answer: Mon to Fri. Nothing, Sat & Sun I rest!
Great results! And thanks so much for posting all the detailed info! I hope you don't mind a question from a HD video newbie (have the a77 primarily for stills but want to get the best out of the video too). It's difficult to find someone to ask advice from, with the professional knowledge you obviously have using the Sony.
My question is best setting 24p vs 60p, with intended final product burned to blu-ray (and/or DVD) for playback. Am using Sony Vegas Pro 11, and my (very limited) understanding is that 60p will get the best initial quality (particularly for slow motion, which I will use very little if at all) but may suffer a lot of quality degrading down-conversion when re-coded for burning(?)... some posts on this forum have suggested using 24p for best quality (non-slow motion) to avoid that degradation. Is this correct or will 60p always be the best choice, even for final playback from BD/DVD? Thanks for the insight!
Very good question. Camera performance at 24p has always been the #1 interest of "filmmakers". Most young people trying to make their mark in this business simply want to "make their movie". But, unfortunately, making a living stands in the way. They are told over and over that "using any frame rate other than 24p means that they are not really serious about their work".
Working in the video production business is much more than completing a theatrical release. It may mean setting up and shooting a boring seminar one day, scanning slides the next, hanging out of a helicopter shooting aerials of a farming operation the next and then cleaning all of the mud off of some field gear the next.
If someone hired my company to shoot a dramatic presentation, I would test at 24p with whatever camera settings are required for the look that they are after, but otherwise, I always setup with 60p. I want the sharpest, cleanest original image that I can capture at the very beginning, because, most-of-the-time, by the time it gets to the intended viewer, it will have taken many "hits".
I always setup with 60p. I want the sharpest, cleanest original image that I can capture at the very beginning, because, most-of-the-time, by the time it gets to the intended viewer, it will have taken many "hits".
Do you import the 1080 60p video into Premier (which verson?) with 1080 60p as the project setting?
When you export and share, must you convert it to 720 60p or 1080 60i in order to be compatible with Blu-ray or broadcaster needs? By what means, if any, can a final viewer witness 1080 60p video, unless they download a clip and play it on a better PC? Presumably, all streamed video is low bitrate and either 30p or 24p, unless they get the Davos billionaire grade 4G bandwidth service. Am I mistaken?
Did you ever examine, or test, the Sony NEX VG10 or VG20 cameras? For video, do they compare unfavorably to the a65? Is the lack of manual control of audio ever a problem?