Z Systems Project Update: “Air Lock” Week 1


Airlock Promo
“Air Lock” stars Kendra Alura and Rod Kasai

This past weekend was the first shoot for “Air Lock”, a project written and directed by Z Systems Integration Technician Conrad Flemming, and shot by Z Systems Rental Manager Keith Mullin.  Airlock is a science fiction/psychological horror short film.  We wanted to use this production as a show piece for our rental equipment and technical expertise in production and post production, so we will be documenting the process for our customers.


Air Lock Cams
Building cameras the night before shooting starts

We decided to use the Sony PMW F55 as our primary camera as we are doing a number of visual effects shots using a blue screen and we have found that the F55 is far easier to key than other cameras because of the advanced color filter array that it shares with the F65 camera.  We do not have any composited effects shots rendered out yet, but we will for sure give you some teaser clips once those are ready.  The global shutter on the F55 is also going to help with tracking and masking on these shots.

Air Lock VFX
Getting ready for some blue screen shots

Our second camera on the first weekend was a Sony PXW FS7 with XDCA-FS7 back.  The FS7 is a natural choice for a second camera because it offers the same codec, resolution, log and gamut options as the F55.  We decided to use the XDCA unit for timecode sync purposes.  Timecode sync and scratch audio was provided to both cameras using a Zaxcom wireless system from our onset sound engineer Matthew Manson.


Both cameras were set to record 4K DCI (4096×2160) 23.98 XAVC-I.  We recorded in CineEI mode with Slog3/SGamut3.cine.


This first weekend we used vintage Nikon lenses; 24mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4, and 135mm f/3.5, we also used a Russian Helios 85mm lens on the FS7.


Air Lock Sup
F55 on 8 foot Kessler Crane rig

The F55 was almost entirely utilized on a Kessler Crane in an 8’ configuration to allow subtle movements during shooting and to boom the camera into positions where a tripod would not be an option for supporting it.  The FS7 was operated entirely using a shoulder rig from Vocas.


The F55 was monitored at the camera using a Convergent Design 7Q and fed to the sound engineer’s cart over SDI and looped through to a Sony PVM1741A monitor for the director.  The FS7 was monitored at the camera using the stock LCD viewfinder and fed to the sound engineer’s cart using an SDI Teradeck Bolt wireless video system, and again looped through to the directors monitor so the director could switch easily between the two feeds while shooting.


On set we used an ArriLC709 LUT on both cameras.  We used the exposure index feature of the cameras to intentionally over expose the footage by one stop to help reduce the noise in the shadows.  The opening image on this article was created using a custom LUT I developed using test footage from lighting tests a few weeks ago.  The final look of the film has not been determined yet so I will hold off on writing about the post grading process until we finalize the look.


The lighting set up was fairly simple once we figured it out, and we didn’t change it much once it was set, no matter where we moved the cameras and actors.  We had 4 bank 4’ KinoFlo lights set up on either side of the set with 2 daylight and 2 tungsten tubes in each, we ended up using only the daylight tubes for our shots.  The Kino’s were set back about 10 feet from the set to provide balanced fill light.  I would have liked place them farther back but we were limited on space.

To add a little contrast to our actors faces I placed a single Fiilex P360EX closer to the set at an almost 90-degree angle to the left of the camera when the camera was pointed straight at the set as in the opening image of the article.  I dialed in the intensity until I was getting some nice highlights and shadows.

I lit up the rear of the set using a dual headed LED shop light with diffusion and ND gels, set on the floor behind the seat the actress sat in.  This provided depth to the scene and a key light for our actors when they were in that part of the set.

The rest of the light was provided by LED and florescent lights built into the set.


We are shooting again this weekend with mostly the same setup with a few changes to our camera and lens lineup.  We are swapping the FS7 for a Sony PXW FS5, which will provide some challenges when mixing footage since it doesn’t have XAVC-I codec, and is only 8-Bit in 4K, but should match up well enough color wise so it shouldn’t present insurmountable challenges.  We are also going to be bringing in a Sony A7R II camera for some body mounted camera shots, which will be challenging and fun, and also presents similar matching challenges as the FS5.

We are also going to be bringing out our brand new set of Rokinon XEEN prime lenses, which is going to be the first opportunity we have had to use them in any capacity other than at the Rokinon booth at NAB last month.

Stay tuned to our Twitter feed for live updates this weekend, or stop back for an update next week.