MUSIC VIDEO “Fin Rah Zel”: how to light on no budget, and my thoughts on the a6400.

Having been out of the industry for some time, I needed a small project to re-calibrate myself, and get a better connection with my new camera.

This video was done on essentially zero budget. Shot completely handheld, and lit with some basic household tungsten bulbs.

In terms of light modifiers, I had a $2 china ball, and a piece of tattered old blackwrap. And a desk lamp with kitchen baking paper diffusion.

FINRAHZELstill01
(click for full 4k resolution)

Looks pretty damn good if you ask me! The biggest limitation was not being able to cut the light, as I would have liked to have been able to drop the wall exposure another stop. But with less than $30 worth of lighting gear, all in, I’m pretty happy.

I didn’t even have lighting stands, so I used a mic stand and an old music stand I modified. Where there’s a will…

Finally, the a6400, and the OSS sony lenses. This changes everything. When I first got the camera I was a bit concerned about rolling shutter etc, and I don’t think I would use this camera without OSS (“optical steady shot”, Sony’s version of in-lens Image Stabilization).

(Sony 18-105f4 OSS & 35mmf1.8 OSS)

But the OSS works beautifully. It makes this sub 1kg camera look like it weighed 10kg with a traditional lens on it. I think this is a big turning point for me, because I no longer have to frankenrig my cameras out just to add weight. My back will thank me for it.

(FrankenRig from 2011)

Now for the star of the show, autofocus. Dirty, dirty autofocus. That thing we were told never ever to touch if we wanted to be “proper filmmakers”. Well, you know what, 70% of this video was shot with autofocus touch-to-focus. And I think I had about a 95% success rate with it. The tracking is dead on, no hunting. The focus shift can be set to fast, normal, or slow. I had it set to slow and got the nice cinematic style focus changes. I wish there was a speed between normal and slow, but honestly, that would just be icing on an already amazing cake.

Finally, would you believe that this video was shot at both 400 and 3200 iso? I can’t see the difference between the two. It wasn’t that long ago that iso 800 was a grainy mess. We really do have it good, it’s so liberating as a filmmaker. Less money, less gear, less lighting heat, less back pain.

(my entire kit for this video)

I remember having a film camera fully rigged in lightweight “handheld” configuration on my shoulder. I think it was around 8kg or so. Also, this exact same music video would have cost at least $5000 on film, as opposed to $0. I think this is what people mean when they say “filmmaking has been democratized”.