Those of you that follow me on facebook will know that recently I have been travelling a lot. A couple of days ago I arrived in Dubai and I have been staying on a pretty high floor of the Dusit Thani hotel. I didn’t ask for a room with a view, but I got one. From my bedroom window I could see the iconic Burj Kahlifa tower and parts of one of Dubai’s major roads. I also had my FX30 with me, so I felt I should take advantage of this view and shoot a time-lapse going from day to night.
Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!
Fortunately this is a pretty easy thing to do with the FX30. I didn’t use the cameras video modes, instead I used it in the “P” program auto photo mode. In this mode the camera automatically sets the aperture and shutter speed to suit the available light levels. As the light level decreases the aperture will open up until it can’t open any more and then the shutter speed will become longer.
So, all YOU need to do is determine the ISO at which you want to shoot. I chose 125 ISO (I used picture profile 11 – S-Cinetone) as this will give the lowest possible noise level and in addition for shots at night it will force the shutter speed to become quite long as the light levels fall. The longer shutter will then cause the lights of any cars on the roads to become blurred and form pleasing trails.
To shoot the sequence of still frames that would ultimately be turned into a video clip I used the FX30’s built in time-lapse photo mode (Menu – Shooting – Drive Mode – Interval Shoot Function). I set the start time to 1 sec which is the minimum and means the the camera will start shooting the sequence 1 second after you press the shutter release. I set the shooting interval to 3 seconds and the number of shots to 3000 as this would cover the full duration of the day to night shot that I wanted (about 2.5 hours).
To power the camera for a couple of hours I used my Macbook Pro’s power supply with a USB-C cable going to the FX30’s USB-C port. As an alternative you could also use a powerbank that has a USB-C PD port (USB-C Power Deliver).
To position the camera I used a soft pillow (I didn’t have a tripod with me). I used manual focus and double, triple checked the focus with the lens wide open to ensure it was sharp.
A common issue when shooting through a window is reflections of objects inside the room or light from in the room falling on the often dirty window. Unless the rooms curtains are black, closing the curtains doesn’t help as the outside light tends to reflect back off the curtains onto the window. To prevent this I used a couple of black T-Shirts wrapped around the camera and lens to block any light from reflecting off the window and kept the room lights off.
All that was then left was to press the shutter release and allow the camera to take the images that would make up the sequence. I shot both raw an jpeg. The jpegs would allow me to very quickly preview the end result (and in fact the jpegs were used for the video linked here). The raw frames can be used when you need the very highest quality and will give you greater grading flexibility compared to the 8 bit jpegs.
Once the sequence was shot I then dropped the jpegs into a DaVinci Resolve project, Resolve will bring in sequentially numbered jpeg and tiff files as a single video clip, so editing and grading is easy. I haven’t yet worked on the raw files, but my workflow with these normally involves using Photoshop to adjust and grade a single frame and then use Adobe Bridge to batch process and then export all the frames as tiff files using the same grading settings.
All in all it took me about 15 to 20 minutes to set the camera up. Most of that was time spent figuring out how to best place the black shirts to prevent reflections. Then I went out for diner while the camera shot the sequence over a couple of hours and finally I spent about 45 minutes doing a bit of an animation and a few colour tweaks in Resolve. Because the FX30 still frames are 6.2K x 4.1K there is plenty of resolution to crop in a bit and create a move within the image, even when delivering in 4K. So, for very little actual time spent, I got a quite nice little time-lapse sequence.
The Sony FX30 is really growing on me. I also own the FX3, the FX6 and the FX9. But when I am travelling the FX30 is now my go-to camera. When combined with the 18-105 power zoom lens you have a low cost and lightweight package that really does deliver great looking images. The 6K oversampled to 4K recordings have a texture and quality to them that I find really pleasing. In the Venice workshop we did here in Dubai we put my FX30 side by side with the Venice and the audience members were quite shocked by how close they are. But then this is the whole point of the cinema line – to provide a range of cameras to suit all budgets and a vast range of applications that all look more or less the same.
Of course the Venice image is that bit better, the 16 bit encoding and X-OCN makes the footage a delight to grade and the textures in the deepest shadows are clearer and finer. The way Venice handles highlights is just that little bit better. All around there are very subtle things about the Venice image that are better. But the FX30 really does produce a remarkably good image for very little money.