*Originally published by AbelCine (abelcine.com) on April 25, 2023.
Nashville-based production company Gear Seven has recently been using Sony’s new FR7 full-frame PTZ camera on their Directors + Donuts series, which features conversations with seasoned directors and creatives about their process and experience in the film industry. Held monthly at the Nashville Kitchen Studio, the series is designed to be a place where creatives of all ages can make connections while learning about how to improve their craft and technique from industry professionals.
Recently, we sat down with the team at Gear Seven to discuss their experience using Sony’s FR7, the first full-frame, interchangeable lens Pan-Tilt-Zoom camera.
Gear Seven Founder & Executive Producer Kirk Slawek explains, “PTZ cameras weren’t something we had ever really considered just because the look and the application wasn't something that we typically do.
“But then after digging into it a little bit more, we realized it was perfect timing for our specific use case right now. We were using traditional cinema cameras, and other setups, and it was taking a lot of time to do Directors + Donuts every month. We were setting up for a couple days. The FR7s cut down the work of prepping cameras, setting them up, and then checking everything back in afterwards.”
Justin Wylie, Gear Seven’s Technical Director, adds, “At the last place I worked, this was a few years ago, they were wanting to book PTZs and conference rooms, stuff like that, and I was like ‘Guys, there’s nothing on the market that looks good.’ The older PTZs would be fine for something like a Zoom capture, but if you were actually wanting to capture a professionally produced image, and put it out in the world, nothing came close [to a traditional cine camera]. I’m very pleasantly surprised with how the FR7 stacks up. It holds up really, really well.”
Wylie continues: “I like the idea of remote control. We do a lot of remote head work, and I love that workflow for a lot of different reasons. On the integration side, I like that I can get NDI out of the FR7, straight out of the box, and its ability to integrate cleanly into a permanent or semi-permanent setup. At the same time, if they need to go out on a job, it’s quick and easy to disconnect a few things, unmount them, put them in a case, and off they go. They feel like the culmination of a lot of great ideas that were floating around in the industry but had never come together into a product before.”
Both Slawek and Wylie spoke about the utility and production value the FR7 provides in the busy Nashville music studio scene. “Studio space gets tight very quickly, so it’s great to be able to put one behind the drum kit, or in other areas where there’s not enough space for an operator, and still control focus, iris and zoom, as well as pan and tilt,” says Slawek.
Wylie says, “The GUI [Graphical User Interface, Sony’s web app for controlling the FR7 via a web browser running on a tablet or laptop] is great – I can load, what, 20 LUTs into each camera? I’m glad they did that instead of a mix of physical buttons and software control. They went full-on.”
Slawek adds, “It’s great being able to have that easy web interface and customization when using multiple cameras, I can have a multi-view and windows for each camera. I can hop through and make control tweaks or recall presets made for different camera positions.”
While it’s still early days for the new camera system, both also spoke about applications where they look forward to using the FR7 in the future.
Wylie says, “I think I’m most excited about the kind of modular, small ‘B’-camera stuff. Having the FR7 mounted to something, being able to have another angle with optically good image quality in a small space where we can control it and have it tucked away, such as the top-down angle in a kitchen studio, or a shot of the audience. With larger cameras, we’ve had to cut holes in the set trying to hide a bigger camera just to get an audience reaction angle.”
Slawek says, “I’d love it if the positional data, including pan and tilt angle, etc., could be output as metadata. That could allow the FR7 to play in the Virtual Production space, so they could be tracked in real-time.” Wylie agrees: “That would be super-compelling – being able to do separate renders simultaneously, with genlock, so we could pan and zoom around an LED volume with multiple cameras.”
Slawek sums up: “For the applications we’re talking about, it’s taken some time for PTZ cameras to gain traction in the marketplace. The FR7 is a credible, useful filmmaking tool in its own right, and I think we’ll see them popping up more and more.”