Sony’s new FR7 PTZ camera was used by Dan Greenway Ltd on the latest series of Ninja Warrior.

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Dan Greenway Ltd has made a name for itself by providing cameras, minicams and crew for a wide variety of productions including drama, commercials and live events. With projects such as Gogglebox, Saturday Night Takeaway and Million Pound Drop in its portfolio, the company has become a go-to specialist for managing entertainment and other fixed rig shows working with PTZ cameras and remote heads. It was therefore a natural choice to test the new Sony FR7 fixed rig camera ahead of its launch at IBC in September last year. And so impressed was company founder, Dan Greenway himself, with the Sony FR7’s performance and easy integration within an overall OB workflow, that he immediately ordered six units following this initial trial.

The trial was no small, out-of-the-way project either, but rather capturing continuity shots during the autumn’s sixth series of Ninja Warrior for ITV. Units were positioned at various critical points along the course where a camera operator might otherwise be in the shot or would have trouble with access. Their main job was to capture the climactic shot of the contestants smashing the finishing buzzer after scrabbling up the final obstacle.

Greenway was instantly impressed. “For anyone who is familiar with the FX6 menu, they will be right at home with it; it has the same camera GUI, and you can operate it via an iPad,” he says. “Productions are using a lot of FX9s and FX6s and it produces that very familiar Sony look; it has got the same Log settings that people might be using.”

The result is that when used in a typical Outside Broadcast environment, the camera is easy to match to other units and can run seamlessly alongside much larger, more expensive system cameras mounting broadcast lenses. For Ninja Warrior, the rest of the production was using Sony HDC-2500s with HJ14 lenses, and Greenway reports no issues matching the look.

This is a definite USP for the camera. There has traditionally been a reluctance from directors to switch to PTZ views as part of a standard sequence, preferring to use them in isolation as the pictures often have a different look from the rest of the production. With the FR7 this is no longer an issue.

“One of the things we have heard a lot with PTZs used in studio environments is the directors saying ‘I like that shot but the skin tones aren’t right’,” he says. “The LED floor will be the right colour, the set will be the right colour, but the skin tones of the contributor will look different to the other cameras. So they will say ‘Don’t offer that shot with PTZ’ because quite often you can’t match it, you can’t get it looking quite right. Whereas, with this camera, that is not going to be a consideration.”

Greenway maintains that, with its removable lenses and larger sensor, the FR7 occupies a previously vacant middle ground in the market between the likes of industry workhorses such as the Sony BRC X1000 and a Panasonic AW-UE100 using an Egripment HotHead; it provides a significant quality upgrade over the former but doesn’t need all the additional infrastructure and costs that the latter entails. The only slight caveat is that he advises users to be mindful of its size and weight over some of the smaller units on the market (“You need some beefier mounts and you are going to notice it if it is in the back of someone’s shots,” he says).

That is a small price to pay, though, and he argues that its quality, flexibility, and ability to be just one more matched camera in a production is helping it rapidly establish itself across the market. Indeed, Dan Greenway Ltd is now using its own purchased units, deploying its FR7s over the Christmas period to capture a Nordoff Robbins charity carol concert featuring Nile Rogers for Turn Buffalo, as well as the launch of a new Soho Jazz club for Vivid Broadcast and the Jazzed app.

“I can see it having a place in music, corporate, fashion shows, sports, hopefully wildlife once we see how it works with covers on; anywhere where space is at a premium and people want a high quality four or five camera PTZ set-up,” he concludes.

Jon Creamer

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