AND THE WINNER IS…
by Jon Alpert
There was a time when 7 of the 8 boxing world champions were Jewish. But until recently, 75 years had passed without a Jewish Champion.
Then, Yuri Forman from Brooklyn came along. He won the WBA Super Welterweight belt – just down the street in Las Vegas from where our industry gathers every year to look at the latest in cinema and TV equipment. I was at ringside filming. I’ve been following Yuri for over a decade as he successfully pursued his twin dreams of becoming a world champion and becoming an ordained rabbi.
One of the reasons for this is that as newer and better equipment became available – it was immediately pressed into service. Over the course of the production, we went from tape to digital, and SD to HD to 4K.
Electronics progress at a dizzying pace. But as all of us cinematographers know, lenses lag behind. And as all of the manufactures know, the cameraman/woman community constantly pesters and whines and cajoles anyone who will listen to make a lightweight, servo-operated, fast, constant F stop, sharp as a razor, reasonably priced wide angle zoom lens. For us one-man band, run-and-gun shooters, that is the holy grail of documentary filmmaking and ENG.
We are getting close to the Promised Land.
The SONY SELP18110G Zoom lens. It’s 18-110mm, constant f 4.0 and weighs in at lean and mean 2 ½ pounds.
Yuri coming out of retirement to fight for the championship again coincided with the release of the lens. I had it at ringside, and it is a serious step up from the SELP18200 that I used to have on my FS7. The new lens is really sharp. Especially around the perimeter of the picture. The shots of sweat spraying as the boxers slugged each other are spectacular. The range of the lens adequately covered the wide-angle shots in the corner and the zoomed-in close-ups in the center of the ring. The servo is smooth, responsive, noiseless. There’s no ramping. No need for heavy rails or an additional power supply.
The lens cooperates with the camera’s electronics. Should you choose to take advantage of automatic functions – they work – and you can track everything on the viewfinder.
The lens is heavier than what we had been using. This presents a challenge. I don’t carry the camera on my shoulder and never use a tripod. To see the picture clearly with my aging eyes I use a big, bright on-board monitor. Maybe Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson can hold all this poundage at arm’s length for 12 hours, but I can’t. So we have put our rig on a serious diet, stricter than a boxer trying to make fighting weight.
One battery powers everything. We use the Sony BP-U60T inserted into the camera and T-tap off its built-in power output terminal to run the monitor. We used to employ the Ikan MD7 high bright monitor because it gives you the best chance of staying in focus in direct sunlight. But it pulls too much energy from the single battery and sometimes causes the camera’s safety system to shut down. So for the Yuri shoot, we switched to the Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+. I think you’ll like it. Everything is fastened together with lightweight carbon fiber rods and aluminum mounts. To further shed weight and take advantage of the FS7’s additional audio tracks, we attached a Sony URX-P03 wireless audio receiver directly into the FS7’s built-in hot shoe. This eliminates batteries and cables. Finally, after removing the camera handgrip, we probably shaved a total of two pounds off the rig. And if we were to use an FS5 instead of the FS7, we’d lose an additional pound and a half.
The action is fast and furious at ringside, but with the SELP18110G, I stayed in focus in a fairly hostile and constantly changing and challenging environment. The lens of our dreams could still be a bit faster. Maybe two stops, and a tad wider. But the SELP18110G is a big jump in quality. It’s reasonably priced. It’s available and will make your pictures jump and sing.
Too bad it couldn’t help Yuri win the fight. But the footage of him losing sure looks fantastic. The best I’ve ever filmed in 46 years.
Jon Alpert is a 16-time National Emmy winner and the only person to win in all three craft categories – Audio, Editing and Cinematography. He’s been using SONY products since 1971 – if you don’t count the little Sony transistor radio his grandfather, Julius, gave him in 1958. Jon’s latest documentary, co-directed with Matt O’Neill, is Rock and a Hard Place about an innovative prison boot camp in Miami. It features Dwayne Johnson and was shot in UHD with the SONY FS7.