Scott Ferril’s company Rent the Sky Films provides a variety of camera-related services. “We do all sorts of oddball, boutique stuff that’s very specific,” explains Scott. “Full productions, motion control, even 3D. I originally bought an Odyssey7Q for the RAW recording and was looking at the Apollo Option for 3D work, recording two complete stereo camera rigs. Usually the device is mounted to our motion control rig, but then we got this last-minute call for a Video Assist job.”
The commercial shoot was originally planned as a single-camera job with the ARRI Amira. “But then the day before the shoot the DP decided to throw in a couple of 5Dmk3 cameras, in part because he had them handy. Rent the Sky was hired to do Video Assist and all the file transcodes. Our main job was to get the video from these three cameras to the client, with playback. In addition to Apollo we provided a couple of production monitors for the clients to view, some signal converters for the 5Ds, our computer workstation for the transcodes and some cabling.”
“This job was literally the first time I had even switched on the Apollo mode. I knew what it was supposed to do but didn’t really have any time to test it out. The shoot was the next day and we had no prep with the cameras. Our only other option was a computer-based system that only had two inputs, which would have meant that I needed another box to send the two 5Ds into one channel as a split screen while the other channel was the Amira. That wasn’t ideal for Video Assist as we wanted to be able to play back any angle full frame. Apollo can record up to four HD video signals, plus a fifth recording that shows the four cameras in one split screen. So we went with Apollo and even though it was a bit run & gun / seat-of-the-pants, Apollo just did it all.”
So we went with Apollo and even though it was a bit run & gun / seat-of-the-pants, Apollo just did it all.
When setting up Apollo with the cameras, Scott realized there were some additional advantages to the system. “We set Apollo so that when record was hit on Amira it would trigger Apollo to record the feeds from all three cameras simultaneously. We kinda stumbled into that setting during setup and had a moment of realization like “Oh, this is nice.” Once you start using a feature like that you just feel like it’s the way it should be all the time. You start taking it for granted but it was really nice because you didn’t have to worry about starting each camera and if they were in sync and such.”
“We used the Amira’s timecode as our master on Apollo and overlaid it onto both of the 5Ds video signals. Once again that was one of those hidden benefits. The original purpose was just to get the different video feeds to show up in one place and be able to play back. Dealing with 5D footage in a professional commercial environment is tough no matter what you do. To have everything with matching timecode and all start/stop recording together was wonderful not just for playing back on set, but a huge difference for when they take the material into post. The recording also had matching file names which will also make things much easier for the editor.”
One unplanned benefit was the quality of Apollo’s Apple ProRes recording. “We recorded backups on the CF cards of the 5Ds just in case, but even though we initially brought in Apollo for monitoring and playback we realized that it was much better to use its Apple ProRes recordings as our masters. We recorded the Amira as well, but that camera was recording internally in Log, so we set the camera to apply a LUT on the output to Apollo for the client to monitor. So the Amira’s internal recording was its own master, but it was still in Apple ProRes with matching timecode to Apollo. Normally in Video Assist we just throw out the material at the end of the day, but in this case we had a much better copy than we would have had without it. You don’t usually use the Video Assist as your master, but in the case of the 5Ds it was the better choice. “
I would always choose to record this way for our work because, well why not?
Monitoring and playback of the material were the primary functions for this Video Assist job, and Apollo handled them with ease. “We had all three cameras in a split screen which we could show on a client’s monitor, plus on another monitor we sent a separate feed of the Amira on its own, both from different outputs of Apollo. By recording the Amira, the two 5Ds, and the split screen, we could show camera one, two or three, or we could show all three of them at once. I would always choose to record this way for our work because, well why not? We would start the playback in the split screen and then the client would ask to switch to individual cameras to see certain material full screen. We could do it all very quickly on the fly and they could see everything they wanted to see, and we could scrub back in the take instantly to view certain moments. Any take we wanted to play back we could freely switch from camera to camera all in sync as it played. That was really slick. Others might want to use Apollo for live switching but for our use the switching in playback was a huge benefit. In a sense that’s what we were doing for the client, a form of live switch.”
“Apollo gave us a much faster playback than if we had multiple recordings on separate pieces of gear. There was no searching for the matching spot in a different recording because they were all together right there. A four-channel computer system might do something similar but that’s a lot more expensive option and there are other issues such as long delays in the signal. The computer-based solutions can add significant lag.”
The shoot went so well that the client flew us out to another city for their next shoot. Apollo got us the next gig...
“It sounds convoluted when you talk about it and it what we were trying to do was actually a bit complicated, but Apollo made it really easy. It was so easy and the client liked the switching so much that that’s why the second job came up two weeks later. The shoot went so well that the client flew us out to another city for their next shoot. Apollo got us the next gig because they didn’t know if they could get that kind of setup where they were going. Usually you don’t fly someone out for Video Assist, but Apollo worked so slick that that’s what they decided to do.”
Scott may have big plans for Apollo, but he’s already satisfied with what it provides. “I got Apollo to record multiple cameras of course, and right out of the gate we did for us something that’s unusual, which is multiple 5Ds for Video Assist. It worked out much better than we had ever planned. We had one device that recorded three cameras. We had a switcher so the client could view whatever they wanted. And we had a higher quality recording than the cameras offered. That was all added benefit. We gave them better stuff than they were expecting and that made them happy. It was nice to over-deliver.”