(4K VideoJournalist) — “Full-Auto Mode!? What!? No way! Not me! I’m a PROFESSIONAL! Such trifles are for the lowly peasant amateur. I wouldn’t be caught dead using it!” — Those are the thoughts and sentiments shared by most professional videographers if even a whisper is made about running a broadcast or cinema camera in auto-anything. But Sony, in its user-friendly tradition of the XDCAM lines, has included a feature on the PXW-X180 that can help even the most staunch, manual-everything, professional — the “Full-Auto” button.
“How’s that going to help?” the devoted cinematographer might ask. Well, if you, like me, are a documentarian involved in fast moving, run-and-gun, and even downright stressful shooting situations, you might just find that that full-auto button can at times come in handy, to say the least.
Let me give you an example: A few years back, we were working on an oil and gas related documentary using a classic camera in the XDCAM lines, the PMW-EX3 — a highly user-friendly camera that also carried the “full auto” button. We were finishing up our shoots and getting ready to get into the editing bay, but we really needed a shot or two of the classic blood-red Halliburton fracking trucks — shots that had eluded us to that point. In one of our final shooting days, I was driving down the road toward the oil-patch with my administrative assistant sitting shotgun, someone who knew nothing about running broadcast cams at all, when we noticed a red Halliburton truck rolling right alongside of us. I had an EX3 sitting in the back within arm’s reach, but we had just finished up an indoor shoot so I knew the settings were not in place for outdoor lighting. Acting quickly, I grabbed the camera, plopped it in my administrator’s lap, and told him to hurry and power on the camera, pull the MF/AF focus ring to auto, and push the magic full-auto button. Just like that, in under 30 seconds, I had a total novice capturing an essential clip for our documentary. Actually, it didn’t turn out too bad. Have a look:
Continuing in the solid XDCAM traditions, Sony has added this full-auto feature to its newest in the line — the PXW-X180.
Often times these days when shooting more complex productions in 4K, we keep a user-friendly documentary camera like the X180 onsite so we can quickly grab things that might be happening outside of where we have our larger, and often bulky 4K rigs set up.
We also keep something like the X180 around to nab backstory coverage of our own production sets to share later with our videography fans. The X180’s full-auto feature at times comes in very handy when we need to drop the camera in an unexperienced person’s hands to help us grab a few clips of our own production sets where the “manual-everything” pros are already busy shooting.
So if you own an X180, or other XDCAM carrying the full-auto feature, don’t just chuck that feature in the useless, not-for-me, mental-waste-dump — rather, consider it another well thought out tool to be used in emergency on-the-fly situations by the run-and-gun documentary ninja. Keep it available in the brain’s toolkit, and one day, it just might save your bacon in the most unexpected situation.
FILM AND ARTICLE CREDITS
- Emerson Urry - Author