If you are a fan of the sci-fi genre and are also excited to use the latest camera technology and the Sony A7s, in particular, the new short thriller “Refuge” may suit your taste and even inspire you for some of your next projects. It’s yet another short film shot on the A7s at night entirely lit by moonlight at the whopping ISO 51,200. Plus, it’s definitely a well-crafted and acted short that I’ve also enjoyed watching.
According to director Sam Shapson, “Refuge” is the first narrative ever filmed entirely in the moonlight. It’s about biological researchers who suspect their newly developed ecosystems may be adapting in unexpected ways. It’s pointless to say that the things get really messy at some point, but without spoiling the story any further let’s just watch the film.
Many would argue whether shooting at such extreme ISOs makes any sense, yet I definitely believe that in this particular case the surreal look captured on the A7s fits perfectly the overall aesthetic and mood of the film. Kudos to DP Barry Elmore who shot the film as I can only guess what it would be like to frame shots and pull focus in the complete darkness. Without question, it will be a serious challenge even for the most experienced professionals.
The team behind the project recorder the footage in 4K on the Atomos Shogun Recorder utilising a set of Canon CN-E Primes (24, 35, 50, 85mm) and a Metabones Speedbooster for the entire shoot. It’s interesting to note that they also used Neat Video’s Noise Reduction and FilmConvert apps in post, however, there are still plenty of blocky artefacts in the shadow areas in different parts of the film probably not just as a result of the Vimeo compression.
Whatever the case may be, I’m definitely curious to see the film in some less compressed version and in higher resolution.
Here are some of Sam Shampson’s insights on the filming process of the sci-fi short:
We tested all of the picture profiles and seriously considered pp7 for slog, but unfortunately we couldn’t reconcile the way it handled noise in the deep shadows unless we graded up about 2 stops, which we couldn’t afford to risk committing to. Therefore we landed on pp6, shot wide open at 1/25 with the speedbooster. Lastly, the 4K from the shogun was utilized to give Neat Video every bit of info we could throw it to smooth out the noise.
Still, I’m constantly reminding myself how the images here are so much more clear and vibrant than what my eyes were seeing out there in the dark. Still blows me away.
All in all, “Refuge” is the perfect example of why the A7s features a unique sensor with extreme light sensitivity. I can only imagine what the upcoming generations of camera technology would provide. The odds are they will go far beyond our wildest expectations.