Ever since finishing my last short film, Above LA, I’ve wanted to go higher. But not just higher ground. Only a helicopter could give me the freedom and control I needed to capture the city from new heights. And not a drone – this was a job for the real thing. I’ve spent a lot of time in the air recently working on some new techniques for capturing unique aerial footage, but in the mean time, I wanted to show the city in live and slow-motion video in a way few people get to see it.
My favorite time to photograph the city is when the sun goes down and the lights come up. But accomplishing this in the air is no easy feat. Most cameras, even most high-end cinema cameras, do not perform well in very low light. Most high-end professional aerials you find still lack a lot of detail in the shadows at night. I took these flights as an opportunity to try out the new Sony a7S and its vaunted low-light ability. I was not disappointed. This camera allowed me to film at a staggeringly high ISO of 51,200 while still retaining a sharp and detail filled image. Thanks to this camera and an expert pilot, I was able to capture a whirlwind tour of Los Angeles at night – from downtown to Hollywood, Century City to Santa Monica, and LAX to the freeways.
I am very excited to share with you some of what I captured. I hope you enjoy it! If you do, I’d greatly appreciate liking or sharing the video or this post.
All footage captured at 1080p60 with ISO ranging from 20,000 to 51,200.
Lenses: Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II, Canon 24-105 f/4L IS
Much of this material was captured at ISO 51,200, which does produce noise, but is well controlled and easy to minimize or remove in post. I really pushed this camera to its limits – shooting at 1080p60 (which has been shown to be less sharp and with increased moire and aliasing than at 24p), using a lens that is not tack sharp, and at incredibly high ISO – and it still produced some remarkable results. Needless to say, I am beyond impressed with this camera and would have no hesitation for using it in video work.
The first three shots were captured with no picture profile set (I set it to S-Log 2 before flight, but somehow it ended up with no profile set). All other shots were captured in S-Log 2.