Sony VENICE presses the flesh with Bad Mothers, new Channel 9 series

Bad Mothers is the new eight-part drama series for Channel 9 from Jungle Productions and Filthy Productions. Starring Tess Haubrich, Mandy McElhinney, Jessica Tovey, Shalom-Brune Franklin, Daniel MacPherson and Don Hany. It explores the underbelly of modern motherhood through the prism of four very different women. DoP on Bad Mothers is John Stokes ACS and the camera he chose to shoot the series is Sony’s new flagship VENICE next generation motion picture system with full frame sensor, phenomenal colour science and user-friendly operation.

 Stokes explained, “I did some tests with VENICE and was astonished at how well it worked with flesh tones. The large format is excellent as is being able to work with 500 and 2500 ISO. VENICE also has some very clever functionality such as the ability to change the in-camera NDs one stop at a time up to 2.4. With all of these factors and more it became evident that only the VENICE could give us the new, fresh look we wanted to implement on Bad Mothers from the ground up.” 

VENICE is a cinema camera created by and for the cinematographer. It’s equipped with a newly developed full-frame image sensor meeting the needs of the film industry in pushing the boundaries of large format image capture with exceptional picture quality.

Stokes continued, “The VENICE is perfectly weighted and balanced and is great for shooting handheld which makes it very easy to work with. In fact we use two VENICE cameras on Bad Mothers along with Zeiss Supreme Primes. We mainly shoot the wider shots with a 50mm on one VENICE and a tighter, over the shoulder with an 85mm on the other. There’s a real pattern to the vision with this set up and the VENICE’s sensor responds incredibly well to whatever light comes in and how the lenses accept that light.”

With the wide latitude and gamut recorded by the VENICE, Stokes’ freedom of expression is significantly expanded on Bad Mothers. The camera’s user-friendly design, clear and simple menu navigation, and a highly durable, reliable construction allows him to simply concentrate on filming, and not the camera.


He added, “The VENICE gives you this lovely, silky, velvety look which is hard to explain until you see it and when you see it you can’t help but love it. When I’m using a T2 aperture there’s also a lovely fall off and look that just ‘happens’. We shoot 16-bit X-OCN LT (eXtended tonal range Original Camera Negative) as by combining 16-bit precision with surprisingly moderate bit rates, X-OCN opens up a world of new production possibilities for us. X-OCN also produces file sizes much smaller than typical camera RAW, but offers 16-bit scene linear encoding, so we get the ultimate in tonal expression, longer record times, faster file transfers and more economical post-production.”

Stokes also makes good use of the VENICE’s simple ability to change resolution to save time, money and ensure continuity.

He explained, “We shoot X-OCN LT at 6K but we alternate between 6K and 4K on a daily basis as a changing the 50mm lens from 4K to 6K is the equivalent to going from a 50mm to a 33mm, so in order to save ourselves a lens change we simply change the resolution.”

It’s not just John Stokes ACS who loves how the images the new Sony VENICE is creating for Bad Mothers, according to Stokes it’s the entire crew from the top down.

First AC B-CAM Keir Suggett added, “The VENICE is a great camera to work with. It just works as it says it will. No fancy workarounds required. The menus are better than ever before, less cluttered and it’s easier to find what you’re looking for. The short press menu and longer press menus are a real bonus, as is the fact that the most used functions are easily accessible on both sides of the camera – which is great if you’re pressed up against a wall. It’s also good to have the read out on camera operator side so they can easily see the settings. The internal NDs and two base ISO settings are also a huge plus.”

First AC A-CAM Karina Davies agrees, “Having two base ISOs is fantastic as when you’re outside in harsh sunlight you can start with 500 ISO which is great, as if you started at 2500 and you were trying to stop down you’d get to 2.4 very quickly and then have nowhere else to go. With 500 you only go up to 2.1 maximum. As John said, being able to switch from 6K to 4K is great as it’s so quick, efficient and perfect for producing this kind of TV. Having the full range of NDs also really takes the pressure off us in terms of putting glass on the front which means John has more time up his sleeve and doesn’t have to compromise on the style, look and feel he wants to achieve. We’ve run the VENICE with every accessory imaginable and it hasn’t skipped a beat. The fast changing between modes means we will see VENICE cameras used to produce a great deal more of this kind of TV in 2019.”

John Stokes concluded, “The images we get are of the highest quality and yet the workflow is so simple and straightforward. There are no problems and the camera is consistent, predictable and reliable. As I said in the beginning, the best thing about the VENICE is the incredible way it works with flesh tones but overall, I just love working with this camera.” 

Bad Mothers will air on Channel 9 in 2019.

Picture credits

John Stokes ACS shooting Bad Mothers with the new Sony VENICE full frame camera system

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