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New York Film Academy shoot music video for The Thing using a selection of Cooke lenses and Sony cameras

The Thing Main image
By: The Cooke Team  |   2 min de lecture

The New York Film Academy, in collaboration with Sony, introduced a new concept for their classes of 2022 and 2023 students: to film a professional-standard music video using a range of Sony cameras – VENICE 2, FX6 and FX3, to examine how they cut together, and approached Cooke to support the initiative with a selection of lenses.

We spoke to the directors Liz Hinlein and Ben Rummans, and cinematographer Piero Basso AIC, about how it came to be and how it all worked out.

Liz explained how it started.

“As a creative director at New York Film Academy, I created the concept and project because we wanted to work with Sony. The conversation started over a year ago, with a discussion we had with Sony team about support of the education sector and using student projects to show at events like NAB. I decided we needed to produce a music video, since it would require less sign off than a narrative script and give us more opportunities to really show off the visuals and highlight Piero’s East Coast New York Film Academy cinematography program.”

“Ben is a former student of mine, an A+ student. He is also a Teaching Assistant at NYFA, and he’s been in band. It made perfect sense – I approached him and said: let’s do this together, let’s co-direct it. Next came finding a band, which was a Mr.-Who-Knows-All-Cool-Bands-Ben remit. So we went and found the band.”

Ben went on to add, “I had met The Thing at a live show in November last year. They were just super cool, with great stage presence. I had never heard of them before that show, and they just blew me away. When Liz told me about this opportunity, they were at the top of my list to reach out to. We pitched it to the band just like we pitched it to Sony, and the band thought it was a great fit for their song Country Song II. It felt like the world had aligned.”

The Thing 2nd image
The Thing - Country Song II (Still)
The Thing Portrait image
The Thing - Country Song II (Still)

We asked Liz about the set for the video.

“Sony introduced us to ZeroSpace, a next-gen production and creative studio in Brooklyn, and they had a Subway set, a full New York City subway car built to spec on a stage. It was a clean canvas when we got there, so we tricked it out. We created all the posters, all the signage.”

“We brought in the art department, and made it look like a 70’s subway. We got a professional graffiti artist who, luckily, was willing to come in and do everything. He did an incredible job with chalk spray paint. It was all gone when we left, we washed it off, it was kind of hectic,” Ben adds.

On cinematography of the set, Piero said: “It was a mix of old school and a little bit of new school. There are two windows in the subway that have LED panels outside playing high-resolution TV, built to fit the size of the windows perfectly. And the rest of the effects are old-fashioned spinning totems with a reflecting surface and different lights on them, it’s an old school trick. In reality, we had a lot of grips spinning a lot of things.”

Piero continues adding more insight into the multiple cameras and lenses setup they used. “One of the goals of this experiment was to show how Sony’s CineAlta line-up of cameras works when intercut together. All three of the cameras we used, VENICE 2, FX6 and FX3, are at very different price points, and offer different specifications. But when you put them together, you can work with one as a B-camera, or as a portable version, or if you need a crash camera or smaller unit to carry around unobtrusively. The idea was not to be too specific on ‘this camera does this, and that camera does that’, because the goal was to mix the images together and hopefully trick people to believe it was all done with one camera instead of three. It worked amazingly well.

This was also our approach with the lenses. Once we knew we had Cooke full frame Anamorphic/i and the Super35 Anamorphic/i, which have different de-squeeze values, 2x and 1.8x respectively, along with the Varotal/i full frame zoom that’s spherical, we thought, why don’t we just mix them all up and play on the fact that the Cooke line-up of lenses work so wonderfully well intercut together. I mean, each one has its own characteristics, but they also work well together. You don’t have to be afraid of using one series and not being able to mix with footage shot on another because it would look so different. And that was part of the game, I would say, that we were playing.”

Liz agrees. “We really noticed that consistency in the grading suite. There was never any question of the quality of shot-to-shot matching. There was a synergy that just worked.”

Ben continued, “From the director’s standpoint, and Liz, I’m sure, feels the same, I loved that we had so much variety to choose from. Having the Varotal/i zoom on the B camera was amazing. Both Liz and I are also DPs, we operate, and we took turns operating the zoom, so I got to have hands-on experience with it. I was so impressed with everything; it was just so smooth. It looked amazing, and like everyone’s been saying, they just matched. There were no big surprises between the playback on set and the grade.

It was very funny to put an Anamorphic/i on the FX3, such a tiny little camera. But at the same time, it also looked amazing. When we de-squeezed the footage from the FX3, I could not believe how well this worked. It just looks so good.”

Piero said, “I think the cool thing about being able to interchange lenses and use different cameras like this, is that you really can achieve different visual goals. The VENICE 2 was mounted on a Pee Wee dolly and we were tracking up and down inside the train car, the FX6 and the zoom were on a tripod so that they could move around and grab some other shots. And suddenly the FX3 was handheld outside the window, catching some crazy shots.

Some shots may only be used for two seconds, but those two seconds are really cool because it’s a perspective that is otherwise hard to get. So it’s great to be able to work with different cameras and different lenses and take advantage of all the specifics of those lenses, especially with lenses that match together so well in look, in flares, in the style we shot, it was just astonishing to see.”

“The reason we were so excited about Cooke, to be honest, is because it makes our little show look expensive and chic. The production value is on the screen. To be clear about how low-budget we were we couldn’t afford to rent a smart slate.  The fantastic NYFA editor, Andy Mendez, had to painstakingly sync the footage to the song by hand old school style.”

Liz Hinlein | Director

With Liz and Ben also being cinematographers, Ben gave his view on the lenses used.


“As a director as well as a DP, the lens choice is huge for anything that I make. It’s integral to the story. Cooke seemed like the perfect choice for this project, because for me Cooke has this incredible character to it that reminds me of the great cinematic masterpieces. It reminds me of the ’70s filmmaking, which has some of my favourites. And I love that Cooke continues to have the Cooke Look, that classic character that brings so much to everything. I think it’s always worth it to try and get the right lenses, over pretty much everything else. We didn’t want it to feel like a run and gun project or a super-Indie New York film. We wanted people to watch it and think, “wow, this was a big production”, which was also why the Anamorphic/i became the perfect choice for that widescreen from the get-go.”

“And to underline what Ben is saying, we really were going for a cinematic look. We did not need to shoot New York as grungy and scary. We wanted New York to be fun and like a party; beautiful, interesting, cinematic. That was a very big concern of ours. We didn’t want a docu-look. We wanted a full-blown ‘something you can project in a theatre look’,” Liz added.

The Thing’s country Song can be seen by clicking the following link or at Sony’s both at their next big US event.


Piero Basso, AIC

The Thing - Country Song II