Cinema Line : FX6 / FX3

For creators who believe
in the power of visual storytelling

Sony’s Cinema Line camera lineup makes world-class cinematic potential available
to a wide spectrum of visual creators engaged in the production of everything from blockbuster movies
to small-scale visual content. In this article we will take a broad look at some of the design elements
behind the Cinema Line, including concept development, product design for
the new FX6 and FX3 Cinema Line cameras, and overall communication design.

Exploring the depths of
visual expression

Against a background of rapidly evolving imaging technology, creators continue to search for more cinematic and beautiful ways to express meaning and emotion, whether making large-scale movies, small-scale short films, or personal content. To support this rich and burgeoning imaging culture, Sony resolved that every model in the Cinema Line should give creators the full benefit of the "Emotion in Every Frame" philosophy that was behind the top-of-the-line CineAlta VENICE camera, allowing them to explore and reveal the true value of visual expression in their individual fields.

Driven by that goal and supported by expertise acquired through many years of experience at the top of the cinema production field, it was possible to achieve operability and reliability that will satisfy a variety of creative needs in the Cinema Line. The first challenge tackled by the project team was to develop a design concept that would unite the entire lineup. The starting point would have to be VENICE, a camera that was introduced in 2017 and rapidly became a mainstay of the movie industry worldwide.

In addition to a metallic gray body color that was already familiar to movie directors and cinematographers, the VENICE camera design features a texture reminiscent of cast iron that embodies the rigidity and rugged reliability of the magnesium alloy chassis within. Sections related to handling and operation, including controls and handles, are black for fast, easy identification.

The same coloring, texture, and form factor used in the VENICE camera has been inherited throughout the Cinema Line, symbolizing the continuation of imaging DNA that is based on a thorough understanding of real-world workflows. The FX6 and FX3 cameras have evolved naturally from this same underlying design concept, providing creators with imaging tools that ideally suit their needs.

Working with visual creators to build new experiences

Sony has the greatest respect for movie directors who continue to pioneer new means of visual expression, so we strive to create production cameras that can help such innovators fully realize their creative vision. The Cinema Line carries on that mission with products that maximize the potential available to a wide range of creators, contributing to the growth and evolution of the field.

Hirano, Senior Manager

FX6 Cinema Line CameraMobility for enhanced creativity

The FX6 Cinema Line camera has been designed to provide a fusion of cinematic expression and mobility that is ideally suited to the production of short films such as documentaries, music videos, and more. Product design began with in-depth research into how previous models were actually being used, leading to the realization that the process of shooting advertising and similar footage often involved handheld shooting with the camera either held against the body or suspended from the top handle.

In order to maintain the necessary mobility, the size of the FX6 was kept about the same as the previous compact model, while adding advanced features such as a high-performance full-frame sensor and electronically variable ND filter that would enhance its cinematic capabilities. An additional refinement was a “rounded cube” design with gently radiused corners that make holding the camera against the body for stable shooting easier and more comfortable. And because the FX6 would sometimes be used in combination with the existing FX9 Cinema Line camera, the same overall control layout was retained so that the crew can easily switch cameras and continue shooting without interruption.

Operability has been significantly upgraded as well, with the same controls on the top handle as on the grip. Previous models only had the record button, hold button, and zoom keys on the grip, but after consulting with a large number of creators we decided to add a number of other frequently used buttons and dials to the handle and make them all operable with just the thumb. This was accomplished in the limited space available while still maintaining ample area for the fingers to rest. The angle of the handle control area was carefully adjusted to allow the smoothest possible button access, allowing flexible control with minimum finger movement.

Fewer restrictions make it easier
to focus on creativity

Scalability is important, so the FX6 has been designed with a number of threaded accessory mounting holes that are strategically laid out for maximum utility. Previous models had a groove on the top panel for top handle attachment that limited the space available for accessory mounting points. A camera cage was necessary to add extra accessories. The flat FX6 top panel, on the other hand, is amply supplied with ten threaded mounting holes that allow direct attachment of a variety of accessories. The accessories can be positioned so they won’t interfere with each other, and no cage is required. And with a monitor mount on the top panel in addition to the one on the top handle, the monitor can be directly attached to the camera when it is being used on a gimbal on in other situations where the top handle needs to be removed to reduce overall size.

An advanced camera like the FX6 contains numerous devices that process large amounts of data, and that inevitably generates heat. Large ventilation ducts on the right side of the camera keep the system cool. To prevent intake/exhaust turbulence that can interfere with cooling, the louvers in the upper intake duct are horizontal while those in the lower exhaust duct direct the airflow downward. To maximize handling comfort we also took care to ensure that the hot exhaust air would not blow directly on the operator's hand. Even the shape and position of the mesh behind the louvres has been meticulously designed to harmonize with the camera's overall form.

Breathing life into every detail

Every aspect of the design, right down to the precise position of individual buttons, has been determined in cooperation with our engineers to ensure maximum ease of use on the job. We carefully consider the consequences of each and every design detail and adjust as necessary to provide the greatest potential for filmmaking. The FX6 represents a successful crystallization of visual creator ideals with the aspirations of the development team.

Suzuki, Designer

FX3 Cinema Line CameraUnprecedented imaging freedom

The FX3 was born of a desire to give visual creators a high-performance production camera that is smaller and more flexible than any other. After evaluating a large number of prototypes, we eventually settled on a form factor based on our mirrorless cameras that would lend itself to a more compact overall design. The growing trend among visual creators towards using digital interchangeable lens cameras for filmmaking also factored into our decision. Although the intent is to take advantage of the compact size and versatility of such cameras for production, control layouts that are not optimized for shooting and the need for complex rigs to mount essential accessories often get in the way. There were clearly several areas than needed improvement.

With that in mind, development of a mirrorless style camera that would be optimized for movie production was begun. We started by consulting with visual creators who were using α™ (Alpha™) series cameras for their work, and applied much of the feedback we received to the FX3 design. One common request was for a camera that could reliably handle professional visual production workflows while maintaining a compact body size, including the ability to work through extended shooting sessions without overheating. The FX3 was therefore provided with an internal forced cooling system. Another frequent request was for grip design and control layout that made it easy to shoot from chest or waist level. Our response to these and other needs resulted in the unique design of the FX3.

Designed for
real-world production

Once the basic direction was decided, we began the process of implementing a control layout dedicated to visual production in a mirrorless style body. Staying with the basic FX9 and FX6 control layout, the record button and custom buttons that could be assigned to iris, white balance, and ISO control were all grouped so that they could be easily accessed with the thumb. Other frequently-used controls such as focus magnification and zebra display were placed on the body's front surface. A tally lamp that indicates when recording is in progress was added, and other details were refined to create a camera that would be dependable and ideally suited to the creative process.

The design team placed particular emphasis on the unique top handle, which is in many ways emblematic of the camera's DNA. The T-shaped form of the top handle makes it adaptable to the many ways creators like to hold their cameras. The handle's length and grip area were considered with great care so that the widest range of shooting angles would be easily manageable without sacrificing overall compactness.

Importantly, the FX3 allows direct attachment of accessories via six threaded holes without the need for an additional camera cage or rig. Fitting six threaded accessory attachment points on a densely packed compact body was a difficult task, but with the engineers’ cooperation we were able to position them around the body so that attached accessories would not interfere with one another. The compact form of the camera has been successfully maintained while providing plenty of versatility for creative shooting.

A design that spurs creativity

In our approach to the FX3, we concentrated on designing the smallest possible camera that would allow creators to fully realize their creative vision. Our goal was to give them a core unit to which they could add handles, microphones, and other accessories that could maximize the flexibility and unique expressive capabilities provided by the camera's compact size, while making the creative process an even more enjoyable experience.

Masui, Art Director

Launching the Cinema Line
into the future

How were we to reach visual creators all around the world with news of the new Cinema Line camera series? The first thing we considered from the communication design perspective was how to bring the people in charge of promotion in each region, plus outside production teams, together with a unified strategy. A consistent message must be delivered at all user touchpoints for the Cinema Line to grow and flourish. With that goal firmly in mind, we began the process of clearly defining the future of the Cinema Line as well as the types of creators we would be approaching, and shared that information with everyone who would be involved in related communication activities.

The design team set up meetings with the leaders of the pertinent divisions to learn about their goals for the future of the Cinema Line, and discussions were held with staff who were directly handling the products in order to create a clear written vision for the future. At the same time, we interviewed a large number of filmmakers working in fields ranging from large-scale movie production to small-scale content production in order to get a realistic idea of their common needs. We asked them to reveal their feelings about the appeal of the cinematic arts as well as what aspects of production they feel were truly essential to the outcome.

Armed with the acquired information, we began building a clearer image of the visual creators we were determined to support. We learned that visual storytelling and conveying emotion were vital to creating a connection with the audience, and that lighting is everything when it comes to creating effective imagery. Once the people in charge of promoting the Cinema Line in each region around the world all had this information and were on the same page, we had the foundation we needed for effective communication with visual creators everywhere.

Designing the "seeds" of
communication

The next step was to distribute the Cinema Line key statement and visual that would become the "seeds" of communication around the world. The key statement expressed the passion of Sony's staff as well as our respect for visual creators as directly as possible through carefully chosen content and wording that was meticulously crafted in cooperation with all divisions involved with the Cinema Line. Even the slightest discrepancies between the Japanese and English language versions were adjusted to ensure uniformity. The essence of this process was to design a message that effectively conveyed Sony's policy of supporting creators in every way possible through intimate cooperation.

For the key visual, our goal was to create a sort of “portrait” that would express our commitment to the Cinema Line as well as our vision of collaborative creation. With the FX6 and FX3 shown against a background of gray, the project’s key color, the visual was designed to be a still life that overflowed with energy, manifesting our belief that Cinema Line products would help build new visual worlds in cooperation with the visual creators who use them. The word "Line" is important too. It embodies the idea that the entire lineup has been built from the filmmaker’s perspective in the same way as the VENICE camera. All Cinema Line products are worthy successors to their illustrious forebear: the VENICE Digital Cinema Camera.

The spirit and tone of the key statement and visual form the nucleus of worldwide Cinema Line communication. The somewhat simple, neutral platform on which the Cinema Line is being presented will take on a range of colors and hues through the work of creators in a broad spectrum of fields, and that is precisely the kind of "cooperative expression" that our communication was designed to achieve.

With the greatest respect for visual creators

Sony’s purpose is to fill the world with emotion through the combined power of creativity and technology. To that end, I believe that it is our mission to provide creators who continue to build new visual and emotional experiences with technology and tools of the highest level. Images can change the world. To all creators who believe in the power of visual storytelling, we will continue to provide support via the Cinema Line.

Yokoyama, Art Director

Cinema Line is an innovative lineup of cinema production cameras
that allow visual creators to express their creativity to the fullest.
Sony Creative Center will continue to support the growth of the Cinema Line
along with the new cinematic expression it will inspire.