“The Sony Witch Project” – A Halloween Adventure with Sony Gear

by Michael Sheehan on November 10, 2009

in Consumer Electronics, Family, Gadgets, General, Hardware

Ten years ago, a movie was released that scared many and used a format that was unique to its space for the time period. The Blair Witch Project had an interesting premise, 3 student filmmakers disappear in the wood of Maryland while filming a documentary about a witch. After a year, footage from the students is found and thus this movie comes to be. The movie is edgy, raw and quite frightening. As is seen in the footage, the students become lost and as night descends, they camp and things just gets odder and scarier. They find out they are being stalked and…well…you should probably just watch the movie.

Flash forward about ten years and I’m not sure if the Blair Witch Project would have really worked, especially with the technology that we have today. Because of these technological advances, the trio probably wouldn’t have gotten lost, most likely could have been able to contact someone and might have been able to fully produce their documentary on a laptop.

To expand on this idea, I decided to do do my own version of The Blair Witch Project and use Sony gear for most of the work (only a Mac and iMovie were used to create the movie). As part of the Sony DigiDads Project where Sony has lent me and 4 other daddy bloggers a bunch of Sony gear, we were asked to write a “digital book report” of sorts using the following Sony gadgets:

We were told to go on a fieldtrip with our kids and film and blog about the experience using all of the gear listed above. Since the “assignment” fell right around Halloween, I decided to make the “fieldtrip” with my children the one of trick-or-treating. The more I thought about it, the better it worked for the assignment. With that decision made, I embarked on The Sony Witch Project.

Sony_Dad-Witch3
Picture was drawn by my oldest daughter

I collected all of the footage for The Sony Witch Project using the Sony DSLR, the Cybershot and the Handycam. And most of this post was written using the Sony Vaio P. The result of the my digital book report is below.

If you haven’t seen the Blair Witch Project, my mini movie might not make much sense. The funny thing is, if you used the technology that I had back when the Blair Witch Project was filmed, I think the movie would have been much different.

Sony HDR-XR500 Handycam HD Camcorder

For starters, the Handycam that I used filmed entirely in HD, allowing for un-matched clarity of detail. Similarly, I used the NightShot feature for most of the scenes. NightShot isn’t a technology that is that new, in fact, my older Handycams all have NightShot which uses InfraRed (IR) to work in no-light conditions. It’s just that this technology has gotten a heck of a lot better, especially when filmed in HD. When the NightShot is activated, you essentially have “night vision” similar to those used by military personnel. The Handycam’s Exmor R CMOS sensor allows for quite good low-light filming conditions. This means, that if you don’t mind the green tinted films, you can film in just about any lighting condition. The senor used by the Handycam is back-illuminated which allows for maximum light-gathering. I used this same Handycam in the Heritage filming project which includes more technical details and a video review.

Sony_HDR-xr500v_prod_shot

The other thing the Handycam has built-in is a GPS which allows you to record and know exactly where you are when you are filming. This feature is great if you do a lot of travelling, visit various places around the globe and want a record of those places, or…are lost in the woods at night. If the 3 moviemakers had had one of these Handycams with them, I’m pretty sure that they would have been able to complete their story or, at the least, people would have know the exact path they travelled.

Sony DSC-TX1 Cybershot Camera

In my movie, the Halloween Party shots were made mainly with the Cybershot. You can read more about this point-and-shoot in my earlier article about it. I chose to use the Cybershot for the party pictures for a variety of reasons. For starters, it is small. I was able to pocket it and carry with me throughout the night. It also automatically adjusts the aperture, shutter speed, ISO and other settings automatically based on the composition of the picture. But you do have the ability to control those aspects manually. However for more of the “artsy” shots, I held off and used the DSLR.

DSCTX1H_notrans

Sony A330 DSLR Camera

The Campfire shots were done with the A330. I wanted to use a camera where I could fully, manually configure the exposure of the shots. The DSLR A330 allows for the granularity (literally) of composition. Practically every aspect of the camera is configurable. As I took the campfire shots, I turned off the flash completely and even did some manual focusing. Obviously the problem with nighttime shots is that you have to keep the camera extremely stable. This was a bit difficult at times, and the fact that the subjects tended to move posed a challenge (but also some artistic results). I did some inside shots, with everything set on automatic mode, and was pleased with many of the pictures. Probably, if I had had more time and was less in a rush to “capture the moment,” I would have experimented a bit more.

DSLRA330L

Sony Vaio P series laptop

Lastly, as I mentioned, I’m writing much of this blog post using a Sony VAIO P-Series laptop. I’m not too sure of the model number since the one that I have says VGN-XXXX on the case, but the computer says that it is the VGN-P598E.

DSC00368

This is truly the mobile blogger’s computer. It has an absolutely TINY form factor, weighs practically nothing (1.4 lbs) and has a lot of nice built in features (like bluetooth, wifi and even EVDO WAN access). I was told by the Sony Product Management team that some of the models even come with a GPS built-in. Unfortunately the one that I received does not have GPS. It also has connections for a SD card and a Memory Stick Duo. It has 1 USB slot on the left side as well as a headphone jack. The front sports a “Motion Eye” webcam. The right side has another USB port as well as a port that a dongle can be attached to. This dongle allows you to connect an Ethernet cable as well as an external VGA monitor. The front side has a wifi on/off switch as well as a power toggle.

DSC00366

The one that I got to play with has Windows Vista Home Premium running but I’m told that the P-Series runs Windows 7 quite well. Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to test this. It has 2GB of RAM built in and a 128 GB SSD drive. It is running an Intel Atom Z250 CPU running at 1.33GHz. I scratched my head a bit when I saw this simply because the Atom is used in many netbooks. The Sony folks don’t call the Series P VAIO a netbook because of the fact that it fully runs Vista (as well as Win7) and has a variety of other options built in.

One feature that is particularly innovative is the ability to do “instant on” by holding one of the special keys on the keyboard. You can launch this mode when the VAIO is hibernated or off. It allows you to basically launch a mini system with some basic functionality which enables you to watch videos, listen to music, browse photos, surf the internet, talks on Skype or fire up an instant messenger, among other things. It actually was a good little feature to have, because, unfortunately I found the Series P to be a bit slow on startup or when coming from Sleep or Standby. This is a nice quick way to do some rudimentary functions in a “quick boot” mode.

DSC00373 DSC00374

Because of the small form factor, the keyboard is really small but is usable. I wouldn’t want to use it for an extended period of time because my hands are pretty big and cramped a bit as I was writing this. It would be good for a person (or child) with smaller hands. Oh, and you MUST have really good eyesight to use this VAIO. The resolution is 1600 by 768. The screen itself is 8 inches diagonal. I’m told that Sony wanted to have a resolution that provided true page width. The screen is really wide. There are ways to magnify the screen using some of the Sony tools (or built-in Windows ones) but I opted to just use it regularly with the exception of browsing the web which I did zoom a bit.

DSC00372

A couple of things I didn’t like was the small SHIFT key on the right side. I wish it was double size. Also, there is no trackpad, just a pointing device. One of the first things that I disabled was the clicking on the pointing device which acted as a mouse click. It was simply too sensitive.

The size, weight & form factor of the VAIO Series P is the ideal travel companion. If those 3 filmmakers had the one with the GPS built in, it would have been (and still is) the ultimate backpack companion, especially with EVDO built in. In the original Blair Witch Project, a quick email with the GPS location would have ended the movie quite a bit earlier.

This post is part of series called the “Sony DigiDad Project” by Sony Electronics where a group of dads, including C.C. Chapman, Jeffrey Sass, Max Kalehoff, Michael Sheehan, and Brad Powell, have been given the opportunity to test and review Sony gear (lent to us by Sony). If you want to know more about this project, view my “SonyDads” tagged posts here or visit the Sony Electronics Community.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: http://cmp.ly/1 My full review policy and disclosure can be found on the About page of my site.

HTD says: I hope you enjoyed my movie and found it mildly amusing. It was definitely fun to film and compile. While it may not be subject-relevant for many of my readers, it does show the power of modern electronics and how these items can unleash creativity.



The TX1 features a 10.2 megapixel 1/2.4-Inch Exmor R CMOS image sensor that delivers fast speed, high resolution, and twice the low-light sensitivity of traditional CMOS sensors, resulting in outstanding image clarity and drastically reduced noise. Get up close to your subject with the Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens featuring a 4x telescopic zoom for distant subjects and Close Focus mode for close-ups up to just under ½-Inch from the subject.
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Sony's 120GB HDD HD Handycam(R) Camcorder is ideal for capturing the moment in high definition (HD). Record 1920 x 1080 HD video and 12.1 megapixel still images directly to the internal 120GB hard drive. Also, the Sony G lens features a large 1/3.15" ClearVid CMOS image sensor with Exmor-R technology, which delivers excellent low-light performance. GPS receiver gives you the ability to view your current location on the LCD map display, as well as tag your shooting locations Face Detection technology for Video Footage and Digital Still Photos Smile Shutter technology for still and dual capture 3.2 wide (16 - 9) touch panel Xtra Fine LCD display G Lens delivers superior optical performance 12x Optical / 150x Digital Zoom Dedicated Mic and Headphone inputs Dolby Digital 5.1ch recording with Built-in Zoom Mic Active Interface Shoe Dual record capability lets you capture 8.3MP still images while shooting high definition video Smooth Slow Record mode increases the record rate from 60 frames per second (fps) to 240 fps Built-in Intelligent Flash Format HD - MPEG4 AVC/H.264; SD- MPEG2 Video Signal HD - 1920x1080/60i; SD- Pal color, CCIR standards Memory Stick PRO Duo Media slot Battery Type - InfoLithium(R) with AccuPower(TM) Meter System Scene Modes - Auto, Twilight, Candle, Sunrise & Sunset, Fireworks, Landscape, Portrait, Spotlight, Beach, and Snow SteadyShot Image Stabilization - Optical SteadyShot(R) image stabilization White Balance - Auto / outdoor / indoor / Onepush (Touch Panel) 35mm Equivalent - 43 - 516mm (16 - 9), 52 - 624mm (4 - 3) Aperture - F1.8-3.4 Focal Distance - 5.5 - 66.0mm Focus - Full range Auto / Manual (Touch Panel) Shutter Speed - Scene Selection, 1/8-1/800; STD, 1/60-1/800 Analog Audio/Video Outputs - Included (via A/V Remote Terminal) Audio/Video Remote Terminal - Video / S Video / Audio / Component Out / Remote Digi
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Sony alpha DSLR-A330 10.2 Megapixel Digital SLR Camera (Body with Lens Kit) - 18 mm - 55 mm (Lens 1), 55 mm - 200 mm (Lens 2) DSLRA330Y Digital Cameras
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  • http://twitter.com/sukhjit sukhjit

    Great job with the video Michael! You really made the most of this project. Footage looks great. I also find myself using my cybershot to record videos. I always keep it in my purse and it's so easy to grab and capture a moment.

    Sukhjit
    Sony Electronics

    PS excellent acting by all the scared trick or treaters!

  • http://twitter.com/sukhjit sukhjit

    Great job with the video Michael! You really made the most of this project. Footage looks great. I also find myself using my cybershot to record videos. I always keep it in my purse and it's so easy to grab and capture a moment.

    Sukhjit
    Sony Electronics

    PS excellent acting by all the scared trick or treaters!

  • markishmark

    nice project. it looks awesome. I really like your laptop though. I miss those old eraser knob thingy's in the middle. I got so awesome with them and now resent the trackpad. some of those costumes are amazing.

  • http://www.sonyvaiofseries.com sony vaio f series review

    Nice blog.

  • http://www.personalinjuryclaimforms.net personal injury claim forms

    These are some very interesting points you made and it really shows how far we have come. I remember seeing The Blair Witch Project. It was very scarry. But it’s so true that had those guys had some of the modern technology, the film may never have happened.

  • http://www.disneyadventures.net disney adventures

    Well there are HD tv that make your movies look like soap operas these days. So i think it would still work today!!

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