Basic video production with the Sony 6500
This is a quick guide I made for students using the Land Grant Films’ Sony 6500 kit.
The Sony 6500 kit has everything you need to do entry-level video production. Additionally, it allows you to get used to the Sony menu system, color, and exposure settings. The kit comes with:
- Sony 6500 body
- Rokinon 50mm cine prime lens
- Sony OSS 16–50 mm lens
- A Rode VideoMic Pro shotgun mic
- A Rode Go wireless lavalier kit
- Blackmagic Design monitor
I’ll walk through adding all the pieces; then walk through basic camera functioning.
Attaching the Monitor
This kit comes with a Blackmagic Design Video Assist Monitor. Attaching it is pretty straightforward: 1) Attach the monitor to the coldshoe on the handle. Make sure you tighten down the nut to the coldshoe and that the monitor is secure. 2) Attach the micro HDMI end of the cable into the port on the side of the camera. Make sure you are putting it in the middle port; it doesn’t fit in to the top one. 3) Attach the the HDMI cable to the “HDMI In” port on the side of the monitor.
The power button for the monitor is on the opposite side from the HDMI ports. Once you turn it on, your monitor should work. If it doesn’t, make sure your cables are secure.
Attaching the Shotgun Mic
Next you are going to want to attach the Rode Videomic Pro that comes with the kit. It is a solid shotgun mic, good for picking up natural sound and the occasional actuality-style interview. [ed. note: if you are doing an interview, it is generally better to use the wireless lavalier mic, described below]
Attach the mic to the cold shoe on the left-side of the camera cage (1) and then plug the mic into the port on the side of the camera (2).
Now you turn the mic on via the switch on the back of the mic. The top switch is for power. The bottom switch is for output level. In most scenarios, you should flip the power switch all the way over to the right. This turns the mic on and engages the low-pass filter, which removes low-frequencies from the signal, such as air conditioner hum.
The audio output level should stay in the middle at 0, unless you are in a very loud setting, then go to -10.
You can also adjust the audio levels in the camera. When the mic is properly hooked up and working, you will see the audio level on the screen (see Step 1 above). If your audio levels are too high or too low, you can adjust them by hitting the menu button and then going to page 2 of the second panel of menu options (see Step 2). Select “Audio Rec Level.” Then you can move the record level up or down, using the control wheel on the back of the camera.
Attaching the Rode Go Wireless Lavalier Mic
The wireless mic kit has two parts: the transmitter on the left and the receiver on the right. The transmitter attaches to the subject. The receiver attaches to the camera. You attach the receiver in the same manner in which you attached the shotgun mic. You also adjust the audio levels using the same controls.
You turn on both the receiver and the transmitter by holding in the “zero with a line though it” button. The receiver and transmitter should pair automatically.
If for some reason it isn’t pairing, try pushing the power button on the transmitter while holding in the pairing button on the receiver.
Additionally, it the audio come out of the mic in to the camera is very loud, you can adjust the audio output using the dB button. It has low, medium and high output. When you push the button, you will see an indicator on the bottom of the display screen change.
Basic Camera Functioning
The Sony 6500 is a very easy camera to use, but it does have a few quirks. First, to get to the video mode you turn the dial to the little filmstrip icon.
Within the video mode, you can shoot in a couple different ways: 1) standard video mode and 2) slow and quick mode, otherwise known as S&Q mode or slow motion/time lapse.
You can adjust what shooting mode you are in by hitting the function button on the back of the camera. When you get to the function screen, you can adjust what mode you are in by selecting the bottom, right box for exposure settings.
From there you can see various exposure modes, four of the exposure modes have a filmstrip icon and four have the S&Q symbol. The four with the filmstrip are the regular shooting modes and the ones with the S&Q are the slow motion modes. For each shooting mode, you will see four settings: P (automatic), A (aperture priority), S (shutter priority), and M (manual).
Here is a quick rundown of each of those modes:
- P — this is program mode or automatic. The camera will adjust everything for you to make a relatively good looking image. Important note! If you are using the 50 mm Rokinon lens, you can’t use the automatic mode. The Rokinon is a manual lens, so you need to use one of the modes below.
- A — this mode is called aperture priority and it means that the user picks the aperture and the camera picks the shutter speed and ISO to match. In case you don’t know, the aperture controls how open or closed the lens is and affects depth of field (see the example below or read more here).
- S — This mode is the opposite of the A mode and is called shutter priority. In the S mode, you pick the shutter speed (or how long the shutter is open for) and the camera picks the aperture. You adjust the shutter speed with the wheel next to the one where you picked the filmstrip icon to go into video mode.
- M — This is the fully manual mode. In this mode, you pick everything…well sort of…I’ll explain more below, but you select both the shutter speed and aperture.
I generally shoot this camera in manual, especially if I am using the Rokinon lens. In that case, I usually shoot in Manual, set my shutter speed where I want it and then adjust the aperture (using the ring on the lens) on the fly.
If you are not sure about messing with your shutter speed or aperture, you can start by using the shorter, automatic Sony lens and using the program mode.
In both the regular shooting mode or in the S&Q mode, you can choose either of the four setting.
When you get the camera, the camera will be set up in the following way:
- Standard shooting mode — XAVC S 4k at 30 frames per seconds and 60 mbs
- S&Q shooting mode — XAVC S HD, shooting at 120 frames per second and recording at 30 frames per second at 16 mbs. This means in the S&Q mode, you will be shooting a 4x slow motion.
You shouldn’t have to adjust any of these setting, but if you want to for some reason you can find them: Menu > Camera Setting 2 > Movie 1 page > File Format, Record Settings, and S&Q settings.
Other camera settings
Though the function menu, you have a few other things you might want to mess with. Here is a brief description of each:
White balance — The 6500 offers manual, automatic and a number of preset white balance option. But before we go over that:
What is white balance? Not all light is the same color. Sunlight is blueish (or cool or 5600 degrees Kelvin) and an incandescent light is yellowish (or warm or 3200 degrees Kelvin). Because of the variability of light, we need to tell the camera the color or temperature of the light we are shooting in. The camera will then adjust everything to compensate.
There are a lot of different settings within the white balance control. I generally shoot on manual and in most cases my white balance is set to 3200K for inside or 5600K for outside. If you are using lights, generally you should set your white balance and light temp to the same thing. If you have no clue about white balance, you can also set it to automatic by selecting “AWB.”
Auto or manual focus — If you are using the Rokinon, this box will be grayed out like in the picture. If you are using the other lens, you can adjust the focusing here. If you are using the little lens, it is probably easier just to use autofocus, because the focus ring on that lens is imprecise and hard to use.
ISO or film speed — The final thing you might need to adjust is the ISO or film speed. This adjust how sensitive the camera is to the incoming light. The higher the film speed -> the lower light you can shoot in. But also as you raise film speed, your image will begin to look noisy or pixelated.
You can manual dial in a film speed anywhere from 100 up to 25,600, but you can also set it to automatic. Personally, I generally set the ISO to automatic and then set all the other exposure settings manually. While I am shooting, I keep my eye on the ISO and if the camera is putting it anywhere above 6,400, I go in and adjust my exposure settings so it comes back down. If the ISO gets too high, the image will get noisy and pixelated.
Exposure setting — discussed above
Changing the lens
The only other thing you might need to do is change the lens. To do that, push in the lens release button on the left side of the lens (when looking at the front of the lens) and turn the lens counterclockwise a quarter turn. Remove the lens and then put on the new lens, lining up the red or white dot on the lens with the white dot on the camera body. Then give the lens a quarter turn until it clicks into place.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you feel like you are forcing the lens, stop what you are doing. It should not be hard to put on the lens. If it is not easy to get the lens on, bring the camera and lens back to Land Grant and ask someone for help.
That covers about 75% of the issues you might have while using this camera. Another 5% are weird idiosyncratic things that will come up in the field, and the final 20% are just getting used to the settings above and adjusting appropriately.
If you have any questions about this guide or about the camera, please feel free to reach out to me.