Incredible video shot on the Sony A99, “The Calling” by David McLain

Incredible video shot on the Sony A99, “The Calling” by David McLain

I had the pleasure to meet David McLain at the Sony event in California a couple of weeks back and what a great guy. David is a Sony Artisan of Imaging and let me tell you…when they showed his video on the big screen..all shot with the new Sony A99 DSLR, everyone was blown away. Goes to show what you can do with a camera such as the A99 or any serious pro DSLR. I wanted to post the video here because it inspired me and of course I want to share with all of you who may not have seen it yet.

Thanks to Sony once again for that amazing week!


and a behind the scenes video…


  1. I thought the video dialouge explained exactly how I feel when im out videoing and photographing in the wild. I really felt as if I could not have explained it better. Great job!

  2. I could see how someone not obsessed with their art may call this video pretentious or even overwrought. But when an occupation is an obsession that requires sacrificing family, friends and comforts of home in pursuit of work and art, I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the conflicting emotions. It’s a dichotomy I struggle with as well and I thought “The Calling” was perfect. I may even buy an A99 now.

  3. Great work. Lovely images.

    There really are some cynical people here. It’s disappointing to be honest.

    The film maker is a creative individual. When such people are asked to explain art, explain why they take images, then you are going to get some creative exposition attempting to explain what can be unexplainable. This is a good piece of work and I feel it was put together with integrity.

    It is a bit Terence Malick, though.

  4. David McLain

    Thanks, that was indeed beautiful and profound you succeded in just this small creation ‘The Calling’ and am sure you have done so many other times. The sony was really impressive also. Keep at it, am sure there is lots more amazing things to come.



  5. If you don’t like it (and everyone’s entitled to their opinion naturally) please use that dissatisfaction to make something better that you love. And then please share that. Should help everyone.

  6. Hi, I’m the director of The Calling and long time business partner of David McLain in Merge ( Thanks to Steve for posting this and thanks for all the positive comments and thoughtful criticism, here and on Vimeo! We really put our hearts into this project, striving to make something more than another heroic camera piece. I understand that for some the tone of the narration may sound self-serving, but to many others, including many photographers, filmmakers and other creatives who spend so much time traveling, they relate to the bittersweetness of life on the road – that the work is hard and incredibly rewarding. After a recent screening David was approached by a Nat Geo photographer who was moved to tears. We tried to capture that in the text written by Mike Paterniti, an extraordinary editorial writer (see his recent GQ cover story). For those that don’t connect with it we still appreciate you taking the time to watch and discuss the film. Thanks-

    • Jerome, the dialogue was excruciating, mawkish and amateurish. The writer might be “extraordinary”, but, for example, the “third eye” stuff was a silly old cliche (on a par with “the camera being an extension of my arm”, from which we were mercifully spared!) and it didn’t get much better from there.
      Our hero actually had to come across people he didn’t know (how about that), and the vineyard definitely looked very dodgy.. Phew, lucky to escape unscathed.

      I was almost expecting a Ken Burns bitter-sweet piano accompaniment to kick in at some stage.

      Anyway, I hope David and his family have recovered from the ordeal and not too much counselling was needed. As with the Nat.Geo. photographer. Tears? Please. Best he doesn’t subject himself to such trauma again.

      Seriously, at a time when people have to quietly say farewell to their families and go off to Afghanistan and like dangers without fanfare or publicity, this sort of self-important nonsense deserves the scorn it has attracted.

      • This was my experience when watching this too. I don’t doubt the sincerity, sentiment or reason behind making it but that dialogue has to be the worst ever.I consider myself a bit of a romantic about traveling but even I couldn’t stomach it. Even if you were the most acclaimed and extraordinary editorial writer in history this would still be bad. Get a great piece of music and let that do the talking here!

  7. Steve, thanks for sharing this. The video work is gorgeous. I also found the narration maudlin in parts, but he’s a visual artist, not an author, so the clumsiness of his words is unimportant. The images speak for themselves. I wish I knew the places it was shot. Not that I’ll ever visit them, but they were fascinating and I wish I could find out more about them.

    OK, I did recognize Death Valley from many trips. Highly recommended, especially during its very brief wildflower season. Just don’t go in the summer. .

  8. I have read elsewhere that video from the A99, which is on the shortlist for a near future purchase, shows unacceptable moire and aliasing. I am offshore right now and can’t stream video, so I haven’t seen the video you are discussing. I saw one person comment that he didn’t think the video looked all that great. Is it on par with the Mark III? Everyone seems to be a critic of the production. I would like to hear more on the visual quality.

  9. Above it says 23 responses, but I only see 13 comments. Can it be, Steve, that your success drives so many people mad? The rest landed in the trash bin?

  10. I agree its a fantastic video. Wonderful lighting, wonderful settings, wonderful technique, it shows the guy behind the camera knows what his is doing. Although I hate to say it, I agree with the “cynical” folks here to think that the dialogue is a bit too….well…self-indulgent.

  11. Lovely images, helped of course by stunning locations. Always the underplayed character in anything visual. I have to agree though with those who feel it is somewhat sugary. Being English I cringe at the narrative and Ego (as in one person sharing their amazing view point). It is also somewhat par for the course that this kind of film is commissioned by clients and agencies when selling such tools. Having worked with and edited TV commercials for a lot of them you do see this sort of ‘expression’ build over the years. Sort of like Terence Malick on the cheap. That said as a string of images well shot and reasonably well edited it does what it says on the can. Would I buy an A99? I’d have to try it out first. I wouldn’t buy anything because a campaign told me to.


  12. I used Nikon for about 8 years. I bought the VG20 7 monts ago. I loved the image quality and colours. After that I sold my D300S and lenses. I bought the nex 7 ans a few lenses as well. I became a lot more happy in making videos and pictures. It is so much more eas to use and I have a lot more control before I take the picture. The quality is even superior compared to the D300S in every aspect. This weekend I sold the VG20 this weekend. I also bought the zeiss 24-70 and 70-400mm sony lenses. I have orderd a A99 as well. I saw many movies of the D800 as well. There is lack of emotion in the picture. Also it is less 3d en there is less feeling of depth compared to the A99. I am looking forward to use the A99!

    • This is being sold as a video-shooting DSLR ( the Canon 5DMkII and MkIII..), and it has:

      (1) Reliable continuous auto-focus while in ‘Live-View’/Video mode (because of its ‘translucent’ mirror)
      (2) Professional XLR (‘balanced’) inputs for audio, not just a 3.5mm mini-jack audio input
      (3) Hi-speed 60fps shooting in ‘FullHD’ 1920x1080pixels resolution (allowing slo-mo replay)
      (4) Built-in stabilisation (..but external Steadicam was used in those videos, above)
      (5) Headphone socket (to hear what you’re recording)
      (6) Full-frame 36x24mm video, for shallower depth-of-field compared with normal video cameras)
      (7) FullHD/HDMI uncompressed video output, for external recording

      ..etc, etc. There are not another 20 DSLRs which will do all of this.

      The videos weren’t meant to be just pretty shots, or pretty video sequences, but they show, and explain, what dedicated video shooters want to know, or see, about this particular camera’s capabilities. Like Vincent Laforet’s wordless, enigmatic “Reverie” ( sold a zillion potential video shooters on the merits and capabilities (especially in low light!) of the revolutionary hi-def Canon 5DMkII, so this video is aimed at short-handed video shooters, to show that THIS camera can maintain autofocus while shooting FullHD ‘slo-mo’ video.

      The voice-over is just to make it seem, in audio, as ‘poetic’ and Vincent’s movie was visually.

      (But this one’s not as accomplished, and doesn’t have as much impact – despite being shot around the world over several months – as Laforet’s was, shot over just one weekend in New York.)

  13. Even though so much sh*t goes down, this earth is still captivating.
    This video is captivating.

    Thank you David.
    Thank you for sharing Steve.

  14. I’m not a DSLR video expert, and I understand why Sony uses this video to market its product, but is the image quality so spectacular? I didn’t see that.

  15. FYI to anyone who ordered an RX1…. It is in store Dec 5 in Australia. For those that may be wondering when this hits the shelves.

  16. Cool video. It seems to me that such videos help illustrate a couple of things.

    1. It’s important for a DP to have good taste in choosing the right focal length and or lens when it come to expressing a mood

    2. In video a decent stable mount is often a necessity (whether is a tripod, Steadicam, jib arm or slider).

    3. Good light is as important as good lighting 🙂

    • 2. In video a decent stable mount is often a necessity (whether is a tripod, Steadicam, jib arm or slider).

      ..or use an Olympus OM-D, with its built-in perfect stabilisation!

  17. Looks really good the a99. I’ve tested out the Canon MarkIII but I’ll wait for this before deciding on what camera to by. I not that interested in video, but this looks good and I maybe I also try out some video.
    Steve; what is your take on the a99, mostly for photography?

  18. I’ll repeat what I said on YouTube: I liked the video and I can’t wait for my a99 to come in after reading a new awesome review everyday. But one thing. If you’re trusted with a great new flagship camera for a company, do you really need to make a video about, boo-hoo wish I were home? I feel ya; I’d miss my kids too. But we’re lemmings in our office watching your video of you out on glaciers, deserts, asia, etc, and then the video subject is “wish I could mow my grass?” Then stay home and shoot soccer and cheer photos with the rest of “us”.

    And now I have my a99 and it really is a great camera and I’m all into the Full Frame bliss now.

    • It was creative, emotive, used the light beautifully and expanded on what photography and videography meant to him. Appreciate it for how well Dave put it together regardless of the fact Sony supported him. Why are so many people so cynical in this day and age?

        • +1 As human beings, we live an imperfect existence. Conflicting needs and emotions go with the territory. Nothing wrong with acknowledging that. Personally, I’m grateful to Mr. McLain for sharing so much of his thoughts and emotions with us.

          Loved the video. My wife’s originally from Vietnam. I’ve been there twice with her and recognized some of the Saigon street scenes.

          • You’re my kind of humans. Beautiful video and loved David’s authentic voice. I have the camera, loved it so much I bought a second for 2 points of shooting…still and video,etc. I now need to learn video editing!!

    • Post cardy images and a narrative that is narcissistic…this is ME on MY adventure, sorry kids, see ya later wife…it makes the photog and Sony look like they’re pandering to some bad cliche about cameras…that an A99 gives men license to be self indulgent.. This vid is really embarrassing. And when someone, like this photog, says they’re humbled while talking endlessly about themselves, you know they’re lying. It’s not cynical to point out how barfy this PR piece is. Rather if we expect better cameras every production cycle, we should also hold a company accountible to be more thoughtful in its communications.

      • Really? I guess it’s symptomatic of the short attention span age that someone would post something so off-base, mean spirited and cynical while accusing the filmmakers of doing the same. I have to wonder if you actually watched or paid attention to the film or if you’re not working for some competing camera company. The film actually transcends marketing and PR to talk personally about life on the road for a highly accomplished editorial photographer. Compared to so many of the macho DSLR videos made by camera companies (see Nikon, Canon and other Sony videos) this is incredibly refreshing and original.

        • I had it on mute, and spent time enjoying it visually. If people are getting caught up on the narrative, perhaps they missed the point.

        • MSeegs….I agree. My response above was to Princess Leica…not about the video put together.

          The comments from Chanceword, The Princess and James say more about them than Dave.

      • Yeah,I found this horribly pretentious and contrived. In all honesty it reminded me of those awful videos you see on the web from big corporate banks and companies you never heard of telling you how THEY are saving the world or making it a better place. And at the end of it all I felt he was doing nothing except trying to find himself or convince himself he was doing Something significant. It seemed to lack a real focus and that isn’t meant to be a pun.God help me if I ever pick up a Sony and find myself aimlessly wandering the world hoping to record my passing like this. I’d best stick to my Olympus!

      • Actually, if you’re a professional photo journalist your life is pretty much on the road, capturing life on the road, getting sick on the road, the few days you’re home is planning the next assignment on road. Granted the narration might come off as pretentious in this day and age of media jaded audience, it comes off pretty spot on as one who spends their professional life hopping from one location to another.

        The video itself is beautiful, wonderfully shot, my only tip (this applies to all photographers getting into video) is learn audio production. The audio quality is a bit hollow, it sounds like the narrator should’ve used a “spit screen” to cut down on the high end clipping.

    • Although there were some lovely images on the video, I have to agree with CHANCEWORD about the dialogue – it spoiled the video with self-indulgent, nauseating and cliched sludge. Good grief, I’ve travelled and sailed a fair portion of Earth and I’ve yet to meet anyone as me me me and treacley as that character. I hope I never do.

      I noted there was a writer called Mike Paterniti among the credits; was he responsible for much of this self-sacrificial and “oh how I suffer to bring you My Very Great Art”? Sort of, “the more I say I suffer, the better must be my images”.

      Mr McLain has no doubts about the calibre of his work nor how he has selflessly and world-wearily offered up his family and relaxed lifestyle for the greater good of mankind. All in the cloying soft patter and dreamworld soundtrack.

      Barfing is an understatement 🙂

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