As I’m sure you all know Matt’s day job is for the Al Jazeera English TV network, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A veteran news cameraman with over 23 years of experience, Matt be sharing his recent experiences of using large sensor cameras to cover the news. He currently shoots with the Sony F3, FS700 and has recently bought the new F55.
In his spare time he has been very generous in regularly sharing his knowledge and experience here on the blog. His commitment to telling stories that are both touching and beautifully shot is unmatched in my opinion. He was awarded multiple Australian Cinematographers Society awards this year for his outstanding work.
Fresh from attending the NAB show in Las Vegas I’m sure he’ll also able to talk about the latest and greatest gadgets too.
The event runs from 6:00 to 8:00pm on Thurday, April 17 at Rule Boston Camera
If you wish to attend please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Chuck Fadely over on www.newspapervideo.com has just posted some info on an interesting new audio mixer/recorder aimed at DSLR users. He says “Tascam has a new DR-60d recorder and mixer that will do four channels of audio while attached to the bottom of your DSLR. This thing looks great. High quality recording and a mixer in a nice small $350 unit. Supposed to have high-quality preamps and it has a safety track feature to record a duplicate channel at -6 or -12db down. It will record four channels so you can have a small shotgun in the hot shoe and still have two lav mics for your subjects.”
The price tag on the DR-60d does seem very attractive although it looks quite large compared to the competing Juicedlink, Beachtek and Azden mixers. The added recorder function is a real bonus, as is the safety track feature. For me this mixer will stand or fall on the quality of the preamps used and the resulting signal to noise ratio – my preference to date for the Juicedlink range is because I feel they provide the cleanest camera mounted audio option for DSLRs.
CIRRUS LOGIC’s AD converter is installed. The question is how well will the preamp work?
Chuck will be joining us on the ten strong Dslrnewsshooter team covering NAB 2013 next week in Las Vegas – where will be checking out this and many other exciting new products.
Here are the specs from Tascam:
Record to SD/SDHC card(Up to 32GB)
Simultaneously record up to 4 tracks
Record Mode：MONO, STEREO, DUAL MONO, DUAL ST, 4CH
Recording format：16/24bit、44.1/48/96kHz (WAV/BWF)
TASCAM original HDDA microphone preamps
Recording levels can be adjusted independently for the 1/L, 2/R and 3-4 inputs
Two XLR/TRS inputs support +4dBu line level input and phantom power supply (24/48V)
Plug-in power supply and high-output mic input supported on input 3-4
CAMERA OUT connector for output from the DR-60D’s mixer
CAMERA IN connector for sound monitoring from the Camera
Independent LINE OUT connector and HEADPHONE output for high-quality sound output
50mW/ch headphone output
Tripod mounting threads (bottom) and DSLR screw attachment (top)
Handles protect the screen and can be used to attach a shoulder strap
Soft-Touch Rubber Keys for silent operation
HOLD switch to prevent accidental operation
A QUICK button is available for easy access to various functions
128×64 pixel LCD with backlight
USB 2.0 connection for high-speed transferring
Mini USB cable included
Operates on 4 AA batteries, an AC adapter (sold separately) or USB bus power
Can extend battery life with BP-6AA battery pack (sold separately)
Dedicated remote control jack for the wired RC-10 remote control or RC-3F footswitch (both sold separately)
Internal mixer: PAN and LEVEL controls
Low cut filter(40/80/120Hz)
Limiter (1/L and 2/R can be selected for link-operation)
Delay function for distance of microphones adjustments (+/-150ms)
M-S decode function
Slate tone generator (AUTO/MANUAL)
Selectable duration of slate tone from four positions (0.5/1/2/3 sec, when Auto generate)
Selectable slate tone generate position. 3 positions: OFF/HEAD/HEAD+TAIL, when Auto generate
File name format can be set to use a user-defined word or date
Dual recording function allows two files to be recorded simultaneously at different levels
Auto-record function can automatically start and stop recording at set level
Pre-recording function allows the unit to record a 2 second sound buffer before recording is activated
Self timer function for solo recording
New file starts recording automatically without interruption when maximum file size is reached
Track incrementing function allows a recording to be split by creating a new file when desired
Jump back and play function
Equalizers function for playback, and level alignment function to enhance the perceived overall sound pressure
Resume function to memorize the playback position before the unit is turned off
MARK function up to 99 points per audio track
Convergent Design are probably best know amongst news and documentary shooters for their diminutive Nanoflash external HDSDI recorder which came out a few years ago. That product was revolutionary as it made it possible to use smaller cameras like the Sony EX1 and still achieve the higher bitrates specified by international broadcasters for HD programming.
Today Convergent Design have a major new announcement – one which I am personally very excited about. They have created something that a lot of shooters have wanted for many years – an external recorder that is also a high quality monitor. Or if you prefer a monitor that is also a external recorder.
Several other manufacturers have attempted this before but the monitor side has always been a compromise and not state of the art. The new Odyssey 7 and 7Q feature a 7.7″ OLED monitor with a 1280×800 RGB pixel array and a wide color gamut. The contrast ration is 3400:1 with true blacks and very little motion blur according to the Convergent. There is also Bluetooth support via a simple remote control using iPhone and Android apps.
The Odyssey 7 is sold as a monitor only and everything else is an option. By doing this Convergent Design have given you the option to buy it as a stand alone monitor and then upgrade (via internet) if you need recording options.
Also included are all the bells and whistles you would like to have on a modern monitor: Waveform, RGB Parade, Zebras, 1:1 Pixel, Focus Assist (Peaking),Vectorscope, Histogram, LUT Support, False Color and more. These are pretty impressive specs for a stand alone monitor let alone a monitor/recorder.
I have not seen this device in the flesh yet – but I expect the display to be good given Convergent’s track record. To put it into perspective though the Odyssey series has the same resolution as the Small HD AC7 OLED which has a 8-bit color depth. The competing Sound Devices PIX240i has a screen resolution of 800×480, as does the Atomos Samurai. It will be interesting to see how it compares to other OLED field monitors.
The Odyssey 7 will retail for $1295 US – which would be a great price if you were just getting a stand alone OLED monitor – but your getting much more than just a monitor. The Odyssey 7 is a state of the art external recorder than is capable of supporting a wide range of recording formats including Avid DNxHD (up to 120fps), uncompressed HD/2K RGB 444 (up to 60p), 2K/HD Raw, ARRIRAW (4:3 and 16:9), and Canon 4K Raw. Importantly all the recording formats are extra-cost user installable options.
New custom 2.5″ highly-reliable “Server-Grade” solid state drives support read/write bandwidths in excess of 500 MBytes/sec per drive, enabling Canon 4K Raw at 60 fps. There are two drive slots which be configured in spanning mode (to double record times), RAID 1 mode for auto-backup. They can also be configured in RAID 0 mode for data-rates in excess of 1 GByte/sec. So you can actually dual record to both SSD drives or choose to use both of them independently.
The Odyssey automatically detects the incoming video format and, when possible, sets up the entire recorder/monitor based on camera metadata (ie ARRIRAW, Canon Raw, 2K Raw, etc.)
The media will come in 240, 480 and a whopping 960GB sizes. Prices are yet to be announced but Convergent Design has told me that they will be competitively priced. I don’t expect this media to be cheap by any means. Server grade SSD drives that can handle the sort of read/write speeds required for 4k are going to be expensive. All you have to do is look at the price of RED recording media or even Sony’s SxS cards to gauge a likely price.
You can either buy individual codec options or interestingly you can rent them online for individual jobs instead – something I have never seen before. The optional codecs and features can be added anytime, from anywhere (with internet), via a secure online purchase from the Convergent website. You obtain an activation key, provided at the point of purchase and you’re up and running! Rental of recording options (ARRIRAW, for example) provides many benefits including no shipping hassles, no insurance certificates, and none of the scheduling issues of traditional rentals. Recording options are rented in 24-hour blocks, with unused blocks available for future use. This is a very clever solution. If your a DP or production house that suddenly gets a request to use a certain camera or format you can just rent the appropriate recording format for the time you need it. Bravo Convergent Design, Bravo.
As a user I am not being forced into paying for things I may not use – but the option is always there. Prices for the renting and outright purchase of the recording formats is likely to be announced prior to Cinegear which is at the end of May.
Along with the Odyssey there is also the Odyssey7Q. It utilizes the same 7.7” OLED display as the Odyssey7. While the Odyssey 7 is intended for single stream support (up to 4K Raw), the 7Q adds additional bi-directional HD-SDI 3G ports. The 7Q’s extra processing power enables certain extra cost options to support: four stream HD/2K monitoring (quad-split) and compressed recording, 4K video and high-speed (120fps) support, and simultaneous recording of proxy (DNxHD-36) and Raw video. This means the 7Q is also ideal for environments where you would like to simultaneously record up to 4 separate streams of HD or 2k material. The price of the Odyssey7Q is unannounced, but Convergent say it will be competitively priced and use the same 2.5” premium media as Odyssey7. The Odyssey7Q will be available in quarter 4 of this year. The Odyssey7 will begin shipping in July.
A wide range of optional battery accessories, mounting options and sunshades are planned to support both products. Odyssey7 and Odyssey7Q will be on display at NAB and the Dslrnewshooter team will be there to check it out.
This a really innovative product and I look forward to doing a full review on it. Combining a professional monitor with a wide range of recording options and the ability to just rent them as needed is a revolutionary step in the right direction. I have been looking for a device that turns two devices into just one, while doing both jobs equally well – lets hope this is it.
Canon has updated its budget DSLR range with two new models, the EOS 700D (aka Rebel T5i) and EOS 100D (aka Rebel SL1), along with a new STM version of the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS kit lens. The EOS 100D is a new addition to the range and takes the claim of the ‘smallest and lightest APS-C DSLR ever made’ at 116.8×90.7×69.4mm and 407g. Despite this, it remains mid-range, with the EOS 1100D and EOS M below it, either by price or feature set.
Both new cameras feature 3in touchscreen monitors and 18-million-pixel APS-C sensors with hybrid AF systems; sensors that include dedicated pixels for focusing in live view or video. However, the EOS 100D features an updated version (Hybrid AFII), which claims to offer better performance and a great image coverage (80%) than the original system featured on the EOS 650, EOS M and the EOS 700D. The Movie Servo AF, which features on both models, provides continuous AF also ensures smoother focusing while filming. Both the hybrid AF and the Movie Servo rely on using the new STM lenses for their best performance and they are still unlikely to tempt many professional users away from shooting manual focus. Another new feature on these cameras is a video snapshot mode, which allows short clips of either 2, 4, or 8secs to be edited together in camera to create a single film. The clips can be reordered in-camera but not edited and must all be of identical length.
Canon EOS 700D / Rebel T5i
The standard video features are similar to those found in previous entry-level models. Both offer MOV H.264 output in 1080p at 30fps, 25fps or 24fps or 720 at 60fps or 50fps. PCM sound comes from either an internal mic (mono for the 100D and stereo for the 700D) or the stereo 3.5mm mic jack and the sound level can be manually controlled in camera. There is however, no headphone out socket on either model, and as far as we can tell from the specs, no clean HDMI out. The movie mode selection is one again placed on the power switch rather than the mode dial in both cameras and the specifications suggest that both the scene intelligent auto and manual modes work with video shooting.
Back and front views of the EOS 700D and 100D
Neither of these cameras are a revolution for video, and they will be competing directly against the Nikon D5200, which has a nice image with little moire, a clean HDMI (though only 1080/60i), which also carries audio, allowing it to be monitored via a monitor or EVF with headphone jack. The smaller body of the 100D might make it more competitive with the likes of the Sony NEX cameras and more suited for those shooters looking to put a camera into a tight spot but the improvements in the AF seem unconvincing for video use. Both cameras will be available in April. The Canon EOS 100D priced £699 (with lens) and the EOS 700D £619 (body only) or £749 (with lens).
What kit should an award-winning multimedia journalist buy when it is time to upgrade? Tracey Shelton has been using the same Canon EOS 7D and “beaten up old lenses” since she started filming in Syria. They’ve helped her to win the the prestigious George Polk Award for Video Reporting and also a POYI award of excellence for her video from the warzone (recognising her work for the Global Post website), but she finally has a chance to buy new gear – and she needs advice.
She’s just back from Aleppo and says she needs to pack light and small, working for “anything up to a month in Syria… My full kit, laptop and clothes need to fit into a bag light enough to run away from bullets with.“
For that reason she is insistent on having just one camera that shoots both stills and video. “It’s also easier to have the one camera than juggling two…The 7D has been fine, could be better of course, but it’s done ok until now.”
Tracey Shelton working with her 7D
Her current kit consists of the 7D with Canon 28-105mm and a Canon 100-300mm but she says “the lenses I have need to go in the bin”.
Her budget is very tight – $2000 US. Her options are to keep the 7D body and buy new lenses or buy a whole new kit. She says she can’t afford two L series Canon lenses, and even if she could she worries they would be too heavy for “frontline gear”. She wonders if there is “a cheaper option that will give me close to the same quality – preferably a little lighter although I know that means less quality”.
She would also like to add a fast prime lens to the outfit and is prepared to consider used gear if it means she can stay in her budget.
The most logical camera that fits the bill is the photojournalist’s favourite, the Canon 5D mkIII, but on Tracey’s budget that is clearly ruled out.
A cheaper full-frame body such as the Nikon D600 would be ideal but would require more budget
My advice to Tracey has been to try and extend her budget to afford one of the cheaper full-frame DSLRs – either the Nikon D600 or Canon 6D – or find a good deal on a used 5D mkII. All these cameras should have better video quality than the 7D, and better stills too.
A move to Nikon would mean additional cost for batteries and other accessories, but would mean she could monitor audio with headphones – an option sadly lacking in cheaper Canons.
Any new camera body would leave very little for lenses so I would suggest going for a used Tokina AT-X 28-70 f2.8 (good for video but slow AF for stills) or another Canon 24-105mm f4L (assuming she stays with Canon).
For a Canon long lens I would go for a used 70-200mm f4L which is both sharp and lightweight, or maybe a newer 70-300 f4-5.6 L IS if extra money could be found. Nikon options are more limited but inexpensive, high quality yet light weight zooms – especially ones with fast AF for stills. The logical lens is the new Nikon 70-200 f4 VR but it’s out of Tracey’s price range, so I would probably get a newer Tamron 70-300 stabilised lens.
An inexpensive Canon 50mm f1.8 (ideally a used MKI version) or Nikon 50mm f1.8 would be an option for adding a fast prime for full frame cameras. If Tracey stays with the 7D then the outgoing version of the Sigma 30mm f1.4 lens would seem like a good candidate as it is highly discounted right now.
The Panasonic GH3 would be a more radical option for Tracey
There is also the more radical option of going for a micro 4/3 system instead. The Panasonic GH3 and GH2 would be possibilities. The GH3 in particular has a reasonable video image and headphone monitoring. Lenses and cameras are very compact and well suited to running around. Shallow depth of field looks are harder to achieve but for war video this may not be essential.
The major downside of the GH cameras for Tracey would be their stills capabilities. They can’t compete with Canon or Nikon for shallow depth of field look and low light performance (at least not without expensive glass). The electronic viewfinders, while much better than before, are not as good as a reflex finder in an action situation. I think it would be worth Tracey considering whether she could live with these compromises for the sake of gaining a lighter weight camera system.
If you have any better suggestions or experience with any of the kit we are discussing please chime in.
You can see more of Tracey’s award-winning work from Syria and a discussion with her about witnessing the deaths of rebel fighters here.
Steve Weiss and Jens Bogehegn of Zacuto have put together a first look video on the Sony F5 and F55 cameras with Kari Hess of Abel Cine Tech. Both cameras look set to challenge established rivals Red and Arri in the movie world, but the ergonomics also look very good for real world shooting. As our own Matt Allard has previously reported, the cameras seem to have all the essentials that a documentary shooter requires (if their pockets are deep enough). The video clearly demonstrates the differences between the two cameras and also how they can be set up for handheld shooting.
It’s also interesting to get a first look at the latest incarnation of the Zacuto Recoil shoulder mount system. A shoulder pad that mounts via a dovetail plate is something that I have been suggesting for a long time – I hope that this new one from Zacuto is compatible with existing Really Right Stuff and Kesslercrane release plates.
Two years ago on the 11th of March a devastating earthquake and tsunami ripped into the north east coast of Japan. It killed more than 20,000 people, totally destroyed more than 120,000 buildings and damaged close to a million more. The cost of the disaster has been estimated at more than 300 billion dollars.
Today 310,000 people are still living in temporary housing. The anxiety and uncertainty of many of the survivors is clear to see. People are trying to move on with their lives, but the slow speed of reconstruction has left many feeling trapped and isolated. Suicide and cases of domestic abuse are also on the rise.
I have been traveling back to Japan on a frequent basis ever since March 11th, 2011. In this time I have seen and met many inspirational people who despite having lost everything continue to try and move forward. Their stories are often haunting and hard for them to tell. On many occasions I have had tears in my eyes while filming and listening. Covering natural disasters is a difficult thing for any journalist. On one hand you are there to do a job but on another level it is important to be respectful and to understand the people you are interviewing or shooting.
Over these last 2 years I have learnt a lot about how to cover these type of stories. I still cringe every time I see other news crews shoving cameras in peoples faces during the worst moments of their lives. Yes we all go to get good pictures, but there are other ways to do it. Give the people you are dealing with space, respect and take time to listen to their story. It isn’t your story – it is their story. If you remember this you can go a long way to creating a better news report. I often choose to move a distance away and use long zooms when filming people in difficult circumstances. I find that if you give people space and move out of their line of sight you give that person time to reflect and be alone with their thoughts and emotions. Often, standing two meters away right in front of someone is just going to make them uncomfortable and take them out of the moment. By being more like a fly on the wall you allow people to behave and react in more natural way. On this story this exactly what I did. I followed Ryoichi Usuzawa back to the ruins of his house. I left him alone and didn’t direct him, I just observed. I stood behind him and let him forget I was there. Ryoichi does not go back to his house often as it is hard for him to do. This is the exact spot where he came so close to losing his life. His dog Taro was with him at the time and the trauma they both went through still runs deep within them. I stayed quiet as he got lost in the moment. I moved slightly to the side of him but kept well away. By doing this I hope he was able to feel like he was there without a news crew, I got to see a lot more natural response than if I had told him to walk here or there. In these circumstances I find that less is more.
The style I chose to shoot in largely depends on the type of story. Every story should have a common look or flow throughout it. I purposely shot a lot of the footage heavily back lit and with the use of a lot of flare. Ryoichi was there remembering a tragic time in his life and I wanted the shots to reflect this. I also applied this same type of shooting technique when capturing 14 year old Koyuki Iwama playing a flute where her grandfather had died.
I find when filming heartfelt interviews in situations like this it is a good idea to shoot them on a long lens and to also resist the temptation to use reflectors or lights. The reasoning for this is to try and make the person feel as comfortable as possible. Having a bright light or reflector in your face doesn’t make anybody feel comfortable. All the Interviews and shots were done with available light except the Interview with the government spokesman.
I also used a dolly for some subtle movement on a couple of the shots including the stand up.
My second story is about the on going fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. People are still very much feeling the effects and they will be for a very long time. Analysts have said that it may take take 40 years before the Fukushima plant is fully shut down. TEPCO who own the plant say it is running out of space to store contaminated water used to cool the reactors. They are considering dumping it into the ocean. More than 1,700 people are suing the power plant operator. Mikio Watanabe, a farmer, is just one of them. His story was heartbreaking. Watanabe lives more than 40km northeast from the nuclear power plant but the area where he and his wife lived has been deemed too dangerous to live in. Before the disaster Mikio says his wife was always cheerful, enjoying their life tending to chickens. After the nuclear disaster they had to move to a temporary shelter, and forced to stay indoors. Having lost the life they so enjoyed he says his wife slid into depression. He went on to explain that “the night before she killed herself, she held onto my hands so hard, and refused to let go”. The next morning, Watanabe was outdoors alone, tending to the garden, when he noticed a flame go up by a tree in the front yard. It was only a few hours later that he discovered his wife had set herself on fire.
It was very difficult listening to his story. We had ventured back to his house where he is allowed to go for a few hours but is not allowed to stay over night. I filmed him inside his house and then he showed us the spot where his wife had committed suicide. Again I chose to shoot most of the shots from a distance as to give him time with his thoughts.
The opening part of the story was shot in a forest in Fukushima that still has very high levels of radiation. It was important to limit our time in this area and shoot it as quickly as possible. We were there quite late in the afternoon and the light was fading fast. With the sun already on the other side of the mountain it created a very high contrast shooting environment. I chose to use this to my advantage. They are measuring high levels of radiation here and I didn’t want it to look like just any other forest. By having a very dark, extremely back lit shot I hoped I was able to encapsulate the feeling that this forest had a darker side to it. Luckily I was shooting S-log on my Sony F3 so I was able to capture the high dynamic range of the scene with a little more ease. The interview was done after the other shots and I was quickly running out of light. I resisted the urge to use a light because It would not have cut in well with other shots. For me the theme and mood of the story is more important than making the technical aspects perfect.
I hope I was able to capture and reflect accurately the people’s stories because at the end of the day that is what it is ultimately all about.
About Matthew Allard, Aljazeera Team Leader Cameras, Kuala Lumpur:
Matt has been a Camera/Editor in TV news for more 22 years, previously working for both Channel 9 and Channel 10 in Australia. Twice Network Ten Australia’s cameraman of the year as well as being a Walkley Finalist for outstanding camerawork in 2006 (for coverage of the Cronulla Race Riots) and a Logie Finalist for outstanding news coverage 2006 (Bali 9). He has won 14 ACS (Australian Cinematographers Society) awards. His Sword Maker story that was shot on a 7D won the prestigious Neil Davis International News Golden Tripod at the 2011 ACS Awards. He has covered news events in more than 35 countries, from major sporting events to terrorist bombings. Based out of the Kuala Lumpur broadcast centre in Malaysia he is an avid user and follower of new technology, shooting stories on HD broadcast cameras, the Sony FS700 and F3 as well as Canon DSLRs.
The Canon5D mkII changed my life. Before that I’d been a news and documentary shooter shooting on a full-sized ENG camera. When I first started shooting with DSLRs it was hard for me to quickly get a lot of shots when using a tripod. The depth of field is really shallow, there was no way to monitor the image properly because of the silly 480p stretched HDMI output on the 5D mkII, and it lacks focus peaking. To overcome this I always used a Zacuto Z-Finder – but on a tripod it gets a little awkward holding your eye to the Z-finder. So, except sometimes interviews, I shot mainly handheld with a Zacuto Tactical Shooter rig.
The Canon C300 overcomes these problems with its great LCD and nice focus peaking function (even though this is still no match for peaking on a proper ENG camera viewfinder). Unlike the 5D there is no loss of speed when shooting on a tripod. I also like the feeling handheld camerawork gives C300 images; I think it is much more organic and puts viewers right in the action.
A C300 frame grab from the documentary
Hand-held and stripped down
For The People’s Republic of Love I shot everything handheld, except interviews (because we had 45 of them!), and I shot it in a very-stripped down way. First, I took off the LCD/XLR module. You don’t really need this unless you’re doing an interview or need to synch the sound. The C300 has a great viewfinder, and the LCD isn’t necessary when working handheld. When the camera’s right up against your eye, it’s also more stable. Without the LCD/XLR module and a shotgun mic, the C300 has no sound. To remedy this I attach a Sennheiser MKE-400 mini shotgun which plugs into the C300′s minijack mic input. This is a great little mic, powered by a single AAA battery yet very powerful and small. When we shot b-roll in restricted places where even a small mic might attract attention – like shopping malls or Tiananmen Square, I’d take the MKE400 off too, leaving no sound. The soundman would record some ambiance onto a Zoom or Tascam. This works fine – it’s just more work in post. I also took off the handle. The handle makes the camera easy to carry but without it, the C300 could pass for an oddly-sized stills camera. The Zacuto baseplate I bought came off after a few shoots, too. I hate matte boxes and rarely use them, and that baseplate is a full inch of extra metal!
Handholding the C300
After a few weeks I rarely used support while handheld. I’m not a fan of medium shots. I like to be super-wide (16mm on a full-frame) or very close. If you have the C300 viewfinder up against your eye a support rig is not necessary to keep it steady for super-wide shots. For close-ups, if the lens has a very good image stabilizer (like the Canon 70-300mm recommended to me by DSLRnewsshooter editor, Dan Chung), then you can get away without support, just holding the camera up to your eye.
If we were in a location where we had permission to shoot I would sometimes use a monopod. I always thought that video cameras look funny on monopods – and they do – but the results are great. If you’re trying to get that subtle floating handheld look then a monopod is very handy for long-lens shots. I used the Manfrotto 694CX.
So here is the point I wish someone had told me in the beginning. To shoot great handheld footage with the C300 you don’t need anything except the camera body and lens. No LCD attachment, no expensive stabilizer rigs. Just hold the viewfinder against your eye. Shooting stripped-down left a very small footprint. In some of the locations we filmed in, you do NOT want people to realize you’re shooting a documentary, especially in China! Most of the time people didn’t know we were shooting video.
For interviews, the camera had everything on it: LCD/XLR module, tripod, monitor, the lot. I highly recommend using a small monitor on a light stand, next to the camera as a reference. I try to keep the LCD screen uncluttered but when you have audio meters, battery info, and other essential overlays, it can affect composition. A simple HDMI monitor gives you something to properly assess the composition. I used a SmallHD DP6, which works very well. The whole monitor setup fits in a plastic Tupperware-style container: monitor, stand attachment, two batteries, and HDMI.
Most of the documentary was shot using a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, Canon 17-55mm f/2.8, and Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS. I started using the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L more as shooting went on because I feel the 17-55mm is not sharp enough, despite its reputation. On a 7D you can’t tell but on a C300 the loss of sharpness is noticeable. I also used the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L, and once or twice a 24mm f/1.4L, 35mm f/1.4L, 50mm f/1.2L, and 8-15mm f/4L.
Interviews made easy with the C300 and a SmallHD DP6 monitor
I shot almost everything in standard picture profile. When we started I had big plans to shoot in Canon’s LOG profile but after a week I switched to standard profiles. The LOG C footage looked horrible after a simple grade. I have a basic knowledge of color correction but when I added the Look up tables, the picture looked very noisy, even when shooting at native ISO 850. I hope Dslrnewsshooter does some posts on color grading C300 footage soon.
LOG C takes away a lot of light and, with the full LOG C profile, the sharpness is at -15. I often turn off the sharpness on the Sony F900R and EX1 when I want something to look a little less like video but the softness is very noticeable with a -15 setting on the C300. You can even see it in the peaking when you’re shooting. I’m still not happy with the standard picture profiles. To me they look slightly desaturated and drab. All of that is fixable in post, but I always like a nice image right out of the camera. Especially when shooting for clients, as you never know if they’re really going to color grade the footage or not.
For ISO, I usually shot at the C300’s native ISO 850. When we started shooting I didn’t know the camera well enough to push it up past ISO 1250. I slowly learned though, that the image is fine at 1600, 2000, 2500, and is even very useable at 3200. The C300’s biggest weakness is that it’s not full-frame. Why Canon doesn’t make a full-frame version in this range is beyond me [currently the EOS 1D C is its only full-frame dedicated video offering]. There are many more full-frame EOS lenses out there than ‘legacy’ Super35 film lenses.
The C300 is incredible in low light
Since we put the trailers for The People’s Republic of Love online, the response has been enormous. We initially only posted a YouTube trailer and an article by producer Joe Xu on ChinaSMACK.com. In the first week we were getting a thousand hits every day and had broadcasters, distributors, and even a very large film festival contact us. We are now deep in writing and creating different versions for different broadcasters, and The People’s Republic of Love will show later this year.