Working with DSLR-video

Since I started working with HD-DSLR back in april 09, Ive relied upon several websites and videogurus for my workflow setup. Cinema5d, Planet5d, Philipbloom, dvxuser,Vincent Laforet and dvinfo have all been fantastic sources of information. During the last year, Ive used information gathered from these sites on all of my payed and non-payed jobs. Its really fantastic how willing people are to share information. Thinking about it, trade secrets that in other businesses are guarded heavily, are shared willingly in the video/film world. Its great, and I think its time for me to show what im doing with that info right now.

Since the start of february Ive been lucky enough to work on Norways (and maybe the worlds??) first episodic tv-feature shot entirely on Canon DSLRs. Right now we are using 2x 1d mrk IV (we got the two very first bodys that entered Norway), and planning to update the bodys as firmware or other bodys enter the market (17th of march beeing the rumored date of the 25p firmware for 5d). The show is called «Dags Univers» (Dags (a mans name) Universe), a dark comedy about a couples therapist, which basicly wants people to live alone, as himself. It features several well known Norwegian actors and comedians, including Atle Antonsen who is playing the lead as Dag. and will air during fall 2010 (!). Its 10 episodes x 22 minutes. My role is camera operator for the b-cam, and technical advisor on Canon DSLR technology.

Heres a short list over some of the equipment beeing used.

2x Canon 1d MRKIV
2x Blackmagic HDMI-SDI converter
2x Marshall LCD70P 3G SDI
2x Redrock Cinema Bundle
1x Scorpio Remote Focus from moviebird.no
1x Panasonic LH171 17» monitor
1x tvlogic LVM171 17»monitor
2x Panasonic AG-HMR10 Recorders
1x Fader ND
Severalx B&W ND filter
Sandisk CF cards
Globalmediapro vlock batteries

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598792620830Skjermbilde 2010-02-27 kl. 17.25.59625609

Lenses:
14 mm 2.8
24 mm 1.4
35 mm 1.4
2x 50mm 1.2
1x 85 mm 1.2
1x 200mm 2

16-35 mm 2.8
24-105 mm 4
70-200 mm 2.8

Pictures from production
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Im not permitted to show faces or anything showing storyline, but since we gathered so much info online before we started, the production felt that we should show how the setup turned out. Im quite new in the biz, and on this production working with seasoned DoP (Pål Bugge Haagenrud (fnf) and ACs. We started out with the complete Redrock Cinema Bundle built as they were intended. We needed some extra raisers from Redrock, since the 1dmrkIV has a permanent Batterygrip, which makes the Cage to short in height. The DSLR Quickrelease was too high! After a while, the AC started to reassemble the Redrock gear, into a much lighter, stiffer package. The main point was to attach the cam to the rods directly using parts from the handheld bundle we also bought. The cam is now attached directly over the rods, making it less tall and stiffer

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A-cam
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We had some trouble powering the Blackmagic HDMI -SDI converter. We bought some IDX D-tap to DC plugs from b&h, but they didnt power the unit from the powerpod from redrock or directly from our globalmediapro batteries. We found a batteryplate that had several different outlets on it, which finally powered the unit, so we started the production with those. But the setup was bulky and added weight, so we got the great guys at moviebird.no to make us a d-tap to 12v (exact), whith the DC plugs from the actual Blackmagic powerplug that shipped with the unit. They should in the future include this, as Im guessing everyone using these converters has the need for it in the field!

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Videovillage
Our goal was to make the cameras fit inside the usual workflow, without anyone noticing (except from the cameracrew) that we are shooting on DSLR. I believe that we have achieved this 95%! After the HDMI converter, the video looks and behave the same as any other camera. The above picture is from the Videovillage, where the director, focuspuller (Anders Leegard) and script usually operates. The two panasonic recorders record anything that passes through the SDI cable onto SD cards, for script, director and actors to view playback from. Theyre watching the cropped HDMI output of the 1d (red mark included), but on a 17» monitor this is more than good enough. No complaints yet! The few problems we have had with his setup was due to SDI cable fault (do not squeeze cables in doors).

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Its not pretty, but it works 🙂
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Technocrane!
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C-stand crane, patent pending!
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Barscene, shooting from underneath a glass plate
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The awesome Canon 200mm f2!! On b-cam

We are more and more understanding the benefits and challenges of this small format. As you see above, a c-stand and some sandbags suddenly makes for a great cameraangel, and even a tracking craneshot! Followfocus is always challenge, and our very experienced focuspuller took awhile before adapting to the trickeries of the redrock/canon lens setup. But, using the Scorpio Followfocus on a 17» monitor, we are more and more nailing it. The LCD70p is performing well, and the falsecolor is a very good tool. Used properly (with knowledge on how it turns out in post-prod) its an invaluable tool for exposure. But the Focus Peaking is not as useful, at least not on these cams. The outline is way to «forgiving» and doesnt give a correct image of whatsactually in focus. The monitors are also quite picky about what/when to show the signal from the HDMI-SDI converter (the other 17» shows the image right away). A power on/off is usually required after a in/out of the camera menu (or to get into live view). If someone could make a similar sized 720p monitor with falsecolor/histogram at a reasonable price, I would be very interested!

We have currently shot 1/3 of the show, (20 days), and we are shooting well into may. As I said earlier, this thing is shot on DSLR ONLY, not one single frame acquired from any other source. We are planning to move to 5d when the firmware is out (one cam at first, for getting wider shots), and perhaps to 1ds mark IV when it arrives. Its going to be really exciting to follow this trough production and grading, before airing sometime in October (primetime, main Norwegian commercial channel). We are planning to move back to the h264 when doing final grade. Ive worked on Prores files in online before, but knowing that the «gamma shift» issue still exsists, and other intermediates all have their drawbacks, we are assembeling a h264 timeline to online (perhaps to TIFF or DPX)when the offline is done.

So much of this project whould not have been possible without the help of the online resources mentioned earlier. Thanks Cinema5d, planet5d, philipbloom, Vincent Laforet, dvxuser, dvinfo, Thank you!
Also, this project would not have been possible without the support of Canon Norway. Kjell Arntzen, Anders Leersbryggen and Trond Sliper is continuing to give us great support on the equipment, and we look forward to working with them on projects yet to come!

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