Saturday, 31 December 2011

At Billingsgate Fish Market with the Canon C300, Rodney Charters and Lan Bui

We shot a bit more footage at Billingsgate Fish Market yesterday.

What a great camera to handhold...particularly when no tripods are allowed.

We were lucky enough to have Rodney Charters, the DP of '24' along for the ride and he shot this short BTS video of us in the market.

Much more to come.

Back to New Years eve..

Thursday, 29 December 2011

My goose is well and truly cooked - A left field short with the Canon C300

No executions in the desert

No gang fights


Just real life at Christmas.

I was cooking dinner for six after pounding the phone to set up our main feature.

Lan Bui was keen to video me cooking the sublime but simple 'Michaelemas Goose' from the award winning 'Loose birds and Game' by Andrew Pern.

So all pretty fraught on the cookery front has you might imagine.

But just check the video out.

Filthy,horrid, florescent lighting but the Canon C300 just shone.

Once again Apple's FCP X made for rapid colour correction

The whole thing was shot using Canon Log mode, which gives 14 stops dynamic range.

14 Stops....

Anyhow off to bed right now as we are up super early for what should be a fun shoot over the next 2 days.

More adventures with friends old and new.

With more than a sprinkling of Hollywood on hand.

What a tease I am, stay tuned and all will be revealed.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Our first video with the Canon C300

Lan Bui shot this beautiful sequence titled 'Grand Union Canal'

It is exceptional in many ways.

Primarily in that it was shot in under an hour.

Read his blog for full details of the gear used.

But aside from that it is an eye opener to just how well this camera works with existing Canon glass which you may well already own.

This is a big, big deal.

Yes, I know it is obvious, but when the penny drops....

We have been organising permissions for our 'main' feature shoot's

Doing this over the Christmas period has been a challenge to say the very least.

Canon C300 Day 2- Discussing the strengths and weakness's, as I cook dinner.

We shot a little bit of footage yesterday on the Canon C300 which we will be posting a little later on today, we think it is an EXCELLENT camera.

But we wanted to share a conversation we were having about the Canon C300 as I was cooking dinner.

As we thought people might find it interesting.

Is it just a glorified DSLR? What about the Sony F3 shooting 10 bit? (Phillip Bloom touched on this in his review)

Have a look and join the debate

As I said more footage on its way later today......

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Joining the fortunate few - Having a Canon C300 on loan

It should really say joining the VERY fortunate few.

Lan Bui and I have a Canon C300 on loan.

It arrived on Friday and we will be putting it thorough its paces over the next few days.

So many things to try, so little time.

You can see our very first impressions of what promises to be a truly remarkable camera.

I say promises as we have not had chance to shoot anything just yet.

We will be shooting a couple of shorts and running some tests too.

In fact we have to get back to that...right now.

Please do ask any questions and we will do our very best to answer them.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Changing your mind about the Canon C300

The much trailed Hollywood 'Historic announcement' which heralded the launch of the Canon C300 and strategic announcement by RED of the Scarlet X.

The amount of negative comments regarding the C300 were many.

And from people who had never used it.

One which stood out for me, and was often quoted was by Nino Leitner

He said in a blog post on November 4th

RED announces SCARLET X, totally blows Canon C300 out of the water


Strong stuff.

Pretty unfair I thought too.

Fast forward to early December and Nino was one of the lucky select few who got their hands on a C300 and made this really cool short with the C300 

He posted tests and BTS on his blog too.

Informative and enjoyable stuff.

But I still had the inflammatory 'Dead in the water' comment in my mind.

So I Tweeted him.

The conversation went like this....

Drew Gardner @Photogardner13 Dec

interesting to see that @NinoLeitner says that the Canon C300 will be his next camera, having previously said 'It was dead in the water'

Nino Leitner @NinoLeitner

@Photogardner yep I changed my opinion 180 degrees after I worked with it. I still think it's a bit overpriced, but it fits most of my needs

Nino Leitner @NinoLeitner
@Photogardner RED Scarlet is great, but overkill for 95% of what I do - also the additional investments in postpro hardware are considerable

Drew Gardner @Photogardner13 Dec

@NinoLeitner just messing with you :) it is bloody fantastic isn't it? Really enjoyed your 'cigarette' short and informative comparisons

Nino Leitner @NinoLeitner

@Photogardner thanks mate! Yeah it's really great

So as you can see Nino has been won over by the C300 and he is a good guy as well as a top film maker.

As a foot note, one really has to wonder what was going on with the whole unfortunate episode with the RED community and Phillip Bloom.

One of the most influential video voices on the web had a RED Epic, and he doesn't anymore.

How on earth could RED have let this happen?

Phil's comments regarding the RED Epic and RED Scarlet would have been difficult to take but they were in my opinion at least fair and considered.

The words of Lyndon B. Johnson in regard to FBI director J Edgar Hoover came to mind...

'It's probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in' 

With Phil heading off to France for a week with a pre production Canon C300, one cannot help but think the chill wind of this spat will be felt by RED for a long, long time to come.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

L'Oreal/UNESCO 'For Women in Science Video' shot with Canon DSLR's...with a little help from the XF 305

I was commissioned to shoot a video for a very cool project earlier this year

The L'Oreal UNESCO 'For Women is Science' award which aims to 'promote and highlight the critical importance of ensuring greater participation of women in Science'

Every year a bursary is given to four women in the UK and in other countries around the world to help women fund their research.

In this world of increasing sexual equality there are still a great disparity of women working in science, so this is a particularly cool programme.

The subject of the short film was Dr Heather Whitney who is studying iridescence in plants.

Iridescent plants have to been seen to be believed.

It was a particularly challenging project as it involved everything from interviews to working in glasshouses to shooting slow motion of insects.

This project used just about every video capable camera I own (as well as a loaner Achromatic Phase One back)

We shot parts of the interview on a Canon XF305 but apart from that it was a Canon DSLR only zone as we wanted to use a shallow depth of field and the light weight of the camera's enabled us to have a bit of fun by making out own Jib Crane, as though the shoot was on a very tight budget we wanted to do some imaginative shots but more of that later.

Kit List for the Shoot


Canon XF305 Used for tight shot in the interview that we we did not have to worry about audio

Canon 5D MkII for just about everything else

Canon 550d  To shoot 60p slow motion of the bees.


Rode NTG-3  Mic for interview, great Mic at a great price

Rycote Mic Mount. say goodbye to handling noise


Canon EF 'L' Series 100mm F2.8 this lens ,which could just be the sharpest lens I have ever used, was used many, many times.

Canon EF 'L' Series 24-105mm F4 Useful all rounder for all the other bits.

Canon EF 'L' Series 16-35mm F2.8 This lens was used for the Jib Crane Shot.


Chimera Triolet 1k with a Chimera Medium Softbox, key light for the interview

3 x Mini Litepanels  We used these for back light in the interview and the Bee sequence

California Sunbounce Small reflector For fill on the interview and also some of the  glasshouse shots.


Manfrotto 546 MVB  I use this for just about everything that involves video

Manfrotto 536 MPRO Great on the uneven ground of the Glasshouse

Other Stuff

Manfrotto Stacker Stands 1005BAC So strong, but so neat and tidy with the added bonus that they don't make a horrid rattle when packed in the car 

Kessler Crane Pocket dolly.Great value, I take it on all my movie shoots.
I use this a lot as it lends a whole level of production to shots. We used this extensively in the glasshouse and for the bee going down the tube and for the specimen shot in the glass case. I have taken this all over the world and it is a very valuable tool....big bang per buck.

Manfrotto Avenger A475B We used it to mount a camera on to hang over the spiral stair case as you will see. If I had one light to use for the rest of my life it would be this one. There truly is very little you cannot do with it. It does cost more than the 'normal' Manfrotto 420B boom stand but is capable of taking much higher loading thanks to its rectangular legs, one of which is adjustable meaning you can set it up on uneven ground or even stairs. There is a modest weight penalty over the 420 too, but I can live with that.

Manfrotto Avenger A4050 CSA large boom stand of seemingly limitless versatility which we used to support the home made jib crane.

Zacuto 'Z' findershooting video is fun, but better to know if it sharp! The 'Z' finder is THE difference when shooting video...perfect for 'Run and Gun' if you buy just one accessory for DSLR shooting it should be this.

Zacuto EVF. Which is one of those that you thought you would never need and when you have one you wonder how you ever did without.

I opted for the EVF 'flip' which has the added advantage of being able to 'Flip' the 'Z' finder out of the way and use it as a 'mini monitor' (if you don't have a 'Z' finder already they do a Pro bundle which works out a little cheaper)

Here is Lan getting down with the beetles with the EVF Slider combo.

Ah yes, the jib crane.

We wanted to add some production value to the shoot without going down the rental and pushing the budget.

How to do it?

I have an excellent and very strong cantilevered lighting boom made by a company called Red Wing.

Normally I use it in conjunction with large Chimera softbox, Chimera Octoplus or Elinchrom Octa for laying down lots of soft light from on high, for this application it is truly superb.

But Lan Bui and thought we might be able to modify it and put a Canon 5D MkII with the 16-35mm F2.8 (we duct taped the lens at 16mm)

To adapt the Red Wing boom end to take the camera lens comboI used a circular Manfrotto clamp, put the shaft from a floor stand through it and then used a super small mini tripod head on it which was just able to do the job without weighing too much.

Are these the optimum components ? No, but they are what we had to hand.

Control was never going to be easy as it was not built for the job so it was a matter of practice

Here are our practice sessions in my back yard.

Lan became quite competent with this rather unique set up in the back yard but we did not factor in how difficult it was going to be when we used it in the glass house of Cambridge University with all of the trees and plants to contend with, and an earth floor.

With a bit of steadying in post though I thing we pulled it off though.

We used the Zacuto EVF on a long HDMI cable to monitor the shot, it was invaluable.

Not only did the Zacuto EVF play a staring role from on high it was great for the low shots of Dr Heather Whitney going up the stairs.When you are lying flat you just cannot monitor the shot with the camera's LCD and the EVF plays it part again. It is highly recommended as it is so light and compact you barely know you have it in your bag. 

The macro Bee photography was where the Canon 550d came in with the 100mm Macro, used again with the Zacuto EVF and the Zacuto 'Z' Finder which I used for a long time prior to having the EVF

With the Litepanels inside the Bee tank.

We shot the sequence at 60p and slowed it down to 25p in Cinema Tools then in FCP X we slowed it down to 50 percent of that, so around 125FPS.

Here is the before and after

FCP X has some great features and for the money it is a bargain, no plug in needed for this.

Music was by the talented Douglas Black Heaton, a man whom is never far away from any of my projects....including the forthcoming documentary.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Closing thoughts and comments on the RED v C300

I received a comment on my previous posting from Simon which was spot on and I wanted to make sure it was not missed so I have posted it here...

'I've read a bunch of the to-ing and fro-ing between Red and Canon users and it's getting just a little irritating now. They are clearly different cameras. PR wise they've both made a mistake in pitching to each others audience and people should be spoken to about that.

Will feature Hollywood movies be made on the C300? Probably, but not that many. Will they on the RED? At the lower end of multimillion dollar budgets, I'd say yes they will.

Will the RED be used on TV shows? Not many I'd bet, you don't need to shoot at 4K when the max transmittable res is 1080p.

Will the C300? Yes, a lot.

You can compare and contrast as much as you like and say one's better than the other for this that and the other. But if I was shooting a TV doc you better believe I'd go for the Canon, if it was a movie, it would be RED.

In my opinion, RED has never really been about mass market whereas Canon has. Therein lies the problem.'

And here is my response

Hi Simon,

Thanks for your comment which are absoloulty spot on.

A very good overview of how I think it will actually pan out.

The rationale behind my C300/RED Scarlet blogs was the hysterical comments by the RED fanboys about the Canon at launch.

Such as 'its dead in the water'  'obsolete at launch'  The C300 is a ******** disaster'

All comments which Believe are totally unfair.

I was seeking to write something that would provoke but importantly make people THINK and consider the options in a much more balanced manner.

RED is a different animal and will be used more by the movie boys and yes, the Canon will be used by the TV guys, with exceptions in both camps.

To consider the Scarlet and the C300 as true competitors IS a mistake.

I actually like RED as a company and believe that without them movie camera development would be several years behind.

Good on them! Whats more I sincerely hope they will be around for many years to come.

But RED have a certain degree of responsibility for this situation by shifting their product launch for the same day as the C300 to steal some of Canon's thunder, which indeed they did.

In the very short term they did indeed grab the headlines with a 4k for $9k.

Long term I'm not really quite so sure that they did the right thing.

Grabbing the headlines on 4th November is one thing but slowly, surely and quietly the tide is turning in the C300's favour as people become aware of just how significant it is with its stellar low light performance and sheer day to day practicality.

When you go head to head with a large multi national like Canon, you as sure as anything should make sure the product is spot on and not released prematurely as when people have looked beyond the sexy spec sheet, they start to see the shortcomings and the disappointment grows.

I know of 2 people who were going to buy the RED Scarlet on the strength of the spec sheet but when they looked at the small print they realised it was not the camera for them.

Those people have now placed orders for C300's

I wonder how times this has happened?

I wonder how much better it would have been for the long term best interests of the company NOT to go head to head with Canon, by enjoying the fantastic but perhaps short lived launch hype but waiting until they had the new sensor and having a real world battery solution.

Short term gain, long term pain I think



Enough, lets wait to see what its like.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Can you afford to shoot a day of 4K Footage on a RED Scarlet?

Now this is something I had not even considered until I read an insightful article by Phillip Bloom 'To buy a Scarlet or not to buy, that is the question' 

Firstly is is a bargain compared to the Canon C300, right?

Well not exactly.

As Phil points out for $9k you just get a box, you have to spend $14k to get a package that you can just about shoot with.

Then the batteries...oh my word, why more people are not talking about this is beyond me.

They last a pitifully short period of time, 35mins in standby according to Phil.

Yes, thats right folks 35 wonderful minutes

At least you get 2 of them I suppose in the $14k kit.

But if you want to shoot for more than an hour you will need more.

Phil needs 12 to get him through a days shooting

That is $2350.

A BP975 battery lasts 305 mins in a Canon C300.


Oh my word this is where it gets really eye watering.

To quote Phil again

'To be honest on all my Epic shoots I have come close to filling up all 4 of my 128gb SSD cards, never running out, but close. If I shot a feature doc on them for sure I would run out, unless I compressed the redcode to the max. Each one of those cards costs $1800. Yes, you don’t need that many for some shoots, but unless you have someone on hand to offload for you during the shoot, you are playing with fire not having enough cards. It will grind your production to a halt and cost you time!'

4 of those cards is almost $8000!!! That has bumped the price up rather!!

You have to be pretty set to shoot at 4K to follow this through.

I don't doubt that some people DO need 4k and this could be the camera for you, but I think it would be wise to not fall in love with a spec sheet and go into the purchase with your eyes wide open.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Hands on with the Canon C300

I was invited to attend a hands on session with the Canon C300 at Top-Teks on Friday.

It was a real eye opener.

I have been looking forward to getting my hands on this camera since its launch last month.

And I was excepting it to be good.

But nothing quite prepared me for how good it is.

It does bear a resemblance to a medium format camera (it even has a 'Start/Stop' where the shutter release was on Hasselblad 500 series)Speaking of the buttons and switches they are very high quality, notable is the precise Camera/Off/Media button so no accidental switching to the 'Media' setting.

Another very useful feature is the ability to lock all of your chosen settings into place.

The build quality on the per production models I saw was impressive and the buttons on the left hand side of the camera are inset a subtle black 'crackle' finish which shouts quality.

In your hands the first thing that strikes you is just how light it is and how easy it to hold steady, without any form of support.

Lan Bui is getting to grips with it here.

I'm not quite sure why this is, but I was not the only person to comment on this.

Add an image stabilised lens and it becomes something I had not really imagined, a great set up for free hand 'run and gun' shooting.

I tried my favourite 'L' series work a day lens the 24-105mm lens which was very nice, but the EF-S 17-55 F2.8 gave a more useful zoom range,even if it did not feel quite as nice as the 24-105, but in common with all EF lenses it is capable of resolving 1000 lines of resolution.

With the crop factor of the super 35mm sensor, those used to a Canon 5D MkII might have to reassess their lens choice.

My beloved 85mm 'L' series F1.2 becoming the equivalent of 136mm

So a replacement might be the 50mm EF cinema Prime CTZ-30 from the forthcoming range of lens from Canon.

One curious quirk of the C300 is the front 'toe' on the base.

Initially it did get in the way, as you can see.

But after a sustained period of handling, it did not bother me.

The toe can cause problems with some follow focus set ups apparently with certain lenses, but Canon had the foresight to let makers of after market accessories loose on the camera before launch. (Please note other manufacturers they did this and the world did not come to end...)

Zacuto are notable amongst these coming up with some useful mods including a follow focus extension to overcome this.

The top mounted LCD module did concern me when I saw the first images at launch.

In my eyes at least it had the look of almost an after thought.

But on handling it is nothing of the sort, and it is in line with the superb build quality of the rest of the camera.

Being able to reposition this module, with its articulated and mirroring LCD (which is EXCELLENT by the way) means you can locate exactly as you need to for whatever job you are doing.

The viewfinder is from the Canon XF305, and to be honest I was not sure how it would fare.

But again it is excellent, super high quality and manual focusing is in no way a chore.

Sony would do well when to take note when they refresh the F3.

That is something else I LOVE about the C300, if you want to use one of these you had better get practicing as it is manual everything (Focus, exposure and colour balance)

Skill counts for everything with the C300.

So on to image quality.

Sadly the camera's were in preproduction form so no footage is available for posting.

Once again I was struck by just how good it is.

The high ISO performance is simply staggering.

The noise up to 5000 ISO is smooth as, with the noise at 20,000 ISO being present but acceptable.

Jonathan Yi has down this brilliant, funny and very informative piece on the C300, which will give you a very good idea of what the camera is capable of.

Canon EOS C300 = Awesome from Jonathan Yi on Vimeo.

This camera will be a game changer in the way scenes are lit, with less light needed.

Relatively small low powered LED's are going to be a massively useful tool with this camera.

What is missing?

The only feature it does not have which I would really like is a 60p frame rate at a full 1080p not the 720p currently on offer, having said that, the footage I have seen shot at 720p did look better than everyday 720p footage.

It is a disappointment all the same though.

Much has been made of its inability to shoot Raw, but this for me is not a deal breaker having worked extensively with the excellent MXF file format on the XF305 and it is made for the grade. Lots and lots of data to play with in there.

But what of 4k? If I have a job where they ask for 4k I will have to hire something in, but as of yet any client or TV channel is asking for no more than 1080p, and there still in no worldwide standard for 4k.

And what of the RED Scarlet? To be honest I don't really want to immerse myself in the hysterical imbalanced name calling which has raged on the net ever since the launch of the C300 and the RED Scarlet.

Canon users who have all the lenses will probably gravitate toward the C300 while owners of the RED will probably gravitate toward the Scarlet.

Having said that, I know of one very well known Hollywood DP who owns a RED and he has said he will be buying the Canon C300 and not the Scarlet.

Why? Its low light ability, ease of use to existing workflow, and that it is a brilliantly resolved package that works straight out of the box.

I tweeted a day or so ago that when the true enormity of the capabilities of the C300 sink in that not many RED Scarlet's will be sold, I stand by that statement.

I would go further, I think that the Scarlet in its current form will bomb.

Should you buy one? Well if you need what it does and you KNOW that it will generate revenue for you then yes.

If you are happy with your DSLR then great!

Will I be buying one?

Yes, I will.

I have order number one at the Flash Centre (I spoke to Alex Ray) in London, it is worth bearing in mind that the small dealers may be the place to buy a C300 as waiting lists are growing at the big dealers.

And that brings me on to the big problem. Supply

I have no idea how many camera's will make it into the UK this year but I confidently predict that it will be nowhere near enough to meet the demand that I have seen with my own eyes.