Monday 11 October 2010

'Shelfstackers' F1.2 an F -Stop too far?

The arrival of the Canon 5d MkII nearly two years ago was a great day for anyone wanting to shoot full HD video affordably for the first time

It has made a real positive impact on the world of moving images

A many wonderful projects have been shot on it, including an episode of 'House'

However some TV channels have been and remain sceptical of the Camera's output

I have been and remain a great advocate of the format, and have long held that if used intelligently and one works within the limitations of the medium it is more than up to the job

Last week I watched the new BBC sitcom 'Shelfstackers'

When I sat down to watch it I had no idea It was shot on a Canon 5d MkII, however within a few minutes I did, but for all the wrong reasons

I love shooting wide open on the Canon 'L' Series lenses, particularly the 85mm F1.2 and the 35mm F1.4

But one really does have to chose the right moment and occasion, in other words there is a right time and place for everything

And in my opinion some scenes of 'Shelfstackers' went up to and then well beyond the limit of good use of superwide apertures

I read the interview with Director Dom Bridges, but I still just don't buy it.

This is not the episode of 'house' where wide apertures were used in emotional way, very well too I might add

This was a sitcom, and in some shots, half of the actors face was out of focus, and not in a nice creative way either

And by the end of the programme I was wincing.(To get the full effect do watch it full screen...)

Why should I care? Naked self interest actually.

I can anticipate the scenario where there will a meeting with a TV company and I will suggest using a Canon 5d mkII to shoot a project and they will say they saw 'Shelfstackers' and they don't want their programme to look like that thank you very much, they want it to focus.

Like good Photoshop where one should not see the 'joins' I don't feel it is good to see gratuitous use of F1.2 on sitcom, shouting to the world that 'this programme was shot at a super wide aperture because the budget would not run to any lighting'

I have in all probability watched TV shows which were shot on a Canon 5D MKII and just did not realize it, and I think that is the way it should be

I have considerable sympathy for the makers of Shelfstackers as this is part of the BBC's £1000 a minute experiment for programme output. And understand the scenario, no budget for lighting so push the ISO as far as you dare and then shoot at the widest aperture so enough light hits the sensor

I'm in no position to offer advice as I have never made a TV programme and they have actually made a whole series

I can't help but wanting to suggest that they somehow beg, steal or borrow a couple of 2x2 LED light panels or a Chimera Triolet or something similar, filter it to the same colour temperature as the florescent tubes and use it as fill lighting so they can use F2.8 or even F4, and get adequate depth of field

Good on the makers of 'Shelfstackers' as they have actually done it, but I can't help they have made selling in a Canon 5D MKII project to a TV channel that little bit harder

As for me? I'm trying to raise funding for my own documentary right now

Time to put my money where my mouth is


Adam Swords said...

Which episode are you talking about here Drew? I have to say that in the couple I (skim) watched all I could see was bloody awful camera work which looked like it had been shot on a handycam.

Not to mention the actual storyline and acting - how on earth the BBC agreed to air that load if tripe I'll never know.

Anonymous said...

I think the camera work is the best thing about it but that is not to say that the camera work is anything but awful.

I don't think you need worried that anyone would watch a whole episode.

Unknown said...

I think I may have been a little to easy going on them by the looks of things, but I agree with what you guys said.

Adams comment about how it actually made it onto BBC2 is spot on....very worrying



Unknown said...

and if really in a pich, 7D with an APS-C senzor doubles your DOF at comparable FOV, and with the money left over you might buy some lights.
and then you might ditch the 50/1.2 lens for 1.4 since you have lights, and with money left over from that buy some more lights...

Unknown said...

Very true Borna...

I notice all the clips on the BBC website are shot with good depth of field and ARE in focus

The good thing is that 'Shelfstackers' has inspired me to get off my backside and make a documentary



Martin Beddall said...

A mate is a lighting cameraman for feature films and commercials and this "out-of-focus" fad with the 5d has annoyed him since it came out. The camera is good for some things ( selective focus, light and portable ) but not most when it comes to filming. This video sums it up....

Never used my %d for filming but then a meeting with a design agency last week began with " which camera did I sue?..Did I shot films..."

I'm not a total luddite - am waiting for the postman to bring me my copy of the "stills in motion"dvd I ordered last week.

Martin Beddall said...

Apologies for the typos.....

Two Jack Studio said...

Shows like "Shelfstackers" are on par with television advertisements by Specsavers, SafestyleUK and Phones4U... they should not be allowed to air.

These days, television has a distinct lack of quality control and I think the reason online TV is becoming so popular (even though you have to wait for it to download or buffer) is because we can filter out the junk.

If it wasn't for shows like Fringe, Spooks, House, etc (where a budget of more than £5 was used to shoot the program) I would not even bother with TV.

No amount of equipment, lighting or good cinematography can save some of the junk they put on TV these days, honestly.

Unknown said...

Good point about online television

I still think it is down to us, if we are interested, to try to make our own quality contribution



CL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...


Sounds like the process was a steep learning curve for one and all

I did wonder how long it would be before I received a comment from someone who was actually involved in the programme

The Canon 5d mk2 IS an amazing camera in the right hands

I'm starting to think the best setup could be something like the awesome and relatively affordable Canon Xf305, which with it's 50mbs output is fully approved by the BBC for full HD programme making, for the main filming, with the 5d mk2 for the beauty shots with the stunning primes.

This is the setup I certainly have in mind for my descendants documentary project which is gathering pace right now

Thanks for the comment, even if you did remove it



lavery said...

I can't believe that the BBC seriously considered cutting 6music to save on costs and yet still produce trash like Shelfstackers.

I completely agree with your point about the best use of tools being that where they're invisible. Just as I don't want to see massively over-mapped HDRs, I don't want to see super shallow DoF video (unless it's used sparingly and intentionally).

Unknown said...

Hi Lavery

Thanks for your comment

There is no doubt in my mind that under the coalition government there will be pressure for the BBC to get smaller and more cost effective

I think the attempt on 6 music may have been the BBC trying to get some degree of cuts in before the new government came to power, thus taking some wind out of their sails

Making savings on high quality productions IS possible I think, without letting quality dip excessively

It needs a new way of thinking though, which in my opinion Broadcasters and many production companies still haven't got their head round

One production company recently suggested I needed to put aside between £30 and £40,000 just to colour 'grade' a 50 minute TV documentary......

I may be eating my words in the next year or so, we shall see

You will hear all about it