Increasing Dynamic Range on 5DMKii / 7D

Depending on the project, I still like to bring out my 5DMKii once in a while, especially if there is little use for dialogue. I’ve come to modifying the look and colour of projects in After Effects and relevant plug-ins and have learned that, to get the most from the camera, you need to shoot ‘flat’.

The camera is designed to shoot nice footage out of the box, as opposed to the grey flatness required, and, as such, loses picture detail due to its smaller dynamic range. Luckily, some nice people have already made picture profiles that you can download and Luka has created a video going through the relatively simple procedure, step-by-step:

Visit the video’s page for associated download links.

I’m not too sure about some of his colour grading choices (although I do like one against a leafy wall), but that’s down to you in post.

Also, you will see a Marvels Cine picture style if you download the picture styles pack. A new version has recently been released and will be the one I am working with next. Click for information and download of Marvel Cine Picture Style 3.X.

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Matte Paintings as a Solution to 5D MKii (and other DSLR) Moire Issues

This isn’t going to work on every occasion and will require more time and precision during the shoot and in post, but it is really quite impressive and opens up further possibilities with shooting on DSLRs.

In this video, Robino Films use still images to create matte paintings and effectively relight parts of the scene as they see fit. At the end there are further examples where elements are changed to their needs and there is no reason why this technique cannot be used to combat moire issues on things that new moire filters and plug-ins are not good for, like brick walls and roofs (as long as subjects don’t cross the area in question).

And a couple of free anti-moire filters for Final Cut Pro:

DSLR anti-moire filter for FCP

Moire filter plug-in

I’ve downloaded these but have not had a chance to use them (fortunately I’ve not encountered moire issues very much, although I have been shooting on other cameras recently).

The RED ONE and The Cinematography of Winter’s Bones

If I was shooting a drama feature, a television pilot or really anything I could take my time over (soon enough), I would love to have a RED ONE. I was looking at the trailer for the upcoming film Source Code and found myself wondering what it was shot on. Turns out that they shot mainly on 35mm, with one segment using the RED – a technique that we are seeing a lot of now (this was also the case for Black Swan, albeit 16mm and Canon 5DMKiis and 7Ds). The director of Source Code, Duncan Jones, says in an interview that it was down to him seeing David Fincher’s test of Leonardo DiCaprio lit with a single match:

And Winter’s Bone: this is one that I kept hearing about but never managed to catch until the DVD release. Shot on a Red camera, with a partially inexperienced cast, this film is different and refreshing.

Here we have an interview with Michael McDonough, the cinematographer of Winter’s Bone, discussing the film.

The main benefits of the new large-sensor cameras, for me anyway, is the shallow depth of field, the ability to shoot amazing footage at low light levels and the price tag. That, along with the top-end systems available to consumers, levels the playing field and democratises filmmaking – but the content will always be king and hopefully it will result in a better range of entertainment.

UPDATE: More videos of remarkable things being done on RED cameras.

The Cinematography of ‘The Black Swan’

This has been a good couple of weeks for cinema-going, after seeing 127 Hours and The King’s Speech, I managed to get tickets to an advanced preview of The Black Swan. The film has been out for quite a while in the US and was in film festivals last summer but is only being released to the UK audiences proper today.

I really enjoyed the dark tale and found the handheld style to really work with the film. There are some debates on the internet about the merits of this kinetic style, but I felt closer to the action and felt like I was getting in Natalie Portman’s character’s head and was struggling along with her. It had touches of Cronenberg about it and was totally different again from the two films I mention above and some visual similarities to Kieslowski and Repulsion/Rosemary’s Baby. This different world that they created was one of the main things that I took away from the film; so familiar yet so alien.

The Cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, used a 5DMKii to shoot the rehearsals and have reference footage for how he would later shoot (on 16mm) – which I think is a great use of a camera that I have and want to maximise its potential. They ended up using 7Ds and 1DMKIVs for some shots where smaller set-ups and crews were necessary. He shot with a “Canon 24mm lens at 1,600 ASA to get as much depth of field as possible at a stop of T81⁄2” and pulled focus by hand. It’s nice to see the big guys doing stuff that is comparable to independent and tiny operations. I couldn’t tell the difference between the film and digital, but I didn’t know then – maybe if I went back to it and focused less on the story. Usually, my first watch is to take in the story as much as possible.

Find out more, including what a Texas switch is and its origin, in this interview with Libatique.