Canon Digital Cameras Find a Home in Indie Film
Home, an ambitious low-budget independent film, was recently shot with Canon cameras and lenses to achieve big-screen cinematic quality. A tale of a mentally troubled young man seeking to live independently in New York, Home was captured in just 20 days with two EOS C300 PL digital cinema cameras and a CN-E30-300mm cine zoom lens from Canon. Before Filmmaker Jono Oliver and Cinematographer Sung Rae Cho (“Sho”) shot the project cinéma vérité style in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Oliver and Producer Daniela Barbosa knew the importance of choosing the right camera.
Their choice had to be lightweight for maximum mobility; unobtrusive for location shooting; low-light capable for dimly lit interiors; and able to deliver exceptional image quality for theatrical distribution. Familiar with the latest digital cine cameras, Oliver and Barbosa were especially interested in the Canon EOS C300. “In order to make sure that the EOS C300 was right for Home, Sho shot tests with it, including shadows and interiors,” says Oliver. “We projected the tests on a 20-foot screen and they looked fantastic.”
Engineered to deliver full 1920x1080 HD images, the EOS C300 digital cinema camera integrates Canon’s unique Super 35mm CMOS sensor, which is modeled on the Super 35mm film standard. Combined with Canon’s sophisticated DIGIC DV III image processor and 50 Mbps 4:2:2 MPEG-2 codec, this sensor provides exceptional image capture even in low light. The EOS C300 is available in EF or PL lens mount versions. The EF lens mount provides access to more than 70 Canon lenses, including EF Cinema lenses optimized for film production. The PL mount suits a wide variety of cinema lenses from various manufacturers. Weighing less than 4 pounds, the EOS C300 provides extreme mobility to shoot in a wide variety of locations. “The small body of the EOS C300 let us tell a better story because we were able to get into real places, among real people in real situations without calling a lot of attention to ourselves,” Oliver explains. “We had a very ambitious schedule with a long shot list, but we were able to move incredibly fast…. [Sho] usually shot with two EOS C300 cameras at a time, and their mobility and minimal lighting requirements meant we seldom had more than a 10-minute turnaround between setups.”
Oliver and Sho shot inside houses, apartments, subways, buses and cars, and on city streets, particularly in Bushwick, Brooklyn. “It’s a crazy, loud and colorful world that a lot of people aren’t familiar with, and it was great to be able to capture it all in the way that I wanted to,” Oliver enthuses. “The small size of the EOS C300 enabled us to walk down the street with our main actor without calling a lot of attention to ourselves.” The EOS C300 also proved essential for scenes in moving vehicles. “We were able to mount our EOS C300 practically anywhere,” Oliver notes. “We shot a pivotal scene in a moving van by mounting one EOS C300 inside on the front of the truck and another one outside. We shot four actors inside the van and it all looked incredible.” Sho and Oliver outfitted their “A” camera with a prime lens and a “B” camera with a Canon CN-E30–300mm T2.95-3.7 L SP cine zoom lens. “I can truly say that the CN-E30–300mm cine zoom lens worked extremely well for Home,” Sho reports. “[It] enabled us to capture the streets by going wide, and then seamlessly go super-tight on people working in that environment without having to stop and change lenses. The Canon 30–300mm zoom was also light enough that I could put the EOS C300 on my shoulder and it felt good. The lens can be handheld despite the fact that it looks big. If you were limited to using only one lens on your production, the Canon CN-E30–300mm would be perfect because it covers pretty much the entire range you can think of.”
The EOS C300 acquires the amount of image data needed for film-style dynamic range between shadows and highlights, which is essential for achieving cinematic subtleties in postproduction color grading. It can be set to record in Canon Log, which is provided with the camera at no extra cost and ensures the capture of the full 12 T-stop exposure latitude. The EOS C300 also employs the industry-standard MXF (Material eXchange Format) for smooth workflow compatibility. “We shot the entire film in Canon Log to give us more room to play with in post,” Sho says. “People who’ve seen footage think it was shot on film. I used the View Assist feature of the EOS C300 to gauge what the image looked like during production, and what I saw on the EOS C300 LCD screen looked great. What we’re seeing now in the editing room looks even better.” Barbosa also appreciates the value of digitally achieving a “film” look. “The EOS C300 provides the image texture you would get from a traditional film camera,” says the producer. “There’s no reason why every independent filmmaker shouldn’t get an EOS C300 and start shooting. It will totally revolutionize the independent filmmaking market.”
Photo by Albert Massiah