CAMERAS AS FILM STOCKS
With so many choices these days in cameras I've found that its not about what camera is the best, but more so about what camera is the best fit for each and every project. We've shot on everything from iPhones, GoPro's & DSLR's to Phantom high speed cameras, RED Epics, and ARRI ALEXA's and so on. In the end, what it really comes down to is the look that you are trying to achieve in conjunction with the story that you are trying to tell.
I like to think of the vast array of camera choices comparable to thinking of the type of film stock that you would use in your SLR ( ahh....the good ol days of darkrooms, chemicals, test prints, remember those? ) Back then, you had just about as many choices of film type / stock as you do now with what camera your going to shoot with. Different films offered different looks: You could go with slide film for positive prints that had contrasty vibrant colors or go with Kodachrome for more natural colors and vivid sharpness with little grain. Each film stock has its own feel; its own unique properties as well as pros / cons.
This is the same deal with digital cameras, but instead of choosing a differnt type of film, you are chosing an entirely different camera.
In fact, Shane Hurbut has a great illustration of this when comparing the look of Canon C300 to the ARRI Alexa in a post just recently up on his blog. You can clearly see a difference in what each image has to offer and the varying qualities that each has that are inherent to the image itself.
The inherent image that comes out of a camera I like define as the cameras look.
The look represents many things all working together. It is not only the technical abilities of the camera but also the way the native sensor handles, processes, and compresses light. Along with the look, every camera has its strengths & weaknesses and its important to know these for each camera system that you plan to shoot on. Not only is it important for choosing the right camera for the right job, but also what you want to convey within the context of your story.
Every camera has its edge. I like to think of a camera and what first comes to mind when using that system. I listed a few below that I've used over the past year or so...
RED Epic: Its Resolution & modular options.
Phantom: extreme slow motion.
Canon C300: its lowlight & small size
Canon 5D Mark II & III: its portability, full frame image, and price point.
ARRI ALEXA: its ability to handle light and color in the same manner as film.
Know your camera & know what edge it has.
You can utilize this edge to get the most out of our gear and also achieve the story goals that you have in mind with your shoots. i.e for a homemade "selfshot" youtube-ish look, shoot with an iPhone or flipcam. For a cinematic slowmotion commercial feel, shoot on Epic or Alexa, or even Phantom for that matter ( if you want to go REALLY slow ) -- these are just generalizations, but you get the idea.
We were recently featured on ARRI's website for a short piece that we shot on the ALEXA & I thought I would post the article below so you can get a feel for our thoughts on the camera. I wrote a similar post for the Canon C300 awhile back so I thought I would do a similar piece on the ALEXA as well with pros and cons.
Also, The first image above is an ungraded still from the Alexa at 120 fps @ ISO 2500 - K balanced at 3200 • shot at T 2.8 at 1/48th with an Optimo 28-76mm PL mount zoom -- To me this image represents the inherent look of the camera very well. With a focus on accurate / filmic skin tones as well as the unique ability to blend daylight 5600K light with tungsten 3200K light.
• versatility in frame rates (1-120 fps)
• output options - HD-SDI for external recorders. You can also shoot directly to Prores 4444 files as well as Avid DNxHD
• 720p viewfinder. One of the best I've used. Extremely sharp and colors are very accurate. If I could use this viewfinder on any camera I would use it on everything.
• 14 stop Dynamic range: extremely adept at handling highlights as well as color information. You can light images heavily with daylight & tungsten at the same time and the final outcome looks very natural / similar to how our eye sees it.
• depth of color information. I found I could light more freely & utilize the color of light with a much more color "palette" way of thinking.
• Weight. The camera is heavy. On a 10 hr day, shoulders start to ache.
• Price point - expensive, but you do get what you pay for. High quality / Handcrafted feel. Top notch ergonomics within the physical camera itself as well as the menu system.
• SxS media more expensive than CF cards.
• Power. The camera eats up batteries like they were gigabytes.
( the article below is from ARRI's website - you can also check it out HERE on WWW.ARRI.COM )
Founded by Casey Warren and Danielle Krieger, MINDCASTLE is a film studio and production company dedicated to telling stories through evocative imagery. Both Warren and Krieger are devoted to the creative process and are motivated by a passion to generate work that is artistic, meaningful and authentic. Their work has been featured nationally, including spots for Canon, along with Emmy-nominated productions for Major League Baseball, ESPN, HBO and Showtime Sports. Recently the team shot a television pilot on ALEXA with ARRI Ultra Primes from Koerner Camera in Seattle. The equipment package was rounded out with ARRI accessories and lights. Warren served as Director of Photography and Krieger as production and media manager. Here, we asked Warren a little about the experience and his thoughts on visual storytelling.
ARRI NEWS (AN): Tell us a little about your background.
CW: Initially what sparked my interest in photography was that there was an art in framing, composition, and lighting. As I got more into it, I became interested in what message an image could contain and the meaning behind it. There’s that moment when you click the shutter, an instant is captured; a thought, emotion, or idea preserved to be transmitted for others to experience. I was hooked.
I got addicted to the visual impact that moving images have and how a sequence can tell a story. From that point, when I was very young, I knew filmmaking was an integral part of my future. And that’s where MINDCASTLE stems from, MINDCASTLE is a metaphor for creative strength with the goal to create work that is built from roots in strong visual storytelling.
AN: What was your workflow on this shoot?
CW: Our workflow was set up to be as clean and simple as we could make it. One of the main reasons was that the piece was being sent straight into the edit after we got done shooting. We brought to set two 17" MacBook Pros and a 27" iMac. We loaded the ALEXA footage with the MacBook Pro since it has an SxS card slot built into it and we could also simultaneously load, backup and preview footage on the go as we shot. We recorded and monitored in Rec709 and recorded in ProRes 4444.
The footage came out beautifully and we didn't run into workflow snafus. I like to use this camera system on projects because of the simplicity, speed of the workflow and the stunning imagery that the sensor can produce. The workflow is plug and play, no transcoding, encoding, and so on.
Shooting with ALEXA meant we had lots of headroom for latitude, so we lit like we were shooting on film. In a way its useful to think of ALEXA like film, with this specific camera there are advantages in color rendition and latitude when compared to other camera systems out there. We also shot on the new firmware upgrade that allows for 120fps recording.
Another thing about the ALEXA is the EVF, which is honestly one of the best that I've used. It has full 1280 x 720p resolution and is sharp as a tack. It also has a ton of settings and features that make it stand out among the rest.
AN: What was in your ARRI lighting kit?
CW: ARRI lighting is definitely a standard for us in our lighting package. There is a lot of freedom in using the HMI and tungsten Fresnels, they are both bright enough to diffuse, yet you can adjust them enough if you are looking for a hard rim or sharp edge light on your subject.
My personal ARRI lighting kit consists of a three-light standard ARRI tungsten package: one ARRI 1000w Fresnel and two ARRI 650w Fresnels. We also rented a few 575w ARRI HMIs as I always like working with daylight-balanced lighting if I have the opportunity to do so and I also enjoy mixing the two sources together as well.
AN: What was one of your lighting setups like?
CW: One of my favorite setups that we used was an intro sequence at the pool table that involved a mix of both tungsten and daylight sources. With the camera balanced at 3200 K we lit up the background with the ARRI 650w Fresnel gelled for daylight and for the foreground soft light we used an ARRI 1000w Fresnel with a Chimera and some additional diffusion on the pool table from a Kino Flo Diva 200. We also utilized a Lowel Blender light set to about 4500 K right in the middle of the two light sources.
What I really liked about this setup was that there was so much to play with in the imagery. In addition to the lights, we added atmosphere to the scene with a Rosco fog machine. This really helped fill the background with the blue daylight from the 650w, while still allowing the tungsten light to pour into our foreground and illuminate the skin tones of the talent.
We wouldn't have really been able to light this scene in the exact same way with another camera. ALEXA handles the blending of the tungsten and daylight sources very uniquely, where you can actually mix the two sources together as you would with film. Rather than fighting with difference in color balance we could play with it instead, using the colors as gradients. The ALEXA made it easy for us to paint the light into our scene, in very much the same way you would mix colors together on a canvas.
I am really happy with how this lighting set up came out and at 120 frames per second, you can really soak in the texture of the scene.
- ARRI ALEXA w/ 120fps firmware upgrade
- ARRI Mini Matte Box (MMB-1)
- ARRI Mini Follow Focus (MFF-1)
- Lightweight Matte Box 14 (LMB-14)
- Ultra Primes (14mm, 20mm, 40mm, 50mm, 65mm)
- ARRI 1000w & 650w Tungsten Fresnels
- ARRI Compact 575w HMIs