Company shows off sick gear at Canon Creative Studio
Canon equipment on display at the Canon Creative Studio at Sundance
It's dangerous to drool in the cold weather of Park City, Utah. After all, it might freeze to your face.
Perhaps that's why Canon showcased its latest gear for the Sundance crowd indoors, where salivating could be maintained at room temperatures.
The 1D C... we shoot on them day in and day out. I think it’s probably the most underutilized camera as far as professionals go.
At a cost of who knows how much, Canon tricked out an ample underground space on Main Street -- opening it to industry pros and journalists. Perched in one prime location -- a boss setup featuring a 50-950mm zoom lens affixed to a Canon C500 camera, sitting on top of a battle-worthy tripod. A Canon rep told me the rig would fetch $150,000 [I confessed that was almost most as much as my Lambo].
In a recessed area of the Canon Creative Studio photographer/cinematographer/director Michael Ori of Ori Media snapped portraits of guests using a Canon 5DS R.
Many of the subjects who posed for him are renowned figures themselves.
"It’s kind of being starstruck but also having to do your job too," Ori told Nonfictionfilm.com. "It’s been interesting shooting people that are always behind the camera. There’s a vulnerability that they’re kind of letting their guard down and trusting you and all that stuff. I mean you’re shooting the first head shoot that a lot of them have had in 20 years. So it’s really exciting for me."
We talked tech in between his portrait sessions, discussing how he leverages improvements in technology to expand storytelling possibilities.
"One of the ways we actually do photography is frame grabs from 4k video. So it kind of changes the way I shoot video because I’m thinking about photography assets at the same time. It’s really weird because you’re telling a story through your photos and your video at the same time and it’s kind of a different mindset to get into," Ori said.
"As far as documentaries go it’s kind of a cool way to think about stuff... A lot of the advances in animations [enhance] the power of what you can do with photos. You can cut photos apart. You can give some cool context and some movement [to them]."
Although Ori was shooting in the Canon studio with a 5DS R, he said it's not the camera he uses most often.
"With the advent of the Canon 1D C, that’s what we typically shoot on," he told NFF. "I think it’s probably the most underutilized camera as far as professionals go. It’s insane that people aren’t using that camera more for the low light capabilities. I mean you can basically shoot in the dark— I’ve lit entire scenes with like candlelight and that’s it. And the blacks are blacks. It’s not grainy and you're at ISO 6400 and you’re shooting 4K video and it’s crisp. It’s clean. It’s beautiful."
Disclosure: None of the quotes here are intended as an advertisement for Canon. I don't own any Canon equipment and have never shot with any. I am quite curious, though, about what kind of gear professionals use and how they exploit its potential -- lessons that can apply across many different brands of equipment.
I did sit for a portrait by Michael, which I intend to give to my mom. I'm concerned she won't recognize me, however, because Ori made me look quite a bit better than I normally do.
Around the corner from Ori's studio setup, filmmaker, editor and post-production expert Jon Carr held court at an editing suite, demo'ing 4K footage shot with a Canon C300 Mark II. He shared some things to keep in mind when deciding whether to shoot in 4K.
"The reality is 4K is on the horizon and it’s ultimately going to be here. It’s not going to be your traditional cable companies that are going to deliver that. It’s going to be the Netflix, the Amazons. Every new show that Netflix and Amazon commission all has to be shot in 4K. So that’s important. If you want to sell a documentary to Netflix, it’s going to help your cause if you have it in 4K," he told Nonfictionfilm.com.
"The other advantage is maybe you’re not delivering 4K today but sometime down the line that kind of future-proofs your content, makes it more valuable longterm."
Carr offered these additional pointers:
Of course, shooting in 4K creates some enormous files.
"In reality it takes a pretty beefy computer to edit the 4K footage," Carr said. He recommended a RAID storage set up - if you can afford it.
"The ideal scenario -- which is not really attainable for the majority of us -- is to have an SSD RAID drive. First season of Better Call Saul they had an 80 terabyte SSD drive and then they kept everything online, all 10 episodes," Carr Said. "I’m sure that probably cost $60,000 to $70,000 for a RAID like that, an SSD, incredibly expensive."
In post-production, Carr advocates making use of a particular piece of equipment -- the color scope.
"I can color correct an image not necessarily just by looking at it but just by looking at the scopes and get it looking pretty good. People don’t like to use it or just are intimidated by it, but spending a little bit of time kind of learning that helps you become a better colorist."
Carr said the color scope is particularly vital because the human eye and brain are constantly readjusting to light sources, making our own vision, in a sense, less reliable than what appears on the scope.
"If you think about it, you step outside and it’s a blue sky but our eyes automatically adjust. Everything doesn’t look blue. Or if you walk into a room with Tungsten light, everything doesn’t appear warm. Your brain and your eyes work together— automatically white balances. Essentially you have 60 seconds when you sit down [in front of a monitor] and look at an image to remain neutral to it and then it starts to look normal to you... Your eyes acclimate to things and you just get used to seeing something. If you look at your scopes you can kind of counteract something like that."
Doing color correction at this level is remarkably complex.
"It’s kind of a dark art. Literally and figuratively. It is one of the things that I love but I also hate it as well," Carr said. "Because it’s very subjective. There’s really not a right or wrong. It’s what you like and that’s based on maybe movies that you like or things that you’ve grown accustomed to. The challenge is I can sit down and I can [color] grade something and spend a long time on it and say, 'This is the greatest thing I’ve ever done,' step up and get a coffee and come back and say, 'What was I thinking?'"
Elsewhere in the Canon Studio, there were shelves of high-powered lenses on display, no doubt worth a small fortune. That 50-950mm lens mentioned previously goes for $70,000.
One suggestion to Canon if they come back to Sundance next year. How about holding a raffle?
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.