“The camera should be small and light.”
On the experience of using Canon C300 and C500 cameras when shooting documentaries
At the end of 2013, documentary director Vitaly Mansky and I began working on a picture of North Korea, “In the Sunshine.” Before that, we shot the film “The Trumpet” (2012) with him on the Canon 5D Mark II, and I also participated in the filming of his film “The Book” (2013), which used the Canon 5D Mark III camera.
When we started working on the film “In the Sunshine” it became clear that we had to look for a new camera. The fact is that in this picture Vitaly attached great importance to the expressiveness of the image and the general plans. The cameras that we had to shoot with the detailedness and sharpness of the general plans, in the case of using the standard firmware, were poorly managed – it was impossible to make out small details or, say, people’s faces. In addition, color and tone, color-tone transitions were reproduced rather poorly and to a limited extent.
We faced a difficult task – to find a documentary camera that would meet our image requirements. For two months I studied the market for movie cameras, watched the offers of all brands from world famous to little-known Chinese and Russian; from what is on sale to what is only announced or is in development. As a result, we decided to use Canon C 300 cameras with EF mount and photo optics and PL mount and movie optics with native recording inside the camera. And for important mass events that take place as our heroine grows older and gradually takes her into public life, the Canon C500 PL camera is recorded on an external Aja Ki Pro Quad recorder in 2K resolution and ProRes 4444 format.
Cameras for Documentary Films
Each time, documentary men face this question – a digital camera for documentary films. In game cinema, this problem has been solved, you can easily identify the industry leaders – these are Arri Alexa and Red cameras. There is no shortage of television cameras either, although, as I understand it, this industry is also beginning, to some extent, to revise its needs towards a “document camera”.
So, what do we mean by the term “documentary camera”, what are the requirements for it?
It should be a small, reliable camera with a Super-35 24.9 x14 mm film standard sensor. Matrixes of digital cinema cameras, if we are not talking about large wide-format matrices Phantom 65 Gold or Alexa 65, either fall into these dimensions, size in size, as is the case with the Canon C series (C100, C300, C500), or are near these values (for example Arri Alexa has a matrix size of 23.8 x 13.4 mm). Also, our documentary movie camera should allow putting on itself a variety of interchangeable optics, including film optics and, preferably, without the use of adapters. That is, the camera should either be available with different mounts, or have a removable mount. In the case when we want to be able to work with a wide range of film optics, we mean the PL mount. Our camera should not make noise (meaning sound), it should have absolute reliability and unpretentiousness in working in a wide range of temperatures and difficult atmospheric conditions, not require special engineering knowledge, be easily serviced by one person, have a high degree of battery life, have professional outputs and image control: custom zebra, oscillogram, vectroscope; help with focusing – image magnification, custom picking; the ability to superimpose color loots only on the monitor and, finally, have the ability to shoot using Log, in the case of a compressed image, a kind of digital negative.
With all these requirements in mind, we selected the Canon C300 as the primary camera. It has been on the market for the second year, which may seem like an honorable age in the field of digital technology.
Canon C300 Camera: Overview, Features, Experience
The C300 camera is available with an EF and PL mount and is made from the manual camera factor, which gives maximum freedom for handheld shooting. It has a side handle with control taken out on it (unfortunately, this is only one wheel, one custom button and a record button, I would like more, but this is not bad). The handle can be installed at different angles to the camera. There is also a small take-out chin for the second hand. The hand can be set so that you can hold the camera from the bottom to carry part of the weight and reach the focus ring (this feature also depends on the lens, but with all Canon photo lenses up to 200 mm, it remains). The camera has two CF slots, in the case of 32 Gb cards with the quality of recording inside 25p 1920×1080, 50 mb / s, the total recording time is 164 minutes. You can write to cards sequentially (automatic transition without frame loss) or in parallel, immediately creating a copy.