The Secret to My Imagery and Why It Looks Unique
In my pursuit of finding the right camera for each project, I take time to find out how to get the most out of a given camera platform. When Canon released the C500 in early 2013, I immediately began testing it for my next project, Need for Speed. The vision from Director Scotty Waugh was to capture this movie “in-camera” using real stunts, real crashes, and real action. 85% of the film was shot on this camera, along with GoPro HERO 3s, Canon 1DCs and the Arri Alexa. If you love cars, go see this movie, haha!
I wanted to share one of the Power Articles from “Shane’s Inner Circle.” Last week, I showed you some of what we are offering on the lighting techniques side, with the “Power of Bounce Light” series. Now I want to show you how I go about understanding the exposure of a digital sensor, specifically with the Canon Cinema EOS Platform – finding its soul, its breaking point, as well as its deep and dark secrets that you cannot find in a Canon manual. By using this process, your footage will change overnight. The way you expose and understand this EOS sensor will up your game.
This article focuses directly on the Canon C500 but can be easily applied to the Canon C300, C100 and C100 Mark II. (I will be testing the Canon C300 Mark II soon before I can make the judgement that the sensor reacts the same as the current cameras.) Here is what some of the Inner Circle members and Inner Circle Facebook members had to say about this in depth article.
Each test comes with commentary where I discuss what I see in each scenario. There are three different areas where I walk you through the exposure of this platform. In this article, I am giving you one of those videos, and the other two are available in “Shane’s Store.” This is the type of content that we are creating for “Shane’s Inner Circle” each week.
How I Expose the Canon EOS Cinema Platform
I set these cameras (Canon C100/C300/C500) to Rec 709 color space internally but not to export this look to my monitors. I only send C log to all external monitors. Then I use the Flanders Scientific CM250 monitor or the HP DreamColor Z27x with their REC 709 color space profile. Most color correction houses prefer REC 709 color space to work with. It has the truest white point. The P3 profile has yellow whites and I feel that it looks very much like video. The most interesting one is the ACES color space. I think that I will be using this in the future once they stabilize it.
I do not expose at the 32 IRE value that Canon suggests for middle grey. I am more in the 50-55 IRE value. Why? In the tests below, I will demonstrate the vitality you get out of the sensor when you go there. I am sharing my artistic preference for the “C500 soul” and those choices are what I used to expose Fathers and Daughters.
The IRE Tests
A value of 100 IRE was originally defined to be the range from black to white in a video signal. A value of 0 IRE corresponds to the voltage value of the signal during the blanking period. The sync pulse is normally 40 IRE below this 0 IRE value, so the total range covered from peak to trough of an all white signal would be 140 IRE. The reason IRE is a relative measurement (percent) is because a video signal may be any amplitude. This unit is used in the ITU-R BT.470 which defines PAL, NTSC and SECAM. With all that said, I tend to still light by eye and I determine what I want to see and what I do not. The mood and tone is everything in cinematography. It is the art of lighting that transports us from being in a theater eating popcorn to the story, the emotion, and the character’s journey.
Our first test is in the studio with our beautiful model, Monette Moio. We start at 60-65 on the skin tones and move all the way down to 20-25. I felt at 60-65 IRE on her skin tones, there was an absolutely beautiful and alive look. Notice the sharpness and the vitality in her skin. The image did not have much wiggle room. With the 50-55 IRE value, I felt I still kept the vitality and sharpness but had a little more wiggle room. When we started to drop it past 50-55, it seemed to lose its magic. It is still beautiful, but not with the vitality we had seen at the higher IRE values.
The second test is in a dimly lit bar interior setting. We start at 30-35 level on the skin tones at 2000 ISO and then work our way down to 15-20. I felt that it looked the best at 850 ISO, which is Canon’s Native ISO. It seemed to be the most balanced and felt like you had room to move as well. It just felt right for the scene.
The third test is the day exterior back light test. You are always up against this scenario. You want to hold your highlights so that they do not blow out while still holding skin tones and definition. In this test, we found that you can have your cake and eat it too. With the right exposure of holding all of the highlights with my false color, I was able to bring the light quality on Monette’s face back up to the feel of the 50-55 IRE test value when it was exposed at 25 IRE to hold the highlights. By doing this, you definitely see a difference in the sharpness, the skin tones and the snap of what the 50-55 IRE gave us.
This Canon Cinema EOS line of cameras is a species of unique animals. It has taken me a while to master them, but now I believe that there is nothing I cannot do with this tool. It is an artistic extension of who I am.
Members of Shane’s Inner Circle who were members in December 2014 received this entire article as part of their membership.
If you would like to view the rest of this article, it may be purchased in Shane’s Store, as can all other educational content of interest.
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Camera Tech Specs:
Lens Tech Specs:
All lights supplied by Paskal Lighting
Shooting location: Revolution Cinema Rentals
Model Monette Moio is represented by Melinda Jason