As a HDSLR shooter I loved the footage and the ergonomics of my Canon 5D2, but was looking for the convenience, speed, and control that a digital camcorder offers. I spent most of 2011 laying in wait for the November Canon announcement of the Cinema EOS C300.
Daunted by the C300 price tag, I waited again for the NAMM show the following April. Announced at NAMM, the Sony FS700 offered what I was interested in, plus 240fps 1080p slomo. No one expected that!
At half the price of the Canon, and with the advertising potential of slomo I pulled the trigger on the Sony. Somehow though I thought I might be sacrificing some quality of the image but was prepared to work with it. This was due mainly to the impression of the great marketing films commissioned by Canon. Sony had nothing to compare with those films.
So when Randy Noland agreed to meet up with me in Augusta and shoot early one morning with his C300 I thought it would be a good opportunity to see how well the cameras stacked up. This was not a shootout, nor a technical test, but a collaboration to see if we could come up with a pleasing short film that would evoke the feeling of a Kentucky river town. We hoped the two cameras would match up well so that we could work together on future projects.
Augusta Kentucky was founded in 1797 and is about an hour’s drive southeast of Cincinnati, Ohio. Geographically that may not be much help for some. Philip Bloom asked me in Austin one day while were at Masters in Motion, “Pardon me for asking, but just where is Cincinnati?” I suppose I would have to ask him the same question regarding Kent, although I know where my grandparent’s home was in the Yorkshire Dales. To get to Augusta you have to find your way to Cincinnati, go across the river into Kentucky and follow route 8 SE for 42 miles until you get to the bend on the Ohio river where Augusta is located.
I love the golden hours, the hours right after the sun rises and before the sun sets. Along the river the light plays with the water for a glorious feeling at those times of the day. We wanted to share some of the languid feeling of a Kentucky summer day so we set up shop before sunrise. I grabbed a time lapse of the sunrise and then Randy & I shot the scenery right along the river. It was nice to do time lapse in camera and not have to wear out my shutter on the 5D and have to put a bunch of stills together off line.
Randy used the C-LOG profile on his C300 and I used the PP6 with the CINE2 gamma on the FS700 right out of the box, no tweaking. I was pleased on how well the footage cut together. The ferry and the railroad crossing sequences use footage from both cameras. I went back solo for the evening shots on another day, and this time I brought my new Metabones adapter and Canon lenses to see how well I could match up some of Randy’s shots. By adding the Canon glass the FS700 was able to get a very similar look to the C300.
I bought my Metabones adapter from Birns & Sawyer, an experienced and well-respected camera house in Hollywood. They have a web site that features the Metabones adapter, BirnsGear.com. The Metabones lets the Canon lenses communicate directly with the FS700 so you can control the iris from the FS700, both manually and automatically. Autofocus is not available, however. The new version works great with all of my Canon glass.
For this shoot Randy used primarily the EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM, and I used the Sony 18-200. The Sony kit lens works great, and works with the autofocus and other Sony features. When I went back in the evening I wanted to test the Metabones on location. For this shoot I used the 24-105, the 16-35, and the 70-200 using the Canon doubler (for the flags shot).
All in all I was pleased with how the end project turned out, and it is great to be able to cover any event with another shooter. We got twice as many shots the morning we worked together, and it takes a lot of shots to tell a story. Randy did all the BTS stills with his Canon 5D mark III, for which I am most appreciative.
I picked as a soundtrack Venus from The Planets by Gustav Holst. This movement conveys the quiet peaceful feeling I was looking for without being too distracting. I have performed this piece in my role as a symphony trumpet player and sat tacet during this movement many times, waiting for my turn to weigh in with the awesome power of the brass section. So now I got to put this “tacet movement” to good use as I donned my cinematographer hat.
Originally published Aug 20, 2012