Double vision

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As the sun hovers over Dubai’s desert dunes, a Corvette Stingray ZR1 snakes along the baking asphalt. Hot on its heels are cinematographer Brett Danton, his crew and two Canon EOS Cinema cameras. It’s a typical set-up for Brett, in which he makes the most of two very different but equally effective bodies.

Brett has been creating striking stories for some of the world’s most iconic brands for more than 20 years, working alongside the likes of Emirates, Jeep, Telstra, Land Rover and, in this case, Chevrolet. “For this shoot,” he explains, “we used the Canon EOS C700 FF and C200 cinema bodies. Because it’s such a small package, we could fly the C200 on a drone, while the C700 FF was mounted on the end of a Russian arm, swinging around and letting us track the Corvette, keeping it sharp while dropping the background out of focus thanks to its big sensor. It’s something I do a lot,” he adds, “flipping between these two Canon bodies when the look or the situation requires it.”

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Brett says that when working with the C700’s full-frame chip and shooting with the whole of the sensor, “the depth-of-field control lets you give products an amazing three-dimensional look, which is why I use it for most for my high-end TV commercials. Taking the 5.9K sensor’s output down to 4K just makes the subject pop right off the screen. It’s definitely my favourite camera right now, because of the look of the footage, and it has all the features I need – it has loads of options for mounting on cranes. It’s very robust, but it also allows me to streamline my workflow. And it has so many monitoring options, which is great when we’re on set with clients wanting to approve footage.”

“On the other hand,” smiles Brett, “the C200 is definitely my run-and-gun option, and so on this job it was instrumental in helping us get great aerial footage of the Corvette and the actors out on the dunes. With the drone-mounted C200, we’re not concerned with that shallow depth-of-field we wanted on the car – we actually want the opposite, so we can have the whole of the scene razor-sharp. And the C200’s internal Cinema Raw Light was vital, too, letting us deal with the glare of the desert and shoot right into the sun as we followed the car.”

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Another advantage, Brett says, of working with the two cameras is the choice of formats they provided. “We had only very limited time to shoot, as we wanted to work in the magic hours around dawn and dusk, but shooting with the C700’s XF-AVC codec, we could just keep rolling, shooting to our heart’s content and not worrying about data management. On a 256GB card, we were getting more than 45 minutes of uninterrupted shooting. And, of course, the C700 has twin cards, so it’s very practical. XF-AVC format is so much more post friendly than Raw, too. It saves a lot of time.”

Both of the cameras also proved incredibly hardy in an inhospitable environment. Brett enthuses: “We had the full glare of the sun to deal with and obviously it was incredibly hot. Around 48°C most of the time. And we had this ultra-fine sand to contend with, too. You couldn’t really run cameras through any more of a harsh environment if you tried, but they were both up to the job.”

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When it comes to lenses, running multiple Canon bodies also makes a lot of sense, says Brett, letting him swap them freely. “Canon’s EOS Cinema lenses are beautiful,” he explains, “and they’re all full-frame, too, so when we’re using the C700 in its full-frame mode, we’re taking full advantage of those lenses and we’re not cropping into their view at all. Everybody’s talking about full-frame lenses at the moment, because they allow us to work with much greater freedom, especially when it comes to lessening distortion and controlling depth-of-field to make the subjects jump off the screen.”

Post is also helped enormously by using twin Canon bodies, explains Brett. “The C700 FF and C200 share Canon colour science, and that means they cut together beautifully. You can use LUTs of course, but when you’re starting the edit with footage from two different cameras, and it’s all sitting in the same colour space, that’s so much easier. Often, what I see is people running a bigger camera and a smaller camera, like we did, but they’re different brands. And then when you try to match those two in post, it becomes a bit of a nightmare. It just makes so much more sense to use the same brand. It’s like back in the days of film where you’d choose your film stock and then pick the body for it, because you need it to always perform the same. Using matching cameras just makes complete sense.”

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