I have known Mike Fletcher for years, initially through the internet and his work and then when I got to work with him in Australia a few years ago. He is one of the nicest guys I have ever met and incredibly talented. He shared with me his short he filmed in Northern Norway this week and it was so lovely I asked him if he would do a guest post for me…so here it is!
GUEST POST By Michael Fletcher
Shooting the Midnight Sun
I have been shooting video for almost 10 years and after a bit of a slow uptake to shooting 4K, I decided to update my ageing Canon C300 to the brand new Canon C300 mk2. Whilst I was in the mood of upgrading I also decided to upgrade my not so old DJI Phantom 3 to the brand new DJI Phantom 4.
So here I was with two brand new bits of kit both capable of shooting stunning 4K imagery. What I needed now was somewhere to go to showcase my new equipment. The choice was easy. Lofoten, Norway. A place so dramatically stunning that you would think it was made on a Hollywood set. A place that is a postcard winter paradise with it’s towering mountains and sweeping fjords, but also a place where at the same time each year has an event known as the Midnight Sun or Midnattsol in Norwegian. 24 hours of daylight … wow! That gives you plenty of options if you’re a prolific shooter like I am.
What it also gives you is tremendous sleep deprivation and blood-shot eye’s bordering on a condition more akin to a weeping Virgin Mary. Most of my latest feature edit was shot between 10pm and 4.30am in the morning. That’s crazy times but time becomes irrelevant when it comes to the midnight sun. It only becomes an issue when you get hungry and haven’t planned any food as every body is tucked up in bed and the small villages become eerily quiet like some crazy Zombie Apocalypse.
As a bit of background information, I first saw a file from the first generation Canon C300 whilst on a trip through the Kimberly with Philip Bloom. I was shooting on a brand new 5D mk3 and wanted to sell it immediately after I saw what Philip was getting from his camera. I guess he is responsible for me now owning the latest generation C300. Philip loved his old C300, as I did, and continue to do so. The Mark 2 however is something else again and I have fallen in love with shooting all over again.
So Philip asked me if I could write about creating this edit using two completely different image creating machines. One can fly, the other cant. One is black and one is white. One uses incredibly expensive CFast cards and the other a teeny weeny micro SD card. One cost a heap of money and the other is relatively cheap.
So how can these two cameras be anyway compatible with each other? Well the answer is simple. DJI is a company that has revolutionised UAV technology and aerial filming for ever. How does a company get such a stunning image from such a small camera when the C300 mk2 at 20 times its size can look similar in quality to the Phantom 4. Would I use a Phantom 4 however to shoot anything other than aerial footage? No. That’s where the C300 sings with super crisp detail and a lovely bokeh in such shallow depths of field. Not to mention better dynamic range and low light performance.
When planning out a shoot (which to be honest I don’t do a lot of) I think about all the techniques available to me and try to not over use one particular style. So what I mean is I don’t go stupid with timelapses or massive dolly moves or crazy amounts of drone footage. There is an old saying.
“Less is more” we have all heard it but its pretty hard to resist when something new comes out. When DSLR’s revolutionised filming forever we were all guilty of shooting everything at f1.2. When guys like Tom Lowe started shooting tracking timelapse movies we all started doing that (I didn’t I was too tight-fisted to pay for the gear). Now that drones are for the masses, it can be overused and I can understand why……it just looks so bloody good.
When travelling to Norway I wanted to be shooting 4K because that’s what everybody is asking for, even though hardly anyone is watching it. I also wanted to get that aerial perspective because lets face it flying around mountains is cool shit. So I went off and filmed from the air when the conditions were right, being careful not to break any rules and when the wind was up or too close to civilisation, I’d break out the C300 and shoot from the ground. I shot both cameras in a log preset, D-Cinelike for the Phantom and C-Log 2 for the C300. I was shooting D-Log with the Phantom until I read one of Philips reply’s to a question saying NO to DLog and I’m glad I did because the footage looks better for it.
By the time I had both forms of footage in Premiere Pro it wasn’t a massive jump between the two file looks. Both files grade pretty well with the C300 footage capable of being pushed way further than I was ever able to do with any DSLR. Combining the footage into the edit became almost as easy as if it was all shot on the same camera.
Gone are the days of horrible GoPro footage warped more than the Starship Enterprise with it’s terrible low light performance and digital noise. I was able to combine the footage in the edit without too much fuss and a few of my drone shots could pass off for a tilting shot with the C300. I guess why it ties together so well is the way I have used both cameras.
I like slow cinematic moves with the drone. I almost never post a clip which shows the drone correcting or changing its position in flight. To me that makes it look like drone footage. You don’t see David Attenborough accepting a beautifully crafted Cineflex shot being interrupted as the camera operator is changing his framing slightly. I see the way to use these tools is to put doubt in the viewers mind that it was shot on a much more expensive system using a full size chopper. If it looks like that then I’m happy. Of course everyone knows it shot with a drone these days but we can always pretend we are Tom Lowe HaHa!
Similarly with the C300 most of my landscape shots are static in nature with a slow zoom created in post to give the faintest hint of movement. If you watch Baraka or Samsara it’s done with perfection and if the clip is right you can hang on it for a long time just as was done in those features. So once again slow movement of both types of footage help them blend together.
I don’t know what else to say about using different cameras to shoot a production other than know your gear and have a bit of an idea what style the edit is going to take and film for that. It’s all common sense really. If I was going to shoot for Red Bull then I’d be flying the drone and shooting with the C300 quite differently to what I have done in this production.